Ultrasurf VPN Review - 2021

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Ultrasurf VPN is a veteran among censorship-circumvention tools. It’s a closed-source proxy tool available for Windows, Android, and Chrome browser free of charge.

Why Choose Ultrasurf VPN


It was allegedly founded by Chinese dissidents in the Silicon Valley, but it gets its funding from the U.S. government’s Broadcasting Board of Governors. Even though Ultrasurf is an established presence on the VPN arena with over 11 millions of users across 180 countries, it’s not a VPN but a proxy, and not quite private, secure, or robust.

Best VPN for


  • Netflix, Hulu, and streaming online
  • Torrenting and downloading
  • Security and privacy

Works on


Mac

Windows

Android

IOS

Linux

Routers


Pros:

  • Free
  • Easy to use
  • No installation

Cons:

  • Poor speed
  • Not great for privacy protection
  • Logs
  • Cooperates with spy agencies
  • Does not disclose its tech specs
  • Promises anonymity, which is misleading at best, and false at worst
  • No Netflix
  • No support for Mac, iOS, or Linux

Pricing and Plans

Ultrasurf is a free proxy with a limited functionality. It allows you to change your IP address and access some websites that might be censored or blocked in your region. It offers US-based IPs, so the choice isn’t quite as impressive as you’d expect. It is said to be popular in China, Iran, and Syria, but you are not advised to use it if you suspect you might be targeted by surveillance agencies.

Even though you won’t be submitting your payment or other personal information because there is no registration or payment process involved, Ultrasurf keeps logs of your activity and discloses it to the U.S. authorities (see Privacy and Security).

There is no paid plan on offer.


Features

Ultrasurf is available as a portable download for Windows, a mobile app for Android devices, and as a Chrome browser extension.

The Windows app does not require installation. Instead, you download a zip archive, unpack it, and launch the app by clicking the “u” file. There won’t be a desktop icon, so you need to make a note of where you unpack the EXE file.

The app’s interface is basic and reminiscent of the Windows XP era, but it is dead simple to use. It lists the browsers you can launch directly from the app – IE and Chrome.

If you click a browser icon in the app, it launches an Incognito or Private Mode of your browser and opens the UltraReach website. From there, you browse through a proxy with a U.S. IP address.

The app also shows a selection of three proxies you can connect to, but it’s a bit messy since the one you connect to jumps up the line and becomes the first one displayed. That way, you never really know which one of the three you just discarded. The only thing that’s different between them is the load percentage, but that, too, changes constantly.

The app’s settings allow you to set proxy parameters manually, enable hotkeys, as well as delete browser cookies when exiting, and set the listening port.

There is also a quick link to the Help file, and a button that hides the window. Whenever you are connected, the Status line confirms your connection has been established successfully.

The Chrome extension offers even fewer toggles. You can connect and disconnect, hit a diagnostics button to test if your Internet connection and Ultrasurf connection work, and follow a link to Ultrasurf’s web page explaining how to stay anonymous online.

Ultrasurf Android app is a free download from Google Play. It lets you configure your proxy settings, or use the defaults. It’s easy to use, but my connection would lag and drop whenever I connected via Ultrasurf.

Also, the app would crash my device multiple times within two days, so it’s a non-negotiable uninstall for me.

Customer service is non-existent. You can resort to YouTube videos, a blog, and a user center on the website as well as the embedded Help file.

You can set your proxy manually, but you don’t have access to any technical information or toggles. Since it’s a browser-based proxy, you can’t torrent using Ultrasurf.


Tests

Ultrasurf is a proxy, not a VPN, so it should not impact your speed much. Note: robust encryption in OpenVPN is usually to blame for the speed drops in most VPNs. With Ultrasurf’s proxy, the speed drop was substantial even though OpenVPN is not implemented.

My pre-VPN speed was average:

And here is what my synthetic speed test revealed when I was browsing while connected to the Ultrasurf proxy:

Ultrasurf performed well in my DNS, WebRTC, and IPv6 leak tests, but be advised these DNS servers are easily traceable:

I was only able to spoof into the U.S. with Ultrasurf’s proxy, so I tested it against Netflix, which recognized I was using a proxy:

I also tried my luck with HBO, and had no problem streaming, even though buffering took ages:


Privacy and Security

I do not appreciate how Ultrasurf states it uses encryption, but never explains the specs. It’s a closed-source, proprietary project, so no community audits can confirm its claims.

Their website is abundant in privacy baits – anonymity, transparency, blocking resilient. At the same time, their ToS and Privacy Policy reveal extensive logging activities. The provider keeps web server logs – your IP, the links you click within their site, date and time of your visit, the websites you visit from their web page, and some of your “personal information,” which the provider will disclose to authorities should a need arise.

It’s a U.S.-based provider, so data retention laws and gag orders combined with the poorly disclosed logging and security tech specs make it a dubious proposition.

My research also yielded a 6-year old audit of Ultrasurf by a Tor investigator. It’s long outdated but still worth reading. What clicked with me is that, six years later, Ultrasurf still does not provide any information on the technical specs used in its solution and still sticks to its logging practice and cooperation with spy agencies. It’s just geared toward inexperienced users who don’t ask the right questions.

In addition, Ultrasurf is known for its willingness to cooperate with the U.S. government. Ironically, it also filters your content, engaging in censorship, which is exactly what it claims to fight. That’s too much cringe-worthy hypocrisy for a privacy and censorship-circumvention tool if you ask me.


Final Thoughts

Ultrasurf’s free proxy is easy-to-use but yields very little benefits. You can access some US streaming services that aren’t stringent on proxy users. But you won’t be file-sharing or engaging in any conversations or research that could get you in trouble with three-letter agencies or big corporations.

Today, the VPN market is saturated. You can find affordable solutions with good privacy and security specs that don’t compromise your security. Unfortunately, UltraSurf is not one of them.

Alex Grant