A Pocket-Friendly, Multifaceted Newcomer Service
|Jurisdiction||British Virgin Islands|
|Price||$1.99/month ($47.76 for 24months)|
|Bypasses China Firewall||Yes|
Launched in 2018 and headquartered in BVI, Surfshark is a quickly growing, pocket-friendly provider. It offers 800+ servers in 50+ locations that work exceptionally for unblocking Netflix in 13 countries, or downloading torrents securely.
I highly recommend Surfshark, if you are in search for an affordable all-rounder. It provides users with unlimited multi-logins, CleanWeb (ad/tracker blocker), and a NoBordersTM Mode to bypass VPN bans, all for $1.99/mo. on a 2-year plan.
The VPN is a powerhouse of features, hence why it ranks #1 out of 180 in our listings. For more information, read this in-depth Surfshark review 2019, where I discuss about security, transparency, pricing, servers, performance, compatibility, and support!
An Analysis of Surfshark’s Security
On the basis of Surfshark’s location, security audit, warrant canary, and logging policy, my in-depth analysis reveals that the provider is definitely worth the money. Online users can get maximum protection through Surfshark.
Surfshark is Located in BVI (An Internet Friendly Jurisdiction)
So, what are the data retention laws governing the existence of VPNs in the BVI? None, actually.
BVI might be a British Overseas Territory but it also has a fair degree of freedom in matters governing its internal affairs. Britain might be a member of alliances like the 14 Eyes, forcing it to comply with other member countries in matters of data and intelligence, but the shadows of such alliances does not bound BVI.
This is the primary reason why Surfshark, along with ExpressVPN have set up their base there. Serving a gag request or filing a data extradition request in the country is a complex process. Its just a good place to be in as a VPN service, nothing more, nothing less.
It has Undergone a Security Audit By Cure53
Cure53, a renowned web security service firm, and the first choice for comprehensive audits of VPNs, conducted a full blown security assessment of Surfshark’s browser extensions.
Surfshark aced the limited assessment, conducted in November 2018, with nothing being found except for two minor vulnerabilities that were marked as “low severity”.
VPNs are built for security and anonymity, but very rarely does a provider appear which is willing to put its service to the ultimate test i.e. an independent security audit by a third party, renowned security firm.
Surfshark might not be as big as some other providers in the market like ExpressVPN and NordVPN, but it is definitely moving in the right direction. Of course, i do have some reservations too.
Since the audit happened last year, Surfshark has added a legion of apps for nearly all popular platforms. Conducting the security audit was a good confidence building exercise, however this audit report doesn’t include the performance/security offered by other VPNs apps.
Warrant Canary is Clear of Threats (Date: July 12th, 2019)
That’s easy! Just look at their Warrant Canary – a method used by VPNs to ensure they are safe from the government and legal data extradition requests, they have received so far and how many of them have been facilitated/denied.
Surfshark’s Warrant Canary is as clean as a whistle, which is updated on a daily basis for the ease-of-mind of prospects and customers. As of June 3, they have the following count on each such request:
- 0 National Security Letters
- 0 Gag Orders
- 0 Warrants from a government organization
This is incredibly impressive, further strengthening the credibility of Surfshark. It is also vital to highlight that not many VPNs issue these Warrant canaries. Most receive such orders and most comply with them.
A Clear “No Logging” Policy for User Protection
Surfshark does not keep connectivity/activity logs listed below. If a provider keeps them, it is an invasion of your personal privacy. The information stored in these logs can be easily used by anyone to track you down any time they want:
- Incoming and outgoing IP addresses
- VPN servers you use
- Used bandwidth
- Session information
- Network traffic
- Connection timestamps
- Browsing, downloading or purchasing history
It is important to mention that Surfshark does log your personal email address and credit card details though. Every provider requires these two details to create and manage your account, while also catering to your complaints.
Of course, there are providers like MullvadVPN that do not even keep your email or credit card details. They generate specific account numbers to create user accounts and run them.
Surfshark has a Clear History; No Past Scandals
There are lots of controversial services in the VPN domain. Plentiful of providers have been involved in scandals, like submitting implicating evidence of a user to the authorities.
Of course, no provider will advertise that such a thing happened to them on their website. The news usually leaks when you least expect it, which is why you need to dig up the dirt on your own.
That is exactly what I did with Surfshark. I ran a thorough check on the VPNs previous record to see if they were ever subject to such a scandal.
Reassuringly, I could not find a single scandal or shady news about Surfshark, compelling me to give the provider a clean chit on its background.
Surfshark Pricing, Refund, and Payment Methods Review
The pricing plans at Surfshark are divided into three silos:
- Monthly Subscription – $11.95/mo.
- Yearly Subscription – $71.88 billed once ($5.99/mo.)
- Bi-yearly Subscription – $47.76 billed once ($1.99/mo.)
The monthly plan is slightly overpriced, starting at $11.95. However, longer duration subscriptions will allow you to leverage better discounts. For instance, if you opt for the yearly, you will only have to pay $5.99/month, billed as $71.88 once.
Their 24 month plan is where the provider offers its cheapest subscription rates. It costs only $1.99/month ($47.76 billed once), which is significantly lower than the damage of the monthly or yearly subscription.
This convoluted pricing strategy makes one thing pretty clear i.e. Surfshark wants you to buy their two year subscription. Still, it is quite cheaper than most comparable providers, providing users greater value for their money.
Payment Methods Supported by Surfshark
Surfshark accepts all major payment methods like Paypal, Alipay, and Credit/Debit card, etc. You can also pay through different types of cryptocurrencies .
The addition is highly welcome, as it allows the user to pay anonymously, without divulging any significant financial details, like credit card numbers.
No Free Trial Available
Surfshark, sadly does not offer a full-fledged free trial to customers. It makes sense too, especially considering you can get a 2-year plan for as low as $1.99.mo., which is quite affordable to say the least.
30-day Refund Policy
The BVI-based provider does offer a money back guarantee on all plans, valid for a full 30 days from the day your subscription commences. But, is the long validity for the refund any good for the user? Mostly, its useless.
That is because, if a user does not like the service, it wont take up to 30 days to realize it. These sort of things happen almost immediately. To minimize the risks of getting more and more refund requests, providers offer longer policies due to the endowment effect.
800+ Servers in 50+ Locations Worldwide
Surfshark’s server network has grown tremendously over the years. It now numbers at 800+servers in 50+ countries globally.
The server infrastructure was previously skewed more towards North America and Europe. However, it has added newer servers in places like Turkey, India, Singapore, South Korea, New Zealand, Israel, South Africa, Chile, Costa Rica and Canada among others.
Looking at this increase of servers, it is clear that Surfshark is looking to expand and rightly so. One of the most critical things that can make or break any VPN’s credibility in the market is the performance of its servers.
Surfshark Found Using Two Virtual Servers
I approached Surfshark’s live chat support to learn more about virtual/physical server offerings, but the representative completely denied having any fictitious locations.
Testing on their in-mum.prod.surfshark.com server revealed that it is actually located in Netherlands, Amsterdam. Another one is Surfshark’s Vietnam – Ho Chi Minh City server, which routes from Belgium through a datacenter located in Netherlands.
When i approached the provider again with these findings, they said that they offer both: virtual and physical. The chat support exec also mentioned that they are planning to inculcate a new feature within their apps.
One that will tell users as to which server is a virtual one and which one is an actual bare-metal one, similar to how other providers do it Most providers have a (V) sign on their server list, signalling a virtual server.
Average Speed offered by Surfshark on a 100Mbps Connection
As you can see above, I conducted speed tests on 5 different servers selected randomly in the US, UK, Australia, Germany, and France. On an average, Surfshark managed to deliver 78.15Mbps in download and 60.18Mbps in uploads.
8/11 Servers Unblock US/UK Netflix
To unblock the American VoD service, I switched the protocol from the outdated IKEv2 to the OpenVPN (TCP) protocol. After which, I tested all available US and UK servers in the “physical locations” tab.
The eight listed below offered the best performance on Netflix US and UK, based on my testing:
Surfshark Working US Servers for Netflix
- Los Angeles (Ultra HD)
- Las Vegas (Ultra HD)
- New Jersey (HD)
- Phoenix (HD)
- Seattle (HD)
Surfshark Working UK Servers for Netflix
- London (Ultra HD)
- Manchester (Ultra HD)
- Glasgow (HD)
Failed to Unblock BBC iPlayer UK
Surfshark only offers two servers in the UK i.e. in London and Manchester. Connections to both did not unblock the UK version of BBC iPlayer. However, this was a little difficult to absorb, considering they did work in my earlier tests.
I can only assume that the IP’s on its UK servers must have gotten blacklisted by BBC iPlayer, which uses techniques like Deep Packet Inspection and IP filtering to limit VPN users from accessing geo-restricted content.
NoBordersTM Mode Bypasses “The Great Firewall”
Similar to NordVPN and ExpressVPN, the BVI-based provider offers a dedicated Chinese website to help residents in the country gain access to their product.
For expats, Surfshark offers the NoBordersTM mode, which bypasses “The Great Firewall”. Follow the steps below to activate the mode and become a Chinese local again:
- Download the Surfshark Windows Application
- Subscribe to a plan and enter your login details in the app
- Click on the “Gear” icon on the top right corner
- Navigate to the “Advanced” settings menu
- Activate the “NoBordersTM Mode”
- Connect to any available servers!
WebRTC/DNS/IP Address Leak Tests
It is never a bad idea to learn more regarding the security and reliability of VPN services. In light of this, I decided to perform VPN tests relating to WebRTC/DNS/IP address leakages on Surfshark.
The process took me a good 12 hours, where I checked almost all servers of the BVI-based provider, from four different VPN testing tools on the internet:
- https://ipx.ac/run – Passed
- https://ipleak.org/ – Passed
- https://ipleak.net/ – Passed
- https://browserleaks.com/webrtc – Passed
Surfshark came out unscathed from all these 4 leak tests to establish its credibility, as a highly suitable service for protection against prying eyes and copyright infringement hunters while torrenting.
Previously, the provider didn’t offer much in the way of apps. Just a few browser extensions, a basic Android app, and that was it. Now they have undergone a serious transformation, adding a legion of new and improved apps for all popular platforms:
Surfshark Windows App Review 2019
The newly introduced Windows client is simple and elegant, with the “Connect” Button and options for “All locations” appearing on the home Screen. Once you get connected, your new IP will be shown to you on the center top of the client app.
The gear shaped icon on the top right leads us to the Settings menu. You have four main options to choose from here and decide what kind of features you might want to access from here to further optimize or personalize your performance:
This settings submenu deals with the way you want your Surfshark VPN to protect you. You can choose either to automatically turn the VPN on when your Windows turns on or when you initiate Startup. You can even go on an choose to turn the VPN on automatically if your device detects and connects to a Wi-Fi network.
This is where you can either turn off or on the notifications that you get when the VPN status changes like it turn on or there is a change in protocol etc.
Now coming to the most important and feature-rich part of the client i.e. the Security submenu in the Settings Pane. It has four major features that can be used to further enhance your VPN performance as well as increase your security online:
This part shouldn’t have been advanced because it has miscellaneous features that don’t really belong in the same category. However, the features in it are also quite useful.
The options available are OpenVPN/UDP, OpenVPN/TCP, and IKEv2. You can also turn it to Automatic which allows the client to determine which protocol to choose on its own.
This is an inconsequential feature that can send crash reports to the provider’s systems if the app crashes. You may turn this on.
Surfshark Android App Review 2019
Previously, when I tested this same app in 2018, it had multiple issues and a dated UI & UX design. Since then, the Android app for Surfshark has undergone a tremendous amount of change that I was left seriously impressed with.
Firstly, the app’s interface is as uncluttered as they come, which is the hallmark of SurfsharkVPN’s service.The app’s home screen is simple with just a single button that can be used to connect to or disconnect from a VPN server. Perfect.
Now, if you click on the gear-shaped icon on the top left of your screen, you will be directed to the settings menu, loaded with specialized features. All quite useful, towards optimizing your VPN experience.
Surfshark iOS App Review 2019
Surfshark has an amazing iOS app, which in my opinion is better than even the iOS apps by much larger providers like NordVPN. Here is the interface of their iOS app, which is incredibly clean and uncluttered.
The main difference between SurfShark’s iOS app and its other apps is that, when you tap on the gear-shaped icon i.e. “Settings” on the iOS app, you will not be looking at list of sub-menus, but see a list of features accessible directly.
Surfshark’s New Firestick App
Despite being a relatively small service, Surfshark offers its own exclusive Firestick app that you can download directly from the FireTV Amazon app store. If you want to try it out on your Firestick, here is a step by step installation guide:
- Launch your Firestick on your TV
- Go to the search bar and type “Surfshark”
- In the results, the app for Surfshark will appear, tap “Get”
- Installation will now start
- Enter your login credentials
- Launch the FireTV app for Surfshark
- Choose a Server and connect
- Enjoy seamless unblocking!
Surfshark Extra Service Features
Tor is another online security tool just like a VPN. SurfShark fully authorizes you to use Tor with their service, allowing you to double up on your security.
If the Router you have supports the OpenVPN protocol, Surfshark can easily be set up on it. They provide detail guides on how to update the firmware to use Surfshark.
This is a feature that I would advise you to keep turned on. It protects your IP from leaking if the VPN connection drops by killing off your internet connection too.
A Malware and Trackware blocker that is effective to a very high extent. It stops threats automatically.
This is the app’s Split Tunneling feature, that can be used to make some websites and apps bypass the VPN connection altogether.
Multi-Hop is a special VPN security feature which is also called a “Double VPN” feature by other providers. It allows you to bounce off your internet connection through two servers for extra, more gilded security and protection online.
Here are some of the server combinations that Surfshark offered for the Multi-Hop Feature. You can also make one for yourself based on the servers available if you like.
A Quick and Responsive Technical Support System
Surfshark’s support was very responsive and helped us to understand the service in a much better light. Surfshark has a 24/7 live chat feature allowing anyone to zoot through problems or glitches at any time of the day. Definitely a starred highlight of this provider.
The chat support execs are quite competent at solving your queries and don’t push canned/planned responses that many other live chat support execs do at other VPN websites. In this review, you will find multiple examples on how they helped me out in understanding their service in a better light, solving many confusions and answering things straight through.
Surfshark’s Customer Service Review via Trust Pilot
Because Surfshark is a lot younger in the industry as compared to other bigwigs like PureVPN, NordVPN, ExpressVPN, providers who’ve been around for years now, Surfshark hasn’t accumulated too many reviews on Trustpilot.
With a meagre 134 reviews, you cannot really compare it with the thousands of reviews other providers have. So, I will reserve my judgement here as far as Surfshark’s credibility on Trustpilot is concerned.
The service needs to hit the 1000 review mark before we can pass a judgement. For the record though, Surfshark’s Trustpilot ratings are overwhelmingly positive with 88% of the reviews giving the provider 5-stars!
Surfshark VPN Problems and Fixes
As with all services, Surfshark did throw up a few problems at different stages of me using its service. And I believe it is important for me to share the solutions of these with you.
Netflix US Not Working with Surfshark
Surfshark usually affords a very simple and easy way to unblock Netflix US. However, the servers and IPs offered by the VPN keep getting banned by the American VoD service.
The provider continuously adds new servers to get through this issue, so if you cannot unblock Netflix US with a some particular servers, go to live chat support and ask for the perfect servers to do the job.
Exception of type ‘DotRas.RasDialException’ was thrown” Error
This error kept coming up when I was trying to connect to the US server to bypass Netflix geo-restrictions and connect to the US version of their site. I figured out that this happens if your protocol setting is set to “Automatic”,
To solve it, simply go to Settings > Advanced > Protocols and change the protocol from “Automatic” to “OpenVPN/UDP” and connect to the server again and you will easily get through to it.
Surfshark’s Responses to an Interview Conducted by BestVPN.co
Most VPN providers do not reveal basic information about their service, lacking the transparency necessary for users to trust their product. So, I instead decided to ask providers INVASIVE questions on email. Surfshark’s responses are listed below:
1- Where is Surfshark headquarters?
Surfshark is a registered trademark of Surfshark Ltd., a legal entity of the British Virgin Islands. The official address of Surfshark Ltd. is as follows:
Vanterpool Plaza, 2nd Floor, Wickhams Cay I
Road Town, VG 1110
The British Virgin Islands
2- Does Surfshark publish Transparency Reports/Warrant Canaries?
The government of the British Virgin Islands does not require Surfshark to publish Transparency/Clearance reports; therefore we do not do that.
Surfshark is a private company, thus publishing such kind of reports is not mandatory. As Surfshark is not listed publicly in any stock exchange, we apply a common practice not to disclose such information to the public.
3- Have your claims been audited by an independent third-party security firm?
Surfshark is one of the very few VPN service providers which have been independently audited. The last audit was carried out in November 2018 by the acknowledged German security company Cure53: https://cure53.de/pentest-report_surfshark.pdf.
4- Could we get some info on the owners behind the company?
Surfshark provides its services to people all over the world, including heavily restrictive countries and regimes where access to the internet is controlled, opposing media is persecuted, and NGOs are constrained.
We are one of the few VPN providers who has managed to overcome the Great Firewall of China. As long as we are determined to invest time as well as effort in developing smart solutions which can overcome the restrictions, the private shareholders of Surfshark Ltd. seek to exercise their right of privacy and remain undisclosed.
This is a measure of risk management to secure the sustainability of Surfshark as a service, protect our customers and employees.
5- Do you guys have any investors and is the information available publicly for users?
Surfshark Ltd. is owned by private shareholders who chose not to disclose their private information to the public as it has not been legally required.
6- Who are the Board of Directors of your company?
Surfshark is a private company which is not required to have and does not have a Board of Directors. It is run by the management team, which includes the Chief Executive, Chief Marketing, Chief Technology Officers, as well as several Product Owners.
My Concerns Surrounding the Interview Conducted with Surfshark
Despite the service being a whole lot better than even many top services out there, I do have my reservations on it. There is virtually no information available about SurfShark’s Parent Company (No Background Transparency).
This is a serious thing to not tell your users about. A VPN’s parent firm allows us to look at the credibility of the people that run the service. In return, this ensures us that nothing wrong is being done under the garb of running a clean service.
I even talked to their chat support for this purpose, but all I could get in the form of answer was its current location and when the service entered the VPN industry, nothing else.
Do I Recommend Surfshark?
I highly recommend Surfshark, if you are looking for an affordable choice for all your VPN needs. You can get a plan for $1.99/mo. from here. As a newcomer in the marketplace, Surfshark checks all the right boxes, unblocking Netflix, downloading torrents securely, and delivering excellent digital privacy, hence why it ranks 1st in our listing!
The VPN is free from WebRTC/DNS/IP address leakages, offers amazing support for all platforms, and provides users with unlimited simultaneous connections, as a first in the VPN industry. It’s the best value VPN for 2019, if you do not want to shelve out a high amount of money and still require a stellar service!