Internet Kill Switch is a must-have for those who leave BitTorrent clients running while they are away from their computers and also use VPN to protect their identities. This article explains what Internet Kill Switch is, why it is useful and how you can get it.
What is Internet Kill Switch
Generally speaking, a kill switch is a safety mechanism that stops a device in case of an emergency. It is designed to completely shut down a device or system in the fastest way possible in order to prevent more serious damages to people or other devices. For example, on large industrial machines, the kill switch is usually a big red button located on the central control panel that provides a rapid means to disconnect the power supply of the device in order to protect the workers.
The Internet kill switch or VPN kill switch is a software mechanism that cuts off the access of the computer to the Internet when the VPN connection drops accidentally. Thus, it prevents unwanted data transfer without the protection of VPN encryption and the exposition of the real IP address used by the computer.
The Internet kill switch is especially important for torrent downloaders in order to protect their identity and not have them exposed to the torrent swarm. A VPN disconnect may let your real IP address visible and compromise your online anonymity.
What Kill Switch does for you
As said above, the Internet kill switch is a safety mechanism that completely shuts down the Internet connection or stops selected applications to connect to the Internet when a VPN drop occurs. The Internet kill switch feature is implemented as a stand-alone software application or it is provided as part of the VPN clients offered by top VPN services (take a look below to a list of VPN providers that offer kill switch).
Let us consider one of the most basic scenarios when the kill switch may be useful: a user connects to a VPN server, starts downloading torrents and then leaves the computer. At some point the connection to the VPN server drops and, if the Internet kill switch is disabled or not present, the torrent download continues using the real IP address instead of the IP address of the VPN server, thus leaking the IP address of the downloader.
If the kill switch is enabled it may:
- completely shut down the Internet connection of the device/computer in case of VPN failure;
- close pre-selected applications (for example the BitTorrent client);
- restart the applications after the VPN connection is restored.
Thus, the Internet kill switch protects your online anonymity and privacy when the VPN protections are off, but it may also help restart the scheduled downloads after the VPN connection is restored.
VPN services that offer Kill Switch
Some of the best VPN services on the market have the Kill Switch function included in their VPN clients. The implementations are slightly different, but the basic function is fulfilled. I am going to present 3 kill switch implementations from PureVPN, ibVPN and Private Internet Access.
PureVPN Kill Switch Overview
The PureVPN Kill Switch is available for the Windows client and closes down all Internet activities if the VPN fails for any reason. Other two helpful options are available:
- Auto Redial – the VPN connection reconnects automatically when it disconnects.
- Manual Disconnect – if activated it closes the Internet connection even if the VPN is disconnected manually.
Take a look to the complete PureVPN Kill Switch presentation:
ibVPN Kill Switch Overview
ibVPN is one of the most convenient VPN services on the market and their support is simply amazing. They have recently added the kill switch function to their VPN clients for Windows and macOS. It does the work as follows (slightly different approach than PureVPN):
- A list of apps to be closed in case of VPN drop has to be defined (e.g. torrent apps).
- When enabled, the Kill Switch closes all applications in the list in case of an unwanted VPN disconnect.
- If the Auto Reconnect feature (only for Windows) is also enabled, the VPN client re-opens the apps from the list as soon as the VPN connection has been re-established.
ibVPN recommends that Kill Switch is always enabled and the app list to be regularly updated. You may watch below the video presentations of ibVPN Kill Switch both for Windows and macOS.
Private Internet Access Kill Switch Overview
The Private Internet Access Kill Switch completely stops the computer Internet connection if you are disconnected from the VPN. Thus, in case you have the BitTorrent client running, it will not keep downloading files. The smart feature is that it reactivates normal internet access when you deactivate the kill switch mode or exit the application.
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Setup your own Kill Switch with VPN
There are several third-party applications that you can use for Internet Kill Switch in case you are not happy with the built-in options available with the VPN clients:
- VPN Watcher for Windows and macOS comes with unlimited trial and $9.95 lifetime personal license. The application prevents listed applications from sending any data to the Internet while the established VPN connection is down.
- WatchDog for Windows is a free OpenVPN connection monitoring service. Basically, it blocks all outbound connections using your real IP when active.
- VPNNetMon for Windows blocks unsecured connections after a VPN connection drop. It simply closes listed applications when the VPN connection is down.
If you are a heavy torrent downloader than you know that you need a VPN to protect your identity. But, what do you do to protect yourself when the VPN connection fails? The Internet Kill Switch is the answer. It is a must-have and, as presented above, there are several good solutions, either from top VPN providers or from third-party apps.