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A little over a year ago, Surfshark was completely new. Since then, the VPN has managed to penetrate most Top 10s and earn the consumers’ trust. With this Surfshark VPN review, I want to learn whether that trust is warranted:
Is this a secure VPN? Does it log user data? And crucially, how good is Surfshark for torrenting or Netflix?
Right off the bat, I see that Surfshark VPN offers better prices than most competitors. Let’s find out if it’s as good in practice as it would seem on paper.
Is Surfshark safe?
There’s plenty of good to say about the privacy and anonymity credentials of Surfshark VPN. The company has added a kill switch way back in 2018, which is a great improvement, but that’s not all. They also had their browser extensions audited by Cure53, a well-known and respected cybersecurity company. Finally, since July 2020, all Surfshark servers are RAM-only.
The list of brilliant security tools in Surfshark’s arsenal just keeps on growing. In addition to a malware blocker (CleanWeb), split tunneling (Whitelister), multi-hop, and “stealth protocol” (Camouflage and NoBorders), users can now benefit from even more features. Surfshark VPN also offers ID protection (HackLock), GPS spoofing, and incognito search (BlindSearch).
Putting technicalities aside, Surfshark also boasts a no-logs policy and is registered in a privacy-friendly jurisdiction. So, is Surfshark trustworthy? I would say yes.
Encryption and tunneling protocols
Surfshark VPN implements military-grade encryption, which is used by financial institutions and militaries around the world. It means that there’s virtually no way to break this cipher.
Surfshark currently offers the following tunneling protocols:
- OpenVPN TCP
- OpenVPN UDP
More choice is always preferable, but these are good, safe protocols, which do great in most situations. Besides, it’s better to phase-out L2TP/IPSec and PPTP which no longer meet the VPN standards than to leave them and put your subscribers in danger.
While neither of them can penetrate the Great Firewall alone, Surfshark VPN has Camouflage and NoBorders modes for use in China.
Surfshark’s kill switch
Surfshark has a great kill switch that will automatically deactivate your internet connection if your VPN connection drops unexpectedly. This allows the Virtual Private Network to protect your privacy by ensuring your online traffic is always encrypted and is a critical feature for any secure VPN to have.
My tests have shown the Surfshark kill switch to work reliably each time I deliberately disabled my VPN connection.
The only caveat here is that Surfshark for Linux doesn’t have the kill switch turned on by default, and there’s no article on their website telling how to do it. However, the always helpful Surfshark customer support team provided me with the instructions.
IP and DNS leak protection
My basic tests indicate that Surfshark has no leak issues. I connected to a server in Denmark at got the IP address 188.8.131.52. Then I ran the test and got the following results, which mean there were no DNS, WebRTC, or IPv6 leaks, as the image below indicates.
The IP and DNS addresses shown here are the same as the one I got assigned by Surfshark. If I saw my real IP address, that would mean there’s a leak somewhere.
Surfshark has in-built DNS, WebRTC, and IPv6 leak protection, as well as a private zero-knowledge DNS network. Simply put, unlike many tools on the market, Surfshark VPN keeps your personally-identifiable information hidden.
Privacy-friendly location: BVI
Surfshark is based in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), which is a British overseas territory that has no data retention laws and isn’t involved in any intelligence-sharing agreements, such as Fourteen Eyes. It’s also not subject to any EU data protection laws, unlike its “parent” country.
No logs policy
As the company is subject to BVI laws and regulations, they have the luxury of a meaningful no-logs policy, which states that Surfshark “does not collect IP addresses, browsing history, session information, used bandwidth, connection timestamps, network traffic, and other similar data.”
As a matter of fact, if their FAQ is to be believed, Surfshark doesn’t log anything at all, except your email address and billing information, which means that the provider is one of the few actual “no-logs” VPNs out there. That’s extremely rare and impressive, but I would also like to see their policy independently-audited to silence the naysayers once and for all.
HackLock: Surfshark’s ID protection feature
In 2019, Surfshark introduced a new innovative security solution named HackLock. This ID leak protection feature was first available via the Surfshark website, but now it has been integrated into the client apps.
HackLock is very relevant in the age of data breaches – it warns users when their passwords, social security numbers, and other sensitive details get leaked. It comes as an additional service together with BlindSearch for $0.99/month.
HackLock routinely scans leaked databases, looking for password and email matches. If it finds any, a Surfshark user will receive a notification. HackLock enables you to change your credentials in a timely manner, minimizing the damage caused by data leaks and breaches.
BlindSearch: Surfshark’s incognito search
The second security feature that Surfshark introduced in 2019 was BlindSearch. This is an alternative to the major search engines, such as Google or Bing, that are known for displaying ads and taking quite some of your data before giving away your search results.
BlindSearch removes the ads and tracking from the organic search and ensures that your privacy will remain intact, and your patience untested.
This feature comes together with HackLock and is offered by Surfshark as an optional “privacy beyond VPN” package. The price of it is $0.99/month, and I would say it’s worth the money, especially when Surfshark is among the cheapest VPNs you can get.
How does Surfshark’s GPS spoofing feature work?
Back in 2019, Surfshark introduced the first-ever GPS spoofing feature for Android devices. It allows users to protect their online presence with an extra layer of protection. While a regular Virtual Private Network connection changes your IP address, GPS spoofing also hides your device’s physical GPS location.
It’s an optional feature that is not on by default and can be enabled from the app settings.
When GPS spoofing is activated, any app that will request the user’s physical coordinates will be overridden by the coordinates of the selected VPN server. This means that a web service that wants to access the user’s GPS data will think that she or he is, for example, in the US while in fact, that person is in the UK.
Browser extension independent security audit
Recently, we wrote that Surfshark did an independent audit of its Chrome and Firefox browser extensions. Submitting your VPN apps for an independent audit is a commendable move regardless of results.
The independent audit was carried out by a respected German cybersecurity company, Cure53, which also performed the very first independent VPN audit (kudos to TunnelBear) in 2017. You can read the full report on Surfshark’s website.
In short, Cure53 found only two vulnerabilities, only one of which had any potential to cause problems for users. This is a very good result and gives a lot of credence to Surfshark as a reliable VPN service provider.
Other technical features
- CleanWeb – an ad, tracker, malware, and phishing blocker.
- Whitelister – some VPN providers call this feature “split tunneling.” Surfshark Whitelister allows users to choose apps that can function outside the VPN tunnel.
- Camouflage and NoBorders modes – these switch your tunneling protocol to OpenVPN with the XOR patch. This scrambles your traffic and makes it more difficult to detect through Deep Packet Inspection (DPI).
- MultiHop – for those engaging in extra-sensitive activities, multi-hop is an awesome feature. It chains two VPN servers together, creating an extra layer of security and improving your privacy.
All these features combined take Surfshark VPN very close to other security-focused VPN services, like NordVPN or ProtonVPN. And when it comes to hardware, Surfshark leaves those two behind with all 1700+ servers running on RAM.
Speed: is Surfshark VPN fast?
Surfshark is among the fastest VPN services in 2020, so the only remaining question is how fast this Virtual Private Network is? Well, there’s only one way to find out.
I made my Surfshark speed test from Europe. I checked my baseline speed and then connected to servers in Germany, the US, and Australia, noting down the drop-off and latency (ping). Here’s what I’ve got:
|Average speed||85 Mbps|
|Germany server||156 Mbps (40% drop-off)|
|US server||157 Mbps (39% drop-off)|
|Australia server||141 Mbps (45% drop-off)|
|Germany server||25 Mbps (90% drop-off)|
|US server||14 Mbps (94% drop-off)|
|Australia server||19 Mbps (92% drop-off)|
|Germany server||45 ms|
|US server||118 ms|
|Australia server||334 ms|
As you can see from the results, Surfshark speeds are really fast, especially if we talk about downloading. The upload was pretty poor in all countries and significantly effected the average speed, but I’m sure that I might get better numbers some other day.
So what do these numbers mean, really? For starters, you should be able to stream 4K (UHD) videos and play online games on your continent, unless your continent is very big. You shouldn’t experience lag during video and VOIP calls, which put the ping limit at 200 ms, but contacting someone on the other side of the globe will take its toll. Finally, downloading a 10 GB torrent file might take up to 15 minutes.
The speeds seem to be increasing each time I update this Surfshark VPN review. There’s obviously a lot of investment going into this VPN. While Surfshark is already among the fastest VPNs in 2020, I believe that its speed will continue to improve.
Does Surfshark VPN support my device?
Very likely, yes. Surfshark has apps for all the major desktop and mobile platforms, which includes Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS. There are also dedicated apps for Android TV and Amazon Fire Stick & Fire TV. Finally, you can download browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox.
And here comes the best part: Surfshark VPN allows unlimited simultaneous connections. This means that you can protect all devices during the family reunion with one account. You don’t even have to manually configure Surfshark on your router, which would otherwise be the only way to connect as many devices as you want.
Surfshark VPN apps are pretty similar across the platforms and also easy-to-use. All settings are well explained, so you can instantly decide if you want it turned on or off. And if you want to learn more, I recommend our article on how to use Surfshark.
Surfshark desktop apps: Windows, macOS, Linux
Regarding ease of use, the Surfshark desktop apps are as simple as A-B-C. The interface is clean and intuitive, while most of the settings can be found with a click of a button.
Connecting to a Surfshark server locations is just as easy – just click on Locations on the left sidebar menu and choose your preferred location from the list of cities and countries. Surfshark’s physical servers are sorted by region, while virtual and P2P servers are on separate lists.
You can get under Surfshark’s hood by pressing the white Settings gear. There, you can toggle the startup and auto-connection options, as well as tinker with the security features.
Thankfully, the Surfshark for Mac app is just as secure as the Windows version. Both use military-grade encryption, kill switch, and other features. This is relatively rare – most VPNs release limited macOS apps, which is not the case with Surfshark.
Surfshark’s Linux app works with Ubuntu and Debian. It doesn’t feature a GUI and has a command-line interface instead. Moreover, its kill switch is turned off by default, and there’s no information on turning it on. This means that Linux users should either find a way to activate the kill switch themselves or ask live chat support for help.
Surfshark mobile apps: Android and iOS
Surfshark mobile apps, both on Android and on iOS, are lightweight and simplified versions of their desktop counterparts. The security is almost as good as what you’d get on PC or Mac, with several minor caveats.
Most importantly, the Android version has its own kill switch, so you no longer have to use the native Android version or a third-party app to complement the Virtual Private Network. It also offers the GPS spoofing feature to hide your phone’s physical location.
You can get the Surfshark Android app from Google Play or just download it directly as an APK file from their website. The Surfshark iOS app is available from the App Store.
Surfshark for web browsers: Chrome and Firefox
Surfshark has browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox. They are essentially proxy services – you can use them to secure your browser traffic and nothing else. In other words, if you want to use torrents, try one of the regular clients or run the VPN some other way.
However, Surfshark browser extensions are not only about hiding your IP and encrypting your traffic. They also include the CleanWeb feature, which takes care of ads, tracking, malware, and phishing attempts. What’s more, both add-ons have been independently audited by Cure53 security testers.
The Surfshark Chrome extension has been downloaded over 100,000 times, a number that’s dwarfed by the likes of ExpressVPN or NordVPN. Naturally, the Firefox version is even less popular, with just 25,000+ users. But the most important thing is that both browser extensions are up-to-date, with the latest version released a month before publishing this Surfshark VPN review.
Other platforms for Surfshark
In addition to the apps for major platforms, Surfshark VPN also has dedicated apps for Android TV and Amazon Fire Stick & Fire TV.
Additionally, its website has instructions for manually configuring your router, so you could use it to protect your entire home network. Surfshark supports a bunch of different models and makes, including DD-WRT, AsusWRT, OpenWRT, and Tomato, among others. You can also manually setup Surfshark for Chromebook, pfSense, and Raspberry Pi.
Last but not least is Surfshark’s Smart DNS feature. It allows you to unblock websites and streaming platforms on your Apple TV, other smart TVs, and game consoles. With your PlayStation or Xbox, you will also be able to play online games in other regions.
Netflix and other streaming services
Does Surfshark work with Netflix? According to its website, Surfshark VPN is great for Netflix and streaming other geo-blocked content. Well, it turns out to be true.
I’ve tested Surfshark for Netflix from Europe and found that it can unblock Netflix in every region I tried, including the US, the UK, Canada, and Japan libraries.
What’s more, Surfshark VPN can unblock Peacock, Hulu, Disney+, BBC iPlayer, and other streaming platforms. I would also recommend Surfshark for Kodi any day of the week.
Finally, thanks to the Smart DNS feature, you will be able to stream your favorite shows and movies on a bunch of devices that don’t have the Surfshark client app. This includes game consoles, Apple TV, LG TV, Samsung TV, and other smart TVs.
Is Surfshark good for torrenting?
Yes, it does. Surfshark is very good for torrents – the speed is fast, and the security credentials are almost faultless. Surfshark is not shy to invite torrenting fans to try their service, and they don’t discriminate against P2P traffic.
I liked that torrenting is allowed on nearly every Surfshark server and there are no bandwidth limits. What’s more, a Virtual Private Network that’s located in a privacy-friendly jurisdiction and keeps no logs is always a good choice for P2P activities. Surfshark even offers anonymous payment options for those who want extra safety.
You can learn more about this by visiting our Surfshark for torrenting page.
Does Surfshark work in China?
Last time I checked in on Surfshark, I was skeptical that it could be a reliable service in China. The reason was the list of available tunneling protocols, which only included OpenVPN and IKEv2. One of the features of the Great Firewall of China is that it employs Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) to detect VPN traffic within the network. OpenVPN is known as particularly vulnerable to DPI, and Surfshark had nothing else to offer.
By the time I started updating this Surfshark VPN review, the situation had changed completely. Since the introduction of the Camouflage and NoBorders modes, Surfshark is now capable of disguising VPN traffic. These features switch from the default tunneling protocol to OpenVPN with the XOR patch, scrambling your traffic and confusing the censors.
Additionally, the extra security features added by Surfshark are great for the more sensitive user types: journalists, political activists, whistleblowers, hackers, etc.
Read more about using Surfshark in China here.
Support: Surfshark live chat, FAQs, and installation guides
First things first: Surfshark VPN has a great 24/7 live chat support. The waiting times are short, if any, while the agents are helpful and polite. And I’m basing this assumption on more than a few instances.
Here’s how the rest of the support section looks like:
- Installation instructions
- FAQ articles
- Knowledge base (tutorials, general info, billing)
- Submit a request
The questions that I submitted using the form were answered in a couple of hours or so. There was only one instance when it took longer to get an answer, but again, such response times are yet to be reached by many VPNs.
The FAQ is pretty short, with ten entries that link to dedicated support articles. There are more than a hundred tutorial pages and about fifty dedicated to general info and billing.
Overall, while Surfshark has expanded its self-help section considerably, I would still use live chat to put most of my concerns aside.
Pricing: is Surfshark the cheapest top-tier VPN?
Surfshark VPN has three different pricing plans, all of which offer the full set of functions, including military-grade encryption, kill switch, and unlimited simultaneous connections:
- 1-month plan for $11.95
- 1-year plan for $5.99/month
- 2-year plan for $1.99/month
For extra $0.99/month, you can get HackLock and BlindSearch security features. The former informs if your email is leaked and the latter removes ads logging from the web search.
These are great prices – their 2-year plan is actually one of the cheapest deals on the block. Surfshark VPN has certainly proven their worth, and the prospect of getting a long-term subscription should no longer be particularly worrying. If you can get the tool for just a couple of bucks, I’m inclined to say, “Go for it!”
There are plenty of payment options you can choose from to pay that 2-dollar fee as well. That includes anonymous options, like crypto. There are PayPal, Sofort, Google Pay, Amazon Pay, Giropay, and Webmoney as well, for those interested. Some of the best VPN service providers have overlooked the type of privacy given by a crypto payment option, and it’s a great shame.
Surfshark is also one of the few to offer a lengthy 7-day free trial on Google Play and Apple App Store. Sadly, that means “no” for Windows and Linux users. But Surfshark’s refund policy grants a 30-day money-back guarantee to all plans, so you’re not losing anything if you don’t want to.
Should I get Surfshark?
After making a thorough investigation for this Surfshark review, I can confidently say that you should get this VPN before it raises its prices.
They’ve done well to cover the basics – security, jurisdiction, speed, support, etc. – and have taken steps in unique directions. Rarely do you see a paid Virtual Private Network with no limit to the number of simultaneous connections and real zero-logs policy. Between that, with an anonymous signup process, and an option to pay in cryptocurrencies, Surfshark is already one step ahead of the competition.
To me, it seems just a matter of time until we get more features and from Surfshark VPN that will further strengthen its already solid position among the industry’s best.
Is Surfshark legal?
The answer to this question depends on the country and its laws. As of now, Surfshark VPN is illegal in Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Zimbabwe. VPNs are legal but regulated in Oman, Russia, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and China. If you’re traveling to any of these countries, I strongly recommend installing Surfshark on your devices before the visit.
How much does Surfshark VPN cost?
Surfshark prices start from $1.94/month. The annual plan is $5.99/month and the monthly option costs $11.95. Also, if you want the HackLock and BlindSearch features, that’ll be $0.99 extra.
Where is Surfshark VPN based?
Surfshark is registered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), a privacy-friendly jurisdiction with no data retention laws. BVI is not part of the Fourteen Eyes intelligence alliance.
Where are the Surfshark server locations?
Surfshark has 1700+ RAM-only servers in 60+ countries, which is a pretty good global coverage. More than half of those countries are in Europe, followed by over 15 in the Asia Pacific. The Americas and the Middle East have decent coverage as well, with at least 5 countries in each region.
How do I know if Surfshark is working?
To test if Surfshark is working, you should check for IP and DNS leaks after connecting to a VPN server. There many leak testing sites, such as ipleak.net, available. If you see your real IP address instead of the server’s in the test results, that means your VPN is not working. However, this shouldn’t be the case with Surfshark because it features a robust DNS, IPv6, and WebRTC leak protection.
How to install Surfshark on Fire Stick?
You can install Surfshark VPN on Amazon Fire Stick and Fire TV by simply downloading the dedicated app and following installation instructions. One thing to note is that neither Surfshark nor any other Virtual Private Network supports the 1st generation Amazon Fire devices. To learn more, check out our dedicated page on installing Surfshark on Fire Stick.
How to stream Peacock (NBC) outside the US with Surfshark VPN?
You can stream Peacock outside the US with Surfshark VPN. Launched in July 15, this NBC Universal platform gives you Parks and Recreation, The Office, and other beloved series. To watch NBC’s Peacock, you simply have to launch Surfshark VPN and select a server in the US.