A VPN kill switch is a security measure which should be put in place by the VPN provider. Most VPN providers will offer a kill switch to all individuals using the VPN to decrease the chances of attackers accessing sensitive or personal information, which is the main advantage of a VPN.
How Does a VPN Kill Switch Work?
A kill switch works by cutting off a user’s connection to the internet whenever there is an issue with the VPN. If the VPN stops working for whatever reason, the kill switch will be automatically turned on. This means that the user will have no connection to the internet until the issue with the VPN has been resolved.
The kill switch is activated automatically because users will not notice when the VPN stops working, and would continue to use the internet. This could then leave them susceptible to online attackers being able to access information such as an IP address as all online activity would be visible once the VPN stopped working.
A kill switch will remain activated until the VPN is fully functioning to ensure that users are not left vulnerable when transmitting data online. The user will know when the VPN is working again because they should be able to use their device to connect to the internet. In the meantime, if they presume they are having problems with their internet connection they could check to see if there are any issues with the server. If this is not the case, it is likely that the kill switch has been activated.
Users should not be disconnected from the internet for a long period of time. If access to the internet is crucial during the time when the kill switch is activated, users should contact their provider to ask when normal service will be resumed. It is not advised to access the internet during this time without a VPN in place, especially if a user needs to access sensitive files or information.
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Why Use a VPN?
VPNs can be beneficial as they encrypt data transmitted online meaning that attackers will not be able to decode it. This means that anonymity and security is provided to internet users and they will be free to use the internet without the risks associated with having their data stolen.
In addition to this, VPNs can be beneficial for large organisations with multiple employees operating in multiple locations. In this instance, they provide access to sensitive material through a user’s login, making them ideal for hybrid working. Organisations should able to provide additional logins for new employees, ensuring that all staff use the same VPN to increase their security.
VPN providers can also help users to access files in different countries or regions which are usually prohibited due to geo-blocking. This can make it easier for individuals to use online streaming services from all over the world in spite of any browser restrictions that may be in place.
In spite of this, VPNs should not be used to access content which is geo-blocked for legal reasons. It is always important to check that a user is not attempting to download pirated or restricted content using a VPN as this may be deemed illegal in some countries or regions.
What Would Happen Without a VPN Kill Switch?
A kill switch means that internet users cannot become vulnerable online. If a kill switch is not enabled, users will typically continue using the internet as normal, with all of their personal information left exposed.
Without a kill switch, attackers could gain access to a user’s IP address and hack into their device. This can then enable them to steal personal data and impersonate users online and potentially gain access to online accounts. Attackers will be looking for sensitive information such as names, phone numbers or credit card details alongside login information.
Once information has been stolen online it can be particularly hard to regain control of the data. Attackers can gain full control of accounts and manipulate them so that the individuals or organisation they are impersonating will be deprived access. A kill switch will prevent this entirely without the user even being aware that it has been enabled at the time, meaning personal data remains secure.
What Are The Disadvantages of a Kill Switch For VPNs?
The singular disadvantage of a kill switch is that the user can be prevented from using online services or accessing files at any time if the VPN stops working. This can be done without the user being made aware and therefore some data could be lost. In spite of this, the kill switch being activated is deemed a small price to pay for all data remaining secure, and the kill switch should only be activated until the technical issues have been resolved.
If a user is unsure whether their VPN provider offers a kill switch, they should enquire in case there is ever any technical issues involved with the VPN or the provider.