Surfshark VPN Review

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  • Raiting: 7.1 / 10
  • Pricing (monthly): $12.95
  • Pricing (half yearly): $38.94 (equivalent to $6.49 per month)
  • Pricing (two yearly): $59.76 (equivalent to $2.49 per month)
  • Simultaneous Connection: Unlimited (Subject to Fair Use Terms)
  • Server Locations: 65 countries
  • Jurisdiction: British Virgin Islands
  • Can be used on:
  • Can unblock:

Surfshark is a premium VPN service based in the British Virgin Islands that offers easy-to-use anonymous and safe browsing features for the consumer market.

Its primary selling features are the unlimited number of devices per subscription and privacy protection features. It offers subscribers unlimited bandwidth using fast diskless servers, and the company claims never to throttle speeds. However, the terms of service include a fair use clause that will allow the company to restrict services if simultaneously connected devices adversely affect other subscribers. It is unclear how this is monitored and how services are limited if the company deems this to have occurred. The terms of service do require subscribers to be adults 18 years or older and prohibit the use of the service for illegal activity from copyright infringement through to distribution of malware. There are currently no data retention laws for services based in the British Virgin Islands, unlike other regions such as Europe.

Along with the no-logging policy and dynamic data storage, this means that user privacy should be assured.

Implementation of the VPN service uses open-source protocols to provide users with transparency of the integrity of the service. Configuration of the protocol can be automatic or manual, using IPsec (IKEv2), OpenVPN (TCP or UDP), or WireGuard. These are the latest and most secure protocols available. Subscriptions can be taken out monthly, half-yearly, or on a two-year subscription—the latter offering the best value for money over the long term. The service cost compares favorably with other popular premium VPN service providers when choosing the two-year subscription, the monthly subscription incurring significantly higher prices.

The VPN apps support the most popular devices and platforms, including Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS. There are also browser extensions available for most popular browsers, including Brave, Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. The VPN apps can be configured quickly and easily, though the iOS app only included limited configuration options. Therefore, it was necessary to log into the service via the website to access all configuration settings.

The Surfshark VPN service has an automatic Kill Switch to prevent any data leakage should the VPN connection drop out during use. In addition, the Surfshark service offers automated multi-hop connection via two VPN servers and uses DNS servers to avoid possible DNS leaks. These features provide users with high levels of privacy. The list of available services also includes thirty servers with fixed IP addresses located in Germany, Japan, Singapore, the UK, and the US. These are useful if the user wishes to access services protected with Captcha-type mechanisms. As a result, this fixed IP address means that the user only has to verify their humanness once.

Unhindered accessibility to streaming services such as Disney+, Netflix, and BBC iPlayer makes this service suitable for users looking for legitimate access to such services while maintaining browsing history privacy. Users should be aware that the Surfshark VPN service terms of use do not permit subscribers to download and share illegal material.

Pros & Cons of Surfshark

  • The Surfshark VPN service is implemented using trusted open-source VPN protocols.
  • The subscription fee for the Surfshark VPN service covers the simultaneous use of an unlimited number of devices, subject to the fair use restrictions.
  • The Surfshark VPN subscription fee can be paid using anonymous payment methods.
  • The Surfshark VPN services for Windows and Android support Shadowsocks proxy servers for additional VPN routing obscuration and supports torrenting.
  • The Surfshark VPN service includes connection to servers with static IP addresses as standard.
  • The Surfshark VPN service includes a safe search option that enables an unmonitored and log-free internet search engine an additional cost of £0.72 per month. This fee includes an alert service that promises real-time breach alerts and identity protection.
  • Access to configuration settings is limited using the iOS app; it is necessary to log in through the website to gain access to more advanced features such as enabling two-factor authentication.
  • The service offers 24/7 live support, but access is limited to email or an automated helpdesk popup via the application or the website.
  • The number of servers for countries other than the US is limited, and geographic regions outside Europe and North America have very few available servers.
Screen shot of the main app screen

Using Surfshark

The Surfshark VPN is straightforward to install and configure.

There are minimal configuration options available, with no option to alter encryption strength, so the security settings are reasonably secure by default. Some privacy-related functions, such as CleanWeb, are disabled by default, and the Surfshark Search function is an additional cost add-on service.

Applications are available for Windows, Linux, macOS, Android, and iOS. In addition, browser extensions are available for almost all browsers, including Brave, Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. Surfshark commissioned an independent security audit of the browser extension code and the results reported on the website. Note that this audit did not cover the installable applications.

For this review, the iOS app was installed on an iPad and evaluated.

The Application Interface

The interface is minimalist, with the screen changing color when a connection has been established, along with a clear indication of the connected VPN server location. In addition, the display includes a pull-up window showing the IP address of the linked server and the volume of data downloaded and uploaded in the current session. Switching to a different server was straightforward. Once the current session is disconnected, a quick-connect list of the last three servers used is available, along with the option to automatically connect to either the fastest available server or the nearest country. However, testing this function did highlight a peculiarity. The test was conducted from a location near London, United Kingdom. The fastest server was always Manchester, United Kingdom, and the nearest country was always Ireland.

Alternatively, pressing the locations button brings up a list of all the available servers that can be sorted by name. This page also has the option of showing just the servers with a static IP address or the multi-hop server options. The latter allows connection via two servers in different countries to improve privacy at the expense of a slower connection speed. While the service supports a global network, the focus is on the US.

The application offers connections through around 3200 servers located in 65 different countries, but there is only one connection option for most countries. For the US, there are 25 locations available; for the UK and Canada, there are three each. Once connected, the VPN connection is transparent to the user apart from latency issues seen with some servers tested. The VPN service also includes an automatic Kill Switch function to block the internet connection if the VPN connection drops unexpectedly.

The VPN service supports split tunneling under the Whitelister feature, but it does not allow the configuration of the auto-connect option to be based on the network type. Other noteworthy options include a facility to override the device GPS to match the location of the connected server and a camouflage mode that disguises network traffic to hide VPN use from the ISP. Another good feature is the inclusion of an Adblocker function known as CleanWeb that claims to block trackers and malware though this feature needs to be manually enabled.

Screen shot of the Surfshark's VPN connection settings screen

Payments Accepted by Surfshark

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Surfshark Speeds

Surfshark VPN Server Locations Download Upload
United Kingdon 418.75 Mbit 164.6 Mbit
Australia 346.95 Mbit 22.6 Mbit
Taiwan 325.03 Mbit 0.98 Mbit
South Africa 176.8 Mbit 3.07 Mbit
California, USA 284.36 Mbit 21.46 Mbit
New York, USA 315.07 Mbit 52.57 Mbit
Germany 540.44 Mbit 148 Mbit
Spain 445.98 Mbit 45.04 Mbit
Brazil 228.1 Mbit 24.61 Mbit
Indonesia 163.92 Mbit 18.26 Mbit

Logging Policy and Privacy of Surfshark

Surfshark states that it operates with a strict no-monitoring and no-logging policy to ensure the privacy and anonymity of subscribers' internet usage. It uses diskless servers that prevent permanent storage of any data and claims that it undertakes regular remote wiping of memory as part of its security processes. This RAM-only approach means that all server-held information would be deleted when the power supply is disconnected.

The headquarters of Surfshark is in the British Virgin Islands, where there is no requirement to record or retain any user information, which severely restricts what data a Government agency or law enforcement organization can access.

It is important to note that Surfshark stores subscriber account information that comprises an email address, associated payment information, details of the device used to access the VPN service, and regional location information. These account details are retained for up to two years after the date of termination of the account. Therefore, the subscriber can achieve total anonymity if they can provide a non-attributable email address and uses an anonymous payment method. The website presents visitors with non-persistent cookies that manage the current session. In addition, it uses cookies to store the device's geographic region with a one-year expiration and website analytics and advertising tracking cookies that have a two-year end date. The privacy policy for the website covers the use of these cookies.

Supported Devices and Operating Systems by Surfshark


Windows

Linux

Apple

Android

Apple-ios

Chrome

Firefox

Opera

Platforms that can be Unblocked by using Surfshark


Netflix

Hulu

BBC

Sky Go

Amazon Prime Video
Screen shot of the server list of Surfshark showing virtual server option

Verdict / Conclusion

Surfshark offers a low-cost service that offers reasonable network speeds over stable connections through servers distributed worldwide.

In the testing undertaken for this review, the achieved network download speeds for standard servers worldwide were 90% to 97% of the baseline speed with the VPN disabled. Selecting a virtual server, a server with an IP address for one country located in a different country, reduced the network download speed to between 85% and 90%. Using multi-hop servers, connecting through two VPN servers in two other countries, further reduced the network download speed to around 80%. This test included connections speeds for a device near London, England, connecting through servers in California, New York, Australia, and Taiwan back to a destination in London, England. The Surfshark VPN service operates a no-logging policy.

Its location within the British Virgin Islands puts it close to its primary US customer base while avoiding data retention requirements. As a result, it collects only limited subscriber information. The use of an anonymous payment method with an unattributable email address means that it is simple to set up and operate an entirely anonymous VPN connection where absolute privacy is necessary.

The Surfshark VPN iOS application was simple to install and set up. Creating an account and establishing a VPN connection took less than a minute, as no email verification was required. The application has limited configuration options, and essential features like the kill switch were enabled by default, though other options like the adblocker function were disabled on installation. The VPN Surfshark service is relatively basic, but its performance is good compared to its peers. Making changes is straightforward when logged into the website; options are more limited when using the iOS app. The support offered is also reasonable, with good help pages and access to a query-based help function. The tests of accessing geo-locked content also gave good results; any authorized user of a service such as Netflix or BBC iPlayer can still access content while using the VPN to protect their privacy.