Last update: 08.31.2018
Surfshark’s entry into the VPN market will turn some heads. Amazing security, anonymity, and speed – all the tool needs is some time!
Everyone knows the surfer community to be accepting and tolerant. But if there‘s one thing surfers won‘t accept, it’s a shark. Famously, even vegetarian sharks are regarded with suspicion on Santa Monica beaches. While Surfshark may sound like a lot of fun, he‘s actually a tragic figure – like Romeo or Rorshach. Luckily, the VPN community will meet him with open arms. Our Surfshark VPN review will tell you why!
Rarely do up-and-coming VPN services merit a review, but there are reasons to keep an eye on Surfshark VPN. This is a very secure tool that uses AES-256-GCM and SHA-512 encryption to protect your data. The letters and numbers refer to an unbreakable cipher, which is also faster than the more commonly used AES-256-CBC (more on that later). Surfshark offers their own DNS network, as well as built-in DNS, WebRTC, and IPv6 leak protection. Recently, they plugged yet another hole by introducing their very own Surfshark kill switch, making the suite of security features rather well-rounded.
Appropriately for its name, Surfshark VPN is registered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). These sunny Caribbean islands are a British Overseas Territory, but not subject to British laws or control. There are no data retention laws in the BVI and the territory does not belong to the 5-eyes or 14-eyes country groups. This, together with the fact that Surfshark doesn’t limit the number of simultaneous connections users can have, allows us to trust in their no-logging policy. Not even Surfshark will know what you’re doing online!
Currently, the service has awesome speeds, an expanding server list (which went from 100 and 14 countries to 500+ in 45 countries in just 2 months), will easily bypass the geo-blocking of Netflix and other streaming platforms, and reportedly works in China. Our Surshark VPN review team has doubts about that last one. You should probably ask their 24/7 live chat support about deep packet inspection and how they deal with it. Finally, the app is as simple as A-B-C – something the Surfshark team stresses as a matter of importance.
That’s a great foundation to build your VPN on, and build is what they’ve done a lot of! At the moment Surfshark has Windows, Android, and iOS apps, plus Chrome/Firefox extensions, all of which you can get for $11.95 a month, $5.99 a month billed annually, or $3.95 a month billed every 2 years (by the way, the latter plan is also available for $1.99 a month from affiliates). Only a few months ago, they only offered an Android client, so the tempo is very impressive — as is the service!
Is Surfshark VPN safe to use?
It will take time until we see the VPN subjected to truly serious tests. Nevertheless, the preliminary trials for our Surfshark VPN review suggest some promising things.
Surfshark offers strong ciphers that are a little different from the norm. AES-256-GCM sounds similar to AES-256-CBC, but there is a crucial difference – speed. In order to protect their VPN from something called “chosen ciphertext attacks”, those relying on AES-256-CBC will use a secure Message Authentication Code (MAC) in addition to the AES algorithm. Meanwhile, AES-256-GCM has authentication built in, making the process a lot faster.
Our basic tests indicate that this VPN has no leaking issues (meaning, no DNS/WebRTC/IPv6 leaks). The program has inbuilt 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!
Currently, 2 security protocols are being offered by Surfshark – OpenVPN and IKEv2. More choice is always preferable, but these are good, safe protocols, which do great in most situations. The only concern here is that the limited selection might hurt Chinese users – neither protocol is known for its reliability in the face of the Great Firewall.
Surfshark is based in the British Virgin Islands, which have no data retention laws or shady intelligence-sharing agreements. As the company is subject to BVI laws and regulations, they have the luxury of a meaningful no-logs policy. 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. That’s extremely rare and impressive!
To conclude the security part of Surfshark VPN review, there’s plenty of good to say about the privacy and anonymity credentials of Surfshark. We’d like to see some more features, but the company has recently launched their kill switch, which is a great improvement.
Speed & Performance
Normally the VPN services with the best speeds have lots of servers. In this case, our Surfshark VPN review team has found it to be not true: Surfshark VPN was quite fast even before getting a huge server list. Now, however, their network has expanded exponentially and includes over 500 servers in 45 countries. In addition, the type of encryption Surfshark VPN uses is faster than the regular AES-256-CBC with separate authentication.
There is obviously a lot of investment going into this VPN. Servers cost money, as do talented professionals. We have no doubt that Surfshark VPN will continue their meteoric rise!
How to download and install it
You can get it for Android on the Google Play store. You‘ll find a link on their website, where you can also download the Chrome/Firefox extensions.
- Go to the website and click “Get Surfshark”
- Pick a pricing plan
- Use an email address to create your account
- Decide which payment method you will be using
Now you can download Surfshark VPN!
Apps & Extensions
The people at Surfshark have been working on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Linux apps. Now the Windows and iOS apps have arrived, although the former is still in Beta. Until very recently, there was only the Android version and extensions for Chrome/Firefox. The VPN has a Router app as well, so you could use it to protect your entire home network.
If you go to their site, you will get the impression that they have Mac and Linux apps as well (because that’s almost literally what it says). When writing this Surfshark VPN review we found out that’s not true, but you can get the service to run on these platforms through third-party software. You will find tutorials on their site demonstrating how to do this.
The browser extensions 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.
Surfshark VPN for Netflix
According to Surfshark’s website, the VPN is great for streaming geo-blocked content. And it’s true! This may appear surprising because many more established VPN providers have given up their fight against Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and others. But, if you think about it, Surfshark being a solution is not so surprising. Until recently, the VPN was simply too small to warrant the attention of streaming giants.
Whether Surfshark VPN remains good for Netflix, in the long run, is a question for another day – we’ll just have to wait and see if there’s a need to update our Surfshark VPN review. However, we will recommend it for Kodi any day of the week!
Surfshark VPN for Torrenting
Not a bad choice for torrents – the speed is good, 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.
When we initially checked for our Surfshark VPN review, the program had no kill switch. As such, we were somewhat reluctant to give our whole-hearted recommendation to use it for torrents. That, however, has changed – there’s now a kill switch as well as apps for most of the main platforms (although Surfshark VPN Windows is still in beta). So, if you’re looking for a nimble frigate capable of outsailing the authorities, look no further!
One more thing: if you’re going the Android route, there’s still no kill switch. But there might be one solution: Always-on VPN. This is a native Android 7+ app, which is essentially an external kill switch. We would suggest getting in touch with Surfshark VPN support to figure out whether this will work.
Is it good for users in China?
Depends on who you ask. The Surfshark team would tell you “yes”. If you ask our Surfshark VPN review team, it’s probably true for the time being, but the question is always the long-term.
Surfshark only works with OpenVPN and IKEv2. Using OpenVPN in China is widely known to be problematic. The Great Firewall of China includes Deep Packet Inspection (DPI), which it uses to distinguish VPN traffic from other encrypted traffic. This way China’s ISPs are able to shut down OpenVPN.
With all that said, Surfshark VPN has thus far demonstrated a great development pace and we have no reason to believe these issues will go unaddressed for much longer. Plus, there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee and the program is otherwise a good fit for China.
Surfshark starts strong and introduces 24/7 live chat support right at the outset. That’s a big statement of intent – it’s a lot easier to just have a support email and be done with it. Needless to say, that wouldn’t be enough in the long term and Surfshark VPN steps ahead of that obstacle right away.
As for the rest of the support section, there are only the pure basics at the moment. You’ll find installation instructions, some FAQ articles, helpful technical information texts, but the website still needs a bit of fleshing out.
Surfshark VPN has 3 different pricing plans, all of which offer the full set of functions. You can get a subscription for 1 month at $11.95, 12 months at $5.99 a month, or 24 months at $3.45 a month. Affiliates are also offering the 2-year deal at an even lower cost – $1.99 a month!
This is a decent price – neither very high nor very low. 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 5 bucks, we’re inclined to say, “Go for it!”
There are plenty of payment options you can choose from to pay that 5-dollar fee as well. That includes anonymous options, like crypto. There are PayPal and AliPay 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.
As far as our Surfshark VPN review guys can tell, there is no free trial, but all plans are subject to a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you’re not losing anything if you don’t want to.
Conclusion of Surfshark VPN review
Having investigated long and hard for this Surfshark VPN review, we can say we like the road the VPN is taking. They have done well to cover the basics – security, jurisdiction, speed, support, etc – and have taken steps in unique directions. Rarely do you see a paid VPN with no limit to the number of simultaneous connections and a real zero-logs policy. Between that, an anonymous signup process, and an option to pay in cryptocurrencies, Surfshark is already one step ahead of the competition.
It seems just a matter of time until we get more apps, features, and content from Surfshark VPN, making the whole market stronger!