VPN Killswitch Feature: What it Is and What it Does

Updated on: 7 February 2019
Updated on: 7 February 2019

A kill switch in an advanced feature offered by premium VPN providers. With a kill switch you can prevent that your real IP address and location will ever be revealed even if for some reason your VPN connection drops.

A kill switch is in my opinion an essential feature and is an absolute must have feature for any VPN. Unfortunately not many VPNs actually have this feature. For example, no free VPN has a kill switch as far as I know.

Below you will learn what a VPN kill switch actually does and why it’s so important to use one regardless of what you’re doing on the internet with a VPN.

1. What is a VPN kill switch and how does it work?

A VPN kill switch is a feature that works automatically in the background and constantly checks your VPN connection and IP address. The moment the VPN connection gets interrupted the kill switch disables your devices internet capabilities.

This is to prevent your real IP address and location from being revealed.

Every time you disable your VPN or if for some reason the connections drops your IP will immediately revert back to your normal one. This means that if you were using torrents, streaming or visiting a website in the meantime your IP and locations will immediately be revealed to them.

The worst part is that you will not notice when this happens because when your VPN connection drops your normal connection and IP will be switched back automatically by your operating system within just a fraction of a second. You could end up browsing the web for your with your regular connection and not having a clue what’s going on.

With a kill switch this can be avoided. If your VPN connection drops then the kill switch will not allow for your regular connection to switch back (i.e. it will kill all internet activity).

You will then have two options: Wait for the VPN network to reconnect, or stop doing whatever you were doing you needed the VPN for and manually re-connect to your normal connection by shutting down your VPN app.

2. Why do I need a VPN kill switch?

If you have read the previous segment then you can already guess why such a feature is extremely useful.

Some common scenarios you should absolutely use a kill switch:

  • You are torrenting
  • You are visiting websites banned in your country
  • You are a political activist in a non-democratic country
  • You work with confidential files that need encryption

These are just a few and most obvious scenarios.

Imagine you are torrenting and you are located in a country where this could bring you into legal trouble. With a VPN you can hide your torrenting activities but what happens when your VPN connection gets dropped? With no kill switch your regular connection with your real IP and real location data gets reconnected without you even knowing.

It only takes just 1 second for your regular connection to come back online and your ISP will have already several red flags going up about you torrenting, which then they will have to report to the authorities.

If you’d had a kill switch then your regular connection would never have come online and all your have been fine.

Also imagine you are a political activist in a country with undemocratic laws. You are using a VPN to hide your identity and your real location. Your internet accounts will always be closely monitored by the authorities but they won’t know who you are and where you’re located at.

Now, if your VPN connection gets interrupted and your normal connection takes over even for just 1 second, the authorities will immediately know your real location with absolute precision. It will all be over just because of a connection drop of 1 second.

Again, a kill switch would have prevented this because it would have blocked your regular connection from taking over when the VPN connection failed.

I can come up with several more examples but I believe you get the idea.

Oh yea, I almost forgot: Every VPN or VPN connection will eventually experience some drops. Even the best VPNs only have a 99% uptime guarantee. This means at some point in time your VPN connection will drop. It just happens. And it will happen to you too!

This is why you absolutely need a kill switch.

3. Don’t all VPNs have a kill switch?

You may be asking now why I’m repeating myself so much about the necessity of a kill switch. Pretty much all VPNs have a kill switch so why do I need to pay so much attention to this, right?


In fact, most VPNs do not actually have a kill switch.

I know for a fact that almost no free VPN has a kill switch. Even though this feature is an absolute must, most VPNs did not bother to actually implement it, mostly because most users don’t even have a clue that something like this exists and how important it is.

So, you need to ensure that you only and exclusively use a VPN that has such a feature.

4. What VPNs have a killswitch?

As said above, not many VPNs have a kill switch. Some premium and top-ranked VPN platforms that have this feature are NordVPN, ExpressVPN and Cyberghost.

From these I recommend NordVPN because beside the kill switch it has a true zero-logs policy, meaning that it keeps absolutely no records whatsoever about user activity (unlike ExpressVPN, for example).

NordVPN also allows you to use your VPN connection (and kill switch feature) with particular applications or websites only. For example, you can make it so that your NordVPN connection only runs for torrent websites and applications while anything else runs on your normal connection. This is also a feature usually not available at most other VPN platforms.

NordVPN is also the cheapest VPN from the list of premium VPNs, costing only $2.75 per month, which is more than half the price of all other major competitors.

So check out NordVPN if you want to get some of the fastest VPN servers and one of the most advanced VPN kill switch features available on the internet.

Written by: Elizabeth March

Advanced ITSEC Specialist Based in Cambridge, England, Elizabeth has held notable positions for a range of high-profile vendors and clients in the European IT Security and Communications Sector. As a former IT Trainer, Technical Specialist, and Product Manager; she transitioned into the role of an expert IT Copywriter in 2015. Since then, her works have been published globally, and she continues to help people easily decipher complex technical challenges and make informed decisions about their digital lives.

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