What Is VPN Split Tunneling?

VPN Split Tunneling

What Is VPN Split Tunneling?

Split tunneling VPN allows you to choose which applications and sites access the internet via VPN or your standard ISP. A split VPN lets you access foreign and local networks simultaneously. VPN split tunnling is a valuable feature to keep some of your traffic private while still having access to local network devices.

Your data remains secure when you choose the VPN but remains vulnerable through the direct internet. However, you can still access your Local Access Network (LAN) when using the VPN. The Split tunneling feature also keeps your internet connection speed steady, as VPNs tend to slow down network connectivity.

VPN Split Tunneling

How does VPN Split Tunneling Works?

Most people use VPNs to keep their data secure and enjoy streaming services from other countries. But split tunneling provides access to websites that may not otherwise allow VPN usage.

It works by splitting your internet access in half, allowing one half through data encryption and the other through regular ISP. Most VPNs let you choose the websites you want on either half.

For example, some streaming sites like Netflix and Hulu notoriously block VPN servers, making it impossible to access the entire library. Websites like Ticketmaster do not support VPN usage but will accept split tunneling functions. Splitting your VPN gives you access to foreign sites and domestic sources.

It keeps your information safe, and its secure connection won’t slow down your network. VPNs protect your data from ransomeware and potential hackers, so it can be tempting to use a VPN for every website you visit.

Split tunneling puts you in control and protects you without slowing your connection or preventing access to your most-visited sites.

You must manually add the websites you want onto an access list. The list can be edited whenever necessary. A good reason to try a split tunneling process is if you don’t use websites requiring personal data or sites that need extensive bandwidth. Moreover, split tunneling does not hide your IP address to the direct access sites.

Types of Split Tunneling

Split tunneling is not one size fits all. There are several ways you can utilize VPN split tunneling and personalize your network connections and data accessibility.

Here, are few examples of organizing your split tunnel VPN to suit your browsing needs.

  • URL-Based Split Tunneling for Individuals: URL-based split tunneling for personal computers involves listing the URLs of websites you want to go through the VPN.
  • Like banking applications, travel sites, online shopping, and personal services (such as medical records) would be the most common URLs to encrypt, as they hold your data. Every other website will use the LAN.

  • App-Based Split Tunneling: This type of split tunneling works similarly to the URL-based method, except VPN traffic is determined on an app-by-app basis. You choose the apps that you wish to use the VPN, and the rest will use the direct connection by default.
  • Inverse Split tunneling: Inverse split tunneling means all connections to websites and apps are default sent through the VPN tunnel. You manually choose which apps and URLs bypass the VPN and connect to the internet directly.

Inverse split tunneling is a safe implementation because your data will be safe unless you have a specific reason to bypass the secure VPN connection.

Risks of Split Tunneling

The primary risk of using a split tunnel is data leaks and information being sent to websites and sold (like on social media).

More risks of a split tunneling function are:

  • Bypassing security measures, such as proxy servers designed to protect your traffic.
  • Your information (including ISP) becomes visible to public internet servers.
  • Hackers can intercept traffic.
  • Employees can open suspicious downloads and bypass corporate blocks.
  • Corporate IT would lose visibility into everything its employees did, including using less secure networks or accessing prohibited websites on company time.

When should you use Split Tunneling?

You can use a split VPN for any reason and at anytime, but it works exceptionally well if you want to keep your data safe while maintaining fast network connectivity.

A few additional reasons are below.

  • Connection to Local Printers & Other LAN Devices: Using a VPN often causes problems when connecting to LAN devices. The VPN ignores LAN networks by default. But, split tunnel VPN connects to a LAN network and connects to printers with the open network and keeps your browsing secure.
  • Simultaneous Domestic and International Browsing: A foreign VPN server allows you to connect to a site as if in a different country. Split tunneling will let you perform domestic and international browsing simultaneously.
  • Increased Bandwidth: VPNs use a lot of bandwidth, which leads to slow connections and unreliable internet. A split tunnel VPN provides increased bandwidth and helps your downloads stay secure and fast.
  • Inaccessible Websites: There are many sites which do not permit VPN usage. In those cases, you can use a split tunnel VPN to access previously inaccessible sites. The split VPN uses the open network to connect to the restrictive sites.
  • Poor App Function: VPNs often slow apps down, especially streaming or gaming platforms. A split tunnel VPN helps you access your most-visited streaming and high-bandwidth sites without slowing your connection.

How To Make Use of Split Tunneling

One of the most popular VPNs is ExpressVPN. It offers a split tunnel option and is relatively user-friendly. You can use ExpressVPN and other VPN applications on mobile or desktop devices.

Here’s how to use the split tunneling function with ExpressVPN.

Step 1) Open ExpressVPN and click on the settings button (the wheel icon).

Step 2) Select the General settings option and click on the split tunnel function.

Step 3) Click manage connections on a per-app basis.

Split Tunneling

Step 4) Choose from one of two options:

  1. Does not allow selected apps to use the VPN (inverse split tunneling).
  2. Allow selected apps to use the VPN. Other sites and applications will go through the LAN connection.

Step 5) Click okay to save your settings and complete the setup.

Remember that iOS and macOS do not support split tunneling; Android and Windows are the only software that permits a split tunnel VPN. Your VPN will not function during the split tunneling setup.

How Can You Stop Split Tunneling?

To turn off split tunneling and return all traffic to the secure VPN connection, reverse the steps you performed to create the split tunnel.

Here, are steps to stop Split Tunneling:

Step 1) Open your VPN service’s settings, features, or options section.

Step 2) Find the tab for split tunneling, usually in the “General” section of the settings.

Step 3) From there, you can toggle the switch for split tunneling off.

Step 4) Alternatively, check the box to make all apps/sites use the VPN.

Sometimes, you might want to change which sites use the VPN and which connect directly to the internet. For this situation, find the list of sites that are either allowed or not allowed to use the VPN and remove the ones you no longer wish to bypass. Regardless, you have control over what sites can access your data.

Split Tunnel VPN vs. Full Tunnel: What Is the Difference?

The primary differences between a split and full tunnel are:

Split Tunnel Full Tunnel
Split Tunnel – Uses the VPN to route and encrypt all OSU-bound requests. Full Tunnel (Default) – Routes and encrypts ALL requests to OSU via the VPN, regardless of the service’s location.
Secures some of your data but leaves others exposed. Keeps all of your data safe.
Provides distributed internet access. Allows privacy and control for the user.
Ideal for the everyday user. Better for confidential information.
Partially encrypted Fully encrypted

What Are the Pros and Cons of Split Tunneling?

Whether you need a split tunnel VPN depends on your browsing habits, personal information, and data. Below are the general pros and cons of using a split tunnel VPN.

Pros of Split Tunneling

Fast connections are the primary perk of split tunnel VPNs, but other benefits are:

  • Bandwidth Conservation: VPN tunneling traffic through an open connection increases internet speed.
  • Local-Area-Network: Connect directly to devices on your local network.
  • Remote Workers: Workers can access multiple networks at once.
  • Local Search Results: Google shows results based on your location, and a tunnel can show search results locally instead of through your VPN server location.
  • Not require constant connection: Eliminates the need to constantly connect and disconnect from your VPN.
  • Privacy: Maintain your online privacy while accessing your network printer.

A split tunnel VPN also increases download speeds.

Cons of Split Tunneling

Below are a few reasons why you don’t not want to use a split tunneling in VPN:

  • Vulnerability: Some of your activity becomes vulnerable to hackers if you bypass your native VPN security.
  • Setup: Carefully setting up your split tunnel takes time, especially if you care about safety.
  • Weaker Security: You may accidentally add websites you want to be secured into the open/insecure tunnel.

Wrapping Up

VPNs are the easiest way to protect personal information and data from hackers and even social media sites. However, they can slow your internet connection and cause streaming services and gaming sites to become nearly inaccessible.

A split tunnel VPN gives you the power to control which sites go through the encrypted VPN tunnel or connect to your local network. While your information may not be as secure, it gives you more freedom and faster downloading speeds for a comprehensive browsing experience.