The following is my test report for CyberGhost VPN, which is done independently. Tested on Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS and others. If you have any questions, you can contact me and I will answer your questions.
What Is a VPN?
When you switch on a VPN, all your web traffic is routed through an encrypted tunnel to a server operated by the VPN company. This prevents anyone on the same network as you from being able to intercept your data. It also helps hide your identity, by having your network traffic exit from a location other than your computer. You need a VPN because it’s an incredibly powerful privacy and encryption technology, and one that has been used for years by journalists and political dissidents operating in countries with restrictive internet policies.
Using a VPN also prevents your not-so-friendly neighborhood ISP from intercepting your data and selling anonymized versions of it. That’s legal, thanks to a decision from Congress, so be sure to complain to your senators and representatives when you get a chance.
Because your traffic appears to come from the VPN server, anyone watching it will see the IP address of the VPN server and not your actual IP address. That helps hide your identity, but it also hides where you are, since IP addresses are distributed based on geographic location.
This same ability can also be used to spoof your location by connecting to a VPN server that’s a long way from where you are. That’s handy for a number of reasons, but especially for accessing region-locked streaming content. For instance, the BBC streams content for UK citizens, but any red-blooded American can also watch by connecting to a VPN server in London.
There’s a good chance that you may have never laid hands on a VPN before. If that’s the case, don’t worry: We’ve got a whole feature on how to set up and use a VPN.
Pricing and Features
Like most VPN services, CyberGhost offers the same slate of features billed at different intervals. You pay more up front for a longer interval, but save more overall for doing so. A one-month plan with CyberGhost costs $12.99, a six-month plan costs $47.94, and an annual plan nets the biggest savings: $63.00. That’s quite a bit higher than the current industry average of $10.38 per month, even more than NordVPN. Notably, the CyberGhost offers a 47-day money back guarantee for the six-month and one-year plans, which is handy for trying out a service before comitting to a long-term subscription. I still think it’s a better idea to start with a monthly subscription, however.
Of course, many VPN services come in well below the average price. TunnelBear, for instance, costs just $9.99 a month, while Private Internet Access$2.91 at Private Internet Access offers a robust but spartan experience for $6.95 per month. KeepSolid VPN Unlimited is notable for having a wide variety of pricing plans, starting with an ultra low-cost weekly plan and going all the way up to a lifetime plan.
You can easily purchase a plan with traditional payment methods such as credit card or PayPal, but you can also pay anonymously with Bitcoin. Other VPN services also offer the option to use prepaid gift cards, such as those from BestBuy or Starbucks, as anonymous options.
Cost doesn’t have to be a hurdle when it comes to security, as there are many serviceable free VPNs available. TunnelBear has a free offering that restricts the amount of data to 500MB per month, although you can boost this cap. ProtonVPN also has a free offering, but it limits the speeds available to free customers.
A subscription to CyberGhost lets you use seven devices simultaneously, making it a good value for a household with lots of devices. The industry average for VPN companies is five devices; NordVPN$2.99 at NordVPN – Limited Deal offers six connections for the same price. Golden Frog VyprVPN and ProtonVPN do not provide five connections at their respective base-level offerings; you have to pay a bit more in order to get that many devices.
If you’re a fan of BitTorrent, you’ll be glad to know that CyberGhost allows BitTorrent and P2P file sharing via VPN. Some companies require that you limit this activity to certain servers, while others list such activities as a breach of service. In the case of CyberGhost, the servers that allow torrenting are marked in the app.
In addition to BitTorrent-friendly servers, CyberGhost also has servers specially made for streaming. That’s great, and I’d like to see more VPN companies work to ensure that users can access their favorite video streaming services without having to switch off VPN protection.
CyberGhost also offers Double Encryption, in which authentication data is encrypted as well as the VPN data, for added security. However, it is not clear when or on which servers this service is available.
The company also offers instructions on how to configure a router to use the CyberGhost service. That’s handy, since placing VPN protection on your router secures all the traffic for all the devices on your network—even smart devices that can’t be configured individually. Some services, such as TorGuard, sell routers and streaming devices preconfigured to work with their respective services. That’s useful if you’re not interested in tackling a digital DIY project.
There are many ways to create a VPN connection. My preferred method is OpenVPN, which is known for its speed and reliability. It’s also open-source software, meaning that its code has been picked over for any potential vulnerabilities.
Happily, CyberGhost supports OpenVPN on its Android VPN client, as well as its clients for Linux, macOS, and Windows. The company also provides IKEv2 on iOS, Linux, and Windows, as well as the older L2TP on Windows and Linux. Note that because Apple places additional requirements on apps that use OpenVPN, VPN companies tend to not include it in their apps.
Servers and Server Locations
I look at the number of servers a VPN service offers as an important differentiator. VPNs with more servers tend to be more robust. Plus, you’re more likely to get a server that’s not overburdened with other users when there are simply more to choose from.
CyberGhost has recently nearly doubled its server count to an impressive 3,000, a number that varies from time to time. That’s a robust offering, putting it on par with some of the best VPN services out there. NordVPN, however, costs less than CyberGhost and offers more than 4,800 servers. Private Internet Access, on the other hand, costs about half as much per month and has 3,275 servers, and TorGuard recently expanded to also include some 3,000 servers.
The geographic distribution of servers is also important. The more varied the distribution, the more choices you have when looking to spoof your location. A strong geographic diversity also means that you’re more likely to find a nearby server when traveling, which is important because you tend to get better performance with a nearby server than a distant one.
CyberGhost has 90 server locations available, across approximately 60 countries. It’s a good mix, with a better-than-average showing for Africa, a continent almost completely ignored by VPN companies. Hide My Ass$11.99 at Hide My Ass VPN, however, has the largest network of servers, covering 286 locations in 220 countries. CyberGhost does offer servers in Hong Kong, but it does not have servers in Turkey or Russia, all of which are regions with repressive internet policies.
Some readers have written to me with concerns about VPN companies using virtual servers. These are software-defined servers, meaning that a single piece of server hardware can run several virtual servers. These virtual servers can be individually configured to appear as if they are in different locations from the physical hardware they share. The issue is that your data might be heading to someplace other than the location you chose, which makes some people nervous.
CyberGhost tells me that the company rents servers in every location in which it offers VPN access. It does have some virtualization on 340 of those servers, but the location of the virtual servers is the same as the location of the actual physical servers. That seems reasonable to me. In fact, it’s very similar to TunnelBear$4.17 at TunnelBear – 2 Year Plan and Private Internet Access’s policy on virtual servers. NordVPN, however, says that all of its servers are fully dedicated.
Your Privacy With CyberGhost
Fortunately, there are no hidden traps in the policy that I can find. The company has a clear commitment to not gathering information about what you do while the VPN is connected. In the policy, the company explains, “when using the CyberGhost VPN, the user’s traffic data such as browsing history, traffic destination, data content and search preferences are not monitored, recorded, logged or stored by the Company […] we are not storing connection logs, meaning that we don’t have any logs tied to your IP address, connection timestamp or session duration.” The company goes on to say that it also does not gather search preferences, or DNS queries.
That goes beyond other VPN companies that, despite having strong privacy policies, do retain some information about your connection. CyberGhost, however, does not record origin IP addresses, the IP address of the server you connected with, or the time at which a specific user began a connection or accessed any given online service. That’s excellent.
CyberGhost does collect some information for the purposes of billing and maintaining its network. The policy outlines some situations (such as payment processing) where that information is transferred to third parties, but stresses that the personal information you provide is not associated with your online activity. Personal information could, however, be disclosed as part of an investigation into a crime or a breach of the company’s terms of service. The company also says it will disclose personal information “when we believe that disclosure is necessary to protect our rights and/or comply with a judicial proceeding, court order, or legal process served on our [website].” This is also not unusual.
Issues involving law enforcement and VPN companies can be tricky, which is why it’s important to know what country the VPN company is headquartered in and under what legal jurisdiction it operates. For its part, CyberGhost has offices in Germany, Manila, and Tel Aviv, but is headquartered out of Bucharest, Romania, and operates under Romanian law. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Romanian government and courts have rejected legislation that would have required companies to keep electronic records on its customers. That’s what you want to hear.
That dedication to security is evident in the fact that the company underwent an audit and verification by certification body QSCert for its information management practices. That’s great, and I’d like to see more companies make the effort to maintain verifiable standards. TunnelBear, for example, also recently released an independent security audit. These efforts go a long way to reassuring reviewers like me and consumers like you that the companies are operating in good faith.
Hands On With CyberGhost
I had no trouble downloading and installing the CyberGhost windows app on my Lenovo ThinkPad T460s laptop running the latest version of Windows 10. Note, however, that if you lose your login information, you’ll be prompted for a special key sent in your activation email. If you’ve lost that, too, you’ll have to restore your account through CleverBridge, the payment processor used by CyberGhost.
The CyberGhost app is slick and responsive. It has neither the friendliness of TunnelBear nor the smart design of NordVPN, but it’s simple enough. The main window shows six tiles: Surf Anonymously, Unblock Streaming, Protect Network, Torrent Anonymously, Unblock Basic Websites, and Choose My Server. PureVPN uses a similar approach, helping users get online with different approaches for specific circumstances. The problem I have is that a first-time user might not know which, if any, apply. In fairness, there’s a Fast Connect option in the System Tray, but I’d like to see a big connection button that simply hooks you up to the closest server right in the app. It’s a feature that TunnelBear and NordVPN both offer.
Mouse over any of the tiles, and you see a clear explanation of each. Surf Anonymously, for example, has additional options to block ads, online tracking, and malicious websites, as well as enabling data compression. This is helpful, but it could lead you to believe that these features are not available if you select a different option, which is not the case. Protect Network, for example, has all the same options, with some different ones toggled on and off. Torrent Anonymously has the added option to automatically launch a torrenting application, if you like.
Unblock Streaming is more useful. Here you see a slate of streaming services like Netflix and Crunchyroll, as well as the preferred servers for accessing those services. You can also add your own; just punch in the URL and the preferred VPN servers. I like this a lot, although I am disappointed it doesn’t feature access to services like Netflix from different countries. Unblock Basic Websites works in much the same way.
Choose My Server does exactly what you’d expect. You can use it choose the VPN server you’d like to connect to. It omits the graphical map many VPN services rely on, instead letting you break down the list of servers by Most Crowded or Most Empty. You can easily see which servers allow BitTorrent, and the current ping time (that is, latency) for each. A Fastest Servers option performs some speed tests to help get you connected with a speedy server. Unfortunately, ping time didn’t always display correctly in my testing.
One other notable feature included in the app is the ability to assign specific actions for different Wi-Fi networks. CyberGhost can automatically connect, never connect, or prompt you for action when you connect to the networks you specify. I like this feature a lot. You can also configure CyberGhost to automatically activate in a particular mode when you activate a specific app on your computer. I did not, however, see an option to exclude traffic from a specific app, although you can add Hosts or IPs to a list of exceptions.
I take issue with the situational approach that the CyberGhost app takes, but that could easily be fixed with a big Fast Connect button. The app already has numerous helpful and powerful tools, and only needs a few usability tweaks to really bring it into focus.
CyberGhost and Netflix
Oppressive governments aren’t the only ones that block the use of VPNs. Streaming services often block VPN traffic to prevent people from spoofing their location in order to access region-locked content. Someone in the US could, for example, make it appear as if they were in Canada in order to stream episodes of Star Trek: Discovery, which is on Netflix outside the US but requires a CBS All Access subscription to view domestically.
Netflix is perhaps the most aggressive when it comes to blocking VPNs, but fortunately that isn’t an issue for CyberGhost. When I tested the service, I had no trouble streaming while connected to a US server. That said, blocking VPNs is a bit of a cat-and-mouse game, so a VPN that works with Netflixtoday might be blocked tomorrow.
While the protection afforded by a VPN is important in its own right, some VPN companies include add-ons and sweeteners to seem even more attractive. TorGuard has the most comprehensive menu of options, letting you purchase additional simultaneous connections, static IP addresses, and access to a Gigabit network for monthly fees.
CyberGhost provides ad blocking through its VPN connection, as well as malware and tracker blocking. It also has the option to enforce the use of HTTPS, which I particularly like. That said, I don’t think it’s wise to rely on any VPN as your sole antivirus solution. Notably, TunnelBear also provides ad blocking but does it through a stand-alone browser plug-in, which provides more options for users than unseen blocking. CyberGhost also offers No-Spy servers, which are located on-site with the company and are intended for users who are extremely concerned about who might be able to access the VPN servers. No-Spy servers aren’t available to the general public but are offered, the company says, to “exclusive partners.”
NordVPN goes even further, offering specialized servers for increased anonymity and improved video streaming. You can, for example, use NordVPN to connect to the Tor anonymization network, which will bounce your traffic around even more, making it far more difficult to intercept and track.
Along with presets for streaming video, CyberGhost has added a page to the app for securely accessing cryptocurrency sites and wallets. As with the streaming services, you can easily add sites that aren’t already on the list. As with banking over a VPN, sending important cryptocurrency information outside of a VPN is risky. Using a VPN also adds a layer of additional anonymity when you’re making a cryptocurrency transaction.
Speed and Performance
The number one concern I hear from people about VPNs is that using one will bring their web browsing to a crawl. That’s an understandable concern, because you will likely experience an increase in latency and a decrease in upload and download speeds when you use a VPN. That’s because a VPN doesn’t route your internet traffic in the most efficient manner, instead having it jump through hoops for security’s sake.
I try to get a sense of the impact those extra steps cause by running a series of comparative tests with Ookla’s internet speed test tool. Ookla tests latency, upload speeds, and download speeds, so those are the criteria I use as well. I run five tests, both with the VPN active and without. I then discard the top and bottom results, average what remains, and compare the VPN performance to the baseline performance to get a percent change.
I actually do this twice. The first time I do it while connected to whichever server the VPN app recommends (or the nearest one, in the cases where the app doesn’t) and to whichever Ookla test server that tool recommends. I then perform the tests again, but this time with the VPN connected to a server in Australia and using an Ookla test server in Anchorage, Alaska. The extreme distance involved is something of a stress test, to simulate how the VPN might perform when you’re spoofing your location to far-flung locale.
As networks can be finicky things, I don’t consider these tests to be the last word in the performance for each VPN. Rather, it’s a snapshot for comparison. Your mileage may vary.
In the domestic latency tests, I found CyberGhost a bit lackluster, increasing latency by 216.7 percent. TorGuard, surprisingly, actually reduced latency by 6.7 percent. The international tests were a bit better. Here, CyberGhost increased latency by 277.3 percent. That’s not far from the best score, which came from TunnelBear. That service increased international latency by only 270.3 percent.
Cyberghost did far more to distinguish itself in the domestic download tests, which I consider to be the most important. I found that CyberGhost reduced download speeds by 5.3 percent, not far from the leader, TorGuard, which reduced speeds by 3.7 percent. The international download test was less stunning, and saw CyberGhost reduce speeds by 77.9 percent. AnchorFree Hotspot Shield Elite reduced international download speeds by only 39.9 percent.
Last but not least are the domestic upload tests, in which CyberGhost reduced speeds by 6.5 percent. IPVanish had the best score here, reducing speeds by 2.9 percent. The international upload scores were all clustered together, putting CyberGhost in line with the rest. Here, it lowered international upload speeds by 97.8 percent. Private Internet Access had the best score, reducing speeds by 97.3 percent.
In general, CyberGhost performed well in our speed tests. It rarely stood out, but it did a good job keeping pace with the competition. Still, I encourage readers to not use speed as the sole deciding factor when choosing a VPN. Value, privacy, and usability are all much more important. But if you are in the market for the fastest VPN, you’d do well with TorGuard. This service had the best latency and download score, and it is an all-around strong service to begin with.
CyberGhost VPN for Android
We recently reviewed the CyberGhost VPN app for Android and are pleased to see that the service has greatly simplified the user experience. The confusing, multi-panel situational interface has been replaced with a simple server selector and connect button. We especially appreciate the additional features included in the app, but dislike the difficulty we encountered when trying to find servers in the app’s list. The Android app also scores below-average results in our speed tests. CyberGhost offers a strong Android VPN app.
CyberGhost VPN for iPhone
The CyberGhost VPN app for iOS is available for free from the iOS app store. Once you’re logged in with a subscription, you’ll be able to quickly secure your iPhone or iPad’s communications. We were particularly impressed with CyberGhost’s speed test results, which showed a comparably small impact on performance. Note that you can opt to enable data compression to further speed up your experience. CyberGhost is one of the best iPhone VPN apps.
A Solid Choice
In practice, CyberGhost doesn’t quite bridge the usability gap. Its app shows off the most powerful aspects of the service, but it’s sure to be confusing to new users. The service is also expensive—the most expensive of our top VPNs. That said, CyberGhost’s price matches its features, and seven licenses is certainly a generous offering.
These few caveats aside, CyberGhost is an excellent VPN service. However, we continue to recommend our top performers and Editors’ Choice winners NordVPN, Private Internet Access, and TunnelBear. These services offer more features, competitive pricing, and friendly interfaces, respectively.
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