UltraSurf is a free circumvention tool that promises fast and secure access to censored and geo-restricted sites all across the world.
For a freemium service, that’s a bold claim!
I rarely recommend free VPNs, but the hype around this service had me yearning to check it out.
Is it as reliable as claimed?
In this UltraSurf VPN review, I’ll take a look at the good and the bad, and give you my honest opinion.
Let’s dive in.
Quick Overview of Ultrasurf VPN
|Logging||Keeps some logs|
|Locations & Servers||Not specified|
|Torrent and P2P allowed||No|
|Supported Platforms||Windows, Android|
Aspects to Consider When Choosing a VPN
With hundreds of VPN services available, picking the best option can seem challenging.
However, if you know what to look for, it can prove to be quite the opposite.
I have compiled a few things that you should consider before jumping in.
Speed is everything.
It is so especially if you want to use the VPN for bandwidth-intensive tasks like streaming, gaming, and torrenting.
Basically, you should make sure the speed rating matches your needs.
At times we use VPNs solely for circumventing censorship and geo-restrictions.
However, if you are looking to stay safe and secure online, I suggest looking for a VPN whose security features can guarantee that.
AES 256-bit remains the gold standard in VPN encryption, and the top-recommended protocols include OpenVPN, IKEv2, and L2TP/IPsec.
Despite claiming otherwise, some VPNs are known to keep logs.
This can put you at risk of exposure, especially if the provider shares the data with third parties.
Always read the fine print to ensure that the provider maintains a true ‘no-logs’ policy. Additionally, any service worthy trusting should also have reliable customer support.
It can be frustrating to purchase a VPN only to find out it doesn’t work with your device. If you are in luck, you may get a refund, but you should keep in mind that not all providers offer a money-back guarantee.
What is Ultrasurf?
Launched in 2002, UltraSurf is a free VPN that is owned and operated by UltraReach Internet Corporation.
The service was created to help internet users in China circumvent government censorship and access any site on the internet.
Its fan base has also grown tremendously, and the service now boasts over 11 million users around the world.
UltraSurf has narrow compatibility and comes with apps for Windows and Android only.
On a good side, the service doesn’t cost a dime.
Security – Encryption & Protocols
UltraSurf is not your traditional VPN.
It’s more of a proxy service than a VPN.
Of all the services I’ve reviewed, it offers the weakest security and privacy features.
The provider uses HTTPS encryption on all their server connections.
Other than that, they do not reveal much else.
There is no mention of various tunneling protocols like OpenVPN, IKEv2, and L2TP/IPsec anywhere.
Logging Policy – Do They Keep Logs?
UltraSurf has a questionable logging policy.
On the one hand, they explicitly state that they don’t record or store any activity logs.
The company admits to collecting some information, such as your IP address and connection time stamps.
The provider also goes on to state that they may disclose your Personally Identifiable Information to the authorities, business partners, or in response to a legal process.
Although UltraSurf does not require users to provide their name, email, and payment details, this statement is worrisome.
You should keep in mind also that the service is located in the US, which is at the center of the 5-eye 9-eye, and 14-eye spy alliances.
Global Server Network
Again, UltraSurf does not disclose any information about its server coverage.
On starting the service, UltraSurf automatically connects you to the best performing server in your location.
But while the service may not allow you to select specific server locations, it does provide an extra two ‘preferred’ server options to choose from.
Does UltraSurf Work in China?
UltraSurf was designed with the Great Firewall of China in mind.
But does the VPN deliver in this regard?
After close to two decades, UltraSurf continues to evade China’s Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) measures allowing residents to access censored sites like YouTube and Facebook.
Easy. Unlike traditional VPNs, UltraSurf does not rely on VPN protocols such as OpenVPN which are heavily targeted by censors. Instead, it uses a network of proxy servers ensuring its traffic is indistinguishable for normal web traffic.
However, this comes at the expense of security and privacy.
UltraSurf Performance Tests
Speed Tests and Analysis
When it comes to speed, UltraSurf is no slouch.
Overall, the service performed well in my speed tests, and the results were as indicated below.
Note: When conducting the speed tests, I was using a 145 Mbps internet connection.
|Speed before using Ultrasurf||18 ms||98.37 Mbps||24.21 Mbps|
|Speed when connected to UltraSurf||248 ms||16.97 Mbps||7.36 Mbps|
For a free VPN, I would take a 22% speed reduction any day.
That said, UltraSurf’s small server network continues to be an Achilles’ heel.
I saw one user complain that the speeds kept on changing depending on server loads. UltraSurf notes that too and they cite traffic from Iran as the reason.
So I guess between 6-9 pm (Iranian local time) the speeds can be a little bit unsteady. As for me, I didn't have any speed issues with the VPN.
IP, DNS, & WebRTC – No Leaks Detected
VPN leaks give users a false sense of security. When your IP, DNS, or WebRTC information is being leaked, your anonymity is stripped, and your ISP is able to monitor your online activities.
UltraSurf leak tests were positive, and no leaks were detected on ipleak.net.
Does Not Work with Netflix
Not Good for Torrenting
UltraSurf does not restrict P2P traffic on any of its servers.
However, offering torrenting and offering secure torrenting are two different things.
Remember, when you are downloading torrents, your IP is visible to other users connected to the same torrent swarm.
Besides copyright trolls, these swarms are also filled with hackers waiting to prey on unsuspecting victims. As such, you need not only anonymity but also robust encryption when visiting torrent sites like The PirateBay.
Unfortunately, UltraSurf’s HTTPS encryption is just not strong enough.
Supported Platforms & Ease of Use
UltraSurf can only be installed on Windows and Android devices.
While that may sound limiting, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the VPN on other devices.
Thanks to UltraSurf’s Chrome extension, you can now use the service on:
The available apps –Windows and Android– are easy to set up and use.
Basic Customer Support
UltraSurf’s customer support is quite limited.
They lack both the FAQ and Knowledge Base sections, and you can only contact them via email.
But, considering that no registration is required and that the service is completely free, I can’t complain much.
What Others Have to Say About UltraSurf
After writing this review, I was curious as to what other users thought about the VPN service.
So, I went ahead and scoured the internet for feedback on UltraSurf VPN.
Most comments were rather positive, with reviewers praising the VPN’s price tag and geo-unblocking capabilities.
That said, a few users did express reservations about UltraSurf’s security and privacy features.
Alternatives to UltraSurf
While UltraSurf does offer decent performance for a free VPN, it fails miserably when it comes to security and privacy. Its server network is also meager and the service does not unblock Netflix.
There are other VPNs like NordVPN, ExpressVPN, TigerVPN, and IPVanish that not only work in China but also perform well in other categories.
NordVPN is a powerful VPN that offers fast and secure connections.
The service provides access to over 5500 servers in 60 countries around the world.
Thanks to the NordVPN’s obfuscated servers, you can easily bypass VPN blocks like the Great Firewall of China.
To protect your data, NordVPN uses military-grade encryption and advanced security features include Multi-Hop VPN (double encryption), Onion over VPN, and CyberSec, a malware blocking tool.
ExpressVPN is a ultra-fast VPN that boasts over 3,000 servers in 94 countries across the Americas, Europe, Asia Pacific, Africa, the Middle East, and Oceania.
Security wise, the provider offers AES 256-bit encryption with DNS leak protection and an automatic kill switch. ExpressVPN works well with Netflix and is an ideal option for streaming and torrenting.
TigerVPN is a stealth VPN that works reliably in China. The service primarily uses the robust AES 256-encryption with OpenVPN, L2TP/IPsec, and PPTP.
TigerVPN comes with 300+ servers, which isn’t particularly impressive.
However, the provider has done a nice job of distributing across 42 countries. If you're interested in this service provider, read our full TigerVPN review.
IPVanish offers 1300+ servers in 74 countries.
Similarly to UltraSurf, IPVanish is located in the US, which is a 5-eyes jurisdiction.
However, unlike UltraSurf, IPVanish does not keep any logs whatsoever or share user information with third-parties. Compatible devices include Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, FireTV, ChromeOS, and routers.
Do I Recommend UltraSurf?
I really want to like this VPN.
It works like magic when it comes to censorship, and above all, it's completely free.
They also offer decent connection speeds, unlimited bandwidth, and an incredible user experience.
For a freemium service, UltraSurf punches well above its weight.
But do I recommend it?
Not at all.
UltraSurf's weak encryption and suspect logging policy are enough to worry just about any privacy-conscious user.
As the adage goes, “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.”
UltraSurf admits to logging user IPs and sharing Personally Identifiable Information with business partners (whoever they may be) and, worse, the authorities.
If you are looking for a robust, zero-logs service that works in China, I recommend checking out NordVPN.
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