CyberGhost VPN Review
CyberGhost is a Romanian VPN provider which has become one of the leading brands for the truly privacy-conscious customer, and backs up its many software applications with plainly-worded promises to protect your personal data from all threats, be they foreign or domestic.
But CyberGhost is walking a thin line that not many choose to tread, putting some of the less-advertised uses of VPNs (like stream unlocking and torrenting) proudly on display. Should a VPN be so open about these applications in the pursuit of pure honesty?
Read on in our CyberGhost VPN review to find out!
What We Liked
- Solid desktop application with plenty of configuration
- Mobile app worked well
- Great server selection options
- Simple cancel/uninstall process
What We Didn't
- Could be pricey for some
- Middling speed tests depending on server location
Ease of Use Review
Installation and Setup
From going to the website to getting the VPN up and running on a US West server on the WIndows 10 desktop app, it took us around four minutes in total.
Oddly, even though CyberGhost leaves it up to you whether or not you want to include an email address when setting up your account, they still require it when you’re making a payment and will use that email as the destination to send your follow-up confirmation letter.
After some digging I found out this was how CyberGhost separates itself from having access to any identifying financial information about you, as the optional email is with the company itself, while the mandatory one is used by the third-party processor to send your receipt. If you only use a Free account, you’ll never have to register using any identifying information.
Another slight annoyance is that after you’re finished paying, unlike all other VPN providers CyberGhost doesn’t provide you with a download link or any buttons to get it onto your computer. This means navigating back to the homepage, where you then can click on the “Downloads” link to find what you’re looking for.
CyberGhost did not make us slow down at all to install a separate TAP adapter, which was nice, and from downloading to running on our first service the VPN was able to do it in just less than four minutes flat.
User Interface and Design
The main window for the Windows 10 CyberGhost app actually gives off a lot of vibes reminiscent of the OS’ predecessor, Windows 8.1. Bright multi-colored tiles control what type of connection you want to set up, right underneath the same question we ran into on PureVPN’s main window too: “What do you want to do today?”.
From here you can choose options like “Surf Anonymously” or “Unblock Streaming”, which when you click on them, will provide you with a number of different options depending on the task. After you’ve filled out these parameters, you’ll be automatically connected to the server and encryption protocol CyberGhost believes is best equipped to handle that particular job.
Once you’re connected to the server for your chosen application, CyberGhost shows off quite a bit of extra information that you can use to inform how you use the service. This includes your current IP address (spoofed or not), the location of the server you’re connected to, as well as the amount of time you’ve been connected.
CyberGhost is one of the few newer VPN services to offer what I like to call “Direct to Streaming” services, where the only information you have to put into the client is which streaming you want to access and which country you want to access it from (BBC iPlayer from the UK, for example).
Personally I like this approach, as it removes all the pussyfooting around the subject of streaming, and instead embraces it head on the way the industry should have done a long time ago.
Lastly, there was the option to “Choose Your Own VPN Server”, which took us to a full list of CyberGhost’s 845+ servers across 29 countries. Here you can sort by a number of filters, including by ping, percentage of user load, and whether they allow torrenting or not.
Another small bonus I always like to see is load levels on the server you’re planning to connect to. Most often expressed as a percentage (63%, for example), this little number tells you how strained any given server is at a particular time, and gives you the flexibility to choose another which may give you better speeds since not as many people are trying to route through it at the same time.
The settings menu was decidedly more extensive than most simple VPNs, with a number of tabs that handled everything from the app’s taskbar behavior to enabling App Protection on a case-by-case basis.
Out of all the taskbar-accessible VPNs we’ve talked about thus far, none go so far above and beyond the call of duty as CyberGhost. When you right-click on the CyberGhost icon in the lower-right corner of your Windows 10 desktop, the app launches a full window for you to tinker with, complete with a server list to connect to as well as hot buttons which list the last services you used.
CyberGhost’s mobile app is definitely quite a bit more refined than most, using many of the same designs we’ve seen evolve on the web in the past few years where large, but compressed videos play in the background of any settings window you’re trying to use.
I don’t mind the effect so much, but it does get a bit tiring after the same loop plays out for the 30th time when you’ve been using it for a week.
Probably the strangest feature in the iOS 10 mobile app is the “Shake to connect with us” option, which opens up the option to submit a support ticket if something has gone wrong. Other than that there isn’t a whole lot more to say about the mobile app, which doesn’t let you tinker with nearly as many settings as its desktop cousin and only runs a “Connect/Disconnect” button on the main screen, depending on the task you want to take care of on the net.
The last few things worth mentioning are the small, but effective protections that CyberGhost VPN will apply to your mobile connection if you’re browsing through the service. These include ad-blocking, cookie-blocking, phishing protection and a data compression tool we’ll get into shortly.
CyberGhost gives users the option of multiple different platforms to install the VPN app on, including:
- Windows 7 and above
- Mac OSX 10.0 and above
- iOS 9 and above
- Android 2.2 and above
- Chrome OS
- Raspberry Pi
Cancel and Uninstall Process
To uninstall CyberGhost VPN, all we needed to do was find the icon on our Start menu (like PIA, CyberGhost doesn’t actually install to any Program Files folders on your hard drive), and after just a single prompt CyberGhost’s own uninstaller took care of the rest.
And if it couldn’t get any simpler already, getting our account cancelled was just as breezy and care-free as the uninstall. First, we navigated to our Account page, and scrolled down to the Subscription section. There we found the “Cancel Subscription” button, which when clicked, only asked a single question to see if we were “Sure we wanted to cancel?”.
After that the cancellation was processed all in the same window, with the Cancel button transforming into a “Continue subscription” button instead. No invasive surveys, no extra incentives to sign up again, just a simple cancellation all without leaving your homepage - just the way we like it.
Speed and Performance Review
In our speed testing on a simultaneous 1GB up/down fiber optic line from Portland, Oregon, we connected to four different servers offered by SaferVPN, from all from different corners of the globe, and specifically in the cities of LA, New York, Singapore and London. Each server test was run five times at specific intervals to see how the bandwidth was affected during peak hours (9PM local), off-peak (6AM local), and once more on a Monday at 9PM PST, which is the busiest day for VPN providers collectively.
As you can see in the tests above, while CyberGhost scored well above the curve on tests run in LA at off-peak (a max of 231.09Mbps down/196.26Mbps up), it struggled once some distance was added on the Singapore servers.
Unfortunately, during our tests of specific servers we ran into the same problem we’ve had with other services before, where despite saying that we’re connected in a specific city, both the WhatIsMyIPAddress results and the SpeedTest.net locator itself both pin the server somewhere halfway across the world from where it’s supposed to be.
For example, in order to get an accurate speed test for the Servers in New York, we had to try around 10 different “New York” servers before we actually got one that was located in New York. The rest either pinged back to CyberGhost’s home country of Romania, or ended up somewhere in the middle of Wyoming.
Finally, we give every VPN we review a shot to take our “best of the worst” challenge, which is a single speed test run on the closest possible server to our home base in Portland. While normally this would net the fastest time, the trick is we run it on Monday at 9PM PST, otherwise known as the worst possible commute hour (and day) for VPN networks on the West Coast.
In this test, CyberGhost passed with flying colors, connecting to a server in San Jose CA, (even though we asked for San Francisco) and rocking a 200.0Mbps download alongside a 105.17Mbps upload score off a base speed of 734.10Mbps down and 722.81Mbps up.
Security and Privacy Review
On the front of open communication about their privacy policies and Terms of Service, CyberGhost is one of the good ones, exceedingly open and honest almost to a fault about how they handle their user’s data, log their traffic, and what does (or in this case, doesn’t), get reported to the authorities.
As CyberGhost explains in plain English (almost too plain, if we’re being honest):
“Can CyberGhost VPN sniff on my traffic?
Theoretically, yes. By implementing special logging tools a server can be monitored in general. However, the data flow from and to a certain user needs some more analysis to be done - which CyberGhost VPN explicitly refuses to do. To underline this, the company will always agree to be inspected by network specialists or net activists like EFF at anytime on its own costs.
In case we are ordered to monitor a certain user account by a court in favor of preventing or unweave a crime, we will of course agree. No anonymization service stands outside the law. However, these orders are very rare. CyberGhost VPN itself never got asked up to now.”
They go on to note that even if they wanted to somehow get a hold of a user’s activity, it wouldn’t even be possible unless the law enforcement agency in question had already been monitoring them prior to them signing up for CyberGhost in the first place:
“The reason [for this] is quite simple: To be able to monitor a single account, CyberGhost VPN needs data about the account in question from the court, which is only available, if the respective owner already is under surveillance.”
On their bluntly titled “Does CyberGhost log? No!” page, CyberGhost lays out their logging policy and how they treat their users’ privacy in no uncertain terms:
“Do we log, keep logs, protocol surfing behaviors or record content, visited websites or IP addresses of our users? No! Why? People in non democratic countries (so maybe YOU!) are in real danger, just for expressing their opinions. If we implemented back-doors,deep packet inspections or store information about our users and share those with authorities regardless their origins, we would risk the lives of people. We will not do that! Ever!”
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a big fan of VPN providers who have no problem laying out the exact details of their logging policies without any legalese layered on top. The company continues on to say that while they do collect very minute amounts of data (namely, the number of anonymized logins that were created and used on the server that day), of those small bits of information, everything is deleted once every 24 hours to prevent the Feds from being able to subpoena it.
Although there’s a million things I could say about why this kind of approach is important for the VPN industry as a whole, I’ll let CyberGhost’s own words handle it from here:
“If you use a VPN service to stay anonymous on the Internet it's a crucial thing to know whether your VPN provider logs data like the websites you visit, and establishes a connection between the content (or just the ID address) and your account and therefore monitors your activities on the Internet - along with saving this data for future purposes. In case you think that behavior like this would make a VPN service worthless - you're right.”
Well said CyberGhost, well said.
When connecting through the CyberGhost VPN client on either Windows, Mac, or Android, all three use either OpenVPN, L2TP, or PPTP to secure their tunnels over a 256-bit AES encrypted line.
iOS defaults to L2TP/IPSec, which is the preferred method of Apple and still a very solid and secure way to encrypt channels on its own.
During our IPLeak and DNSLeakTest runs, CyberGhost fared well when it came to the IPLeak side of things (only 3 servers detected), while its WhatIsMyIPAddress results didn’t do so hot, placing us in the middle of Wyoming while we were supposedly connected to a New York server. Oddly enough, no matter how many times we tried to run the DNSLeak.com test, it never posted results that we could record, so we passed over it until a response from CyberGhost is received regarding the active issue.
When we contacted CyberGhost VPN over the Live Chat function via the company’s website, it took us around two minutes before we were connected to an agent who was helping us with our supposed problem.
The agent, despite having slightly broken English (we imagine this is because he was Romanian), was very knowledgeable of the product at a baseline, and seemed to be able to answer our questions without even having to look them up.
This shows that CyberGhost VPN isn’t just leasing out their support to a third-party who doesn’t know the product unless they have standardized answers splayed out in front of them, which is always a huge plus in our book.
Aside from the unlimited bandwidth cap and a free proxy service, most of what CyberGhost VPN offers over the competition is evident in its layout, settings options, and design than the extra features it offers on top.
One standout is App Protection, which allows you to assign automatic profiles to specific software that will turn CyberGhost on anytime it’s launched. Say for example you open up a torrent link, the VPN will automatically connect you to a server using a tunnel that’s been specifically tuned ahead of time for use on a P2P network.
Other added features include a phishing link blocker, an ad-blocker, an online tracking blocker (cookies, etc), and a data compression toggle which will shrink down image quality on webpages in case your connection is running slow.
CyberGhost has three separate tiers of memberships, each with their own benefits and drawbacks to be had. First, there’s the free version, which unlike some other VPNs is truly 100% free to use (with some exceptions we’ll get into shortly).
The membership tier prices for CyberGhost VPN are as follows:
- Free Plan
- CyberGhost Premium 1-month for $6.99 a’la carte or $5.83/mo billed annually ($69.99 upfront)
- Or CyberGhost Premium Plus for $10.99/mo individually, or $9.16/mo annual ($109.99 upfront)
While the free plan offers up most of the trappings you’ll find on the Premium version, there are a few key difference. Most notable is the limiting of profiles that a user can select from. This means if you’re using the free version (on Windows, as an example), you’ll only be able to connect to the “Surf anonymously”, “Unblock Basic Websites” and “Protect My Network” options. No streaming help offered.
Free users also have to wait in line to use a server if the queue is full, put up with CyberGhost-specific ads for the service every 120 minutes, and be forced to disconnect once every three hours (with the option to immediately reconnect open).
The Premium plan removes all these restrictions, and gives you unlimited data to use each month on up to one device at a time (this means no phone and desktop at the same time, ouch). Last is Premium Plus, which is the same as Premium but upgrades you to five simultaneous devices instead.
Once at checkout we were given the option to pay through a number of different services, including:
- Credit Cards: Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and JCB
- Other: PayNearMe, Check, Money Order
As has been the case with every VPN we’ve reviewed, it’s always preferred for a service to provide at least once cryptocurrency option available to users who may not want to directly tie their financial data to a VPN they barely know.
Luckily CyberGhost does offer the option to use Bitcoin, however if you blink you might miss it. We’re not sure why this is laid out the way it is, but instead of being able to choose Bitcoin from the main payment page, you select it from the homepage (highlighted below) instead.
The PayNearMe option is available too, which is anonymous in its own right, but could prove problematic for more rural users who don’t have immediate access to a 7-Eleven or corresponding PayNearMe location.
Because they’re newer to the game, CyberGhost VPN may not be a household name just yet, but if they keep up like they have so far, I figure it’s only a matter of time.
This is a company and a VPN that isn’t ashamed of its true uses, and doesn’t shy away from the taboo unspoken laws of VPN usage. Instead of hiding all that in the shadows, instead CyberGhost VPN embraces it, and even makes it a part of its brand.
With spectacular speed test results, a deeply-configurable desktop app and decent pricing for any plan tier (given the service you get), it’s clear that CyberGhost VPN should be on anyone’s shortlist, whether it’s your first time signing up for a VPN or fiftieth.
CyberGhost VPN: By the Numbers
- 12 Mo Price
- 14 Eyes Jurisdiction
- 1 Mo Price
- Access to Website - China
- Ad Track Blocker
- Alexa Website Rank
- Android Devices
- Oreo - 8Nougat - 7Marshmallow - 6Lollipop - 5KitKat - 4.4Jelly Bean - 4.3
- Browser Extensions
- Business VPN
- Claims "100% No Logs"
- Claims to Work - China
- Claims to Work - Netflix
- DNS Leak Protection
- Easy to Find Owners?
- Enemy of the Internet Jurisdiction
- Facebook Likes
- Founding Year
- Free Trial
- Free Version
- Gaming Devices
- Headquarters Location - Country
- iOS Devices
- iOS 11iOS 10iOS 9
- IPv6 Leak Protection
- Kill Switch
- Linux Devices
- Bandwidth UsedConnection TimestampsIP Address
- Mac Devices
- macOS High Sierra - 10.13macOS Sierra - 10.12OS X El Capitan - 10.11OS X Yosemite - 10.10OS X Mavericks - 10.9OS X Mountain Lion - 10.8
- Max # of Connections
- No of Total Locations
- # of Countries
- # of Languages
- # of Platforms Supported
- # of Protocols Offered
- # of Servers
- # of Setup Documents on Website
- # of Troubleshooting Documents on Website
- Payment Methods
- PaypalVisaMastercardAmerican ExpressDiscoverJCB
- Private DNS
- L2TP/IPsecOpenVPNOpenVPN TCPOpenVPN UDPPPTPSOCKSSSLP2P TorrentsTCP on Port 443
- Refund Period Days
- Router Devices
- Support Offered
- 24/7EmailLive Chat
- TrustPilot Rating
- 4 / 10
- Twitter Followers
- Unlimited Bandwidth
- Visit Home Page
- VPN Service
- Website QualSys SSL Rating
- Windows Devices
- Windows 10Windows 8.1Windows 8Windows 7