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What is a VPN kill switch?




What is a VPN kill switch

Virtual private networks are great, but they’re not perfect. Nothing is, least of all software. And what is a VPN kill switch if not a functional reminder of that fact, a practical admonition that, at some point down the road, things will break down regardless of what you do or don’t do. After that happens, the only important question will be how have you prepared for that scenario and the issues arising from it. I.e. will the barrier you’ve put up between your sensitive, personally identifiable information and the spying-addicted World Wide Web have a single point of failure or not?

Don’t answer that, the existence of a VPN kill switch – or lack thereof – in your browsing setup will do that for you. Because much like its name suggests, this is a mechanic meant to put an end to something – your Internet connection. It will do so automatically whenever your VPN fails and gets disconnected for any reason, thus preventing you from sending any kind of data from your real IP address and without the added protection of encryption. Well, it will until it doesn’t; nothing is perfect, remember?

Don’t overthink it – you definitely want kill switch support from your VPN

So, while a single extra security measure may not sound as too significant of an addition, you shouldn’t view it that way. Instead, think of it as doubling the number of failure points in your VPN setup. This is a whole other ball game, since the odds of two things failing are, more often than not, smaller than the probability of only one of those things failing, as highly advanced statistical techniques such as correspondence analysis teach us (read: “bigger number bigger than smaller number”).

That’s a pretty good return on something so relatively straightforward to code, which is why the vast majority of today’s VPNs have built-in kill switches. Therefore, assuming you’re using something that even vaguely resembles a professional piece of software, the chances of your VPN failing at the same time its kill switch monitoring service does are practically negligible, despite it only being a question of when either one of those things will happen on its own.

Not that VPN kill switches never failed when they were needed the most. Believe it or not, they can sometimes let you down by design, though that’s usually a signal you should change your provider to someone less scummy; whereby “usually” means “always”, while “signal” means “a figurative red flag the size of a file Google has on everything you represent as a conscious organism”.

If, despite making a sensible choice of a VPN with a good track record and reliable kill switch automation, you still find yourself browsing the Internet unprotected by accident – that’s just how it sometimes goes in life… of simpletons not running a double VPN, duh. On a serious note, it’s also what occasionally happens to the best of us, and by “best”, we mean “notorious Russian military intelligence officers hacking the world’s best-armed nation who really should know better”.

Editor’s Note

What is a VPN kill switch?” was written by Dominik Bosnjak, a long-time VPN-user-turned-advocate who spends more time scrutinizing VPN Providers on a daily basis than he’d like to admit. When he isn’t writing VPN Guides and covering general Tech News, he’s probably spending time with his dog, video games, or both. Fun fact: the Shih Tzu in question is the only remaining creature in Dominik’s life who hasn’t told him they’re sick of him talking about Best VPN practices and government-sponsored erosion of digital privacy which made using the Internet less convenient over the years. He occasionally dabbles in video editing, Wall Street memes, and demonstrating a remarkable lack of guitar-playing ability.

If you want more tidbit-sized rants about any of those things, you can find him on Twitter @dddominikk.

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