Surfshark VPN Review
Affordable PTP-friendly VPNs for unlimited devices
Much like actual surfing, surfing the web can be dangerous, but for vastly different reasons. Between cookies, hacking, and data breaches, the safest way to surf online is privately, ideally through a VPN like Surfshark. With over 1,700 private servers around the world, Surfshark seems like a good option to encrypt our web traffic, but we never judge a VPN by its cover. Instead, we tested out Surfshark, and here’s what we thought.
We test out all our VPNs ourselves, and Surfshark is no exception. Watch the video below to see exactly how we connected to their encrypted tunnel, and then, if you’re still interested, check out our Surfshark pricing page to see which subscription is right for you.
Surfshark Pros and Cons
Here at Security.org, we tend to get super detailed, so if you don’t feel like reading much, here’s a general overview of what we thought of Surfshark after extensive testing.
- Netflix and torrenting access: We loved streaming TV and movies during a summer heatwave, and Surfshark even let us watch Netflix in other countries, expanding our entertainment options.
- Based in the British Virgin Islands: As Surfshark is based outside of the jurisdiction of the surveillance groups Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and 14 Eyes,1 the company will never be forced to give our data to the U.S federal government.
- Split tunneling: When we needed to access a private server from work, we could do so while connected to Surfshark via a public Wi-Fi network.
- Static IP address: We got the same IP address every time we connected to Surfshark, which made us just a bit easier to track online for a would-be hacker.
- No support over the phone: While we’re fans of live chats, if we wanted to call someone to get help with Surfshark, there was no number available.
Still got your attention? Surfshark, based in the British Virgin Islands, has more than 1,700 servers around the world in 63 locations, including our home base of New York City. Now, you may not know this, as it’s not exactly common knowledge, but the British Virgin Islands isn’t a member of the international surveillance alliances Five Eyes, Nine Eyes and 14 Eyes, unlike the United States. That means that if the U.S government ever wanted to get our data from Surfshark, they couldn’t do it legally. This is an essential part of any VPN, in our opinion, as it meant that Surfshark would keep our data safe. And with a spotless track record of handling customer data, we felt pretty safe with the company itself.
Okay, now let’s break down the actual VPN (which stands for Virtual Private Network, if you didn’t already know).
Of course, Surfshark provided a VPN’s primary function of hiding our IP address and web activity when we were connected, which we proved with DNS and WebRTC leak tests below. But aside from that, Surfshark had four main features that made us giddy:
- Torrenting: Despite the ever-expanding list of available streaming services, sometimes we get in a mood to watch a movie that’s not available on Hulu, Disney Plus or any of the like. In those instances, we tend to torrent files, which we could do with Surfshark running. Now, we can’t advocate for illegal torrenting, but for some legal torrenting fun, connect to Surfshark beforehand.
- Netflix: In the same vein, you’d think that the U.S’ Netflix platform would have more than enough movies and TV shows to satisfy our needs; wrong. Sometimes, we wanted to hop over to Netflix internationally, whether that was watching dry, British comedy on a U.K server or being very confused about some German programming. With Surfshark, we could switch to Netflix in different countries, which definitely came in handy when we needed to finish The Good Place, which we wouldn’t dare spoil for you.
- Kill switch: One time when we were connected to Surfshark, a woman bumped into us, causing us to accidentally disconnect from the VPN. Was our web traffic exposed? Fortunately not. Instead, Surfshark’s kill switch kicked in, automatically closing all of our web browsers. Talk about fast thinking!
- Split tunneling: In a feature, they call Whitelister, we connected to public and private networks simultaneously while connected to Surfshark, saving us some much-needed bandwidth to watch Youtube while on a server from work.
How Fast Is Surfshark?
If you connect to a VPN, you can expect slower speeds than usual, as your web traffic has to go through an encrypted server in addition to the public network’s server. That’s nothing but normal, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to see fast speeds while connected, which is why we tested out Surfshark on our personal hotspots from a 2011 Macbook Pro in Brooklyn, connecting to a New York server, as well as a Windows 10 Acer Aspire 5 from the Philippines, connecting to the country’s server.
As you can see from the below results, our speeds were much faster on the Mac than on the Windows computer, which was a bit lackluster.
However, speed is determined by a large number of factors,2 including distance to the server, device make and model, operating system, browser type, and more, so take our speed tests with a grain of salt.
|MacBook Pro 2011||Acer Aspire 5 (Windows 10)|
|Ping without VPN (in ms)||54||7|
|Ping with VPN (in ms)||53||199|
|Macbook Download Speed without VPN (in mbps)||16.21||23.69|
|Download Speed with VPN (in mbps)||11.87||19.61|
|Download speed difference||31%||17%|
|Upload Speed without VPN (in mbps)||22.01||24.09|
|Upload Speed with VPN (in mbps)||24||10.58|
|Upload speed difference||9%||56%|
How Secure Is Surfshark?
If your VPN isn’t taking good care of your data, you may be experiencing a “the call is coming from inside the house” situation. But have no fear: we walked around this proverbial house checking under every bed frame, and here’s what we came out with.
Using outdated encrypted methods is kind of like using an old lock on a safe; sure, it’s better than nothing, but we want better protection for our valuables. So, after some digging, we found that Surfshark encrypted our information using AES-256 bit, which is what we’ve come to expect from VPNs in 2020. On top of that, Surfshark encrypted our traffic through multiple servers, hiding our web traffic even more. This isn’t usually the case for even the best VPNs on the market, so we are feeling really good about Surfshark protecting our web activity.
- What Surfshark logs: Surfshark kept our account information like our email, our password, although it was encrypted, billing information and order history, diagnostic reports, which we actually opted out of, as well as anonymized information from their website like what pages we visited and how long we stayed there. They also kept our IP address and unique device identifiers, but only from their website as opposed to the actual VPN app. Like most companies, Surfshark also collected cookies, which we could also opt-out of if we so pleased.
- What Surfshark doesn’t log: Surfshark didn’t keep our IP address, session information, browsing history, the times we connected, the amount of bandwidth we used while connected, our network traffic, etc.
Compared to other VPNs we’ve tested, Surfshark keeps the minimal amount of data necessary to run their service, making them a great choice for privacy.
DNS Leak Tests
A DNS is a domain name server, meaning the common name that goes with an IP address; think Lifewire as opposed to 188.8.131.52.
Of course, if a VPN isn’t hiding our DNS when connected, something is off, which is why we tested it out. Fortunately for us, the test showed a different IP address when connected versus not connected, meaning our web activity was hidden when we tested it out on both our Mac and Windows computers. Checkmate!
WebRTC Leak Tests
Finally, we also performed a WebRTC leak test using Surfshark. A little background info: whenever we video chat with friends, transfer files or livestream Netflix, our computers use something called WebRTC, which is basically a collection of technologies that let web browsers communicate directly with each other as opposed to going through a middle-man server. Sure, this creates faster speeds and rids us of excessive lag, but it also requires the two devices knowing each other’s private IP address; no thank you. The question remained: did Surfshark leak our private IP address?
The short answer is no, it didn’t; even while we were video chatting, if we were connected to Surfshark, our real IP address remained hidden. So as far as privacy and security are concerned, Surfshark is at the top of their game.
Tip: Firefox, Opera, Chrome and Microsoft Edge all default to WebRTC, making them more vulnerable to WebRTC leaks. If you’re streaming content, video chatting or transferring files on any of these browsers, make sure to connect to a VPN beforehand.
Surfshark Pricing Overview
After our 30 day free trial of Surfshark was over, we had several options when it came to paid subscriptions. In essence, all subscriptions gave us the same features, like being able to connect as many devices to Surfshark at the same time as our hearts desired. The only thing that differed between the subscriptions were their term lengths, namely one month, one year or two years.
|Term Length||Monthly Price||Total Amount Billed||Savings|
FYI: Students registered with Student Beans can get 15% off a Surfshark subscription. We recommend signing up for two years to get the lowest rates.
With prices as low as $1.99 a month with their two-year package, Surfshark isn’t only secure; it’s also about as cheap as they come. For more information, read our Surfshark subscription page.
We’d recommend Surfshark if you want…
- Non-member to Five Eyes, Nine Eyes and 14 Eyes
- Strict logging policy
- Netflix and torrenting
But Surfshark is not for you if any of the following are deal-breakers…
- Slow speeds on Windows
- Same IP address every time you log on.
Using a VPN isn’t the only way to protect yourself online. Check out our list of the best digital security practices for more tried and tested methods.
NSA. (2020). UKUSA Agreement Release 1940-1956.
Opera. (2015). What factors affect your internet speed?