What Is a VPN Kill Switch And Why You Need to Use it

A Virtual Private Network more commonly known as a VPN comes with multiple features for enhanced security. An Internet Kill switch is one of them. The role of a VPN kill switch is to provide instant disconnection from the Internet in case of VPN connection failure.

A lot of VPN providers name this feature in a different manner. But the most notable term is negated by Surfshark which calls it a Network Lock. In other terms, it is a mere Internet kill switch providing a safe exit in case of a lost VPN connection.

What Types of VPN Kill switches are there?

This brilliant piece of technology comes in 2 different types:

  1. Application Level Kill Switch
  2. System-Level Kill Switch

However, some VPN providers like Le VPN, classify their kill switch types as Active Kill Switch and Passive Kill Switch. These are based on protocols that have the capability to identify if you are disconnected from the virtual server location.

1. Application Level Kill Switch

As the name suggests, this type of network lock is limited to different applications such as torrent clients, email apps, streaming apps, etc. User has the option to pick certain apps which must trigger kill switch if there is a VPN connection failure. Some VPN providers may kill this feature as App Killer since it is killing a connection of a certain app.

This type of kill switch comes in very handy if you wish to hide your IP address while downloading torrents for example. Having an application-level kill switch might restrict your app from updating to newer versions. Having said that one must ensure that apps like anti-virus, password managers, and anti-malware are not prevented from being updated to newer versions.

2. System-Level Kill Switch

System-Level kill switches or more commonly referred to as internet kill switch simply freeze your internet connection if the VPN protocol detects a disconnection from a VPN server. The internet traffic is disabled until the VPN server reestablishes its connection.

A lot of VPN providers have started to incorporate this feature into their packages as mandatory. This is because even the most secure connections can fail, leaving your identity and internet traffic exposed. Hence having such a feature keeps one safe from prying eyes.

A System-Level kill switch is a better option as it disconnects you entirely from the internet preventing your IP addresses from being exposed.

An Internet kill switch is always a swift option to terminate certain programs or even your entire internet connection in case of internet traffic channeling outside the secure VPN tunnel.

How to Verify the kill-switch is working as intended

Unlike VPN logs which can be verified from within a provider’s privacy policy, a Kill switch is a bit tricky to verify. To test this feature, I simply used common sense and was pretty much able to find out if the kill switch is working as it is supposed to. This feature is usually not enabled by default hence for this test, I configured a paid IPVanish account and connected to the VPN service, and followed the following steps:

  1. Open the IPVanish Windows/Mac app or any other device you are using and sign in with your credentials or sign up if you don’t have one. Then head over to pick the best location or let the app decide the best possible location. I was connected to a  Boston, US server.how to verify if kill switch is working
  2. Then head over to Settings Tab on the left of the IPVanish VPN App and put a checkmark on the “Kill Switch” along with “Block LAN Traffic” option. This might vary depending on the VPN you are using. The same can be found on the top left of the NordVPN’s Windows app or in the top right corner of the Surfshark’s Windows app.ipvanish kill switch settings
  3. Once enabled, head over to your browser and try to access a website, as a reference point I browsed for CNET, which loaded perfectly fine with the system kill switch enabled.

ipvanish's kill switch activated

  1. However after disconnecting the VPN app, while the kill switch was enabled I tried to reopen CNET. This time the internet traffic did not go through even though the internet connection was active. Since the feature was enabled my internet traffic was blocked from accessing the website. This ensured the kill switch was working as intended.

Which VPN providers offer Internet kill switch?

Some might argue that a Kill switch is an advanced VPN feature, but I believe this has become a necessity for a VPN provider to offer. With growing concern for privacy, there are a lot of VPN services offering the best kill switch for maximum anonymity and encryption.

Following is the list of VPN services I managed to analyze offering either an App level or System level kill switch.

  1. Surfshark
  2. ExpressVPN
  3. NordVPN
  4. IPVanish
  5. CyberGhost
  6. ibVPN
  7. PureVPN

1. Surfshark Kill Switch

Surfshark is an affordable VPN provider that offers this incredible feature to ensure the users get maximum internet protection. The Surfshark kill switch is a system-level kill switch that completely eliminates any internet traffic in case of a VPN failure. The feature is available for all popular operating systems.

  1. Android
  2. iOS
  3. macOS
  4. Windows

2. ExpressVPN Network Lock

ExpressVPN names it’s kill switch as Network Lock which is available for Linux, Mac, and Windows. The network lock is a system-level kill switch that prevents your network traffic from moving outside the encrypted connection tunnel. It is available with the following platforms:

  1. macOS
  2. Windows
  3. Linux

3. NordVPN Kill Switch

NordVPN offers its kill switch as an Automatic kill switch which blocks your device automatically from accessing the internet outside the secure VPN tunnel. The two versions of NordVPN automatic kill switch are

  1. Desktop version for Windows and macOS which is an application-level kill switch
  2. Mobile version for Android and iOS which is a system-level kill switch

4. IPVanish Kill Switch

The internet lock provided by IPVanish is a system-level kill switch that is currently available for macOS X and Windows. After testing IPVanish’s kill switch, the feature worked quite smooth and as intended.

  1. macOS X
  2. Windows

5. CyberGhost Kill Switch

CyberGhost VPN offers an automatic internet kill switch which claims to block all internet connections in case of CyberGhost connection or failure. This value VPN provider offers its kill switch on all the major platforms.

  1. Windows
  2. Android
  3. iOS
  4. macOS

6. ibVPN Network Lock

Similar to ExpressVPN, ibVPN also labels its internet kill switch as network lock. ibVPN is among the few VPN providers which offer both a system-level kill switch and an application-level kill switch for 100% internet freedom. The network lock provided by ibVPN supports Windows and Mac.

  1. Windows
  2. macOS

7. PureVPN Kill Switch

PureVPN is one of the oldest providers in the industry, and by no means, it is short on features. PureVPN kill switch boosts internet encryption and keeps the users safe from vulnerabilities. Due to a lot of complaints about PureVPN’s connectivity, having enabled PureVPN kill switch, the users can feel secure and anonymous at any time. The feature is only available to two of the major platforms.

  1. Windows
  2. macOS

Are there Free VPNs with Kill switch?

Wishing to get a network lock feature for free? Well, might not be totally out of luck here as there are a few free VPN services that offer a kill switch feature. But free VPNs have the tendency to log user data and sell it to make a living. To be honest, I don’t really trust a free VPN service to work flawlessly with this feature. So it is totally upon you to risk your privacy by opting for a free VPN that might offer a network lock, but also sell your data.

The following list of VPN providers with network lock is either completely free or they are free for a limited time period:

  1. Hide.me
  2. Hotspot Shield
  3. TunnelBear
About Sebastian Riley

Sebastian Riley is a cyberlibertarian activist and an internet freedom fighter who strongly believes in an unsegregated and uncensored internet. With a cybersecurity degree, Sebastian is a professional bug hunter and a freelance opensource penetration tester.