VPN Split Tunneling? Everything You Need to Know

Fact-tested by Himanshu Sharma

What is VPN Split Tunneling? How does it work? In this article, we will describe to you everything about VPN Split Tunneling.

VPN Split Tunneling? Everything you need to know
VPN Split Tunneling? Everything you need to know

In split tunneling, some of your internet traffic is sent through an encrypted VPN tunnel, but the rest is routed through an open network tunnel.

Split tunneling typically allows you to select which apps to secure, and which to allow to connect normally

It’s also helpful if you want to save some bandwidth by keeping some data private while keeping access to local network devices. Therefore, you can access your local network devices and foreign networks at the same time.

In spite of all this, is it really worth it to utilize split tunneling? Is there any risk involved? Which VPNs out of all support it? Continue reading to find out all you are required to know about split tunneling.

How does VPN split tunneling work?

In split tunneling, your data is encrypted, but sent through an open network, allowing you to control what data travels over the VPN and what travels through the faster and unencrypted open network.

So, how does split tunneling work? First of all, you need an understanding of a VPN server in order to comprehend VPN split tunneling.

When you use a VPN, you can create a secure link between your devices and the VPN server to ensure that your data is sent and received securely.

By default, your device probably has a single, direct connection to the internet, through which data is sent and received. As a result, all data you send and receive is routed through the VPN server on your behalf.

You will be able to protect all your data completely, but it will sluggish your internet speed since everything has to pass through the VPN.

While using split tunneling, you can protect your sensitive data by simultaneously using a VPN connection as well as open connection to the internet at the same time. You can do this without affecting rest of your internet activities.

Various types of VPN split tunneling

With URL-based split tunneling, you can specify which URLs you would like encrypted through VPN. Usually, this is done with the use of a VPN browser extension.

As with app-based split tunneling, you can select which apps you would like to use the VPN for, and which traffic will travel through the regular network.

Inverse split tunneling works in the completely opposite way. While the two above mentioned examples route all data through open network by default.

Moreover, you could select which URLs and apps you would like routed through VPN, in the case of inverse split tunneling, all of the traffic is automatically, by default, sent through VPN if you do not specify otherwise.

With inverse split tunneling, you get to choose what apps and URLs you do not want going through VPN.

Positive and Negative Sides of Split Tunneling

You’ll find that split tunneling has its benefits and drawbacks just like many other VPN features. Here’s a look at the pros and cons of this VPN feature.

Why should you use it?

Through this, you can access the internet faster by avoiding packet loss and reducing bandwidth consumption because the internet traffic is not made to pass through the VPN server.

The benefits include not having to constantly connecting and disconnecting your VPN, meaning you can gain access to multiple networks at the same time, your corporate network while also being connected to a foreign network.

This enables you to do things such as:

  1. Your browsing speed will not be slowed down when you download something.
  2. Search on Google for local results while watching foreign films
  3. Use your network printer while remaining anonymous online.

Why shouldn’t you use it?

The primary reason for not using VPN split tunneling is that it is less secure as compared to using a VPN at all times. Let’s understand the security implications of split tunneling better.

Given below are some disadvantages:

Some of your online activity is vulnerable to hackers since it circumvents the security measures set up by your VPN.

Setting up the right split tunneling permissions takes time. You should decide beforehand which apps or URLs would go through the VPN and which ones through the open network.

Split tunneling features are not available in all VPNs, moreover, not all VPNs support all operating systems.

Is it secure?

Tunneling your traffic through multiple VPNs isn’t as secure as routing it all through one. It can still be a good compromise as long as it is set up correctly and only routes traffic which you do not want protected, like downloading files or accessing network printer.

As a result, you are able to keep your privacy on the traffic you care about without having your internet speed slowed down.

It is much better in terms of security to use VPN split tunneling than to not use a VPN at all. However, it is not safe for you to rely on split tunneling to ensure all your security requirements.

Especially if you have sensitive data which you need to be kept private. There are debate regarding split tunneling weakening the overall encryption of VPN and making you vulnerable to hackers. However, this is completely false.

How to use?

  1. Go to Settings or Options on VPN
  2. Select Split Tunneling
  3. Manage VPN connection on per-URL or per-app basis.
  4. Choose the apps you would like going through the VPN pathway and the ones you would like going through the open network pathway.

How to stop?

  1. Go to Settings or Options on VPN
  2. Disable split tunneling

Which VPNs support split tunneling?

The most recommended VPNs which allow split tunneling are NordVPN and ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN Split Tunneling

ExpressVPN is one among the most recommended VPNs for the purpose of split tunneling. It can be used on, Android, Windows, Mac or even on the router of your wifi. 

It enables you to use split tunneling on a per-app basis, this way you can choose which apps you want encrypted through VPN and which ones you’re satisfied using on open network.

However, since ExpressVPN functions on a per-app basis, it is not really helpful for those working majorly on computers.

NordVPN Split Tunneling

NordVPN allows you to enable split tunneling through its browser extension on Firefox or Chrome, making this really easy for choosing which apps and websites you would like going through the VPN and the ones which you would like going through open network.

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