Surfshark VPN

Surfshark offers a remarkable VPN service packaged with many features at an unexpectedly low price. In recent times, Surfshark’s network has expanded to over 1,700 servers across 160 locations in 63 countries. There are Firefox and Chrome extensions, Linux, iOS, Windows, Android and Mac apps, as well as a website-unblocking DNS system for TVs, games consoles and others.

Regardless of your device or devices, you don’t have to bother about irritating annoying ‘simultaneous connection’ limits because with Surfshark, you can install and run it comfortably on numerous devices.

In terms of technical fundamentals, the service comes with solid AES-256-GCM encryption, OpenVPN and IKEv2 support, a no-logs policy, and a kill switch to secure your data in case connection fails. Additionally, there is split tunneling, URL and ad blocking, Surfshark’s very own zero-knowledge DNS servers, P2P support on almost all its servers, VPN chaining, and round the clock email and live chat customer support in case any issues arise.

That’s not all to the service, Surfshark also has support for two-factor authentication which offers your account extra protection against malicious parties and hackers. There is New GPS spoofing for Android as well to ensure all apps asking for your physical location receive the coordinates of your selected VPN server.

Pricing Rates and Plans

Surfshark’s monthly plan is costlier than a number of other VPN services. It goes for $11.95 a month and paying for a full year up-front only reduces the price to $5.99(in comparison to other servicers like Private Internet Access, Speedify, Bitdefender who all have yearly plans available for less than$4).

However, Surfshark’s two-year plan appears to be a very good deal at $1.99, which is quite low for a VPN with such varied features. You might have reservations concerning purchasing this kind of long-term plan but at such a low price, it’s worth a shot. The service offers a seven-day free trial for Mac, iOS, and Android which gives you an opportunity to personally test the service. Although it would be nicer if Surfshark gave a longer trial period with Windows support included as well but considering that most VPN providers offer no trials, it’s a fair deal.

Another pro to using Surfshark is its variety of payment methods and support for cryptocurrencies, Ali Pay, Amazon Pay, Google Pay and credit cards.

Nonetheless, if you sign up and realize the service doesn’t work for you and your needs, Surfshark has a 30-day money back guarantee.

Logging and Privacy Concerns

Here are the VPN privacy basics Surfshark comes with: secure protocols (OpenVPN UDP and TCP, IKEv2), AES-256 encryption, and a kill switch to stop internet access and identity exposure should the connection crash.

These features just make up the tip of the iceberg. There’s more to Surfshark. It has its very own private DNS on every server to lower the risk of other parties snooping on your internet activities. It also comes with the capacity to utilize a double VPN hop (connect to Texas for instance then leave the Surfshark network in Berlin). This particular feature helps in making it harder for anyone to track you down.

Surfshark is based in the British Virgin Islands, which according to the company, means it does not have to store logs of users data and activities.

The company also doesn’t collect “Used bandwidth; Network traffic; VPN servers you use; Downloading or Browsing or Purchasing History; Session Information; Incoming and Outgoing addresses; Connection timestamps” as stated by the FAQ page on logging. The only information kept by the company is your billing information, email address, crash reports, frequency of use of the system, unsuccessful connections, some anonymous aggregated stats and performance information. If this is a little too much data collection for you, you can limit it somewhat by disabling crash reporting in your app Settings box for instance.

Surfshark’s company website claims it has passed a security audit by the German Security company Cure53. While this is true, the audit was mostly an assessment of Surfshark’s browser extensions and doesn’t say anything about back end processes such as logging. Also, the assessment was done in November 2018 so it’s not as relevant as it should be.

Nonetheless, it’s encouraging to know that Cure53 discovered just two rather minor problems and declared that it was “highly satisfied to see such a strong security posture on the Surfshark VPN extensions, especially given the common vulnerability of similar products to privacy issues.”

All things considered, Surfshark seems like a solid reliable VPN service company. Still, more should be and can be made available privacy-wise. A comprehensive privacy policy and more regular security audits would definitely be welcome.

Windows app

Setting up Surfshark was lightwork. It was basically a matter of downloading and installing the Windows client, selecting a sign up option, choosing a plan and paying for it right from the installer with no need for a third-party browser.

Compared to others, the Windows client interface is more versatile and responsive. When you reduce the size of its window to the smallest, the client has the look of a typical VPN app with status information, locations list and a Connect button. On the other hand, when the window is expanded, the client window reformats to show new options and panels.

To activate the VPN connection, just tap the button. Desktop notifications alert you when Surfshark disconnects and connects and the interface changes to show your new IP address and virtual location.

Although the Location list does not show latencies, the server load icons highlight your worst and of course best choices. A Favorites system assists in handling regularly used servers.

If you right click on the Surfshark system tray icon, a small app window shows up instead of the typical basic menu, letting you connect to the speediest server, select one of your latest locations or launch the expanded app interface.

A MultiHop tab moves your traffic between two VPN servers, safeguarding your actual IP against attackers in the event of a server compromise. 13 routes are available, the first server is your primary connection (routes include Netherlands, Singapore, Germany, Australia, USA, India, France, UK) and the second is your selected location which others see (Sweden, Germany, UK, Singapore, USA, Netherlands, Hong Kong, Portugal, France.) The aim of this is to ensure an attacker will get an anonymous IP in case the exit server is maliciously targeted.

You can create whitelists of IP addresses, websites and applications that will or have bypassed the VPN using the Whitelister panel. It’s similar to the split-tunneling feature found in other VPN providers. If Surfshark breaks an app or website, adding it to the whitelist ought to fix the issue. On the other hand, you can set the Whitelister to direct just your selected apps through the VPN. This may work better for you if you are using Surfshark for a few tasks, like torrenting for instance, set your torrent client to connect through the VPN and all other things will use your normal connection.

Surfshark’s CleanWeb feature obstructs malicious links, blocks ads and stops trackers. However, if you need more control over blocking ads and the link, you can use tools like uBlock origin.

Activating a NoBorders mode assists you to go online in countries where VPNs are usually restricted.

Other typical features include alternatives to open the VPN alongside Windows or switch the protocol between OpenVPN UDP and TCP, IKEv2 or Shadowsocks (an optional way to route traffic via an encrypted tunnel, usually utilized in bypassing internet censorship in China).

The kill switch which stops your internet connection in case the VPN fails works fairly well but it could be better. There are two problems with this kill switch. One is that it is only accessible in the severest mode, where the kill switch stops you from using the internet completely, except you’re connected to Surfshark. The typical kill switch form where it’s only active when the connection crashes in a VPN session and you can still choose to close the app to use your normal internet connection is more preferable.

The second issue is that despite the kill switch efficiently blocking internet traffic when the VPN is forcibly shut down, it doesn’t alert the user. This can be irritating in situations where your VPN crashes in the middle of browsing and the internet connection stops without any notice why. However, this lasts for some seconds till the app auto-reconnects. This problem is worse when you don’t have the kill switch active. Should your VPN crash, your connection will not just remain active but you will get no warning from the client. This can potentially lead to your data and identity leaking because it stays exposed till the connection is back.

There is need for more work to be done on Surfshark’s Windows client but on average, it’s user friendly with loads of functionalities.

Mobile apps

Mobile VPN apps are usually less packed than their desktop counterparts but Surfshark’s Android app is pleasantly unexpectedly similar. Both have similar interface, Whitelister split tunneling for sites and apps, CleanWeb’s ad and malware blocking, same location list, multihiop connections, the same OpenVPN/ IVEv2 and Shadowsocks protocol support, and a kill switch to keep your data secure in case of a connection crash.

There are also additional features in the Android app including a selection of encryption methods (AES-256-GGM or Chacha20Poly1305, possibly offering better speeds), a ‘use small packets’ option to enhance performance with selected mobile networks, and auto connection ability to VPN when using secured, unsecured or mobile networks.

You can send bug reports in case of any issues, browse or raise tickets right from the app without having to use your browser (and spend time rummaging round the website.)

With the iOS app, it’s a similar set up, the appearance is similar to the android and desktop app, the kill switch is still available as well as an array of protocols (IKEv2, OpenVPN) and several features rarely found on other mobile apps.

All things considered, these apps are well implemented, user friendly and just generally solid. For people fed up with less than satisfactory VPN functionality on their mobile devices, Surfshark is a great choice with a great price of $1.99 a month.

Performance Evaluation

Surfshark provides configuration files downloads for all their servers as part of its support for OpenVPN. This is helpful for those who want to manually set up the service on other platforms that allow them. It also helped in the testing of some of Surfshark’s locations with automated performance testing software.

The service passed the test remarkably well. There were no connection crashes, connection speeds were fairly swifter than typical, and every server sent back IP addresses for their broadcasted locations.

Basically, Surfshark gives a highly satisfactory performance majority of the time. The speed you get depends mainly on target servers and your location so it is necessary to make the most of the trial by carrying out performance evaluation personally.

Netflix and Other Streaming Services

Surfshark, unlike most VPN providers that turn out to be unreliable regarding their unblocking capacities, actually is very straightforward about its ability to unblock Netflix. It also mentions the 14 countries it presently works in including Japan, Australia, France, US and Italy. YouTube isn’t left out of the service’s unblocking capacity list although YouTube’s geographic protections are very basic (so it was expected). BBC iPlayer is usually a difficult one to manoeuver but Surfshark got round it easily.

Bypassing Amazon Prime Video was more complex as it typically tends to be. With a UK registered Amazon account, you can watch Prime Video as long as you’re connected to a UK server. If you connect to a different country’s server, you can’t access Prime Video. What this translates to is that with Surfshark, you can access Amazon Prime Video service in wherever you registered your Amazon account but you cannot view other countries content.

Support

There are setup and installation tutorials, FAQs and other resources on the Surfshark support site in case you encounter any issues and need guidance. Although the content there might seem quite unsatisfactory, it mainly covers set-up issues. For instance, it has guides to fix the setup to run on several routers. You’re not likely to find anything on the main website about most of Surfshark’s features beyond a couple lines of description. Some features aren’t even mentioned.

The website support section also has an organizational issue. For instance, if you want to find out about the iOS app, type in iOS into the support search bar, most VPN service providers direct you to a few How-To-Use articles that list out most of what you have to know. With Surfshark, you’re pointed to a number of typical iOS related problems such as ‘unstable connection troubleshooting’, ‘How to change App Store region on iOS’, ‘How to set up OpenVPN on iOS and so on. While these serve their purpose, it is still vital to have manuals that provide you with most of not all details of the app in question. Perhaps, this issue will be fixed soon.

Luckily, there is 24/7 customer support via live chat and your message is likely to be answered within 60 seconds. For a service costing as little as $1.99 a month, their support response is more than average.

Summary

Surfshark is a remarkably well packaged and affordable VPN service with loads of helpful features. Although it has its issues here and there, it has undergone major upgrades and is definitely a good quality VPN service.

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