VPN kill switch benefits VPN kill switch drawbacks
  • Protects sensitive data
  • Prevents account compromise
  • Provides privacy from censorship
  • Causes frequent disconnections
  • Requires always-on VPN
  • Crashes disable internet access

A virtual private network encrypts internet traffic and masks IP addresses to protect user privacy. If the VPN connection fails for any reason without the user noticing, say, because the device moves to a new Wi-Fi network or momentarily goes to sleep, then any 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 drops, preventing users from unknowingly exposing their data or IP addresses. For businesses with remote, hybrid and traveling workforces, a VPN kill switch ensures consistent protection from company devices as users move from their home networks to public hotspots and hotel Wi-Fi.

Types of VPN kill switches and how they work

A VPN kill switch continuously monitors the VPN connection to detect any potential issues that could cause an interruption. It automatically blocks internet access as needed and restores the connection once the VPN is reengaged.

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

An application-level VPN kill switch allows 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 their connection to company resources but not the other traffic used by personal apps (such as Discord or Netflix).

SEE: What is Cloud Security? (TechRepublic)

A system-level VPN kill switch disables internet access for the entire device when the VPN connection goes down. This option is much more secure, but it can be a hassle for users with unstable internet connections or who primarily use their devices for personal applications.

VPN kill switch benefits vs. drawbacks

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

VPN kill switch benefits

  • Protects sensitive or classified company information from data leaks.
  • Prevents malicious outsiders from capturing user passwords and other personal data.
  • Provides privacy for users living in, working in or visiting countries with heavy internet censorship and surveillance.

VPN kill switch drawbacks

  • Causes frequent disconnections for users with unreliable internet access and error-prone devices.
  • Often requires the VPN to be running at all times or must be manually toggled off when the user doesn’t need it.
  • If the VPN app crashes and can’t restart, internet access may be completely disabled, impeding a user’s ability to fix the problem.

Risks of using a VPN without a kill switch

Anyone using a VPN needs it for a reason, and a VPN kill switch ensures they never unintentionally access the internet without it.

Using a VPN without a kill switch increases the risk that a VPN connection drop will expose the user’s internet activity and IP address to malicious third parties, making company resources more vulnerable.

SEE: The Top 6 Enterprise VPN Solutions to Use (TechRepublic)

This risk increases when the user accesses the internet with free public Wi-Fi hotspots in coffee shops, airports and hotels.

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

Recommended VPNs with kill switches

Most major VPNs include an automatic, system-level kill switch feature. However, some business-class VPN solutions are more advanced and provide application-level kill switches and the ability to differentiate between intentional and unintentional VPN disconnects.

  • NordVPN: 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.
  • Surfshark: Surfshark VPN is an affordable option for SMBs that can be upgraded with additional security and team management capabilities. Pricing starts at $2.39 per user per month.
  • ExpressVPN: ExpressVPN is a robust, enterprise-class solution with a system-level kill switch as well as an integrated password manager. Plans start at $9.99 per user per month.
  • IPVanish: IPVanish is a budget-friendly option for SMBs offering a system-level kill switch, 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 needs a VPN, it also needs 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 drawbacks to consider, especially for users with spotty internet connections or limited access to sensitive resources. However, the privacy and security advantages make them essential for many VPN users.


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