What is a VPN kill switch?
A VPN kill switch, also called internet kill switch or network lock, is a VPN feature that disconnects your device from the internet in case your connection disrupted, securing your IP until you can safely and privately reconnect via VPN.
When your internet connection is lost, your device usually reverts to your public IP once the connection is restored, usually automatically. To prevent your real IP from being exposed, a VPN with a kill switch doesn’t allow your device to reconnect until the VPN connection is also reestablished. Once the connection is stable, your VPN will provide you with a different virtual location, thus safeguarding your real IP. A kill switch is an essential feature for ensuring the security and anonymity of your connection, as connections are not always reliable. Connectivity problems can occur anytime because of various problems: weak Wi-Fi signal, network congestions, router issues, or even unstable VPN protocols.
There are two types of VPN kill switches, depending on what processes they block in the event of a connection failure:
- Application-level kill switch
- System-level kill switch
An application-level kill switch is triggered only for specific apps, and for this reason, it is also called app killer by some providers. In the case of a VPN connection failure, the kill switch stops specific pre-defined apps but allows you to continue using the internet if the internet connection is stable enough. It is commonly used for apps that store sensitive personal data, such as email apps or online banking apps, or for controversial apps, such as torrents. An app-level kill switch will allow you to continue using the internet even if the VPN connection is lost.
A system-level kill switch disrupts your internet connection if the VPN connection is interrupted. With a system-level kill switch, you cannot use any web apps or browse the internet until your VPN connection is restored. It is a far more radical approach, but much safer as your public IP remains hidden for all web-based services and apps. Currently, most VPN providers offer a system-level kill switch.
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