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ExpressVPN vs Surfshark VPN: The Ultimate Side-By-Side Comparison. Which One Wins?

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ExpressVPN and Surfshark VPN are among the most trusted VPN providers out there. Both the VPN providers uphold a reputation for providing super fast speeds, robust security, and streaming and torrenting compatibility. But for a relatively new VPN like Surfshark VPN to gain as much popularity as ExpressVPN does, spark some curiosity! Surfshark VPN has managed to compete well with ExpressVPN; in a side-by-side comparison, will Surfshark also appear as the winner?

The following article presents a detailed comparison of ExpressVPN vs. Surfshark VPN. Both VPNs did undergo a thorough comparison in different areas to determine which one is better to consider. Keep reading to know which one wins.

A Comparison of Privacy and Security Features

Though a VPN’s prime function provides privacy and security, it’s impossible to achieve this task without using extra features. The following table gives you an insight into the features each brand offers, so have a look:

Kill switch
Split Tunneling
Ad/Malware blocker
Obfuscation Technology
Double VPN
Tor Over VPN
IPv6 leak protection
IP and DNS leak protection
No Borders
Public Wi-Fi protection
RAM-only servers
Private DNS servers

From the above table, both Express VPN and Surfshark VPN are on the same pitch. They both protect from VPN leaks and safely allow access to the Tor browser and .onion sites. You can also use the split tunneling feature to enjoy a fast and secure torrent downloading process. Besides this, both have private DNS servers that won’t ever result in DNS leaks and store data in the RAM-only servers. They store data on the RAM and delete it after every session. Thus, by no means can anyone get hold of your browsing data. But, Surfshark VPN offers more privacy and security-boosting features and is the ultimate winner. 

Unlike ExpressVPN, Surfshark VPN has a multihop feature that encrypts the data twice and boosts your security. It even allows users to block ads, malicious sites, and web pages. 

The best part about Surfshark VPN is that it provides a range of extra supported features that you won’t find anywhere. For instance, it has GPS spoofing, Surfshark Search, Surfshark Alert, and MFA. With Surfshark VPN, you can even make your device invisible using a public Wi-Fi network.

Privacy Aspects 

You use a VPN that provides maximum privacy to the users and keeps your activities hidden from snooping eyes. For a VPN provider to be private, it must have a strict no-logs policy entailing that it doesn’t record or spy over user information and activity, promising utmost privacy. Similarly, the VPN provider must have a secure jurisdiction within a country or state that is not a part of the 5,9 or 14 eyes alliance and is devoid of data retention laws. Looking into the jurisdiction and the logging policy helps determine a VPNs stance on user privacy. 

– Jurisdiction

Surfshark VPN used to have its parent company operating from the British Virgin Island. It is a safe country since it doesn’t fall in the 5 eyes, 9 eyes, and 14 eyes alliance. Also, it doesn’t impose data privacy laws on the users. But recently, Surfshark VPN has moved its jurisdiction to a new country and is now operating from the Netherlands. It is a 9 eyes alliance country and a less privacy-friendly jurisdiction.

Likewise, ExpressVPN International Limited is a private company that owns ExpressVPN. It has its headquarters in the British Virgin Island, which is not a part of the global surveillance alliance. Also, the mandatory data retention laws do not apply to the users. But, in 2021, Kape Technologies bought ExpressVPN. The company, previously under the name Crossrider, has a shady history where its products were actively used to spread malware on users’ devices. Moreover, according to reports, the owner is also a former Israeli spy belonging to the intelligence agency 8200, often dubbed as Israeli NSA

– Logging Policy

Surfshark VPN claims to make you anonymous and private on the web and thus follows a no-log policy. The VPN respects users’ privacy and doesn’t log or share their sensitive information. Surfshark VPN doesn’t log:

  • IP address
  • Browsing activities
  • Connection logs
  • Connection timestamp
  • Session information

According to the privacy policy:

But, when you sign up for an account, the VPN records your email address and basic billing information. The company underwent a third-party log audit process to prove its stance on the no-log policy. Cure 53, a German-based law audit firm, audited the logging policy in 2018. The same firm also audited its infrastructure and found no issues in May 2021

Similarly, ExpressVPN also follows a strict zero-logging policy. It also prevents recording and sharing users’ activity and connection data. The privacy policy states that:

However, there have been serious concerns over the VPN’s logging policy. In 2017, the Turkish police seized ExpressVPN’s servers. They accused it of hiding information about the Russian Ambassador’s assassination. To prove that ExpressVPN is a no-log VPN, the company hired PwC auditors to audit their log policy. They audited the logging policy in 2019 and detected no serious vulnerability or flaws. 

Moreover, in September 2021, Daniel Gericke, the CIO of ExpressVPN, was among the three former US intelligence and military personnel whom the US Department of Justice has fined more than $1.6 million for involvement in a hacking program. ExpressVPN has also issued a statement and noted that the CIO’s ex-spy history and expertise made him a valuable hire for the company. The company’s further associations with the former Israeli agent Koby Menachemi have made people dubious of the privacy it provides. 

– Privacy Verdict

While ExpressVPN has its headquarters in a privacy-friendly jurisdiction, Surfshark VPN moving its headquarters to the Netherlands is somewhat alarming. However, both the VPNs follow a zero-logging policy and have undergone the log audit process. But, when undergoing a comparison, Surfshark VPN seems to be a better VPN for ensuring privacy than ExpressVPN. Admittedly ExpressVPN does have a booming reputation within the VPN market. However, the VPN provider’s security incidents have put it in muddy waters within the past few years. 

Security Features

Privacy and security are two things that go hand-in-hand. It is crucial to have a VPN that promises and ensures utmost security, all the while enabling user privacy. To ensure online security, VPNs typically deploy secure encryption and tunneling protocols. Therefore, to gauge a VPN’s level of security, it is crucial to look into both of these features. Mainly because the phrase “military-grade encryption” has become the buzzword for the VPN industry, where VPN providers might promise such security but fail to fulfill it. While Surfshark VPN and ExpressVPN both ensure robust encryption and tunneling protocols, a comparison can filter out any dirt and grime within their promises. 

– Encryption

The level of a VPN’s encryption ensures the security level that you enjoy. Surfshark VPN offers a top-notch level of encryption and provides the best user experience. It uses AES-256 bit encryption, 2048-bit RSA key for data exchange, and SHA512 authentication hash key. Moreover, Surfshark VPN enables users to switch to the Chacha20/Poly1305 cipher when connected to an Android device. It’s all enough to keep your data traffic secure and out of the sight of prying eyes. 

In contrast, ExpressVPN also uses state-of-the-art AES-256 bit encryption, 4096-bit RSA key, and SHA512 hash key. Since it utilizes the industry’s highest encryption standard, it’s not easy for anyone to decrypt the contents of your traffic.

– Protocols

ExpressVPN and Surfshark VPN use a range of tunneling protocols that vary from each other. Surfshark VPN uses OpenVPN(UDP/TCP), IKEv2, and WireGuard protocols. As you know that the WireGuard is the latest new generation protocol that is easy to manage and less susceptible to vulnerabilities. The IKEv2 protocol is fast and secure and is best to use on mobile phones. You can even use the OpenVPN protocol, ensuring maximum security and speed on all compatible devices. 

ExpressVPN also uses all the protocols used by Surfshark VPN. The only difference is that instead of using the WireGuard protocol, it uses the proprietary Lightway protocol. As the name suggests, Lightway protocol is light in weight and ensures lightning-fast speed, reliability, and security. The protocol utilizes the modern wolfSSL encryption algorithms that ensure security and privacy for its users.   

– Security Verdict

With security, both Surfshark VPN and ExpressVPN are impressive, and there’s close competition. They use strong encryption standards, but there’s a slight difference in the authentication keys and the choice of protocols. Surfshark VPN uses a 2048-bit RSA key, while ExpressVPN uses a strong 4096-bit RSA key. 

Surfshark VPN supports the advanced WireGuard protocol, and ExpressVPN has its proprietary Lightway protocol. Both the WireGuard and Lightway protocols are secure since they deploy the use of modern encryption algorithms. Moreover, since both the protocols use a simpler code with a better design, they promise super-fast speeds with a stable connection. 

Therefore, both the VPNs seem to have come at a tie when it comes to security. In terms of both encryption and security protocols, each VPN provider promises the best. 

Streaming and Torrenting

While privacy and security are the top-most concern for anyone using a VPN, these two things are not all the reasons for using a VPN. VPNs’ popularity is also because they help stream blocked content and download torrents. While comparing the performance of Surfshark VPN and ExpressVPN in torrenting and streaming, there isn’t much difference between the two.

– Streaming

More than 56% of all VPN users access Netflix each month. But as Netflix is popular for blocking out the users and restricting the content, not every VPN works with Netflix. Surfshark VPN and ExpressVPN work well with Netflix and ensure the best streaming experience. You can unblock 15 Netflix libraries using Surfshark VPN while ExpressVPN allows you to unblock more than 10 Netflix libraries including the US, the UK, Australia, and Canada Netflix content libraries. Besides this, both the service providers help access the blocked content from Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, and Hulu. 

They come with features that allow a hassle-free streaming experience. Both VPNs have a SmartDNS play feature enabling users to watch the streaming content on devices that don’t support the VPN connection. Furthermore, they have a stealth mode that helps in bypassing censorship and makes it easy to access the blocked content. 

You can stream your favorite content with fast speeds that won’t ever cause any connectivity issues. Both offer consistent and fast speeds, but ExpressVPN’s speeds are faster than Surfshark VPN’s. It has a vast server network spread in 94 countries, while Surfshark VPN has 3200+ servers in 65 countries

– Torrenting

Torrenting is another prominent reason why people opt to use a VPN. People want a VPN that offers P2P optimized servers, fast downloading speed, and torrent-centric features for downloading torrents. You can either use Surfshark VPN or ExpressVPN for downloading torrents. 

Surfshark VPN has 18 P2P-optimized servers and provides a fast and consistent downloading speed. It provides torrent-specific features like whitelister, kill switch, and Torrent IP leak protection. Another impressive feature that Surfshark VPN offers is the clean web. With this feature, you can block ads that appear while searching for your desired torrent file. 

 ExpressVPN also allows users to use all these features and improve their downloading experience. But unlike Surfshark VPN, it offers 180+ dedicated P2P servers. Also, when you select a server, it tells you the speed and whether it’s best for torrenting. 

– Streaming and Torrenting Verdict

Both service providers offer fast speed and various features that help in streaming and torrenting. So, again here is a draw in this area. You can either use Surfshark VPN or ExpressVPN for streaming or torrenting. 

Which Is Better?

Without any doubt, ExpressVPNand Surfshark VPN is the two top-quality VPN providers. Both are secure and allow users to enjoy unlimited streaming and torrenting. But, if there’s a choice to pick the best one out, Surfshark VPN is the winner. It’s much cheaper than ExpressVPN and has a more transparent logging policy. Moreover, the parent company has no previous records of violating users’ privacy. Another thing that urges users to use Surfshark VPN is its range of features. 

Hence, Surfshark VPN is a much better option to consider for all these reasons. However, in case you want a deeper analysis of each of these VPN providers, it is best that you have a look at the reviews. 

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Rebecca James is an IT consultant with forward thinking approach toward developing IT infrastructures of SMEs. She writes to engage with individuals and raise awareness of digital security, privacy, and better IT infrastructure.

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