As is often the case in the tech world, businesses got the good tech first. Large corporations were the first to use VPNs, powerful privacy and encryption tools, many years before everyone else to better secure their data transfers.
While VPNs, which are much more widely available to any business of any size, are a great tool they are not 100% foolproof.When you’re vetting a VPN for our business, take the time to look at whether it has a feature called one of the following:
- VPN kill switch
- Internet kill switch
- Secure IP Bind
Or something of that nature which is designed to protect you if VPN server connections are dropped.
What do you use a kill switch for?
The best VPN clients all have a kill switch feature built into them. It’s job is to monitor your IP address and immediately cut your entire access to the Internet when the IP address changes suddenly. Why? Because a sudden IP address change indicates a lost connection to a VPN server, and the exposure of your personal information.
This means that while you’re connected to the VPN, everything was going fine. Then, unfortunately, for any number of reasons, the connection dropped. If the file transfer you were doing, of confidential data, were to continue you data would be exposed. A kill switch completely disables all Internet traffic coming from your computer. This protects your data.
Examples of VPN kill switches
There are two ways to go about getting a VPN kill switch. The most difficult way, and one which could prove difficult for your remote workers who need it, is called ‘rolling your own.’ It involves downloading a script, executing it on your computer, and then connecting your VPN through it. Impossible? No. More work than it needs to be? Yes.
Your other alternative it to use a VPN which simply has this feature already built into it. An example would be IPVanish’s kill switch, which you simply have to select with a checkmark to turn on in the settings tab:
Or even Hide My Ass who have theirs in a similar tab, but call it ‘Secure IP Bind.’ If I were you, I’d make sure that a VPN kill switch was part of the VPN I was purchasing. This makes installing it, and instructing your employees and co workers on its use, much easier.
Remember that not everyone you work with is a tech wiz. Choosing a tool which eliminates a step in your digital security will make it much more likely to be used properly, and successfully.
When would you even want to use a kill switch?
There are still many in the business industry who don’t see the point of having a VPN, let alone a kill switch. They fail to see that your data is at its most vulnerable when it’s being transferred across public network (which, again, we call The Internet). This includes everything from files you’re emailing, to Google Docs you’re sharing.
The most important times to have a VPN with a kill switch includes:
- Transfers between offices: The very first VPNs were created exactly for this purpose. You have another office, you want to send them data, but you can’t create a private network with your own infrastructure. So you use a VPN over the public infrastructure, and have a kill switch ready incase anything goes wrong.
- Conventions: You send your employees to meet with other businesses, and get them to pull up data from the home servers as part of their presentations. Great, good luck getting that business! But do you know that places like this a rife with corporate espionage from competitors looking to steal a few files, or hackers trying to steal password keys and customer data? The VPN encrypts it, the kill switch is the backup in case of failure.
- Informal connections: Every Friday the company has a meeting at the local Starbucks. Tasty. Order me a chai latte and a pumpkin scone. So you pull up some data on your tablet from the work servers to discuss with the team …but do you know for sure that your connection is secure? Is the patron using inferior encryption, like WEP, which is easy to hack? Of course you don’t, but a VPN will have high encryption standards like 256-bit government standard encryption, with the VPN there to once again save you if the connection drops.
I am certain that at one point or another your company has been in one of these positions. Without reliable encryption your data was exposed, and you’ll never know who came across it.
Give your employees the right tools to protect your business
The weakest point in any digital security plan is people. If you give people the right tools, and make them easy to use, the chances are much greater that they’ll use them, and use them correctly.
A VPN with strong encryption to protect you while it’s working, and a kill switch to protect you when it’s not, is a sure way to set your employees and coworker up for success. With hackers everywhere looking for one weak spot, you need to take greater precautions with your data, and secure it as well as you can at all times.
Marcus is the online and digital security writer for his website: Best VPN Provider.co. His blog there has been going strong for years, and offers lots of additional information on how you can better secure your digitally stored data, use VPNs, and beat location based censorship. Stop by every wednesday to read the latest, or follow @BestVPNs on Twitter for updates all day long.