The Ultimate Guide to Understanding Split Tunneling VPN Technology

If you use a VPN, you may know that some websites and apps won’t work when the VPN is enabled. This can be frustrating if you want to use those services without slowing down your connection or having to turn the VPN on and off constantly.

Split tunneling allows you to route certain apps and data through the VPN while leaving others unencrypted. This is especially useful for remote access-type VPNs.

So, what is split tunneling VPN? Split tunneling is a feature that allows VPN users to route some of their online activities through a virtual private network (VPN) while leaving other apps and devices connected to standard network access. By choosing which apps and devices to route through a VPN, users can enjoy the benefits of online privacy while still having the ability to access local devices such as printers and smart home tech.

In general, split tunneling works because when a VPN connection is active, data sent to the Internet from any selected app or device is first encrypted through the VPN’s secure tunnel. Traffic to any other website or service, however, is not. This means that hackers who gain unauthorized access to a user’s computer while using a VPN may be able to exploit the trust relationship between the computer and other networks, potentially exposing passwords and additional sensitive information.

To prevent this attack, most VPN services can configure split tunneling settings so that certain URLs and apps are always sent through a VPN. To test whether a VPN’s split tunneling features are working correctly, visit a website while the VPN is not connected and check that your IP address is displayed. If it isn’t, the split tunneling feature is not functioning correctly.

1. How does Split Tunneling work?

Using split tunneling, VPN users can control which apps and URLs get routed through the VPN’s secure tunnel and which remain on the open network. This feature is available in many VPN apps, though it can also be enabled through router settings or tuning options on the operating system level.

The benefit of split tunneling is that users can maintain the security of a VPN for more data-sensitive online activities while still enjoying a variety of other internet applications, like streaming geo-blocked content or accessing censored websites. This also allows users to avoid slowing down their connections by having everything run through a VPN when it’s not necessary.

A few risks are associated with splitting your tunneling, but most of these can be mitigated by ensuring all traffic is sent through the VPN tunnel, not through an open network. The main risk is the possibility of a DNS leak, whereby private data gets sent through an unencrypted connection to the Internet and is potentially exposed to hackers.

It’s also worth noting that split tunneling could bypass gateway-level security in the workplace if it needs to be set up correctly. This could leave users vulnerable to attacks from external sources, mainly if they use an app or URL that doesn’t support split tunneling.

2. What are the benefits of Split Tunneling?

The main benefit of VPN split tunneling is that it allows you to protect sensitive data without sacrificing speed. The technology will enable you to decide which apps and URLs should be routed through your VPN connection and which should go directly to the Internet. This is particularly useful for remote workers who need to access company resources via the VPN while also surfing the web for personal reasons.

Split tunneling can also help you use apps and services that don’t work with VPNs, such as streaming media services requiring your IP address or location. Keeping your VPN turned on all the time for these apps would be inconvenient and potentially result in your data being leaked.

App-based split tunneling is the most common type of split tunneling. It filters your traffic based on which apps are associated with it. For example, if you log in to your bank’s mobile app or your medical insurance provider’s telehealth software, those apps will be sent through the VPN tunnel, while other apps like TikTok scrolling will stay unencrypted.

Split tunneling can also enhance internet speeds by reducing the amount of VPN traffic that’s being transmitted. As a result, your web browsing and downloads will be faster, especially on networks with bandwidth limitations.

3. What are the disadvantages of Split Tunneling?

Using split tunneling, you can choose which apps will go through the VPN’s encrypted tunnel and which ones will not. You can access local websites and services faster without sacrificing privacy when browsing other apps or sites. This is an excellent feature for people using VPNs for online banking, shopping, or other sensitive activities.

Another advantage of splitting tunneling is that it can help to conserve bandwidth. This is because VPN traffic typically takes up more bandwidth than regular unencrypted web traffic. By allowing some of your internet traffic to bypass the VPN tunnel, you can save on data costs and still enjoy high-speed internet access.

A disadvantage of split tunneling is that it can increase certain security risks in remote work environments. For example, if an employee’s home network is compromised, hackers could exploit the open channel created by the VPN to infect the device and gain access to the company’s servers.

Additionally, keeping track of what sites and applications are routed through the VPN can be difficult if you use dynamic split tunneling. To avoid this problem, you can create an inverse split tunneling exclusion list to identify which apps and URLs will be routed through the VPN and which will not. Then, when you visit a website or app that will not be routed through the VPN, add it to your inverse split tunneling exclusion list so that it will bypass the VPN tunnel.