In a hurry? Here's our VPN summary.
Surfshark’s a fairly new VPN service, but don’t let that put you off – it’s got quite a plethora of powerful features to help protect you online. If you’re especially security-conscious, then it’s definitely worth checking them out, as this is where their feature set truly shines.
But is Surfshark’s VPN service any good, or are there better competitors out there for less money? In this review, I’m going to cover all of the positives & negatives of Surfshark, as well as the company history and look at it’s pricing as well as its all-round privacy protection.
|🔙 Money Back Guarantee?
|Yes, 30 Days
|📝 Keep logs?
|🌍 Number of servers?
|🛡 Kill switch?
|🌎 Based in?
|24/7 Live Chat Support
|📥 Use Netflix & Torrents?
What’s Good & Bad about Surfshark VPN?
Let’s get stuck in.
Here is a breakdown of the positives and negatives of Surfshark:
- Netflix and Streaming Access: Surfshark allows users to access Netflix content from other countries, which greatly expands their entertainment options. Additionally, the service supports Hulu, Dinsey+, BBC iPlayer and more making it a great option for those who frequently watch content online from other countries.
- High Quality, Secure VPN: Surfshark offers a variety of VPN protocols, including OpenVPN, WireGuard, IKEv2, and IPSec. This allows users to choose the protocol that best suits their needs.
- Unlimited Simultaneous Connections: With Surfshark, users can connect an unlimited number of devices to the VPN at the same time, making it a great option for families or businesses.
- Static IP Address: One downside of Surfshark is that users are assigned the same IP address every time they connect to the service (unless they use additional features to change it). This makes it easier for hackers to track a user’s online activity. It’s a shame these aren’t opt-out, rather than opt-in.
- Based in the Netherlands: While the Netherlands has privacy-friendly data retention laws, it is also under Nine Eyes jurisdiction. This means that the government can compel Surfshark to share customer information when necessary. Surfshark claim they don’t keep anything, so cannot hand anything over.
- Torrenting isn’t the best, few Torrent-enabled servers
Overview of Surfshark VPN
The internet is a vast and complex place, and it can be difficult to know what’s really happening behind the scenes when we browse websites or use online services.
As avid VPN Hound readers will know, one important precaution that you can easily take is to use a VPN when surfing. Why? Because it can help to keep your online data safe and secure. Surfshark is one such VPN provider that offers a range of features designed to help users protect their privacy and security while online.
Generaly speaking, Surfshark does what you’d expect from a VPN in terms of encrypting traffic and hiding IP addresses.
But there are some additional features that make Surfshark stand apart from other VPN providers out there: these include teh ability to access geo-restricted content on streaming services like Netflix, as well as reasonable support for P2P file sharing and – perhaps most of all – unlimited simultaneous connections.
The latter really sets Surfshark apart from other big providers like NordVPN or ExpressVPN. More on this later.
Let’s start with the company history.
Brief Company History
Surfshark is a recent entry into the VPN ring – being founded in 2018. It was actually started by a team of privacy enthusiasts who hail from different parts of the world, including the UK, Germany, Lithuania. They decided to incorporate their company in the British Virgin Islands, but (controversially) this was later changed to Netherlands.
Since its launch, Surfshark has grown rapidly, and now has over 3,200 servers in 65 countries, providing VPN services to people in over 100 countries. The company has also received recognition for the quality of its service, winning several VPN Hound awards along the way, such as “Best Value VPN”.
Streaming on Surfshark
Surfshark supports streaming and it does it very well. In my testing, I was able to unblock pretty much anything.
It readily unblocked:
- iPlayer (BBC)
- Amazon Prime Video
For this testing, I loaded Surfshark VPN up from different devices and selected different locations including the US, UK, Australia, India. It worked flawlessly.
Why use a VPN for streaming?
Streaming services like Netflix offer different content libraries based on your location. For example, Netflix US has different shows and movies compared to Netflix UK, if that makes sense. So by using a VPN, users can change their IP address to appear as if they are located in a different country and access that country’s content library.
But in my testing, I didn’t have any problems with using Netflix, Hulu, or even BBC iPlayer. The key is to make sure you’re using all of the features available to mask your IP address – more on these later.
However, it’s worth noting that some streaming services, such as Netflix, actively work to block VPN use. They are quite good at it, too.
But in my testing, I didn’t have any problems with using Netflix, Hulu, or even BBC iPlayer. The key is to make sure you’re using all of the features available to mask your IP address – more on these later.
While Surfshark does support Streaming as well as Torrenting, it’s important to remember that free VPNs do not. You really do have to pay, sadly, to get these premium features.
Here’s a quick comparison of the best paid VPNs:
By the way, for those who don’t know, using a VPN can sometimes result in slower internet speeds or buffering issues when streaming or torretning, which could affect the quality. I’m going to touch on this point later.
During my P2P tests, Surfshark performed well. However, finding the servers optimized for torrenting was the hard part as only about 70 servers support P2P file sharing.
It’s worth pointing out though that if you’re not connected to a P2P-optimized server, the VPN will automatically connect you to one once you open a torrent client or a P2P-based streaming platform like Popcorn Time.
Compared to other VPNs, finding Surfshark’s P2P-optimized servers is, sadly, less intuitive. It’s not as straightforward as some other VPNs, like CyberGhost, which has a separate tab in its server list for “downloading” servers. It’s a shame they can’t add this.
Update: As recommended by a VPN Hound reader below, I tested the “automatic switchover” feature, which selects the P2P server for you. First, I connected to the Canada server (which isn’t P2P-optimized) and checked my IP and DNS location on IPleak. After opening Bittorrent, I ran IPleak again and saw that my IP and DNS had changed to the Netherlands, which is one of the P2P-optimized server locations. Then it worked fine.
It’d be good if they could release a public list of which servers are Torrenting-optimized, though.
Camouflage Mode and No-Borders Mode are two interesting features provided by Surfshark VPN that can help you connect more securely in restrictive countries.
Camouflage Mode, also known as obfuscation, disguises VPN traffic as normal traffic to avoid detection by governments or other entities that may be monitoring internet activity. This can be especially useful in countries where VPN use is illegal or highly regulated.
No-Borders Mode is designed to help users in restrictive countries connect to the internet by bypassing censorship. This feature limits the selection of servers to those specifically designed to circumvent censorship and access restricted content.
The kill switch feature is another important tool provided by Surfshark VPN. A kill switch is a safety mechanism that automatically cuts off internet traffic if the VPN connection drops unexpectedly. This prevents any unencrypted data from being transmitted and potentially exposed to ISPs or other third parties. Once the VPN connection is re-established, all online traffic will resume.
It’s great that Surfshark include all of these features with every plan. You don’t need to pay more.
Can I use Surfshark in China?
In fact Surfshark offers specific features that cater to users in countries like China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the UAE, where internet restrictions are prevalent. These features are designed to bypass them and enable you to access the internet freely and securely.
However, users may encounter issues when trying to connect to Surfshark in China. To address this problem, Surfshark’s customer support team suggests a manual connection method that can help users get up and running in China. However, it’s essential to note that VPNs that aren’t approved by the Chinese government are technically banned. While the government typically enforces this ban by blocking VPN connections rather than going after VPN users, it’s essential to stay up to date with local laws to avoid any negative consequences. Be safe out there!
2FA – I’d Avoid It…
Surfshark offers Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) to add an extra layer of security to your account.
With 2FA enabled, you’ll need to enter a temporary code along with your password to log in, which is sent to your email or an authentication application like Google Authenticator. This feature is becoming increasingly common in many apps and helps to prevent unauthorized access to your account.
However, setting up 2FA with Surfshark can be a bit complicated and I don’t trust the privacy implications.
If you want to use it though, then go ahead. You have to toggle it on from the Dashboard on Surfshark’s website, then, you can choose to set it up through an authentication app or email.
While 2FA makes it easier, and on the surface adding an extra layer of authentication may provide limited protection against unauthorized access to your account, it also creates another potential point of vulnerability. Think of it like this: it’s like adding a second lock to your front door; it may make it harder for a burglar to get in, but it also doubles the risk of something going wrong.
If the second lock is compromised, it provides a direct entryway to sensitive information.
Moreover, using 2FA on a VPN requires the sharing of personal information, such as phone numbers or email addresses, which may be used for targeted advertising or even sold to third-party companies (do you really trust Google?!). Therefore, while 2FA may seem like a good idea, I really don’t like it when I’m using my VPN.
About Split Tunneling
The Whitelister feature is another tool provided (for free) by Surfshark VPN that allows users to configure certain apps or websites to bypass the VPN tunnel. This can be particularly useful for services that don’t allow connections through a VPN, such as online banking, where folk may need to access their accounts using their true IP address.
Instead of disabling the VPN completely, which could compromise privacy and security for other online activities, you can whitelist the specific app orwebsite that you need to access outside of the VPN tunnel. This allows you to maintain the protection of the VPN while still accessing the necessary service.
Surfshark recommends using the Whitelister feature sparingly and also avoiding whitelisting any app or website that handles sensitive information or requires a high level of security.
It’s important to note that whitelisting can potentially expose the user’s IP address and online activity to third parties, so it should be used with caution and only for services that require it. Surfshark recommends using the Whitelister feature sparingly and also avoiding whitelisting any app or website that handles sensitive information or requires a high level of security.
About MultiHop – What is it?
MultiHop, also known as “double VPN” by some, is a feature offered by Surfshark VPN which provides an extra layer of security by connecting the user to two VPN servers instead of one. You what?! Well, if you’re confused then don’t be. All this means is that data is encrypted twice, making it even more difficult for third parties to intercept or monitor online activity.
Initially, Surfshark only offered a limited number of servers for MultiHop, which proved problematic for users who wanted to access certain content or services from a specific country. However, with the new Dynamic MultiHop feature, I’m pleased report that you can choose your own first and second servers (and country) now – providing more flexibility and potentially improving connection speeds too. Great!
NOTE: It’s important to note that, while it isn’t slow, using MultiHop will likely result in slower connection speeds due to the added encryption and routing of data through multiple servers. However, for users who prioritize security and privacy (which is really the sort of person Surfshark are targeting), MultiHop can be a valuable tool in your Swiss Army Knife of cybersecurity.
What’s this I hear about Surfshark Nexus?
Surfshark recently introduced a new feature called Nexus, which utilizes what’s called Software-Defined Networking (or SDN) to connect users to a network of VPN servers before routing them to their chosen server.
This differs from traditional VPN connections that use a single tunnel to connect to a server – this can result in loads of privacy problems due to the use of only one IP address.
With Nexus technology, Surfshark claims that user’s traffic will be obscured, performance will be stabilized, and VPN connection speeds will be improved.
It’s worth pointing out that this feature will only be utilized when using “IP Rotator”… What’s IP Rotator? Well, as the name suggests, it periodically changes your VPN IP address to make tracking by an ISP or third-party more difficult.
There’s also dynamic MultiHop which I’ve described above. And then finally, to add to the mix, another feature called IP Randomizer – this assigns a new IP address each time that you connect to a different website (yes, really), thereby masking your browsing habits to an extent and partly creating plausible deniability.
All in all, these security features make Surfshark a real stand-out VPN, particularly if you want the ultimate level of protection (or if you’re hyper paranoid…).
Spoofing on Android
Surfshark also have a special feature on Android devices that can ‘spoof’ or fake the GPS location of your device. This is needed because a lot of apps log where you are, to quite a high level of accuracy. For example click here and see for yourself.
Scary, huh. Looking to protect your privacy on mobile devices? Here are the key points about Surfshark’s GPS spoofing feature that you need to know:
- While a VPN can hide your IP address, GPS tracking can still be used to locate you.
- Surfshark’s GPS spoofing feature makes it appear as if you’re in the same location as the VPN server you’re connected to, masking both your IP and GPS.
- This feature was the first of its kind and works incredibly well. I tested it by connecting to Surfshark’s Toronto server and loading Google Maps, it worked.
- To enable the feature, simply go to “Advanced Settings” in the Android app, click “Override GPS Location,” and adjust your permission settings if necessary.
Any other features?
Yes, that’s not quite all yet, folks!
One other thing to mention: Surfshark One is an add-on service that includes antivirus software, identity monitoring, and a secure search engine. It’s like having your own digital bodyguard, protecting you from all the online nasties out there. It’s optional, you don’t have to get it, but it costs more – they leave it up to you.
Surfshark One is actually three different features combined into one. They are:
- 🔔 Surfshark Alert gives immediate notifications for leaked personal information like email, passwords, or credit card info. It’s better than free apps because you get instant notifications for breaches. Don’t forget to enable 2FA when using it.
- 🔍 Surfshark Search is a private search engine without ads or trackers. It’s like DuckDuckGo or StartPage but without ads.
- 🛡️ Surfshark Antivirus protects your device from viruses and malware. You can configure it to scan your device regularly and restrict unauthorized camera access. Only problem: it’s not yet available on iOS.
Does all of this slow down VPN speed?
It seems to.
Using a VPN in general can result in slower internet speeds due to the encryption process, but remember that Surfshark add even more encryption than most.
However, the extent of the slowdown can vary depending on several factors, such as device make and model, operating system, browser type, and distance to the server.
As a reviewer, I completely get the importance of using strong encryption methods for VPNs to protect user data. Outdated encryption methods can leave user data vulnerable to attacks, just like using an old lock on a safe.
During my testing of Surfshark VPN, I found that they use AES 256-bit encryption, which is currently considered the standard for VPNs in 2023. This is great news because it provides strong protection for user data.
What’s even better is that Surfshark goes a step further and encrypts traffic through multiple servers, adding an extra layer of protection for user data. This is not a common feature among VPNs, even among the best ones on the market, and it does make me feel more secure knowing that my web activity is being well-protected.
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As a VPN enthusiast, I love having the opportunity to test and evaluate different protocols that each VPN provider has – tragic I know!
While OpenVPN and IKEv2 are the usual suspects for most VPNs, I was thrilled to discover that Surfshark supports WireGuard on all major operating systems. It’s like having a Swiss Army Knife with a variety of tools to choose from depending on the task at hand.
- OpenVPN is constantly evolving and considered one of the most secure protocols available. It has two versions: UDP for faster speeds ideal for video calls, streaming, and gaming, and TCP for a more stable connection at a slower speed. During my testing, OpenVPN worked flawlessly on both local and long-distance servers, and it’s available on Windows, iOS, Android, macOS, Linux, and FireTV.
- WireGuard too performed exceptionally well during my speed tests and was in fact much faster than OpenVPN. It’s like a high-performance sports car that doesn’t compromise on security. WireGuard is known for its ability to improve security without impacting speed, making it suitable for all sorts of online activities, such as streaming, video calls, and general browsing, both on nearby and long-distance servers. It’s available on Windows, Android, iOS, and macOS.
- Lastly, IKEv2 is a good protocol to use on mobile (Android, iPhone) as it automatically reconnects to protect your online activity when switching from mobile data to Wi-Fi. It’s like a bodyguard who’s always on guard and ready to protect you – kind of… IKEv2 tends to work best when connected to a nearby server and is available on all of Surfshark’s apps including the one for FireTV.
Surfshark Review: Logging Policy
During my testing of Surfshark VPN, I found that they collect certain information related to user accounts, such as email addresses, encrypted passwords, billing information, and order history – generally they need this for you to sign up in teh first place.
They also collect anonymized information from their website about user activity, such as pages visited and time spent on each page. This is a slight negative, but they say it’s anonymized.
Surfshark also keeps IP addresses and unique device identifiers, but only from its website, not from the actual VPN app. I found this to be similar to what most companies collect.
Interestingly, during my testing, I noticed that Surfshark provided the option to opt-out of diagnostic reports and cookies. That’s the sort of thing I tend to appreciate as it gives a lot more control.
So, in summary it’s worth noting that while Surfshark collects some information, they do not keep any logs of user activity while connected to the VPN.
To test the security of Surfshark, I headed down to the library and conducted a test on their crappy public Wi-Fi network while connected to the VPN. I deliberately visited a website that I knew had a history of phishing attacks and malware distribution. Despite accessing this website on a potentially risky network, nohting happened. Hooray.
|Does Surfshark Log It?
|🌐 IP addresses
|🔍 Browsing history
|⏳ Session information
|💾 Used bandwidth
|🕰️ Time stamps
|📡 Network traffic
|📧 User’s email address
|🔒 User’s password
|💳 Payment data
|✅ Yes, unless anonymous payment methods such as Bitcoin
During the testing of Surfshark, I also conducted a WebRTC leak test.
When we video chat with friends, transfer files, or live stream Netflix, our computers use WebRTC, which allows web browsers to communicate directly with each other without going through a middle-man server.
While WebRTC can improve speed and reduce lag, it also requires devices to know each other’s private IP address, (that’s just how it works), which can obiously compromise privacy. So, I tested whether Surfshark leaked my private IP address from my ISP, and the good news is that did not, even during these video chats. Another plus there, then.
Pricing – How Much Does It Cost?
There is a free 7 day trial with Surfshark but it’s only available on the iOS and Android apps – not on desktop. Sorry!
If you’re testing Surfshark VPN’s features during the 7 day free trial, eventually you need to pay too if you want to keep it. Unfortunate I know!
But when you do, you’ll get several subscription options to choose from: the subscriptions have the same features, with the only difference being the term length – one month, one year, or two years. These prices are the same regardless of what platform you use, e.g. desktop is the same as iOS.
Here’s a table highlighting Surfshark’s pricing structure:
|Price (per month)
|+ Surfshark One
|Total Amount (2 years)
Now, regular readers of VPN Hound will know that I don’t like to pay full price for anything, including a VPN – if you’re like that too then use a Surfshark coupon code to get money off the above prices.
Should I be worried that Surfshark is in Netherlands?
Surfshark’s move to the Netherlands raised some red flags for some people including me, as it’s part of the Nine-Eyes data sharing alliance.
Previously based in the British Virgin Islands, Surfshark claimed the move was for a “favorable business, economic, and political” resaons but I was initially skeptical.
How can you trust that claim? Well, that’s the million dollar question… ultimately, you can’t.
But Surfshark have gone to great lengths to prove that they don’t keep logs, as I’ll cover next…
Surfshark Audit: Can I trust it?
A Deloitte security audit of Surfshark’s no-logs policy was released in December 2022 – though it took 4 years to complete, and I’m not sure why.
I’m relieved that one of the biggest auditing firms has given Surfshark’s policy their seal of approval personally. Previously, in 2018, Surfshark had Cure53 audit its Chrome and Firefox extensions, and it found no significant issues in the privacy or security realms. In 2021, Cure53 performed another security analysis of Surfshark’s server infrastucture and found no major issues.
In summary then, although the move to the Netherlands is a concern, I’m glad Surfshark has taken steps to reassure its users with audits and a sound no-logs policy.
Comparison of No-Logs Policy
Verdict: Surfshark VPN
Alrighty, folks, gather round and let me tell you about my experience with Surfshark VPN, and if it’s worth it. I’ve spent ages testing it out for this review (and will continue using it for our other speed tests).
First off, let’s talk security. Surfshark VPN is no slouch in this department. It uses military-grade encryption, has a kill switch, and supports several protocols, including OpenVPN, IKEv2, and WireGuard. As a side note, I even put it through its paces by using it to access my bank account, and it worked like a charm. Not even a hint of a security breach.
However, one thing to note is that Surfshark VPN is based in the Netherlands, which is a country that falls under the Nine Eyes intelligence alliance. Now, I’m not one to jump to conclusions, but some people might be wary of this.
That being said, Surfshark VPN has some quirks to put your mind at ease. For example, it has a no-logs policy, meaning that it won’t keep any record of your online activities. It also supports unlimited simultaneous connections, which is a real plus if you have a lot of devices.
But here’s the real kicker: Surfshark VPN is one of the most affordable VPNs out there. I mean, I’m talking less than teh cost of a fancy coffee each month . And yet, it delivers a solid, reliable VPN experience that you can count on.
Here’s my quick at-a-glance comparison of the top 3 most well-known VPNs:
|Military-grade encryption, kill switch, and no-logs policy
|Starting from $2.49/month
|Double VPN, Onion over VPN, kill switch, and no-logs policy
|Starting from $3.30/month
|TrustedServer technology, kill switch, and no-logs policy
|British Virgin Islands
|Starting from $8.32/month