Surfshark Review

Surfshark

Although new on the VPN scene in 2018, Surfshark has hit the ground running. Based in the British Virgin Islands, Surfshark is a no logs VPN services with great technical security and superb 24/7 support.

BestVPN.com Score 9 out of 10

Although new on the VPN scene in 2018, Surfshark has hit the ground running. Based in the British Virgin Islands, Surfshark is a no logs VPN services with great technical security and superb 24/7 support.

VPN Stats

  • Server Locations 50
  • Average Speed 32.1 Mbit/s
  • Simultaneous Connections 1000
  • Jurisdiction British Virgin Islands

Likes

  • No Logs
  • 30-day refund
  • Unlimited simultaneous connections
  • Bare metal servers in 50+ countries
  • P2P Allowed
  • Unblocks all major streaming services

Dislikes

  • One month price is high
  • Decent but not amazing speeds

Features

Total servers 500
Countries 50
Simultaneous connections 1000
Bare metal or virtual servers Bare metal
Router Support
Allows torrenting

Supported platforms

Windows
MacOS
iOS
Android
Linux

Protocols offered

IKEv2
OpenVPN

Privacy

Jurisdiction British Virgin Islands
Logs Aggregated or Anonymized Data

Performance

BestVPN.com SpeedTest (max/burst) 63.7
BestVPN.com SpeedTest (average) 32.1

Payment

Visa/MasterCard
Amex
Cryptocurrency

Security

Kill Switch
Obfuscation (stealth)
Self-hosted/Proxied DNS Self-hosted

Support

Free trial 7-days (macOS and mobile apps)
24-hour support
Live chat support
Money-back Guarantee

Unblocks:

Netflix
iPlayer

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Features

Total servers 500
Countries 50
Simultaneous connections 1000
Bare metal or virtual servers Bare metal
Router Support
Allows torrenting

Surfshark runs more than 500 servers in over 50 counties. Impressively, it claims all of these are physical single-occupancy bare metal servers. In addition to all the usual locations, Surfshark has a strong presence in Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa.

Even more impressively, Surfshark permits unlimited simultaneous connections. This means you can connect as many devices as you want, using the same account.  

Surfshark asks that users restrict access to family members and do not share account details with others, but says that it must trust its users. It keeps no logs that can identify abuse in this respect. We're big fans of this. 

Torrenting is permitted on all servers, with Surfshark automatically routing P2P traffic to its Canada or Netherlands servers, which are specially configured for the purpose.

Split tunneling (“Whitelist”)

This useful feature is currently available in the Windows and Android apps. It allows you to exempt selected programs/apps from the VPN. It also allows you to exempt selected websites, which is unusual. Indeed, a split tunnelling feature in an Android app is itself unusual.   

It will not be initially available in the upcoming macOS app, due to the Apple Store restrictions on what developers can push in their app, but may be added at a later date.

Netflix and iPlayer Unblocking

Netflix
iPlayer

Surfshark claims to unblock a wide selection of streaming services, including Netflix in the US, France, and Japan. In our tests, it unblocked US Netflix and BBC iPlayer as advertised.

If accessing these services is your main goal, make sure you check out  Best VPNs for Netflix and Best VPNs for BBC iPlayer for more information.

Speed and Performance

BestVPN.com SpeedTest (max/burst) 63.7
BestVPN.com SpeedTest (average) 32.1

We have only just started speed testing Surfshark, so time will tell if initial results reflect its long-term performance. First results though, are good (if not exceptional). At 33.79 Mbit/s in our weighted average download tests, Surfshark jumps straight into our top ten fastest provider list.

Examining our data in more detail, we can see that average global performance (34.0 Mbit/s as we write this) is better than its max burst performance, which is a rather uninspiring 63.7 Mbit/s.

Average DNS lookup times are also rather slow at 0.85 seconds, although a 1.65 second max result means you will never need wait too long for web pages to load. Although the least important metric that we measure, connection times of 3.3 seconds average/ 4.0 seconds max are very good news for users.

IP leak tests

We detected zero IPv4, IPv6, WebRTC or DNS leaks (IPv4 or IPv6). Top marks.

It is worth noting, Surfshark only guarantees WebRTC leak protection if you use its Chrome and/or Firefox browser add-ons, although we detected no leaks without them.

For more information about the danger posed by IP leaks, please check out our complete guide to IP leaks.

Pricing

 

As is common these days, all Surfshark customers enjoy the same features. The per-month pricing is somewhat on the high end of the scale, but steep discounts are available for 1-year and 2-year subscriptions. Also if you sign up for the service using this link an additional discount is on offer.

If you're a macOS, Android or iOS user you can take part in a 7-day free trial, although you need to sign up for an account and provide payment details to take advantage of this. No payment will actually be taken if you cancel within the 7 days.

All users can also take advantage of a generous 30-day money back guarantee. Surfshark assures us that there are no limitations on this, which is great, but be aware that payments auto-renew, so you do need to contact support in order to cancel them.

Supported Payment Platforms

Surfshark accepts payment via PayPal, credit/debit card, and Alipay, which are processed by Stripe. Other payment methods are supported via the Tenpay and Unionpay payment processing services.

Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Etherium payments are also supported via either Coingate or CoinPayments. Paying in Bitcoin or Litecoin can provide a certain degree of anonymity, but do remember that SurfShark will always be able to see your IP address.

Ease of use

Other than payment details, the only information asked when signing up for the service is your name and email address. If you wish to signup anonymously, you can do so by paying in anonymously purchased Bitcoin or Litecoin, and using a disposable email address.

A confirmation email will be sent to you containing useful links, but everything you need is readily available on the website anyway.

The Windows Client

We have seen prettier VPN software, but the Surfshark Windows client does its job well. The reviewed app uses OpenVPN only, but we are told that support for IKEv2 in Windows is due out any moment now, and may well be available by the time this review goes live.

SurfShark VPN on Windows

The client features a kill switch, split tunneling, “CleanWeb”, and multihop.

SurfShark VPN Features

IPv4 and IPv6 leak protection is built-in, although Surfshark says that you should use its browser add-ons to prevent WebRTC leaks. Although we didn’t detect any leaks in testing, this is still good advice. 

The kill switch is not enabled by default, but worked well in our tests. A simulated crash test showed that the kill switch modifies Windows system firewall rules, meaning that it continues to work even if the Surfshark client and OpenVPN daemon suffer an unexpected crash.

Users can switch from OpenVPN UDP to OpenVPN TCP (port 443) to make VPN traffic look like regular HTTPs traffic. This is useful for evading VPN blocks, but will not fool more sophisticated detection techniques.

The MacOS client

Surfshark’s brand-new macOS app is available via the Apple App Store and as a stand-alone .dmg file from the website.

The app uses IKEv2. It is currently rather light on features, although SurfShark tells us these will be added as fast as they can be authorized by restrictive App Store policies.

We are pleased to see that the Mac app features a kill switch. As with the Windows client, this uses system firewall rules, and so remains effective even if the Surfshark client suffers a crash. As with all the rest of SurfShark’s apps, the Mac client offers its “CleanWeb” feature.

The Android app

The Surfshark app for Android also uses IKEv2 and does what it says on the tin. There is no kill switch, but there is a split tunneling feature (“Whitelist”) that allows you to select apps to bypass the VPN. It also includes Surfshark’s “CleanWeb” feature (see below).

SurfShark Android VPN

Users on newer devices should be aware that Android Nougat 7+ now includes a built-in kill switch that works with any VPN app. Please see our guide to installing a VPN on Android for more details.

Other Platforms

Custom apps are available for Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. Interestingly the iOS app features a kill switch.

Good manual setup guides are also available for all platforms, including macOS and Linux (Ubuntu, using Network Manager).

In addition to this, setup guides are available for DD-WRT, Tomato, and a number of popular router makes that have OpenVPN clients built-in (AsusWRT, Netgear, TP-Link and Linksys).

At the time of writing this review, a new Android TV / Amazon Fire TV app is due for imminent release.

Browser add-ons

In addition to platform support, Surfshark offers browser add-ons for Chrome and Firefox. These create secure HTTPS proxy connections in the browser to Surfshark’s servers.

They also provide WebRTC protection. Now... we really wish VPN services would do more to warn their customers about the WebRTC issue, and to warn them that they should be protecting themselves from unknowingly exposing their IP addresses online when using a VPN. 

This includes Surfshark, although we can’t be too harsh as we detected no WebRTC leaks using its software. That said, it is still safest to either install these add-ons or disable WebRTC in your browser manually.

The browser add-ons feature “CleanWeb” as an option.

Customer service and support

Free trial 7-days (macOS and mobile apps)
24-hour support
Live chat support
Money-back Guarantee

Live Chat support is available 24/7, or you can send in a ticket email request. We found Live Chat response times to be near instant, and were impressed by the competency and quality of the answers.

There is also knowledgebase. It is not huge but includes a useful FAQ, setup articles, and other handy bits and bobs.

Privacy and security

Kill Switch
Obfuscation (stealth)
Self-hosted/Proxied DNS Self-hosted

Jurisdiction

Surfshark is registered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and its Terms of Service make it clear that all disputes will be resolved in BVI courts.  The British Virgin Islands is a British overseas territory. It regulates its own internal affairs and has no mandatory data retention laws, but it remains under the jurisdiction and sovereignty of the UK government. This means it is reasonable to assume that the UK could put pressure on the BVI government and any businesses based there.

Whilst being based in the BVI is probably safer than being based in a 14-Eyes country, it is still not ideal.

Logs

Surfshark easily meets our requirements for a no logs VPN:

“We do not collect IP addresses, browsing history, session information, used bandwidth, connection time stamps, network traffic and other similar data.”

Its apps do collect some anonymous diagnostic and crash data by default, although this can be disabled. This includes aggregated performance data, how often you use its services, unsuccessful connection attempts and other similar non-personally identifiable information.

Basic account and billing information is stored, in full compliance with GDPR for European customers.

Please see our 5 Best No Logs VPNs for more on VPNs and logs.

Website tracking

Although web activity is not tracked when using the VPN itself, the Surfshark website performs quite a lot of tracking. This includes logging IP addresses and performing browser fingerprinting on visitors.

Surfshark uses a number of third-party trackers, including Google Analytics.

Protocols and Encryption

IKEv2
OpenVPN

Surfshark is a big fan of the IKEv2 VPN protocol, which it uses in its mobile and Mac apps. The Windows app, as reviewed, only supports OpenVPN, but IKEv2 support is due to be added any time now.

IKEv2 is not as battle-tested as OpenVPN, but is regarded as being very secure, and is increasingly popular with VPN services because it is much faster than OpenVPN.

As always, we look in detail at the OpenVPN settings this provider uses. Not only do they provide a good indicator of the care a service takes over encryption, it is the best way to compare like for like across VPN services. Surfshark uses the following OpenVPN settings:

Data Channel: an AES-256-GCM cipher. No additional authentication is required because authentication handled by AES-GCM.

Control Channel: an AES-256-GCM cipher with the TLS key exchange secured using RSA-2048. No additional authentication is required because authentication handled by AES-GCM, and perfect forward secrecy is provided by an ECDH-(384?) key exchange.

This is a highly secure setup. See VPN Encryption: The Complete Guide for more information on this subject.

Other security features

Great news is that we detected no IP leaks of any kind on any tested platform, although it is still safest to use one of Surfshark’s browser extensions to ensure against WebRTC leaks. The Windows, macOS, and iOS clients feature system-level kill switches.

As already noted, Surfshark uses only bare metal servers, and ideally, it resolves all DNS requests itself on the server you connect to.

Obfuscation

As already discussed, the Windows client (only) can run OpenVPN connections over TCP port 443 to simulate regular HTTPS traffic.

Surfshark also tells us that it uses obfuscation “as default with all servers.” What this actually means and how effective it is, is anyone’s guess.

CleanWeb

All Surfshark’s software features the “Cleanweb” option. This is advertised as blocking ads, trackers, phishing, attacks, and malware, and is almost certainly a set of firewall rules that block connections based on a simple blocklist. Which should work well enough.

Multihop

This feature is available in the Windows client. It allows you to “chain” VPN servers so that your data is routed between two VPN servers as it travels between you and the internet.

Your PC -> VPN server 1 -> VPN server 2 -> Internet

Surfshark offers several double VPN combinations, but you cannot chain any two of its servers.

SurfShark Server Countries

Multihop VPN can provide some protection against end-to-end timing attacks against the end server, but will always result in a major loss of speed. As we argue here, we think the privacy/security benefits of multi-hop VPN are rather limited, but we know this can be more important to some users than others.

WiFi connect

This feature, available in the Windows client, allows you to decide how the VPN app works when you connect to new WiFi networks – ask, protect, or always protect.

Conclusion

Surfshark is a great VPN service. It keeps no logs, is reasonably fast, and offers great technical security with no IP leaks. The fact that it offers a large selection of servers is good, but the fact that they are all secure bare metal servers is even better.

Unlimited simultaneous connections is also fantastic, and we are impressed with the quality of Surfshark’s 24/7 Live Chat support.

The extras on offer, such as multihop VPN,”Cleanweb”, and WiFi-connect are decent additions. Although none of them are killer features, it's still a nice touch.

Surfshark is a good privacy-friendly VPN service that ticks all the important boxes with ease.

Visit SurfShark»

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