With VPNs, you tend to get what you pay for. So when I saw Surfshark’s super low prices (you can get it for just $2.49/month), I was a bit skeptical about its rave reviews. To find out if it actually lives up to these claims, I tested every single aspect of Surfshark, including speeds, security features, unblocking abilities, network reliability, and device compatibility.
There is still room for improvement in some areas, especially considering its server network is pretty small compared to many other VPNs. I would personally recommend ExpressVPN if you want a more reliable network and better global coverage.
Short on Time? Here Are My Key Findings
- Great for unblocking streaming sites. I was able to unblock more than 20 Netflix libraries (including the US), Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, and 17 other platforms. See my full streaming test results here.
- Fast enough for HD streaming and even gaming. I had consistently fast speeds on all the servers I tested, with only minor slowdowns over long distances. Check out my detailed speed tests here.
- Small but stable network. I was impressed that the servers I tested were all super reliable. I was impressed that the servers I tested were all super reliable, especially since there’s less coverage than other top VPNs. See my full analysis of Surfshark’s server network here.
- Military-grade encryption and strong security features. Surfshark offers all the advanced security features I’d expect from a top VPN and even has some I’ve never seen from any other VPN. Here is my breakdown of all the security features and how they work.
- Offers a 30-day money-back guarantee. I tested this refund policy and had all my money back 4 days after contacting customer service. This is a great way to test Surfshark for free to see if you like it.
Surfshark Features — Updated in June 2021
Note: This product is currently not available on our site
|Money Back Guarantee||30|
|Does VPN keep logs?||No|
|Number of servers||3200|
|Number of devices per license||Unlimited|
|Based in country||Virgin Islands (British)|
|Support||24/7 Live Chat Support|
Surfshark performed really well when I tested its ability to bypass geo-restrictions. I had almost no issues unblocking US/UK Netflix, Disney+, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, HBO Max and others. Surfshark even managed to bypass Amazon Prime Video’s notoriously powerful geoblocks in 2 of the regions I tested. Although some platforms required me to switch servers a few times to find one that worked, it didn’t take me long to find one. The only sites I couldn’t access at all were Sling TV, Sky TV, and France TV.
After testing 50+ server locations, I was able to unblock the following streaming sites:
|Netflix||Disney+||Hulu||Amazon Prime Video|
|HBO Max & Go||BBC iPlayer||DAZN||Hotstar|
|Peacock TV||Crunchyroll||Fubo TV||YouTube TV|
|YLE Areena||Yle||AbemaTV||ESPN & ESPN+|
|ITV Hub||All 4||Stan||Crave|
Unblocked Netflix US/UK (and other local libraries)
All 24 US (and all 3 UK) server locations worked with Netflix. Since Netflix is constantly working to block VPN connections, it’s common for some servers to eventually stop working. Having so many (that actually work!) is really useful — even if a server does go down, you can easily find another one that’s up and running.
I could even watch US Netflix while connected to some EU servers, which I found a bit strange. I contacted customer service to ask why this was happening — they told me it was a secret, but that it’s perfectly safe and gives you faster speeds to watch US Netflix because you can use servers closer to your actual location.
This means that even if an EU server can’t access a particular Netflix library, Surfshark will direct you automatically to US Netflix (which has the largest number of shows anyway) so you can start streaming. I thought this was more convenient than getting shown a Netflix error message and having to spend time finding a different working server. Just to make sure, I ran tests on the Czech and Danish servers that were defaulting to US Netflix — I had no leaks (so it’s safe) and my speeds were faster than when I connected to US servers (because they’re closer to my location in Belgium). It ended up being a win-win situation. Apart from US and UK Netflix, Surfshark also reliably unblocked other popular libraries including Australia, Canada, Japan, and France:
|Surfshark unblocked?||Fast speeds for HD streaming?||Lag?|
I also managed to access 12 other local libraries (connected to the servers listed in brackets): Belgium, Brazil, Italy (Rome), Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, Singapore, Spain (Madrid), Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, and Turkey.
I had no issues unblocking Disney+ with Surfshark. I could access it using 10 different US servers including Latham, Buffalo, New York, and Seattle. A couple of times it took a while for the video to load, but after I refreshed my browser it worked perfectly fine.
It’s worth mentioning that no matter which server location I chose, Disney+ usually brought me to the US library. Similar to what happened with Netflix during my tests, Surfshark will bring you to the US Disney+ library if it can’t unblock it in another region, so you’ll always be able to watch it. Disney+ doesn’t differ that much across regions, and the US library is one of the biggest ones, so I was totally fine with this.
Also Unblocks Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Kodi, and More
It was easy to unblock Hulu. I had to try a couple different servers before I found one that would work, but it only took me a few minutes. The US Latham and Manassas servers kept getting stuck on loading screens, but the Buffalo server (my third choice) worked without a problem.
If you want a VPN that consistently and reliably unblocks Hulu without issues, ExpressVPN is my top choice. I’ve tested a lot of VPNs and even top VPNs struggle with Amazon Prime Video. So I wasn’t too surprised that Surfshark can’t unblock Amazon Prime US. Of the 50 servers I tested, only 4 of them managed to unblock APV: the Canadian (Toronto and Vancouver) servers as well as the French (Paris and Marseille) ones.
Even though 2 Prime Video libraries isn’t much, I was impressed that Surfshark was able to penetrate Prime’s rock-solid geo-restrictions. I could also watch geo-restricted, on-demand content on Kodi’s iPlayer add-on with the UK servers I tested (London and Manchester). Surfshark also worked with other P2P-based media players, like Popcorn Time and VLC. I had almost no issues unblocking ESPN+, HBO Max, BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, and All 4 with Surfshark, but a couple streaming services were difficult to access including Hotstar, YouTube TV, and DAZN. I watched Hotstar on all 3 Indian servers and it was almost unwatchable — my speeds were too slow to watch in HD and my video kept buffering every 15 seconds. YouTube TV detected I was using a VPN with almost half the US server locations, but I managed to unblock it using the Charlotte, Latham, and Kansas City options. Lastly, I was finally able to unblock DAZN, but only on Canadian servers.
Surfshark has fast and consistent speeds. When I tested speeds, I examined 3 different things:
- Download speed is how fast you receive data from the server you’re connected to: loading web pages, streaming, etc. It’s measured in megabits per second (Mbps).
- Upload speed is how fast you send data to the server: posting on social media, video calling, sending emails, etc. It’s measured in megabits per second (Mbps).
- Ping is the time it takes for the data to travel. It is measured in milliseconds (ms). The lower your ping, the more responsive your connection will be, which is important for gaming online, for example.
I tested 25+ server locations and didn’t experience significant slowdowns, even on servers more than 15,000 km away from my location in Belgium.
First, I tested my base speed without a VPN connection as a basis for comparison. No VPN connection (Brussels, Belgium):
I connected to Surfshark, which automatically chose the IKEv2 security protocol because it was the fastest option based on my network settings. I then began these speed tests on my Windows 10 laptop.
Using the “Fastest Server” option, I connected to a server in Brussels, Belgium and experienced almost no slowdown whatsoever. Belgium (Brussels):
|Download (Mbps):||43.07 (4.7% decrease)|
|Upload (Mbps):||3.58 (6% decrease)|
Then I tried the “Nearest Country” option and was connected to a server in Luxembourg. Again, there was almost no slowdown. It’s normal for a VPN to slow you down by 10-20%, so a 4.7% decrease was unnoticeable. I actually had a slightly faster speed than my “fastest server”. Luxembourg:
|Download (Mbps):||44.68 (1.2% decrease)|
|Upload (Mbps):||3.55 (6.8% decrease)|
I manually selected a few other countries not too far from my actual location (the Netherlands, the UK, Italy, and Spain) and got similar results on all of them — they were such minuscule drops in speed it’s almost not even worth mentioning the decrease.
Connecting to local servers with Surfshark won’t affect your speed in any noticeable way, allowing you to continue your online activity as you normally would.
Long Distance Servers
Surfshark’s international servers also performed really well. I expected some speed loss because my data had to travel farther to the server, but only experienced very minor slowdowns. I started by testing a few servers in the US on both the east and west coasts and found that the distance from my location in Belgium made almost no difference to my speeds. United States (New York):
|Download (Mbps):||41.41 (8.4% decrease)|
|Upload (Mbps):||3.47 (8.9% decrease)|
United States (Los Angeles):
|Download (Mbps):||40.93 (9.4% decrease)|
|Upload (Mbps):||3.64 (4.5% decrease)|
Then, I went the distance and tested the Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane Australian servers. I had similar impressive results on all 3, only experiencing an average 28% decrease in download speed. For servers located 16,000 km away from me, this is an excellent result. Australia (Melbourne):
|Download (Mbps):||32.52 (28.1% decrease)|
|Upload (Mbps):||3.19 (16.3% decrease)|
This was the slowest speed I encountered using Surfshark’s servers, and 32 Mbps is fast enough for even high bandwidth activities like fast-paced online gaming. A 28% loss will only be an issue if your base internet speed is slower than 5 Mbps. I almost became determined to find a super slow server using Surfshark and tested 6 others in Asia-Pacific, including Japan (Tokyo) and the Philippines. Again, I was really happy with my results. Philippines:
|Download (Mbps):||38.02 (15.9% decrease)|
|Upload (Mbps):||3.40 (10.8% decrease)|
Are Surfshark’s Speeds Fast Enough for Gaming? Yes.
Surfshark is fast enough for gaming, but some servers gave me long loading times and error messages. When I used the “Fastest Server” feature, I could game with great speeds as if I were using my base internet connection. However, when I used servers really far away from my actual location (like Australia) I had some noticeable lag and loading issues. I tested Surfshark to see what kind of download speed, upload speed, and ping I’d get with different servers.
- Download speed — how fast you receive data. Faster download speeds mean you’ll have more accurate timing when another player attacks you.
- Upload speed — how fast you send data. Faster upload speeds mean you’ll have more accurate timing when you attack another player.
- Ping — how long it takes for the data to reach its destination (i.e. latency). This determines how responsive your connection is, so the higher your ping, the more lag you’ll have.
It’s best to have download speeds of at least 15 Mbps, upload speeds of at least 1 Mbps, and the lowest ping possible for a smooth online gaming experience. I didn’t experience speeds lower than 32 Mbps using Surfshark, so its speeds are quick enough even for fast-paced online shooter games. I began my tests by using the Fastest Server feature (it connected me to Belgium) and loaded RuneScape on Steam, an old favorite of mine. I chose a game server in the Netherlands. When the game first loaded it was really choppy and laggy, but after about 2 minutes it ran smoothly and I was able to play without any interruptions or slowdowns. Happy with this result, I decided to test out the Melbourne server that gave me my slowest — although still good — speed (32.52 Mbps) to see if its speeds could hold up over such a long distance. On this server, even though I was able to log in to my Steam account (with a lot of loading time), I was unable to load the game. I tried 3 times and received an error message each time.
RuneScape received an unexpected response (26). Please try again later, or check the RuneScape website for server maintenance.
This error could have been an issue with the game or Steam, but I found it strange that everything worked fine on other servers. I contacted Surfshark’s customer support about it and they said this can happen sometimes with new VPN servers that haven’t been configured for gaming yet. They suggested trying another server — Sydney gave me the same error. However, I finally managed to load the game using the Brisbane server and played with only occasional, very minor lag using it. Even though I had a few connection problems on Australian servers, I experienced perfectly smooth gameplay on other long-distance servers in both the US (New York, Los Angeles) and Canada (Toronto).
Honestly, I will continue to use ExpressVPN for gaming because it has better speeds and I rarely face loading errors using it. Either way, you should always make sure you connect to the gaming server… Just make sure you connect to the gaming server closest to your VPN’s server location because this will reduce ping time, maximizing performance.
Surfshark has 3,200 servers in 65 locations. Compared to other top VPNs like CyberGhost (which has 7,100 in 91 locations) or Private Internet Access (which has 35,550 in 78 locations), this isn’t the hugest network I’ve seen. And even though ExpressVPN has 3,000 servers, it covers 94 countries worldwide. So if you want more global coverage and reliability, I would recommend one of those VPNs instead. That being said, all of the servers I tested gave me reliable, strong, fast connections. Most of Surfshark’s servers are located in the US, spread out over 24 locations. This makes it a great option for unblocking US-based streaming content and bypassing regional blackouts for sporting events. Surfshark also has a big server presence in Europe (especially the UK, France, Germany, and Spain), Canada, India, and Australia. Unlike many VPNs, there are physical servers available in countries with strict censorship laws like Russia, Vietnam, and Turkey. If you live in one of these locations (and since Surfshark doesn’t store any logs), you can surf the web freely and safely without having to sacrifice speed by connecting to an international server — the closer a server is to your actual location, the faster it tends to be.
There are also virtual locations in Chile, Argentina, and Costa Rica, where it has become difficult to operate VPN services due to political instability. When you connect to one of these locations, you’re actually connected to a physical server located outside that region. This offers more connection options and helps you get faster speeds if you’re located in these countries. However, it can also give you a higher ping and can take a while to fully establish the connection — your data has to travel to the physical server, which is farther away than the virtual location. Each virtual location server is marked with a “v” in the app.
When I tested them, the Argentina virtual location failed to connect the first time I tried, but managed to connect in about 15 seconds when I tried again. It only took me 5 seconds to establish a connection to Chile and Costa Rica.
Static IP Servers
These servers offer the same IP address every time you connect, instead of being assigned a random one. This is useful if you don’t want to complete a million CAPTCHA checks or constantly verify your identity when signing into secure sites like PayPal or banking apps. I tested this feature by logging into my banking app 3 times after reconnecting to the same static server and was only asked to confirm my identity the first time. I get annoyed by how many CAPTCHA checks I have to do when using my VPN, so I really like that this feature stops that. Surfshark offers static servers in 5 locations: Japan, Singapore, Germany, the US, and the UK. The entire network is P2P-friendly, so it’s easy to torrent with Surfshark. You can also choose from 14 MultiHop servers. These add an extra layer of security by sending your traffic through 2 locations instead of 1 (but more on that in the security section below).
Surfshark is as secure as it gets. It offers the highest level of encryption, RAM-only servers, a strict no-logs policy, and more than just the standard advanced security options.
It uses industry-standard AES 256-bit encryption, which is virtually impenetrable. This is the same level of encryption used by governments and militaries to protect their private data, so your ISP and third parties won’t be able to see any of your online activity.
Surfshark has a 100% diskless server network that automatically wipes all data when you switch off your VPN. This is to prevent breaches from malicious third parties. Many other top VPNs use hard drives, which are manually wiped clean, so there’s a small chance that data could be breached before the manual wipe occurs. This also gives you an added layer of privacy because there truly isn’t any data that could possibly be shared (in case of court orders, for example). I really like that Surfshark offers this extra level of security.
You can choose from 4 VPN protocols to encrypt and secure your online activity. While IKEv2 and OpenVPN are pretty standard, I was happy to see that Surfshark is WireGuard compatible on all major operating systems and offers Shadowsocks for people living in countries with a lot of internet censorship.
- IKEv2: This protocol performed best during my tests. It tends to work best when connected to a nearby server, but I had great speeds even on long-distance ones. This is a good protocol to use if you’re on a mobile device because it has the ability to auto-connect (so you’re protected even when you switch from mobile data to WiFi). IKEv2 is available on Surfshark’s Windows, iOS, Android, macOS, and FireTV apps.
- OpenVPN: OpenVPN is constantly being improved by security professionals worldwide, which makes it one of the most secure protocols available. There are two versions: UDP is faster and ideal for video calls, streaming, and gaming, while TCP is slower, but offers a more stable connection. OpenVPN worked well for me on both local and long-distance servers and is available on Windows, iOS, Android, macOS, Linux, and FireTV.
- WireGuard: This protocol is known for improving security without hindering speeds. While I got slower speeds with Wireguard than IKEv2, it was much faster than OpenVPN. It also works well for all sorts of online activity like streaming, video calls, and general browsing (on both nearby and long-distance servers). It’s available on Windows, Android, iOS, and macOS.
- Shadowsocks: This is an encrypted proxy created to help people living in high-censorship countries overcome internet restrictions (especially the “Great Firewall of China”). Countries like China, UAE, and Egypt block VPN connections, so if you use more common protocols like IKEv2 in these locations, they probably won’t work. If you aren’t located in a heavily censored region, one of the other protocols is a better option because they are more secure (Shadowsocks only encrypts browser traffic on Windows and Mac, for example.) It acts as more of a backup in case OpenVPN doesn’t work. Shadowsocks is available on Windows and Android and can be set up manually on Mac and iOS devices.
I compared my speeds using the different protocols during my speed tests to see whether there was a noticeable difference. I got significantly slower speeds using OpenVPN (UDP) and Wireguard than I did with IKEv2.
My speeds were an average 34% slower using OpenVPN than IKEv2, so it’s a good idea to choose the right protocol for your intended online activity. I really like that Surfshark automatically detects which protocol will be fastest for you when you open the app. However, if you want to change protocols mid-session, automatic selection will be disabled until you manually select it again.
Leak Test Results
I tested 10 servers including ones in the UK, US, and Belgium and no IP, WebRTC, or DNS leaks were detected on any of them. Any leaks are a threat to your security and privacy while using a VPN. A DNS leak is a security flaw that allows your ISP to see your internet activity. IP and WebRTC leaks reveal your real IP address (and your real location) to third parties, like hackers or online snoopers. Surfshark offers private DNS on every server and IP leak protection when using IPv4 stack. IPv4 is the most common type of IP, while IPv6 is a new format. The version of IP used by your device depends on what your network supports. This means if your network supports IPv6, you could experience leaks while using Surfshark. Since IPv6 is so new, it’s not widely used, so this shouldn’t be an issue for most people. When I contacted support to ask about it, they informed me that they’re working on adding this in the future and offered some solutions to prevent your IP from being exposed.
You can easily disable IPv6 in your device’s network settings to prevent these leaks, but this could cause some apps to stop working properly. Support also said OpenVPN is the best protocol to use to cover your IPv6 connections (although not a guarantee). Adding IPv6 support is crucial for a top VPN like Surfshark — you don’t even have to worry about this with VPNs like ExpressVPN or PrivateVPN because they cover both IPv4 and IPv6. I performed leak tests with IPv6 enabled (as well as disabled) and no IPv4, IPv6, WebRTC, or DNS leaks were detected on the 10 servers I tested. I recommend checking your connection just to make sure it’s actually secure.
Automatic Kill Switch
The kill switch feature is easy to access and keeps you protected even if Surfshark disconnects unexpectedly (although this didn’t happen during my tests). The kill switch will temporarily deactivate your internet connection and then reactivate it automatically when you’re connected again so none of your traffic is leaked while the VPN reconnects. This is an important feature that has become standard with most VPNs, so I expect it from a top VPN like Surfshark. I also really like that Surfshark makes this feature easily accessible from its base connection screen unlike a lot of other VPNs. You can simply click the little arrow above where it says “connected” and activate the kill switch without navigating through the settings menu. It’s not activated automatically, so you need to switch it on manually the first time you connect to Surfshark.
The automatic kill switch is available on all of Surfshark’s apps, including FireTV.
Surfshark gives you the option to double up your VPN connection by sending your traffic through 2 servers instead of 1 (also called Double VPN). This feature isn’t really useful for regular users. You might use it if you’re hyper-vigilant about privacy or need to send sensitive information in a country with internet surveillance, but otherwise you don’t need it. In addition, these servers slowed down my speeds significantly. Because your traffic has to go through 2 servers in 2 locations, it makes sense that your speeds drop.
A single VPN connection is enough to keep your personal browsing data hidden from prying eyes, so it’s not worth the slow speeds. MultiHop isn’t a feature I’ll be using.
This feature hides the fact that you’re using a VPN to encrypt your traffic (also known as obfuscation). It does this with technology that makes your connection seem like normal traffic. If you live in a country with strict censorship laws that bans the use of VPNs, this is a really useful feature. With Camouflage Mode active, your ISP or government will not only be blind to your internet activity, but they won’t be able to see that you’re using a VPN to maintain that privacy, either. You can also use Camouflage Mode to help you get around firewalls on public WiFi. I tested this by going to the library, which blocks Netflix on its WiFi. When I turned on Camouflage Mode, it loaded fine and I was able to watch it no problem. Camouflage Mode is automatically enabled when connecting using the OpenVPN protocol, which is available on Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and Linux devices.
NoBorders mode was designed specifically to bypass internet restrictions in heavily censored regions (like China, Vietnam, or the UAE). This feature can detect VPN-blocking technologies used by your network. Based on this info, NoBorders will automatically give you a list of the best servers to use in your current restrictive location. You can activate NoBorders mode on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android by navigating to Settings > Advanced in the Surfshark app. I had some trouble finding it on my Android, and contacted customer support for help. I found out the feature is actually hidden — I had to tap and hold “Protocol” in the advanced settings menu to access the NoBorders function.
This feature (aka. Two-Factor Authentication) adds an extra layer of security to your Surfshark account itself. Rather than simply using a set password to log in, 2FA provides a temporary code to either your email or the app itself when you try to log in. This ensures that you will be the only person who can access your account in any given situation. Setting up 2FA with Surfshark involves a bit of a process. To activate it, you must log in to Surfshark in your web browser, go to “Account Settings”, and click “Turn on 2FA”. You can then set it up either using an authentication application (like Google Authenticator) or with your email. I chose the authenticator method because it’s recommended on Surfshark’s website as the easiest. Using Surfshark’s online guide helped with the process — I had to download an app from the Google Play Store on my Android in order to scan a QR code to activate 2FA. I am not super worried about my Surfshark account being hacked, so I disabled this function shortly after I activated it. It was annoying to have to go through so many steps just to log in.
This is Surfshark’s built-in ad and malware blocker. I tested out CleanWeb on Forbes.com and YouTube and all the ads I saw with CleanWeb toggled off were gone once I turned it on. I was impressed that it even blocked ads on my ad-supported Hulu account.
It also detects malicious websites and blocks them automatically, helping protect your device from malware or from falling victim to phishing scams. You can easily toggle CleanWeb on and off under Features in the Surfshark app on any of your devices.
GPS Spoofing on Android
Sometimes a VPN isn’t enough to keep your personal information private on your mobile device. Some sites and apps use your GPS to locate you instead of your IP address. Surfshark has solved that problem with this unique GPS spoofing feature — it makes it seem like you’re physically located in the same place as the VPN server you connect to. Both your IP and your GPS are masked, so no sneaky apps can track your whereabouts for marketing or other purposes. Surfshark was the first VPN to introduce this functionality, and I was super impressed by how well it worked. I tested it by connecting to its New York server and switching on “Override GPS location” under advanced settings in the Android app. Then I loaded Google Maps and the blue dot showing my geographical location was directly beside New York City Hall (when I was actually sitting in my living room in Belgium writing this review). Sadly, this feature doesn’t work with Pokemon Go. PoGo wouldn’t load any PokeStops or gyms and, while my in-game map showed NYC, it also said it couldn’t detect my location. Bummer.
This feature allows you to select certain websites or apps to bypass the VPN connection (also known as split tunneling). It’s useful for using safe websites that don’t work with VPNs like banking sites. It’s also useful if you want to connect to network devices without the VPN causing issues. This feature is only available for Windows and Android. When I tested Whitelister, it worked perfectly when I chose apps to bypass my VPN connection on both my Windows laptop and Android phone. However, I had some issues getting websites to successfully bypass Surfshark. Even after troubleshooting with customer support, I couldn’t access Netflix in my browser when it was added to my whitelist.
You can make your VPN-enabled device invisible to other devices on your local network for another layer of privacy. This is especially useful if you’re using public WiFi and don’t want other users to see you. While most operating systems already support this function, I like how easy it is to enable with Surfshark — it only took a couple of clicks. I just went to Settings > Advanced > and turned it on. This feature is only available on Windows and Android.
Privacy Beyond VPN
This is a bundle add-on package that comes with 2 features. It costs an extra $0.99/month on top of your current subscription rate.
- Surfshark Alert gives you immediate notifications if your personal information appears in leaked databases (like email or passwords). You can get free apps that let you check this as well. But I liked that you receive immediate notifications if there’s been a breach with Alert (you don’t get that with the free apps I’ve used).
- Surfshark Search is a private search engine that doesn’t have any ads or trackers, allowing you to search the web without Google following your every click. I really liked how clean and simple it was to use — very similar to DuckDuckGo or StartPage. While sites like DuckDuckGo are free, they still have ads. But since you can get a free (and trusted) adblocker to get rid of them, I don’t think it’s worth paying extra for Surfshark Search.
TrustDNS is a free app that lets you change your DNS address in one click. You can choose from 100+ public DNS servers. It’s useful if you want to access websites that are blocked at the DNS level (this can happen in restricted regions like China) or hide your activity from your ISP. However, it doesn’t offer the same level of protection as a VPN — your traffic isn’t encrypted and your IP address is still visible to anyone online. I also couldn’t unblock any streaming sites when I tested it out. If you want to connect to public DNS servers, this app makes it easy (but it’s not hard to do manually in your network settings, either). However, public domains sometimes log your data or make you vulnerable to malware. So, I definitely prefer to use one of Surfshark’s VPN servers because it’s safer — you’ll automatically connect to one of its private DNS servers instead and have full protection. Trust DNS is only available on iOS and Android devices, and you have to download it separately.
Strict No-Logs Policy
Surfshark does collect and store your email address and password (which is encrypted) as well as basic billing information in order to create your account. If you’re not comfortable providing this information, you can easily create a separate email address just for Surfshark and use an anonymous payment method like cryptocurrency to subscribe without identifying yourself. Surfshark also collects diagnostic reports and anonymous analytics information in the app, which you can opt out of easily in the settings menu. Your location data is collected when using the “Auto-Connect” feature, but this data is never shared with any third parties. Other data is also collected when using Surfshark’s website, including “traffic data” (or anonymous analytics) information, cookies, and web beacons. However, I was impressed that the policy also explains how to disable these functions if you don’t want this information stored.
Location — Outside the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliance
Surfshark is owned by Surfshark Ltd and has been headquartered in the British Virgin Islands since its inception in 2018. This is an ideal base location for a VPN because there are no data retention laws or practices in place there. The British Virgin Islands are also located outside the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliance — a group of countries (including Canada, the US, France, and Australia) who’ve agreed to share surveillance intelligence between one another. Its position outside this alliance means no government can force Surfshark to collect or share any user data.
Warrant Canary is a web page you can visit to find out whether Surfshark has received any court orders to share user data. The more transparent a company is, the more I feel like I can trust it, so I really like that it makes this information so easy to access. Surfshark updates this page daily, so you’re always up-to-date about whether they’ve received any warrants or gag orders for your data. But considering it has a strict no-logs policy, it wouldn’t have any data to hand over anyway.
Security audits of Surfshark’s Chrome and Firefox extensions had really good results. I read cybersecurity company Cure53’s entire 2018 audit report and there were no major issues found with the extensions, neither in the privacy or security realms in which they were analyzed. No audits have been performed on logging policies or the application itself. This was disappointing to me because in many other ways Surfshark shows a strong commitment to transparency. Performing independent audits on (at the very least) logging policies is common among top VPNs and puts me at ease knowing that my personal data is actually safe. While I have no reason to suspect that Surfshark is up to anything shady with its users’ data, I would encourage independent audits of its application and policies to strengthen its (already strong) commitment to transparency. If you’d rather use a VPN with an audited and verified no logs policy, there are definitely better options out there.
Torrenting — Easy, Fast, and Safe
Surfshark performed really well when I tested its P2P sharing abilities, although it was a bit unclear which servers are specifically optimized for it. All the servers work with torrenting. However, if you’re not actually connected to a P2P-optimized server, you’re automatically connected to the nearest one the moment you open a torrent client like uTorrent, BitTorrent, or Transmission (or a P2P-based streaming platform like VLC, Popcorn Time, or Kodi). A lot of VPNs I’ve used require you to manually choose a torrent-friendly server before you start file-sharing, so I really liked how effortless it was to torrent using Surfshark. I tested to see if this automatic switch-over works. Once I figured out that you can search “p2p” under “Locations” to see all the optimized servers, it was easy to find one to perform this test. I chose the Czech Republic server (which isn’t P2P-optimized) and connected. Using IPleak.net I saw that my IP and DNS locations were set to Prague. After opening qBittorrent, I ran IPleak again and saw that my IP was still set to Prague, but my DNS had changed to the Netherlands, which is one of the P2P-optimized server locations.
While I could torrent successfully using this connection, I was a bit confused as to why I had a different IP and DNS location, so I contacted customer support. The representative explained that I had fallen into a “black hole” server, which sounded pretty bad to me. But they informed me that it was perfectly safe, although recommended I manually select a P2P-optimized server instead.
Even though automatically connecting to a torrent-friendly server is super convenient, customer support was right — I did have slower download speeds with the automatic connection. When I manually selected the P2P-optimized Belgian server (closest to my location), my speeds were faster. I downloaded the same 3GB file using both servers — my average speed on the Czech one was 2.5 Mbps and it took 19 minutes to complete. On the Belgian server, I had an average of 3.1 Mbps, and the file completed in 11 minutes. While these speeds are fast enough, I’ve experienced faster while torrenting with other VPNs. I usually use IPVanish for torrenting because it offers a SOCKS5 proxy that significantly boosts my download speeds and all of its servers are fast for P2P sharing. To maximize your P2P speeds with Surfshark, I would recommend manually choosing an optimized server. Once you’ve connected to your preferred server, you can download torrents safely and anonymously. Surfshark’s strict no logs policy and military-grade encryption, combined with its automatic kill switch feature, will guarantee your activity remains hidden from your ISP.
Yes, it works in China because Surfshark has security features specifically designed to bypass internet restrictions there. It can be difficult to test VPNs in China since the country is constantly working on and implementing new VPN-blocking technologies. While some users have difficulty getting Surfshark up and running there, customer support informed me that you can use a manual connection method which will work at all times if you run into problems. Support is available through live chat or email to help you get Surfshark to work in a heavily censored region. Customer service also confirmed that Surfshark works in other countries with strict censorship laws including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the UAE.
Once connected to Surfshark, use NoBorders Mode and Camouflage Mode, which were made to get past China’s “Great Firewall”. NoBorders detects VPN-blocking technologies used in China and other countries with strict internet censorship. Then it gives you a list of servers that work best based on those restrictions. Camouflage Mode hides that you’re using a VPN and makes your online activity seem like normal traffic — so the government can’t block you from using a VPN to bypass restrictions either. On top of that, Windows and Android users can use the Shadowsocks encrypted proxy, which was designed to help bypass these heavy restrictions as well.