On the surface, if your VPN disconnects while you are torrenting, it shouldn’t be a big deal. But, as always, it's not that simple. If you are using a VPN without a Kill Switch, and if the VPN crashes, you may be suddenly exposed, without any warning.
A VPN Disconnection can be a Serious Deal
There's a chance you don't even know that your VPN crashed and that your torrenting activities are now in full view of prying eyes. If it happens when you are torrenting, you may attract some very unwelcome attention from your ISP and other monitoring agencies.
After a VPN disconnection, you may have some questions to answer to the ISP (or to the authorities). Your protected information may have just gotten a lot more vulnerable just because your VPN does not have an important safety tool, a backup plan that is known as the Kill Switch.
What is a Kill Switch?
Luckily, most VPNs have protections in place for this unplanned occurrence. One of these is the kill switch, which is automatically triggered when the VPN disconnects.
This feature has the objective of killing the internet connection in case the VPN stops working for some reason. The purpose is that the user's real IP address is not shown while the VPN is disconnected.
Basically, the VPN Kill Switch provides an extra layer of security. The user knows that if there is a problem, this feature will immediately stop the Internet connection, keeping the real IP hidden. When the VPN is working again, the connection will be up again.
Why is a Kill Switch important for torrenting?
When you are torrenting with a VPN connection, the IP seen by the tracker of the torrent file is the IP from the VPN server. When the VPN stops working unexpectedly, your real IP becomes visible and you are exposed. Even if it was just a second of torrenting without a VPN connection, your IP will be saved by the tracker.
But if you are using a Kill Switch, every time there is a problem with the VPN, your Internet connection is interrupted before your real IP becomes exposed. This interruption is made immediately, so there is no time for you to be visible to the tracker.
General Kill Switch vs App Kill Switch
There are mainly two types of Kill Switch; the ones that end your Internet connection entirely and the ones that stop only the programs that you choose. Some VPN providers are starting to include both methods.
For example, when torrenting with NordVPN, the user is given the possibility of shutting down the entire connection if the VPN stops working. But there is a customized Kill Switch available as well. In this case, the user can previously choose the applications he wishes to stop in case there is a problem with the VPN.
If you are downloading torrents, you may select your BitTorrent client to be shut down if there is a disconnection, and leave everything else out of the range of the Kill Switch. That way, there won't be a complete Internet disconnection, which can be really useful if you still need to use some other online application, such as a browser. Just remember that your real IP will be visible while the VPN is off, meaning that the programs you didn't select will be able to see it.
A VPN disconnection while torrenting sounds like a simple thing. With some luck, you just have to turn it back on. But, in some cases, you leak your identity and online activity, and the damage is irreversible. To avoid such a situation, tools like a kill switch should be mandatory.
Fortunately, a good VPN service almost never disconnects, but the truth is that it may happen. Because of that, some providers include this feature in their VPN software, for their user’s peace of mind.