Kill Switch? Why Do You Need One?
If you’re a privacy-conscious person, you better know about using a VPN and ensuring your online presence. Only a reliable VPN can provide you with a top-notch level of security and protection. When reviewing the best VPNs, I discussed different security features that enhance safety while surfing the web. Among these security features is a kill switch. But, what is a kill switch? And what does it do? Shortly, it is an essential VPN feature that has a vital function to perform. A VPN kill switch prevents your connection whenever there is a connection drop. It protects users from accidental exposures that can disclose their real identity. If you’re more interested in knowing about what is a kill switch, then stick with me. In this article, I’m going to share every aspect of a VPN kill switch. After several days of thorough research, I’m able to inform my readers about:
- What is a kill switch?
- What are its types?
- How does it work?
- Why do you need one in a VPN?
So, let’s begin with it.
What is a Kill Switch?
An internet kill switch is the most useful yet overlooked feature in a VPN. It is also called a network lock because it locks the network when there’s a faulty VPN connection. Its primary function is to ensure that you don’t send your data over an unsecured internet connection. In other words, it means it is a kill switch that protects you from getting exposed whenever your VPN connection gets cut from the internet. It helps to protect your online identity in several ways that you don’t even realize. Like when you download P2P files or stream Netflix, then a kill switch is handy.
This feature is a setting that warns the device to send the data to the web only when there’s a stable VPN connection. What happens is when you connect to a VPN, you usually surf the web. But if your connection drops for any reason, the kill switch prevents data from reaching the web. As a result, you will have trouble sending or receiving emails, browsing, and refreshing web pages until the connection gets resorted. There is the majority of VPNs that have a built-in kill switch. As the internet switch is a critical security boosting feature, you should always choose a VPN that has one in it. Many of the VPNs claims of providing a kill switch, but when tested so, it is not working fine. Hence, be careful. Do check the VPN in its trial period and then make the final decision.
Types of VPN Kill Switch Protocols
Based on the function, a kill switch is of two types.
Active Kill Switch Protocols
It informs the users when disconnected from the VPN connection. Also, it prevents users from connecting to the unprotected network. Most of the VPNs that have a small server network have an active kill switch protocol. When you’re having difficulty finding the nearest server, this protocol becomes active and gets the job done.
Passive Kill Switch Protocol
In terms of security, it is more secure than the active kill switch protocol. VPNs that have a vast server network have a passive kill switch. The passive kill switch stops sending the traffic when the application stops receiving signals from the server. They don’t wait for the information first to reach the VPN server.
How Does a Kill Switch Works?
In an era of increasing cyber threats, everyone fears about their online presence. Your ISPs are always behind you. They monitor your online activities and even record them and sell them to third parties. To prevent this, people have started using VPNs.
A VPN hides your real IP address and makes your web browsing experience private and anonymous. It is a perfect tool that protects against all spying eyes. But now, suppose what happens if this privacy tool malfunctions for some time? Your ISP can know about your activities, and most importantly, all your data will go unprotected and unencrypted to the internet. It can lead to devastating consequences with your IP address being visible to your ISP and other prying eyes. At this point, a kill switch comes into effect.
Whenever your VPN connection malfunctions, the kill switch ensures that your data doesn’t go unprotected on the web. It immediately shut down your connection with the internet world. You won’t be connected back till the connection becomes stable again. You can’t browse or stream in all these situations, but your IP address and online data remain secured. No one can ever access it. Thus, your VPN should have a kill switch.
Why Do You Need a Kill Switch?
It is a matter of common observation that every website you visit keeps track of your activities. By using a VPN, you can avoid all types of tracking. No one can even know about your IP address and location when you’re connected with a VPN. It acts as a barrier between any malicious agent and you. What if everything is going in the right order, but your connection lags. If your VPN has a kill switch, then you don’t need to worry about your information. The internet switch guarantees your information remains private even in an unfortunate situation. There are several reasons why you should use a VPN with a kill switch. Among all, some of the most prominent ones are as follows.
- When you use a VPN to avoid strict censorship or government surveillance, you must automatically kill your VPN. If you live in an authoritarian censorship country like China, then you need to be extra careful. The agencies monitor your communication and online data. If they see any unencrypted data that’s prohibited in the region, then you’ve to bear the consequences. A small amount of unprotected data can reveal your entire history. But if you use a VPN with a kill switch, then it won’t be a problem for you.
- If you’re a journalist or political influencer working remotely, you need to hide your identity. A kill switch ensures that your information isn’t made public, and all your work and data remain confidential.
- If you’re torrenting, then having a VPN with a kill switch is an added advantage. P2P file sharing is illegal in most regions. If your ISP caught you red-handed while torrenting, then you have to undergo a legal process. The best way to download P2P files is to use a VPN. But, make sure that your VPN has a kill switch. It ensures your IP address remains under the cover and prevents all sorts of data leaks.
- A kill switch also proves handy when you’re using a free internet connection. Let’s say you’re at a coffee shop carefreely utilizing the web. You can’t even realize how dangerous it is to use a public connection. Free networks are full of vulnerabilities. The hackers are always monitoring these networks to target someone. If you want to use these networks to kill time or for some important reason, do use a VPN. Also, make sure it has a by-default kill switch that protects you against hackers when there’s a weak VPN connection.
Reasons That Causes VPN Connection Drops
Although VPNs are reliable software that safeguards our online identity. But despite being so secure, it experiences connection drops. These connection drops are a reason for incredible frustration among the users. After doing enough research, I’ve finally come up with some reasons for the faulty VPN connection. The following are six reasons that cause VPN connection drop and urge the need for a kill switch.
Firewall and Router Settings
Your antivirus, firewall, and anti-spyware programs may disrupt your connections. Improper configurations of these settings can badly result in a poor connection. You should test these features regularly and are the ones causing problems to disable them. You can also change your settings and try to maintain stability by using a VPN.
Sometimes it happens that the choice of VPN protocols causes connection drops. For example, ExpressVPN provides a more stable and fast connection with OpenVPN TCP protocol than the default UDP one. Thus, if you ever feel an unstable connection, try to switch the protocols. If your VPN supports limited VPN protocols, using a VPN with a kill switch is the only possible solution.
Technical Issue with VPN Server
Another possible reason that causes a connection drop is the VPN server itself. Sometimes the VPN server is facing some internal malfunctioning that results in a VPN connection drop. Time outs of the connection or disruptions in the physical server cause the VPN server to malfunction.
A VPN fails to work effectively when the network is busy with many users. A congested network makes the VPN less stable. It, in turn, affects its functionality and results in a connection drop.
It is quite evident that your VPN regularly disconnects if you are using the internet with weak signals. You should always use a network that offers excellent signals to avoid connection drops.
Your Device on Sleep Mode
In some mobile devices, the device automatically puts applications in sleep mode when you haven’t used them for a while. They do so to save the battery and improve the overall performance. If you haven’t used the internet for some time, then you might experience a connection drop.
How to Activate a Kill Switch?
Some VPNs come with an automatic kill switch, while others don’t. You don’t have to enable it manually. But, some VPNs do come with a kill switch that needs manual activation. However, every app and platform is different, but you can always activate the kill switch by navigating in the settings tab. If you’re an Android user like me, you can activate the kill switch in a few seconds. Go to Settings > Wireless and Networks > More > VPN > Advanced > Click to activate the kill switch. These steps are for Android users. If you’re using some other platform, then you need to figure out the settings yourself. Check the VPN’s website for a setup guide or watch any video tutorial to fix the issue.
A VPN kill switch is an impressive and most useful feature. It acts as a shield whenever you experience a poor VPN connection. There are several reasons why one should rely on a kill switch. Enabling a kill switch prevents any unencrypted data from reaching the web. Several reasons cause a connection drop. But using a VPN with a kill switch is the best possible solution. Make sure your VPN has a built-in kill switch with it.