We spent a lot of time with Surfshark to test out its features, try out its mobile apps, and see how it fares as a daily use VPN. And it did great.
- Simple, clean software that runs on a variety of hardware and platforms. Extremely easy to use on all devices.
- Excellent bonus features like CleanWeb, Multihop, and Whitelister.
- Good download/streaming speeds and a wide network of servers.
- Superb unblocking features and Netflix access.
- Affordable pricing for all plans.
- Not the biggest network, but growing.
- Sometimes you will get slow speeds
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. The global market for VPN connection and VPN services has witnessed a surge amid the COVID-19 outbreak. The estimated size of the market was US $35.4 billion in 2020. Experts predict that it will now grow at a compounded annual growth rate of more than 17% to reach a figure of $107.6 billion in 2027. The Chinese market will grow at a pace higher than the average rate worldwide. While China is set to grow at 18.2% between 2020 and 2027 to reach US$14.5 billion, the US market was already at $12.1 billion in 2020. Japan, Canada, and Germany will grow at 15.2%, 16.1%, and 15.2% respectively.
An expanding market will bring many players with it. And with so many choices, it is vital that you know the leading players in the market and why you should choose a specific one over others. In our Surfshark VPN review, we will delve deeper into its offerings, features, benefits, capability metrics, and aspects that make it distinctly more useful than the rest.
Surfshark: A Brief Overview
Founded in 2018, the registered trademark of Surfshark comprises a host of online privacy and security solutions. Chosen by PCMag.com for its Editors’ choice of VPN, Surfshark is full of enticing features and goes beyond the realm of a mere VPN to become a wholesome leak detection system and a go-to service for private search and tool search. A privately held organization with nearly 200 employees, its software solutions are available in more than 200 countries. Think of it this way: if you were surfing, the last thing you’d want to meet in the water is a shark. Surfshark lets you be the shark.
To analyze a feature-heavy service like Surfshark, we will categorize the features in certain segments to give you a better understanding of each. These feature categories include online privacy protection, personal data control, and safe access to content.
Online Privacy Protection
Surfshark follows several VPN encryption protocols to keep your browsing private, using IKEv2/IPsec, OpenVPN, and WireGuard with the AES-256-GCM algorithm. It helps cover the widest possible range of use cases, including VPN on routers, mobile devices, short-range connections, and other areas of everyday use.
It is the encryption that makes a VPN private. The superiority of AES in the area of encryption is the fact that it applies different cryptographic keys to a block of data. These keys are of different sizes. AES-256, the algorithm that Surfshark follows, produces 256 blocks of ciphertext from 256 blocks of plaintext. It is the longest one with the other two key-size options of AES being 128 and 192 bits. The longer the encryption is, the longer it takes to crack; therefore, AES-256 is the most robust option of all.
Apart from VPN encryption, Surfshark hides IP, encrypts data, allows quick VPN server switching, and bypasses blocks to successfully keep your information away from your ISP.
Surfshark is an AdBlock VPN, meaning before they can load, it blocks the ads and malware. Resultantly, you save your mobile data while boosting your browsing speed. The service is available for all varieties of browser services and operating systems, including Chrome and Firefox as browsers, and iOS, macOS, Android, and Windows as operating systems. Having an AdBlock VPN also mitigates risks generated from the thousands of malware-induced websites on the internet and helps avoid phishing attempts with the CleanWeb functionality.
While surfing, we deal with a host of sensitive information such as our credit card and bank account details or our passwords and login credentials. This information comes under grave risks when we are working on public Wi-Fi networks. Hackers prefer exploring the loopholes of public Wi-Fi since the data traffic on these connections does not have encryption. Sometimes, hackers set up legit-looking fake hotspots to track and steal user data.
Surfshark helps you stay safe on public Wi-Fi by protecting data and privacy on untrusted networks.
The Surfshark search is always in incognito mode, using Bing API to populate results. The result pages are entirely free from ads and the results are organic and relevant.
Identity Protection Features
While Surfshark has deployed a range of checks and balances to preempt and neutralize potential breaches, its identity protection capacity ensures that you get a notification as and when any of your public data has been leaked somewhere online. You also become aware when your system requires changes in passwords. Finally, you get quarterly personal data security reports to keep track of things happening to your search and the health of browsers.
Safe and Convenient Access to Content
With Surfshark, there is no need to see travel restrictions and internet-restricted geographies as a challenge. It helps you access stuff anytime and anywhere. You can also leverage it to reach material that is either blocked or censored.
You are also free to stream content privately without having to worry about tracking or ownership. Surfshark also allows watching IPTV content and sports online without the risks of tracking or spying or the inconveniences of pop-ups or buffering.
Surfshark Application Across Platforms and Devices
For desktop, Surfshark has an app on Windows, macOS, and Linux.
To run on mobile devices, you can download the Android app or iOS app from their respective app stores. There is also the option of downloading an APK.
- Browser Extension:
The browser extensions are available for Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge.
- Smart TVs:
The Surfshark application is available for Fire TV, Apple TV, Android TV, and others.
Among consoles, it is compatible with PlayStation and Xbox.
- Router Recommendations:
In 2021, the recommendations for Surfshark’s top five routers include InvizBox2 VPN Router, Synology RT2600AC, Asus RT-AC86U AC2900, GLiNet GL-MT300N-V2, and Asus RT-AC5300.
Surfshark measures the efficiency — or the quality of a router — across five parameters, including frequency, speed, wireless sophistication, ease of use, and ports.
How to Get Started with Surfshark VPN
The installation of Surfshark is easy. First, you need to sign up on the company website. Next, you create your account that comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee and multiple device accessibility from one account. Surfshark One comes with a combined package of Surfshark Antivirus, Surfshark Alert, and Surfshark Search.
The presence of the antivirus ensures that it will scan your system for viruses, remove harmful files, and block hackers and malware. The Surfshark alert monitors your data and checks for breaches, offers real-time alerts, and protects the users’ identities. The job of Surfshark Search is also to keep the activities hidden from search engines and help surfers browse without a trace and without ads.
You can pay for Surfshark with a variety of payment avenues that makes it inclusive for a wide range of asset holders. You can choose to pay with credit card, PayPal, Google Pay, Amazon Pay, UPI, cryptocurrency, and more.
Factors Giving Surfshark a Competitive Edge
A combination of multiple factors that Surfshark brings together in a single package is hardly matched by any other provider in the space.
With its stringent no-logs standards in place, Surfshark does not monitor, track, or store what one is doing online. On each server, Surfshark has a private DNS and leak protection is on when working with the IPv4 stack. Its highly sophisticated camouflage mode ensures that the use of VPN stays guarded against the internet service provider.
The uniqueness of Kill Switch is its ability to automatically deactivate the internet connection. The VPN connection might drop without any prior notice. Kill Switch ensures that the information is never off-guard by disabling the internet connection at a system level.
The advantages of Kill Switch become evident when guarding identities against hackers, ensuring security in a heavily guarded country, and protecting privacy while sharing files.
The NoBorders mode is a step toward making Surfshark ubiquitous. Not only does Surfshark believe that the internet should be open to everyone, it also ensures that connecting to its servers in the same country is as secure and safe as connecting to it in a foreign country. The only drawback that comes with this mode is that you cannot bypass geographic restrictions as it appears to your service provider that you are in the same location forever.
IP Changing Through Surfshark
There are several reasons why you would want to change your online location through a VPN. For instance, someone might find out where you are connected to the internet from, you might want to bypass restricted websites, or you might not want to show your real IP address while you are browsing. A convenient solution to all of these is using a VPN that keeps changing your location.
Changing your IP through Surfshark is as easy as downloading and installing the app, logging in by creating an account, and then clicking on the option ‘connect.’ Once you’ve completed these simple steps, you have successfully changed your VPN location. You can even go one step further and opt for a specific location. All you need to do is head over to the ‘locations’ tab and find a server in a country or city of your liking.
Apart from bypassing censorship and possibly blocking access to websites or services from the government, it helps you keep your bank account unlocked, defy price discrimination, and avoid surveillance.
Security Aspects of Surfshark
Securing your internet connection is the topmost priority for Surfshark. It puts multiple technological protocols in place to ensure that you get sleek and modern security options with the best and fastest choices for mobile. It also offers reliable solutions for open-source implementations and the best available choices in restrictive countries.
A total of four protocols are supported by the Surfshark VPN: WireGuard, IKEv2, OpenVPN, and Shadowsocks. We will look into each of these protocols’ capabilities one by one to understand how it gives strength to the solutions from multiple aspects.
WireGuard: Simplicity is at the core of WireGuard with only 4,000 lines of code. It is easier to manage and audit than its predecessors. Having such a small codebase ensures that Surfshark is less vulnerable to security threats than its peers. At present, it is also the fastest protocol that does not compromise speed for the sake of security. It uses Linux Kernel and advanced cryptographic primitives to offer secure networking at a high speed.
IKEv2: Available for macOS, Android, Windows, iOS, and Fire TV applications, IKEv2 stands short for Internet Key Exchange Version 2. Developed by Cisco and Microsoft security engineers, it has gained much traction for its speed among users who use it on their mobile.
OpenVPN: If you want to check and verify the protocol’s capability all by yourself, you have the option of OpenVPN. Any security professional from anywhere in the world can check its code. The development path is longer than usual, but it is compatible with VPN-enabled routers. Developers also offer improvements and fixes for free.
Shadowsocks: Finally, Surfshark also has an option to help people win over the Chinese restrictions. It is not only a VPN protocol but also an encrypted proxy. The protocol is compatible with both Android and Windows applications. However, when not in China, it is better to use any other one from the above three.
To summarize, you can select any one of the protocols from the above four, depending on what their priorities are:
- If you are working in a low-speed environment, the best option is WireGuard.
- If you’re looking for the best possible speed on your mobile devices, go with IKEv2.
- For desktop, OpenVPN is the best.
- Finally, Shadowsocks is to overcome the barriers in a restrictive country like China.
The Server Capabilities of Surfshark
The Surfshark VPN servers are available in 65 countries with more than 3,200 servers. Apart from offering private DNS on each server and adhering to a strict no-logs policy, Surfshark also has high-speed 100% RAM-only servers.
Having Private DNS-es assigned to servers is immensely vital as it is often the DNS that becomes the cause of privacy risks. Malicious actors can exploit records of DNS requests to track a user’s activities and benefit from them. Companies use these activities to come up with personalized ads and disrupt the surfing experience.
Should you use Surfshark?
Overall, Surfshark believes in high-speed content delivery on unlimited devices with high-end security features. To make it more convenient for users to choose its services unhesitatingly, it has a 30-day money-back guarantee. If, for some reason, Surfshark’s not working, you can reach customer service 24/7. The multifarious possibilities of Surfshark enable it to cater to a range of user segments. With Surfshark, you can access any content you like while removing price discrimination that comes with specific locations. Its real-world applications would include getting better deals on clothes, airfares, and more, bypassing authority filters, and staying secure on public Wi-Fi.
Evidently, it is a solution that caters to students and professional users alike. The service has an affiliate program as well that incentivizes organic ambassadors of the VPN with generous commissions, fast payouts, top affiliate rewards, and more. A host of user segments can become a Surfshark affiliate, including content publishers, bloggers, business representatives, YouTubers, and more.
The Surfshark tool also helps detect DNS leaks and WebRTC leaks of browsers. We have already discussed DNS leaks; the WebRTC leak checks help live chat and voice applications like Google Hangouts or Discord work better. Altogether, these services of Surfshark, pertaining to online privacy and protection, are wholesome and holistic.
If you need a VPN for a short while when traveling for example, you can get our top ranked VPN free of charge. NordVPN includes a 30-day money-back guarantee. You will need to pay for the subscription, that’s a fact, but it allows full access for 30 days and then you cancel for a full refund. Their no-questions-asked cancellation policy lives up to its name.