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How to test your VPN kill switch: a beginner's guide

Using a VPN normally directs all your web traffic through a secure encrypted tunnel, protecting it from snoopers. But what if your VPN connection drops? Your device might switch to a less secure network, such as an insecure Wi-Fi hotspot, putting your data at risk – the same danger which persuaded you to sign up for a VPN in the first place.

A VPN kill switch detects a dropped VPN connection and immediately blocks your internet access, ensuring traffic never leaves your device unprotected. That’s the theory, at least. But does your app really deliver? You can begin to find out in just a couple of minutes.

The first step in running a simple kill switch test is to check the details of your regular internet connection (whatever you’ll use when the VPN is off).

Disconnect from your VPN and turn the kill switch off. If you don’t know where to do that, check the Settings panel: NordVPN has a Kill Switch section, ExpressVPN has a Network Lock option under the General tab.

Head to the Page Refresher website , a handy site which can automatically refresh your chosen URL at regular intervals.

Copy and paste http://ip-api.com/csv into the Page Refresher address box, and set the ‘Refresh page at every…‘ box to 1 second.

Click Start and Page Refresher opens a new browser tab with your current IP address and location, then refreshes it every second.

When you see these details in the Page Refresher window, you know your device is using your current unprotected internet connection. Use a VPN and its kill switch should prevent you from accidentally switching back to the connection, but is that what happens? Let’s see.

Turn your VPN kill switch back on, then choose a VPN location in another country (anywhere other than the country you’re in now), hit the Connect button, and watch the Page Refresher window. 

You’ll probably see error or ‘No Internet’ messages for a few seconds, but that often happens as network settings are updated. Once the VPN says it’s connected, wait a few seconds more, and the window should display your VPN’s IP address and location.



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