While Surfshark is best known for its unlimited device VPN, its ‘One’ is a complete cybersecurity package we need to take note of.
No single day goes in the news without a mention of a hack or compromised personal privacy. And it always feels the opposite till it happens to us.
There are many applications on the internet claiming to protect you from digital threats: VPNs, antitrack software, proxies, antivirus, private browsers, etc.
Each of these offers some pieces of a puzzle, but one needs something whole–covering everything.
That’s where Surfshark One makes a case for itself.
Simply put, it includes:
VPN, making the internet private
Alert, for monitoring data breaches
Antivirus, for securing devices
Search, offering anonymous search
And the cost is just a fraction more than its regular VPN subscription, offering a good value.
So, we have subscribed to its one-month plan and will review each application separately to check if it’s worth recommending.
Released in 2018, this is Surfshark’s flagship product. Though it’s comparatively young, it quickly made its mark in the VPN industry and is now considered a frontrunner.
Surfshark VPN has been independently audited in 2018 and 2021 by Cure 53, a German cybersecurity firm. The first one was mainly about Surfshark’s Chrome and Firefox extensions which ended as a thumbs up for the VPN firm.
The second audit was more detailed, checking some of its servers, VPN configuration, and related security infrastructure. And the results were again favorable, much to the credit of Surfshark.
However, you should note no auditor can verify every VPN server and its clients with each update. Audits are limited in scope and check only some resources they are given access to at that instant.
Anyways, expecting 100% security and anonymity from the products that come to average consumers like us may not be wise.
You don’t have anything to worry about if you aren’t someone like Edward Snowden or a cybercriminal.
Some advanced features like Tor over VPN and user-friendly additions like service-optimized servers for streaming and torrenting.
Other than this, the feature list is decent and offers more than any average VPN.
After subscribing to the preferred plan, log on to the Surfshark account on its website to download the VPN client.
There were many native applications for the most popular operating systems, browsers, and smart TVs. In addition, there are guides for manual setup and router VPN configurations.
I have downloaded its Windows client and logged in with my registration credentials.
The user interface (UI) is very intuitive. It is divided into three columns, with the left linking all its applications (VPN, Antivirus, Alert, Search) in one place.
The central area is server locations, and the right-most column depicts the connection state. It shows the kill switch shortcut and the amount of data transfer for the active session.
One nice thing is you can perform a latency test right from the application dashboard.
But while it says latency and load, you don’t see the server load for unknown reasons, which is essential in choosing a less crowded server.
This was great with the ProtonVPN, where the servers were circled in green, yellow, and red colors as per their loads. Besides, that also shows percentage loads with each server.
Additionally, Surfshark VPN’s latency results don’t auto-update. And the test runs alphabetically, so you would wait for a minute or two to get results from a server placed at the bottom, like the ones from the United States.
So, if implemented, these little things will enhance the user experience significantly, and we would love to see them in coming updates.
And as already stated, showing streaming and p2p optimized servers would help most users. After all, a major chunk uses a VPN for pure entertainment.
While some may call this nitpicking, expectations are generally high when you look at something like Surfshark.
Finally, all the settings are placed inside the gear icon in the left sidebar.
Besides, it supports dark mode, as shown in the screenshots.
Static IP & MultiHop
Connecting to a particular location may get you a different IP address each time because the server count is over 3200+, far greater than the available locations.
So clearly, each location has multiple servers. For some cases, this can be a problem asking for an identical IP, like in file-sharing applications.
Static IP provides the same IP address every time, catering to this issue.
However, this differs from dedicated IP, where you don’t share that with others.
The Static IP tab in the user dashboard helps to choose among these. These servers are indicated by ‘S’ with the country flag.
Similarly, MultiHop, placed beside Static IP, is about connecting through two VPN servers simultaneously. While this is more anonymous, the network speeds can be frustratingly slow thanks to the dual encryption.
This is Surfshark’s attempt at blocking ads, malware, trackers, and malicious websites.
I tested its real-life performance by comparing the same web page with and without CleanWeb. Here’s a screengrab:
It removed the advert image from the top, yet the adspace was there while allowing the video advertisement at the right.
This performance is in line with their statement:
If it makes it any better, I’m yet to find a VPN that blocks ads 100%.
So, while Surfshark’s ad blocking isn’t perfect, it’s similar to other VPNs.
Pro tip: Use the free and open-source uBlock Origin as a browser extension for effective adblocking.
Next, I tried to validate the tracker blocking claim. Once again, it’s best to tone down the expectations as antitracking is entirely a different domain.
I turned off the browser’s native privacy settings (in Firefox) and disabled every plugin.
Unfortunately, the results were undesirable, with CleanWeb letting in the tracking adverts and allowing browser fingerprinting.
This means you can still be followed even with its CleanWeb turned on and be the victim of targeted advertising.
Surprisingly, Firefox’s native tracker blocking performed better, with its standard mode giving partial protection and strict mode offering strong protection. However, in both cases, the browser had a unique fingerprint.
Conclusively, Surfshark has a lot of work to do with its CleanWeb, and it’s better to use dedicated antitracking utilities if this is your main agenda.
This protects your IP address when the VPN’s encryption goes down.
Surfshark offers this in two flavors:
a) Soft protects you from server-side issues.
b) Strict is about total protection covering user and server both.
This means Soft will cover any Surfshark-side technical glitches, but it will allow internet connections if you miss turning on the VPN in the first place.
However, Strick will block everything until you connect through the VPN.
And both the modes won’t work on the apps split tunneled via Bypasser (discussed next).
Split Tunneling is one of the most used VPN features. This helps you avoid the speed throttling most VPNs suffer with.
Surfshark has named this feature Bypasser.
You can use with either of the two ways:
a) Route via VPN: Selected apps use VPN encryption.
b) Bypass VPN: Selected apps usually connect.
You can go through the list to select the application or use the Add apps to pick it from the respective installation directory.
Similarly, there is this Bypass mode for the websites, where you can add a specific web address to use regular connectivity.
VPN Protocols are the rules a VPN uses for connecting securely. And there are different rules for situations.
The widely adopted VPN protocols are OpenVPN and Wireguard, and Surfshark has both.
These protocols have different use cases, which you can read in detail in our VPN protocols guide.
In short, OpenVPN is more secure, whereas WireGuard is faster.
Besides, Surfshark’s WireGuard implementation covers its native issues by allocating a dynamic IP each time you connect.
Surfshark’s Camouflage mode auto-activates whenever you hit the road with OpenVPN (TCP or UDP). This premium feature in which your ISP or any snooping body won’t know about the active VPN connection.
Overall, the protocol list is good, and the modified WireGuard application places Surfshark right among the few to do this.
With these additions, Surfshark has done well and beyond a regular VPN service.
The Invisible on LAN is to hide your device from your locally connected devices. Besides, Rotating IP assigns a brand new IP every few minutes.
But the best of the lot is NoBorders which promises internet connectivity even if you have location-specific restrictions.
So these were the significant features of Surfshark VPN. Next, we did some testing to see how it fares on some vital parameters, starting with the ever essential:
IP & WebRTC Leak
Privacy is the first thing VPNs were designed for.
And protecting a user’s IP address is a top item on the agenda. In addition, some VPNs also cover WebRTC leaks which reveal public IP because of browser-based vulnerabilities.
Instead, they rely on a string of numbers like 188.8.131.52 (known as IPv4 address) or alphanumeric characters like 1048:8500:1b6r:591d:dfe:2lok:74d6:endt (known as IPv6 address) to load a website.
That’s where the role of a DNS server becomes vital. It converts the domain name to its matching IP address and passes that to your computer. Afterward, a computer stores this specific information in the local DNS cache for a specified duration.
This process of asking DNS servers about the IP address of a domain name is called making a query.
Notably, the internet service provider acts as the default DNS server unless you have a custom DNS set up. And when you connect to a subpar VPN, the ISP keeps handling DNS queries that can reveal your actual IP address and web activity.
So, I tested Surfshark for a possible leak at DNSleaktest:
And as expected, Surfshark was secure enough to avoid this disaster, and there was no DNS leak.
While the IP and DNS leak protection is excellent, the data packets reveal your hardware (browser, operating system, etc.), IP address, web activities, and much more.
These packets travel in big numbers based on your web activity. One can capture these using tools like Wireshark to get the vital details compromising online security:
This one went through SSDP protocol, exposing the browser type and version, operating system, etc.
In addition, the DNS queries can tell the snooper about the websites you visit, source IP address, timestamps, etc.
So it becomes crucial to encrypt these data packets, which is in line with the tall anonymity claims made by almost all VPN companies.
Surfshark performed mostly well, barring a minor but significant privacy threat for someone having an active IPv6 address.
I noticed some packets were revealing my IPv6 address via ICMPv6 protocol:
This is a serious issue, so I went deeper to see if Surfshark is actually at fault.
I went through the help section, which mentions no IPv6 support. In addition, they have guides on how to disable IPv6 addresses on Windows, Linux, and Mac.
Though it’s easy to implement with their video tutorials, it should be a front-page warning, not lurking inside support guides. And as the internet is slowly moving over to IPv6, it’s time Surfshark covers them as well.
Finally, if you have an IPv6 address, remember to disable it before using Surfshark.
Although Surfshark has speed testing within the native Windows application, I used Ookla’s speed testing tool to avoid ambiguity.
Before starting, let’s check out my standard network speeds:
The following results are the average of tests conducted twice for each server location in close successions:
I’m based in Rajasthan, India, and the distance is approximate to show its effects on the latency and speeds.
Interestingly, Surfshark’s ‘Fastest’ option seems to be choosing the server based only on the distance. However, we can see the best parameters (all three) were recorded from Singapore, almost three times as far compared to the fastest.
This brings into the picture the server load (which we can’t see, unfortunately), server hardware, and many others factors that aren’t easy to comprehend.
Notably, the multihop (last two) performance was not bad. The download speeds didn’t struggle much, and even the upload speeds were acceptable. The latency was too high for gaming, video conferencing, etc.
Conclusively, the speeds are okay, not the best, but high enough to recommend Surfshark. Still, it will be great to see if Surfshark can reduce the latencies.
It’s time to see if Surfshark is any good for the streamers.
This test will see if I can access Netflix US libraries, BBC iPlayer, and Amazon Prime US.
I started with Netflix, and my experience was frustrating, to say the least since they do not signal out the streaming optimized servers.
I tried many before contacting their support about this issue:
Surfshark support was prompt, and I talked to a live agent within seconds of connecting.
I was informed about using the Detroit server, which helped me access a Netflix US-only ‘Last Tango in Halifax’ in the first attempt:
However, it wasn’t working with Amazon Prime US. I tried many servers as told by the support agent and cleared the cache each time but to no avail.
Similarly, the Manchester server helped me access BBC iPlayer in one go.
Ultimately, geo-unblocking results were good with a single Amazon Prime failure. Besides that, I would recommend Surfshark for streamers.
So with these tests, we’ll wrap up the Surfshark VPN section.
The VPN is excellent, with affordable pricing and some minor points to work on.
Moving on, we have next in line…
Alert is an excellent way of knowing about the hacks revealing your personally identifiable information (PII).
The Surfshark Alert section in the windows application sent me to the web interface where I could enter the emails to monitor.
Afterward, it sends a confirmation to the subject email, verifying that it’s yours. Within minutes of confirming, you’ll be able to see if it’s been exposed in the recent hacks.
It tells the PII, including your name, phone number, address, password, etc., linked with each such incident.
Additionally, you can get breach reports on a custom frequency and delete all the data with just a click.
Ultimately, Surfshark Alert is a fantastic tool helping you take necessary actions to protect your digital privacy and identity.
Surfshark Antivirus is a no-fuss antivirus that is straightforward to use. This is an additional download that you can install from the antivirus section. Subsequently, it integrates well with the existing application.
Although we can’t compare it to the full-fledged antivirus offerings from the top players like Bitdefender, McAfee, etc., it assures us to work with the day-to-day internet activity.
You can exclude files or folders from scanning, schedule scans, and expect real-time protection.
Still, it seems to be best for the on-device safety with crucial things like internet security, firewall, sandboxing, etc., missing.
Additionally, one can’t uninstall the antivirus alone. I confirmed it with their support and was told to remove Surfshark One with Revo uninstaller and then reinstall, this time avoiding the antivirus.
Conclusively, Surfshark Antivirus is an excellent start with a lot needed to add before it becomes feasible to ditch the conventional antivirus programs.
This is a no-ads search engine that claims to be tracking-free. One can use this from their web interface or the application, which shows results on the default-set browser.
I tried this for some queries and compared it to the ‘standard’ Google search results.
For instance, I have entered ‘earn free crypto’, a query for which Geekflare is currently ranking at the top in Google SERPs.
In Surfshark, we’re at fifth position. Similarly, the second placed result in Google search wasn’t on the first page in Surfshark’s.
Overall, there was a 60% match for this query between these search engines, although the order was different.
Next, I searched for “digital privacy”; this time, they shared 40% of the results, again not in the same sequence.
Finally, I entered ‘best VPN’ and observed close to 80% match.
I’m comparing it with Google search because it’s the most used search engine.
Ergo, Surfshark Search is usable. The only limitation, for the time being, is the absence of video results (within the web section) and something like People also ask.
Still, you can view all the related videos in the ‘Videos’ tab, which isn’t a hassle if you value privacy.
Lastly, a thumbs up for Surfshark Search, and we hope to see it match the Google experience without being privacy invasive like the big techs.
Surfshark One is a vital step in the right direction. This is good with its VPN leading the privacy package.
However, Surfshark can put some effort into the native adblocker, antivirus, and search to make this combo even more robust.
And this will be even more enticing if Surfshark can include an anti-track utility within One.
Still, considering that it costs slightly more than its already affordable VPN–I would take it.