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What is VPN Kill Switch? Why do you need one?

Advantages of VPN Kill Switch Disadvantages of VPN kill switches
  • Protect sensitive data
  • Prevent account leaks
  • Provide privacy from censorship
  • leading to frequent disconnections
  • Need an always-on VPN
  • Crash resulting in inability to access the internet

Virtual private networks encrypt Internet traffic and mask IP addresses to protect user privacy. If the VPN connection fails for any reason without the user noticing, for example because the device moved to a new Wi-Fi network or temporarily went to sleep, all Internet traffic will be unprotected until the VPN reconnects.

SEE: Brute force and dictionary attacks: A guide for IT leaders (TechRepublic Premium)

A VPN kill switch immediately disables all internet traffic as soon as the VPN connection is lost, preventing users from unknowingly exposing their data or IP address. For businesses with remote, hybrid and traveling employees, a VPN kill switch ensures consistent protection of corporate devices as users move from home networks to public hotspots and hotel Wi-Fi.

Types of VPN kill switches and how they work

VPN kill switch continuously monitors VPN connections to detect any potential issues that could cause outages. It automatically blocks internet access as needed and restores the connection when the VPN is re-enabled.

There are two types of VPN kill switches: application-level and system-level.

Application-level VPN kill switches allow users to apply the kill switch to specific software rather than the entire device. This type of kill switch is useful when users only need to protect connections to company resources and not other traffic used by personal applications such as Discord or Netflix.

See: What is cloud security? (Technology Republic)

A system-wide VPN kill switch disables Internet access for the entire device when the VPN connection is lost. This option is more secure, but can be troublesome for users with unstable internet connections or who use the device primarily for personal applications.

Pros and Cons of VPN Kill Switches

The biggest benefit of a VPN kill switch is that it prevents Internet traffic, IP addresses, and private data from being accidentally exposed during a VPN outage. The biggest drawback is that users with unreliable internet connections or error-prone devices will experience frequent disconnections, resulting in a frustrating experience.

Advantages of VPN Kill Switch

  • Protect sensitive or confidential company information from data breaches.
  • Prevent malicious outsiders from capturing user passwords and other personal data.
  • Provides privacy for users who live, work, or visit in countries with strict internet censorship and surveillance.

Disadvantages of VPN kill switches

  • Users are frequently disconnected, resulting in unreliable internet access and error-prone devices.
  • VPNs are often required to be running at all times or must be manually turned off when users don’t need them.
  • If a VPN app crashes and cannot be restarted, internet access may be completely disabled, hampering the user’s ability to resolve the issue.

Risks of using a VPN without a kill switch

Anyone who uses a VPN needs it, and a VPN kill switch ensures they don’t inadvertently access the internet without a VPN.

Using a VPN without a kill switch increases the risk of the VPN connection being interrupted, thereby exposing the user’s internet activity and IP address to malicious third parties, making company resources more vulnerable to attack.

SEE: The 6 most popular enterprise VPN solutions (TechRepublic)

This risk increases when users access the Internet through free public Wi-Fi hotspots in coffee shops, airports and hotels.

A dropped VPN connection could also expose a user’s public IP address (and their approximate location), potentially impacting the safety of journalists, political activists, and others using the Internet in areas with authoritarian governments.

Recommended VPNs with a kill switch

Most major VPNs include automatic system-level kill switch functionality. However, some enterprise-level VPN solutions are more advanced, offering application-level kill switches and the ability to differentiate between intentional and unintentional VPN disconnections.

  • North VPN: NordVPN offers products for SMBs and enterprises that include both application-level and system-level kill switch functionality. Business plans start at $8 per user per month.
  • Surf Shark: Surfshark VPN is an affordable option for small and medium-sized businesses that can be upgraded with additional security and team management features. Pricing starts at $2.39 per user per month.
  • ExpressVPN: ExpressVPN is a powerful enterprise-grade solution with a system-level kill switch and an integrated password manager. Plans start at $9.99 per user per month.
  • IP disappears: IPVanish is an affordable option for small and medium-sized businesses, providing system-level kill switches, threat protection, and apps for Apple TV and Fire TV. Pricing starts at $2.75 per month.

Should your organization use a VPN kill switch?

If your organization requires a VPN, it also requires a VPN kill switch. This feature will prevent third parties from accessing your users’ internet activity and IP addresses if their VPN connection is interrupted for any reason. VPN kill switches have some disadvantages to consider, especially for users with spotty internet connections or limited access to sensitive resources. However, the privacy and security benefits make it crucial for many VPN users.

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