Surfshark VPN review

By | December 13, 2019
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After installing Surfshark VPN’s client, you can run it and will see the following UI:

ui

Click the “Log in” link to login with your email/password:

login

After successful login, you will see:

after login

Click the “Connect” button to connect to a server:

connected

Then, theoretically, you surf the Internet via a Surfshark’s VPN server, and you identity is protected.

The “Locations” tab:

locations

The CleanWeb tab:

cleanweb

You can turn on CleanWeb to block ads, trackers, and malware, and surf in a clean cyber ocean with no ads, trackers, malware and phishing attempts.

The Whitelister tab

whitelister

Here you can select apps or websites&IPs to bypass VPN. Works in reverse for apps(route via VPN and bypass VPN cannot be enabled together).

The Settings tab

settings

Unlike other VPN apps, only a few settings are available here. You can set the connectivity:

connectivity

You can turn on/off the following options.

  • Start with Windows. Start application when Windows starts.
  • Auto-connect. Automatically connect to VPN upon start. Always connect to:
  • Kill Switch. Disable internet access when VPN connection drops or is turned off.
  • Status notifications. Show notifications when VPN status changes.

In advanced settings, you can select a protocol from Automatic, IKEv2, OpenVPN(UDP), OpenVPN(TCP), and shadowsocks. You can turn NoBorders on to allow you to bypass internet restrictions, such s the Great Firewall. You can send anonymous crash reports to Surfsharks.

advanced settings

Click the “Mini mode” button, the window will shrink to a concise mode.

You can see there are no bells and jingles in the client app. Most of the time, you only need to click a location in the Locations tab to connect to a VPN server in that location. That’s all about the Surfshark client.

Let’s see what is inside Surfshark’s control panel. You need to type in your email/password to login the control panel.

cp login

After login your account, you will see the following dashboard:

dashboard

There is some sensitive information at the  bottom of this web page showing the billing history(billing date, subscription months, payment amount, no credit card information displayed).

Click the “Devices” link, you will see the app downloads for all kinds of devices, e.g., Windows, Linux, Android, router, IOS.

devices

Click the “Smart DNS” link, you’ll see the following web page:

smart dns

Here you can turn on the Smart DNS. You can also find useful tutorials about smart DNS here.

Click the “HackLock” link, you will see the following page;

hacklock

Here you can add emails to receive alert messages when somebody tries to login your account and change your password. This is useful if you share your account with others.

Click the “BlindSearch” link and you will see:

blindsearch

It says “Enable the real incognito mode for searches you don’t want anyone to see.”

So there’s little you can do in the control panel. You privacy information(ip, name, etc.) is not shown in the control panel, too.

One most useful thing you can do in the control panel is that you can get a bunch of shadowsocks servers in it. Supporting shadowsocks is the feature that distinguishes Surfshark from other VPN providers. You can use the shadowsocks protocol in the client, but it is a beta feature. In fact, the shadowsocks feature of the client is not working at all. When you enable the shadowsocks protocol and connect to a VPN server, the client shows the connection was successful but actual not. You still cannot connect to any website on the internet. Fortunately, this does not mean the shadowsocks servers are dead. It is the fault of the client, not the server. You can use other shadowsocks clients to connect to the shadowsock servers Surfshark provides. Click the “Shadowsocks configuration” link on the bottom-right corner of the “Devices” web page, you’ll see a lot of shadowsocks servers. The following image shows part of them:

shadowsocks

You can copy one of the domain names of the shadowsocks server such as us-nyc.prod.surfshark.com, then ping it in a cmd console to get its ip address. Then you place the ip address, the port/password(which is also displayed on the same page) into the shadowsocks client, and connect to the server using that shadowsocks client. Many of the shadowsocks servers listed here are working, some are even fast in speed. But if you are in a restricted country, you may need to set up a VPN connection beforehand using other methods, then ping the domain name of the shadowsocks server. Otherwise, you may get the wrong ip address of the shadowsocks server due to the DNS pollution. A shortcoming of using shadowsocks is it only supports browsers. It sets up a local server on your computer listening on port 1080. Then it sets up the system proxy to 127.0.0.1:1080. When you visit a website in your browser, the browser connects to the system proxy, and the system proxy server communicates with the shadowsocks server to fetch web pages for you.

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