A VPN is an enormously powerful tool for securing your online life, and CyberGhost is one of the best VPNs on the market. It makes a smart emphasis on video streaming, but backs that focus with rarely seen privacy features and a large network of servers and server locations. You’ll pay extra for these excellent features, however.
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 lurking on the same network as you from seeing your activity, and also stops your ISP from selling your data. Because your traffic appears to come from the VPN server, anyone watching will see the IP address of the VPN server and not your actual IP address. This makes it harder to track you across the web and can also be used to spoof your location by connecting to a VPN server that’s a long way from where you are.
A VPN is a powerful tool, but it won’t protect you from every threat. I highly recommend using standalone antivirus and a password manager, as well as enabling two-factor authentication wherever it is available.
CyberGhost Pricing and Features
A one-month plan with CyberGhost costs $12.99. That’s quite a bit higher than the current industry average of $10.10 per month, and significantly higher than the $5.54 per month Mullvad charges. For the same price as a CyberGhost subscription, you can get a subscription to Hotspot Shield VPN that includes several other privacy and security tools at no additional cost. Like most VPN services, CyberGhost offers the same slate of features priced differently for different intervals. You pay more up front for a longer interval, but save more overall for doing so. An annual plan with CyberGhost costs $71.88, a two-year plan comes in at $88.56, and the three-year plan nets the largest savings at $99. While those savings can be tempting, I always recommend starting with a monthly VPN plan so you can see how well the service works for you.
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 and AnchorFree Hotspot Shield offers a far more generous 500MB per day. ProtonVPN supplies my favorite free subscription, limiting you to only a few servers, but without a data cap.
You can easily purchase a CyberGhost 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 Best Buy or Starbucks, as anonymous options.
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, but that seems to be slowly changing in consumers’ favor. IPVanish, for instance, allows 10 simultaneous connections, while Avira Phantom VPN, Surfshark, and Windscribe place no limit on the number of simultaneous connections.
CyberGhost provides 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.
If you’re a fan of BitTorrent, you’ll be glad to know that CyberGhost allows BitTorrent and P2P file sharing via VPN and the appropriate servers that allow torrenting are marked in the app. CyberGhost has servers specially designated for video streaming services, which can be handy if you find yourself blocked off from your favorite shows.
The company says it uses “double encryption,” where the authentication connection is encrypted as well as the VPN connection, for added security. This is a default feature for all subscribers.
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. These are basically multihop servers, but more in line with ProtonVPN’s Secure Core servers. Access to No-Spy servers is available for $59.88 per year in addition to the standard monthly subscription fee, but free for annual subscribers. ProtonVPN limits access to its Secure Core servers to its $10 per month subscription tier—significantly less than CyberGhost.
There are many ways to secure a VPN connection. My preferred method is the OpenVPN protocol, which is open-source software, meaning that its code has been scrutinized for vulnerabilities.
CyberGhost does support OpenVPN with its Android, Linux, and Windows apps. Notably, the Windows app uses IKEv2—my next favorite protocol—by default. The older L2TP is also supported by the Windows app, but I recommend avoiding this particular protocol unless absolutely necessary. The CyberGhost iOS and macOS apps use IKEv2.
The future of VPNs likely resides in WireGuard, a still untested and experimental protocol. It shows a lot of promise, but has seen limited adoption. CyberGhost currently only supports WireGuard for Linux users.
Servers and Server Locations
The more and more varied server locations a VPN offers, the more choices you have when looking to spoof your location and the better odds of finding a server close to wherever you happen to be.
CyberGhost has servers across approximately 90 countries. It’s a good mix, with a better-than-average showing for Africa and South America, two continents often ignored by VPN companies. CyberGhost does offer servers in Hong Kong, Russia, and Vietnam, but it does not have servers in Turkey. These are all regions with repressive internet policies. In its breadth of locations, CyberGhost is only outdone by ExpressVPN, which has servers across 94 countries.
Some readers have written to me with concerns about VPN companies using virtual servers, which are software-defined servers. A single physical server can play host to many virtual ones, and virtual servers can be configured to appear as if they are in a different location than their host. Virtual servers are not bad per se, but it should be clearly communicated to users where their data is really going.
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.
CyberGhost is also among the heaviest hitters when it comes to number of servers, offering an impressive 5,900. NordVPN is the only other service to break 5,000 servers, while ExpressVPN, Hotspot Shield VPN, Private Internet Access VPN, and TorGuard VPN are the only ones to break 3,000. More servers doesn’t mean the service is better, but it can be helpful. If you absolutely need a VPN connection to a specific geographic location, having more servers means a better chance of finding an uncrowded one in the region you desire.
Your Privacy With CyberGhost
Using any security or privacy software requires that you believe the product does what it claims, and that you trust using the product will not expose you to other dangers. This is particularly important for VPNs, because when a VPN is in use, the company could have as much insight as your ISP into your online activities. Protecting those activities is one of the key reasons to use a VPN in the first place. In general, CyberGhost appears to do a good job of protecting user privacy. I’ll attempt to summarize below.
The company’s documentation says that CyberGhost does not store user IP addresses, DNS queries, browsing history, connection/disconnection timestamps, session duration, bandwidth, or the VPN server with which you connect. That’s excellent. The company does appear to collect information regarding connection attempts and successes, but only in aggregate form. A company representative told me that the CyberGhost not only does not log user activity, it also does not know the identity of the customers connected to a given server. The company does monitor server CPU load, available memory, the amount of server bandwidth used, and other metadata.
A company representative assured me that CyberGhost only generates revenue from customer subscriptions. That’s what I want to hear, as a VPN should protect your information, not monetize it.
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 across Europe, but is headquartered out of Bucharest, Romania, and operates under Romanian law. The company’s full name is CyberGhost SA, and is owned by the parent company Kape technologies PLC. Kape, formerly Crossrider, has been criticized for its use of shady software. A company representative told me that because the company has no personal user data, it has no way to comply with legal requests for information. This is backed up by the company’s annual transparency report.
A company representative told me that while the company uses third-party data centers, it has taken a containerized approach to its system. “A compromised node can’t be used to access other servers or core resources,” they said. A host of other precautions are also in place, including server encryption and running the servers on RAM to prevent tampering.
CyberGhost has not undergone a third-party audit aside from an evaluation by AV-Test. A thorough, publicly released audit that examines all aspects of the service is ideal, and should be carried out. TunnelBear, for example, has committed to annual public audits. I hope to see CyberGhost and other VPN companies find new ways to demonstrate their good behavior to the public.
Hands On With CyberGhost
I had no trouble downloading and installing the CyberGhost windows app on my Intel NUC Kit NUC8i7BEH (Bean Canyon) desktop running the latest version of Windows 10. Note 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 old version of the CyberGhost app took a page from Hide My Ass and included several preset options for different scenarios. It’s an interesting idea, but I prefer the current design. The app is now simple, slick, and responsive, with a quick connect button prominently displayed on the grey window. It is starting to show its age, however, as more apps favor flat colors and streamlined experiences. The app doesn’t have the distinctiveness of NordVPN or TunnelBear, but it’s easy to use, which I appreciate.
You can change VPN location from the pulldown menu beneath the connection button. Tap the graph icon and you can see some real-time analytics about your connection. Clicking the yellow tab on the lower left of the window expands the Settings panel. You can drill down and actually see each specific server in a given location, which I really like, and add the ones you prefer to a list of favorites. Here you also can drill down to see the load on specific servers, and the precise number of users connected. The app provides additional lists for streaming servers and torrenting servers.
In the app, You’ll find settings for ad blocking, tracker blocking, and malicious site blocking. There’s also an option to enable data compression and to exempt specific websites from being tunneled via VPN. That’s useful for streaming from Netflix, or any activity that might block access via VPN. It’s not the same as split tunneling, which lets you route the traffic from specific apps outside the VPN tunnel.
A deeper settings menu has a collection of surprisingly advanced security features. You can, for example, have CyberGhost connect via a random port, change the VPN protocol used by the app, and block IPv6 connections, to name a few. Most of these you won’t need to touch, but I like that they’re there.
VPNs should not leak DNS or IP address information. In my testing, I used the DNS Leak Test tool, and discovered that the VPN server appeared to be leaking my information. I contacted CyberGhost who were already aware of the problem, and reported that they believed it to be an issue with Windows and resolving DNS requests. Subsequent tests showed that the problem was solved. I appreciate CyberGhost’s quick action on this issue; it shows that the company is serious about even small threats to user privacy.
Cyberghost offers apps for Android, iOS, macOS, and Windows, with support for Linux. The company notably supplies apps for Android TV and the Amazon Fire TV Stick, too. There’s also a Chrome proxy extension, which disguises your IP address (and therefore, your location) but secures your browser traffic differently than the CyberGhost app. Note that the Chrome extension only secures your browser traffic.
CyberGhost and Netflix
Netflix is perhaps the most aggressive when it comes to blocking VPNs. CyberGhost had some issues with Netflix. I found I was unable to stream from a US-based VPN server, but I had no trouble streaming from one of the servers specially designed for video streaming. That said, blocking VPNs is a bit of a cat-and-mouse game, so a VPN that works with Netflix today 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, for example, has the most comprehensive menu of options, letting you purchase additional simultaneous connections, static IP addresses, and access to a 10GB network for monthly fees.
For its part, CyberGhost offers static IP addresses and provides ad blocking through its VPN connection, as well as blocking malicious content. I did not test these features. It also has the option to enforce the use of HTTPS, which I particularly like. 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.
Speed and Performance
Using a VPN will almost certainly have a negative impact on your internet speeds. I try to get a sense of how large that impact is by running a series of comparative tests with Ookla’s internet speed test tool. Read our feature on how we test VPNs for more on our methodology and the limits of our testing. (Note that Ookla is owned by Ziff Davis, which also owns PCMag.)
CyberGhost’s performance was a mixed bag. It decreased download speed test scores by 73.9 percent, far above the median result in that category. It fared better in other tests, reducing upload speed test results by only 28.2 percent and increasing latency by just 35.7 percent.
You can see how CyberGhost compares in the chart below with the top nine performers among the 40 services we tested.
Note: median results are taken from all services tested.
According to my tests Hotspot Shield VPN is the fastest VPN, in that it has the smallest impact on download speeds and latency. Surfshark, however, managed to capture the best upload score and is close behind in the other categories as well. But I discourage anyone from deciding on a VPN based on speed alone. Cost and the overall value provided by the service’s features are far more important.
A Solid Choice
There’s a lot to like in CyberGhost. The company has a large and diverse collection of server location and a robust set of security features backed by a strong stance on privacy. Its app is easy to use, and the company offers a generous seven simultaneous connections. The company also smartly emphasizes the importance of video streaming. The big catch is that it does all this at an above-average cost.
If you find CyberGhost fits your needs, you’re not in the wrong to use this excellent service. But we continue to recommend our top performers and Editors’ Choice winners ProtonVPN and TunnelBear.
CyberGhost VPN Specs
|Allows 5+ Simultaneous Connections||Yes|
|Geographically Diverse Servers||Yes|
|Server Locations||90 Countries|