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.