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Your Comprehensive Guide to the VPN Kill Switch Feature

VPN Kill Switch

While using a VPN is a good way of protecting your online data and privacy, did you know you can add an extra layer of security by using a service that also has a VPN Kill Switch?

If you’re not familiar with what a Kill Switch is, or simply want to learn more about it, here’s everything you need to know - what a VPN Kill Switch is, how it works, who it’s right for, and how to also test it.

What Is a VPN Kill Switch?

A Kill Switch is a feature some VPN providers offer that automatically stops all Internet traffic if you lose your connection to the VPN server. This way, the Kill Switch ensures that your private data and real IP address are never exposed when you’re on the web.

Why Do VPN Disconnections Occur?

Most VPN servers are generally reliable – especially those belonging to decent, paid VPN providers. However, even then, there’s always a risk (albeit a very small one) that connectivity issues might arise because of the following reasons:

  • The connection to the VPN server has been lost because there are errors within the VPN client that cause it to crash suddenly, your ISP is interfering with the connection, the VPN server has gone down, or the network port you’re using is having issues.
  • You have a low WiFi signal, which can result in excessive data losses. In turn, that makes your VPN connection more likely to drop. Excessive use of the WiFi network could also contribute to that (like if you’re on an airport’s WiFi, for instance).
  • Your anti-virus/anti-malware program and/or firewall interfere with your VPN connection because it’s not added as an exception, causing it to drop.
  • You run the VPN through the default UDP protocol instead of the TCP protocol, which might apparently cause unstable connections sometimes.

What Types of VPN Kill Switches Are There?

As a VPN user, you’ll normally be able to use two types of Kill Switches:

1. System-Level Kill Switches

This type of VPN Kill Switch completely shuts down all network activity until the VPN connection is successfully re-established, or until you reset your network adapter. Normally, this type of Kill Switch can only be turned on or off.

2. Application-Level Kill Switches

An application-level Kill Switch allows you to choose which apps and web applications you want to prevent from accessing the Internet (like email apps or torrent clients, for example). Some VPN providers might refer to these types of Kill Switches as App Killers.

CactusVPN also offers an app-level kill switch, so you can selectively pick which apps can’t access the web when your VPN connection goes down.

CactusVPN Apps Killer

Keep in mind that using an application-level Kill Switch can prevent software from updating to newer versions. For the sake of your security and privacy, you should make sure your anti-virus/anti-malware programs are not prevented from staying up-to-date.

How Does a VPN Kill Switch Work?

When thinking about how a VPN Kill Switch works, you should always have the basic firewall functionality in mind – the fact that it can block unauthorized connections while also offering support for exceptions.

Well, a Kill Switch uses a functionality based on firewall rules, and routes all network traffic through the encrypted tunnel established by the VPN. Then, the Kill Switch will constantly monitor your VPN connection. If it notices a sudden change in your VPN connectivity status or IP address, the Kill Switch will block all connections to ensure no online traffic goes through your ISP-assigned IP address.

Normal Internet access will be regained once the VPN connection is restored or once you’ve closed the VPN application.

When Exactly Does a VPN Kill Switch Activate?

We’ve already mentioned that a VPN Kill Switch will kick in if it detects that your VPN connection has gone down, but here are some concrete examples of when something like that might happen:

  • When you are disconnected from the VPN server because it has connectivity issues.
  • When you’re experiencing unreliable network connections (when you’re on public WiFi, for example) that can result in you losing your connection to the VPN server.
  • There’s a chance a VPN Kill Switch will activate when you decide to switch VPN servers.

Do VPN Kill Switch Features Come Automatically Activated?

Not always. While some VPN providers might offer VPN clients that have pre-activated Kill Switches, most of the time you’ll need to manually turn them on. That can usually be done by turning on the VPN Kill Switch feature in the VPN client.

Kill Switch Activated

For example, in the CactusVPN app, you just have to head over to “Settings,” and switch on the Stop Internet traffic if VPN connection is dropped option.

Who Benefits the Most From a VPN Kill Switch?

A VPN Kill Switch would really come in handy for anyone who downloads torrents on a regular basis, and lives in a country where file-sharing can get them in legal trouble. Now, we’re not encouraging illegal copyright infringement or anything like that, but we are aware that some people can only get access to the files and entertainment they need with torrents.

Basically, a VPN Kill Switch can improve your odds of not receiving DMCA notices, risking legal fines, or having your ISP terminate your subscription because you’re caught torrenting if your VPN connection goes down.

Beside that, a VPN Kill Switch would be very useful if you’re someone who’s very concerned about their online privacy. Whether that’s because you’re doing an analysis of your business competitors, want to make sure your ISP can’t see what you’re browsing for, or are a whistleblower or a journalist with access to sensitive information, a Kill Switch can help ensure your privacy is never in danger because of a connectivity issue.

Are There Any VPN Kill Switch Alternatives?

Yes, there are third-party programs you can use to monitor your VPN connections. However, most of them will only allow you to select which applications you want to shut down or prevent from accessing the web when your VPN connection goes down.

VPN Watcher is a good example.

Alternatively, if you’re a Windows user, you could use the built-in Task Scheduler. Just create a task that will automatically close the application you want (like your torrent client) when your VPN connection is terminated.

All in all, you’re better off just using a VPN with Kill Switch features. It’s much more convenient, you don’t really need to set up everything, and you’ve got all you need in one simple client. Plus, some third-party VPN connection monitoring tools also come with an additional cost, so just using a VPN with a Kill Switch is more cost-efficient.

How to Test VPN Kill Switch Features

The simplest way to test if the VPN Kill Switch works is to follow these steps:

  1. Run the VPN and connect to a server.
  2. Access a website or start your torrent client.
  3. Disconnect from the VPN server, but don’t close the VPN client.
  4. If your Internet connections and torrent traffic stop, the Kill Switch is working well.

If you want a more in-depth method of testing your VPN’s Kill Switch, here’s what you can do:

  1. Choose a website you want to connect to, and note down its IP address. To find a website’s IP address, just open your Command Prompt (or its alternative on different operating systems), and type “ping websitename.com”.
  2. Download and install Wireshark.
  3. Start Wireshark.
  4. Run the VPN, and connect to the website whose IP address you know.
  5. While connected to said website, terminate the VPN connection.
  6. Your session/browser tab/window should now be terminated too.
  7. Check Wireshark to see if any connections have been established with the website’s IP address after you terminated the VPN session.
  8. If you don’t see any problematic connections, it means the VPN Kill Switch is working as it should.

Looking for a VPN With Kill Switch Features?

CactusVPN has got you covered. Not only do we offer a reliable and very easy-to-use Kill Switch, but we also provide a built-in App Killer in our VPN app as well. All you need to do is add the application you want shut down when your VPN connection is terminated to the list and you’re good to go.

So, it’s very easy to make sure your privacy is never exposed when you’re on the Internet with CactusVPN.

Secure Your Privacy With a High-End VPN Service

With our service, you’ll always get to enjoy a safe online experience. We only use strong encryption algorithms (like AES), we don’t store any logs, and we let you choose between up to 6 VPN protocols (including the very secure OpenVPN and SoftEther protocols).

Plus, we provide 30+ high-speed, stable servers located around the world. They also come with unlimited bandwidth, so you can rest assured you’ll get to enjoy a smooth online experience.

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A VPN Kill Switch is a feature VPN providers offer to further secure their users’ online privacy. Basically, a Kill Switch will shut off all Internet traffic if it detects that your VPN connection has gone down. A Kill Switch can also come in the shape of an App.Killer that allows you to select which applications should be terminated when your VPN connection is disconnected.

A VPN Kill Switch is very useful for people who want to make sure their Internet privacy is 110% secured, and for online users who download torrents on a regular basis.

While there are Kill Switch alternatives (like VPN connection monitoring tools, for instance), you’re better off just choosing a VPN with Kill Switch features simply because it’s way more convenient.

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Tim has been writing content and copy for a living for over 4 years, and has been covering VPN, Internet privacy, and cybersecurity topics for more than 2 years. He enjoys staying up-to-date with the latest in Internet privacy news, and helping people find new ways to secure their online rights.

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