We have looked at the subject of how to protect yourself when your VPN connection fails before. This an important issue, particularly for P2P downloaders who leave their BitTorrent clients running most of the time, and don’t want their VPN connection dropping when away from the computer.
The problem with the solutions we presented earlier was that they almost are all almost all for Windows, and certainly there were no options available for mobile users. In addition to this, the only one which would close down a program when a VPN connection drops, then start it up again when reconnected, was VPN Check, a program we have found rather buggy in day-to-day use.
Enter VPN Watcher from UDGsoft. It will check your VPN connection ‘every half-second or less (up to 100ms) depending on current networking conditions’, and shut down any specified program immediately it detects a disconnect. As soon as you reconnect to a VPN server it will start the specified programs up again. We were particularly excited by the fact that according to UDGsoft, VPN Watcher is available for Windows, Mac OSX, iOS and Android! Unfortunately, as we shall see, the mobile offerings do not live up this promise.
VPN Watcher should work with any PPTP, L2TP or OpenVPN connection in Windows, but unfortunately OpenVPN is not supported in the Max OSX version.
Note that VPN Watcher is proprietary software (i.e. its code is not open source and therefore can’t be independently verified), but as an Estonian company we at least don’t think NSA spying is an issue (if such things worry you). There are both paid-for and free versions of the desktop software, with main the limitations of the free version being that the connection is checked every 500ms (rather than ‘up to’ every 99ms), and only one program can be controlled. If all you want to do is secure your P2P connection then the free version should be fine.
The mobile apps are free (but a waste of space).
VPN Watcher for Windows
We found the program very easy to setup. Just download, install and run, then to use OpenVPN select the ‘Tap-Win32’ adaptor installed by OpenVPN…
To find the name of this adaptor go to Control Panel -> Network and Internet -> Network Connections.
(If you can’t see it then you may need to reinstall your OpenVPN client, ensuring that the ‘Hide the TAP-Win32 Virtual Ethernet Adapter’ setting is unchecked on the ‘Choose Components’ screen.)
To add a program that you want shut down on disconnect and run on re-connect, right-click anywhere in the ‘Applications’ area, select ‘Add application’, and navigate to the desired program. The free version of VPN Watcher only allows you to add one program.
And that’s it! When we added uTorrent it started up immediately, and then shut down the second we disconnected our VPN service. Excellent.
Setting up PPTP (really not recommended) and L2TP is also very easy. The program comes with easy setup pre-sets for HideMyAss, ibVPN, PureVPN, and StrongVPN (although we are not really fans of any of them)
VPN Watcher for Android
After being very pleased with the Windows program, we were totally disappointed with the Android app, which does not in fact act as a VPN kill switch at all. All it does is search for Blacklogic, HMA, ibVPN, ICanVPN and StrongVPN servers at a given location, provide ping times, and link to VPN providers’ webpages. Complete and misrepresented rubbish (and the iOS app appears to be identical).
We have somewhat mixed feelings towards VPN Watcher. The Windows version is very good, and we highly recommend it. We have not had the opportunity to test the Mac version, but as long as you can put up with the fact that it does not support OpenVPN, it probably works in a similar way (and is the only third party Mac VPN kill switch software we know of).
The mobile apps on the other hand are a complete waste of time (we are tempted to say ‘con’, but as we didn’t pay any money for them that seems a bit harsh), and most certainly do not do the job we expected of them.