VPN Kill Switch: Why it's important and how to use it
If you've been looking into your options for getting a VPN service, you must've heard the term "Kill switch." But what is this feature? Is it crucial in a VPN or pure marketing? We got curious about this matter too. After not having found any easy-to-understand articles, we decided to write our own. Besides covering the basic tech stuff about the VPN Kill Switch, we'll also tell you about the history of the Kill switch as a concept. Don't worry; it won't be too complicated: you'll see a few funny GIFs and a brief tutorial on enabling the Kill Switch on your Android phone.
Kill Switch History 101
The meaning of the term "Kill switch" is simple. It is a feature that turns something off in the case of an emergency, e.g., stops a lawnmower if the person stands up or falls. The first written mentions of the Kill switch go back to 1950–60, but the term only became popular at the end of the 1990s.
In 1998, The X-Files' episode named "Kill Switch" premiered. 18.04 million people watched it in its initial broadcast. The episode gained warm reviews from television critics and viewers, and the words "Kill switch" went so mainstream that a metalcore band Killswitch Engage, inspired by the episode's name, took it as a part of their nickname.
Let's go back to tech stuff. In the 2000s, the US government thought of creating the Internet Kill Switch, something like a red button that turns off all the internet. The public heavily criticized the idea. Although some countries like China were able to cut the world's internet off and separated their online space with extensive firewalls. In the VPN industry, it's unknown when the first Kill switch appeared, but we estimate it happened in the early 2010s.
What Is a VPN Kill Switch, Really?
As now you know everything about the Kill switch's role in popular culture, technology, and the metalcore, let's get back to the original theme of the article and see what does a VPN Kill Switch does.
Before dealing with the Kill Switch, here's a quick recap of what a VPN does. A VPN, Virtual Private Network, is a technology that encrypts your web traffic (all the incoming and outcoming online data) and sends it through a dedicated VPN server, which can be located somewhere else in the world. As a result, your real IP gets hidden, and all your online interactions become private. This way, your Internet provider (ISP) can't spy on your online activities, as they can't understand the cipher.
So, what is a VPN Kill Switch? To put it simply, it's a feature that stops your internet if the VPN connection drops. The Kill Switch monitors your connection with the web, and if it detects any network errors or changes in your IP address, it'll shut down your internet connection immediately. This way, even if something goes off on either your or the VPN's side, your web traffic will always stay protected and private.
Why the VPN Kill Switch Is SO Important
The VPN Kill Switch acts as the last line of defense of your privacy and security in the digital world. You can lose the power at home, or your router can suddenly decide to reload, making the VPN drop. Or, a VPN server might go out of hand. This leaves your connection insecure unless you have a Kill Switch on. Here's what it protects from:
Kill Switch stops the ISP from tracking you 🕵️♀️ After the connection is lost, your traffic will go through your ISP's servers without any encryption. This will allow them to track you and sell your data to advertisers or the government. With a Kill switch on, your ISP won't get any of your unencrypted data.
Kill Switch hides your IP and Location 🌍 With a VPN on, your real IP is hidden, and the internet only sees the one from the VPN server. When the VPN connection drops, your IP becomes visible again, pointing at your location. Kill Switch prevents this from happening.
Kill Switch secures torrenting 💰 Torrenting itself isn't illegal, but uploading a copyrighted file is. If you're downloading something and your VPN connection stops, an IP leak may occur, which will tell your ISP about your activity and can lead to a fine. Kill Switch secures your IP from showing off what you download.
Kill Switch protects your data 💳 If your VPN drops on an insecure network, like a free Wi-Fi spot hotspot, your data might be in danger. Cybercriminals often use these such networks to steal people's credit card credentials, logins, and passwords. A Kill Switch VPN stops the internet if there's no encrypted connection to the VPN server and protects your data from cyber-attacks.
Let's Sum It Up
The Kill Switch is a feature that turns your internet off if the VPN drops unexpectedly. Kill Switch monitors your connection with the web, and if it detects any network connection error or change in your IP address, it'll immediately shut down your internet connection. This protects your actual IP address and location, prevents your ISP from spying on your actions, saves you from being fined for torrenting, and makes sure your data is always encrypted. The Kill Switch feature of the VPN is the last stand of your security on the web, and any decent VPN service has to be a VPN with Kill Switch.