What is Switch Kill VPN and why should you enable it?

If you’re looking for a VPN you can trust, you can’t help but come across the term “kill switch” or, more rarely, “killwitch”. This VPN feature is very handy, but how it works is not always clearly explained.

What is Switch Kill VPN?

In short, a VPN breaker switch is a feature that can disable your device’s connection to the internet when your VPN fails. This feature is essential for anyone who is downloading torrents, is stuck behind a censorship block like China’s Great Firewall, or is doing something that could get them in trouble when it comes to detection.

Not using the breaker can mean that if your VPN experiences connectivity issues – a common occurrence – you default back to a regular internet connection, thus showing who you are without. VPN protection. This shouldn’t be too much of a problem if you’re just spoofing the IP address to access another Netflix library, but for anyone using the internet for illicit purposes.

How does a VPN work?

To understand how a VPN breaker works, we need to take a look at how VPNs work.

When you connect to the internet without a VPN, you are connecting to a server owned by an internet service provider (ISP). When connected, the website you are visiting can see your IP address and some other information about you.

When you use a VPN, the connection goes to your ISP and then to a server owned by the VPN service before reaching the website you want. Doing this will switch your IP address with the VPN server’s IP address. This effectively hides your location while also placing your location wherever the VPN provider has a server.

If you use a VPN while torrenting, this means that the copyright watchdog cannot find you and send you a notification (however, you should not download pirated content).

Hiding your IP address is also the only way to access the internet without being tracked if you live in authoritarian regimes like China, Iran or Belaruscountries that do not allow their citizens to access news websites that are not approved by the government.

How does VPN Kill Switch work?

When the VPN connection fails, for whatever reason, a breaker will cut off the internet connection completely and keep you from being tracked. It’s an essential part of a good VPN because it acts as a backup safety and adds another barrier between you and anyone who might be interested in what you’re online.

Different types of VPN breaker switches

Luckily, any VPN worthy of its salt has a kill switch of some sort, though some work differently than others or are named differently. Windscribefor example, call it “firewall”. AirVPN and ExpressVPN call it “network key”. However, in all cases it does the same thing.

However, some VPNs will let you tweak the kill switch or even turn it on and off – although we recommend turning it off. For example, ExpressVPN gives you the option to exclude local devices like printers from the cancel switch. If you’re working in a public office, you should probably leave it on, but you can turn it off if you’re at home.

NordVPN kill switch

NordVPN goes a step further and offers two types of breaker switches: the first one behaves like most other switches and disconnects the entire connection when it’s activated. The second is what NordVPN calls an “app kill switch”. This allows you to decide which apps to shut down when the VPN fails while allowing everyone else to continue doing what they’re doing.

While someone in China might want to enable kill mode entirely, a torrenter might be better served by simply setting their torrent client (like Transmission process) to the kill list and let everything else run normally, VPN or not. Still, it’s a nice little tweak, and we’re surprised how many services don’t offer it.

Kill the switch and you

A breaker switch is one of the most important safety features a VPN can have, and you should steer clear of any service that doesn’t offer it in one form or another. Thankfully, only a handful of night out outfits don’t have them, so as long as you stick with tried and true VPNs, you’ll be fine. Just never turn it off unless you’re sure you know what you’re doing.

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