If you are interested in VPN’s or have ever read one of our reviews you may have come across the term ‘kill switch’. The kill switch is often mentioned as one of the advantages of a VPN, but from experience we know that not all of our readers know exactly what a kill switch is and why it is nice if a VPN has one. Therefore, in this article you will read all about the kill switch.
What is a kill switch?
If a device breaks down, goes haywire, or exhibits other cures, you can use a kill switch to completely shut down the device. This ensures that the user remains safe. In many cases, such’an emergency option is extremely important. Just think of the main circuit breaker in your meter cupboard. When a large piece of equipment with drills or saws goes wild, major accidents can happen. With an emergency stop switch, you immediately turn off such devices with ééone push of a button. This is necessary for safety. Emergency stop switches are also available for certain vehicles, elevators and nuclear power plants. All to ensure the safety of the user.
How does a kill switch for software work?
In addition to appliances, a kill switch can also be very useful for software. Think, for example, of software from large companies that collect personal data or the software of the Ministry of Defense. If a computer with important software ends up in the hands of an outsider, the kill switch ensures that this person cannot simply access it.
- Without authorization, the software is automatically rendered unusable or even completely removed from the device. This keeps sensitive information out of the hands of the wrong people.
- In the case of smartphones, this technique is used to discourage theft. The kill switch ensures that a stolen device becomes almost completely unusable. Thieves then no longer have any use for it.
- Some smartphones from Windows, Google and Apple also have a kill switch to secure apps. If the phone is infected with malicious software coming from a specific app, the app is automatically stopped and shut down to prevent further infection. Then you remove the malicious software from your phone. This way, your device remains a lot safer.
Why do VPN’s have a kill switch?
Most people use a VPN for security and privacy reasons. While browsing, users want to remain protected and anonymous. However, this protection and anonymity automatically falls away if your VPN fails and you still remain online. Your data is then still unprotected online, allowing numerous parties to see what you are doing on the Internet. To prevent this, many VPNs have a kill switch.
- The VPN kill switch prevents your data from ending up online without protection. If your VPN unexpectedly fails while you’re surfing, the kill switch immediately disconnects your connection to the Internet. So, as long as the VPN is experiencing problems, you can no longer browse, download or stream.
- Because your entire internet connection is stopped, your real IP address remains safe and your privacy intact. Moreover, hackers still cannot access your data. Even if you do not connect to a VPN server, the VPN still secures your data as it were.
Causes of your VPN connection dropping
Suddenly losing your VPN connection can have several causes. Here are three examples:
- Defaulty internet connection. If you have an unstable internet connection yourself, it’s more likely that your VPN’s connection will also falter from time to time. This is the case, for example, if you use a WiFi network with a weak signal or constantly switch networks.
- Problems with the VPN server. Another possible cause lies with the VPN server itself. If there is a problem with a particular server, the connection may drop completely. These problems can be related to the signal strength of the server, malfunctions in the physical server, or simple timeouts. Problems also often arise when a particular server is very busy. The connection becomes very slow and may be disconnected altogether, requiring the kill switch to take action.
- Settings of your firewall, antivirus or router. It is also possible that the settings of your device and the software installed on it are interfering with the creation of a VPN connection. If your firewall or antivirus sees the VPN as a possible risk, these programs will actively block the establishment of a connection. This makes your connection irregular and unreliable. Your router can also cause problems. Even your device’s automatic updates can prevent you from connecting to the VPN.
Which VPN’s have a good kill switch?
In general, people see the kill switch as a positive addition to any VPN. Of course, an activated kill switch means that you are temporarily unable to go online. However, in many cases this is better than the alternative: unsafe internet. The kill switch is good for your online privacy and helps you stay in control of your connection. Many of the VPN’s we have tested so far have a kill switch. However, as with all the other VPN features we test, some providers’ kill switch is better than others. Here are two VPN providers that both have a good, working kill switch.
ExpressVPN has been one of the best VPN’s on our list for quite some time. The kill switch here is called ‘Network Lock’ and is available for Windows, Mac, Linux and all routers (via the app). If your connection goes down, the Network Lock notices this and stops all communication with the Internet. This continues while ExpressVPN tries to reconnect to the server.
- As soon as the connection is restored, the Network Lock allows Internet traffic to resume. Besides being a good kill switch, ExpressVPN also has super fast servers, is very user friendly and can be used with Netflix.
Also NordVPN is a consistent favorite in the VPN market. This provider’s kill switch works on Windows, MacOS, Android and iOS. The option is already integrated into the apps and is easy to turn on and off within that software.
- NordVPN recommends its users to use the kill switch as much as possible and sees it as the last line of defense. Additionally, the provider allows you to create a ‘kill-list’ of apps that you specifically wél or don’t want to block in the event of a timeout. This way, you may still be able to use certain program’s even though the kill switch is activated.
- NordVPN has an extensive server network and costs relatively little. You even test out the service for a month for free via the money-back guarantee. Moreover, it also works for watching the US version of Netflix.
A kill switch, also called emergency stop switch, is a useful security feature in software. For VPN’s, it means that your internet connection is disconnected, if the VPN unexpectedly stops working. This prevents you from sending unprotected data onto the Internet. It also prevents sites from finding out your identity if your VPN goes down.