What is split tunneling?

Anton P. | April 07, 2020

Whereas the VPN tunnel encapsulates all data by default, split tunneling lets you choose which traffic parts you want to secure. There are specific cases when split tunneling your VPN can come in handy. Yet, you should beware of possible risks when leaving your data open. So, to split or not to split?

What is split tunneling ?

Split tunneling allows you to choose which devices, applications, or websites use a VPN connection and which don’t. It’s a technology that creates separate ‘tunnels.’ When one of the tunnels leads through a VPN, the other goes through the default passageways. In other words, it lets you choose which traffic goes through your regular, unprotected ISP network.

It can be useful for those who don’t prioritize complete protection gained by a VPN. It can come in handy when you want to manage your digital life in more detail. Let’s say you need to access overseas and local content simultaneously. You need an IP in a different country to visit your bank account, but without needing to disable your VPN. Services, like online banking, usually flag VPN connection, as it looks like it’s coming from an unusual place. Hence, you can exclude your bank’s website from the VPN tunnel and have access to two regional services at the same time.

You may also want to protect certain activities, like P2P file-sharing, while keeping the rest of your traffic outside the VPN tunnel. This approach is inverse split tunneling, otherwise known as “split-exclude.” You can use this type of model to customize what traffic to cut from it.

You can manually configure split tunneling on Windows 10, Android, and various other operating systems. Also, you can integrate it at the router level, with the ability to pick which devices you need to protect, and which don’t.

Split tunnel vs. Full tunnel

While there are beneficial use-case scenarios of split tunneling, you should also beware of its drawbacks. If you set up it to exclude a particular part of your traffic, your ISP and other third parties can track your activity again. In internet-censored countries, split tunneling can be even dangerous - it opens up ways for the government to surveil you. If you value your security, then it’s better to opt-out of using a split tunnel VPN.

But, if you use your cellular data or password-protected home WiFi connection, excluding a few websites or apps should not be that risky. As long as you’re careful, split tunneling is safe to benefit from.

Still, if you want to have complete peace of mind, use only VPN-protected connections to secure your sensitive data. Grab Atlas VPN, and enjoy fully tunneled, robust piece of security:

Anton P.

Anton P.

Former chef and the head of Atlas VPN blog team. He's an experienced cybersecurity expert with a background of technical content writing.



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