VPN Split Tunneling and Why You Should Use It
How to Anonymize Part of your Internet Connection and Defeat Traffic Analysis
What is Split Tunneling?
You can set up some VPNs to “split” your Internet connection so that only the apps and related traffic you designate are routed through the VPN.
This lets you separate your internet traffic into two distinct categories. Some data is routed through a VPN server and enjoys the IP masking and encryption provided by a VPN service. The rest of your traffic remains “as is” and is directed over your local network in the usual way, stamped with your real IP address.
At a glance, Split Tunneling may seem like a step backwards for trying to achieve online privacy and security. But you need to look closer.
Why Use Split Tunneling?
The many advantages and uses of VPNs are detailed elsewhere on our site, but for this discussion let’s just mention a few. When your internet traffic is routed through a VPN, you get the benefits of online anonymity and encryption for all the incoming and outgoing data from your computer or device. Using a VPN prevents your ISP and/or other parties from monitoring your online activities. This protection is desirable when, for example, you want to prevent your ISP from throttling your bandwidth for certain traffic-intensive activities, such as mass web downloads, torrent file-sharing, content streaming and Usenet.
So if sending traffic through a VPN is so great, why you would to split it? Read on.
Split Tunneling Helps Thwart Traffic Analysis
Splitting your VPN connection also curbs the ability of trackers to link you personally to your VPN activities including by sophisticated traffic analysis techniques. For example, if you access a password protected account such as Gmail or Facebook with your VPN enabled, the trackers could link your masked IP address to your identity.
For example, let's say you want to engage in some sensitive activity XYZ online so you enable your VPN and it gives you masked IP address 123456. Just before, after or at the same time as you are engaging in these activities the same IP address accessed the social media or email account of Noah Body. It wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Noah Body was the person doing activity XYZ.
This means any sites you visit or online activities you undertake even while protected by a VPN can be linked back to you if you are not careful. Not so when you split your connection.
Split Tunneling Speeds you Up
Because your VPNed traffic is being encrypted and routed through a different location, this can have an impact on your connection speeds. First of all, data encryption performed by the VPN takes a little extra time to process. Secondly, the closest VPN server may be located at a great distance from your actual location meaning it takes longer than accessing the resource directly.
In addition, unless you are using one of our recommended VPNs, poorer quality and free VPNs can suffer from bottlenecks, especially at peak hours which further slows down your connection speeds.
With Split Tunneling feature you can maximize your speeds by limiting the apps and traffic you wish to route through a VPN server. Both encrypted and unencrypted traffic will benefit from Split Tunneling. Ordinary data will pass through the local network without losing time on encryption. Data routed through your VPN will not need to compete for bandwidth and computing resources.
Sometimes Split Tunneling is Just Darn Convenient
With a VPN enabled it’s sometimes a pain to always be redirected to the “wrong” geographically-based website. For example, being directed to Amazon Japan when you want Amazon USA or Google Sweden when you wanted Google UK. Again, split VPN tunneling can help.
How Should I Split My Apps and Traffic?
Traffic that you should consider routing through the VPN includes the following:
- accessing geo-restricted streaming and content
- torrent file-sharing (for example, µTorrent)
- downloading from Usenet newsgroups (for example, your Newshosting newsreader)
- any sensitive web browsing or online activities you do not want third parties to know about, track or monitor (for example, if web browsing for health-related information)
Traffic you should consider not routing through the VPN includes:
- general web browsing, for example news websites
- password protected type accounts such as your personal email and social media accounts (there is no point routing them through a VPN because those activities are anyway easily linked to your personal identity)
- activities for which you do want to rely on your actual location, such as for starting pages for search engines, new sites or online shopping.
One easy way to accomplish this is to set up the split tunneling so that all your activities on the Firefox web browser are sent through the VPN but your activities on the Chrome browser aren’t. This way, you just use Firefox when you want your activities anonymized and protected from the benefit of the VPN and Chrome for your password protected accounts and non-sensitive stuff such as news and other general websites.
Which VPN Offers Traffic Splitting?
To date, only PureVPN offers split tunneling as part of its basic VPN service.
PureVPN is a top-rated VPN service provider for many reasons. PureVPN offers hundreds of servers located in 100+ countries around the world, has an intuitive interface, round-the-clock customer service, and supports a wide range of protocols. However, the feature that really sets PureVPN apart from its competitors is its unique Split Tunneling feature.
PureVPN’s Split Tunneling feature is easy to set up according to your needs. All you need to do is access the Split Tunneling tab in PureVPN’s software app, then select the applications you wish to route through PureVPN, and that’s it! See the screenshot and short video below.