VPN Review: CyberGhost
Surfing carefree and anonymously is the dream of every VPN user. CyberGhost, a Romanian VPN provider, claims to cover the tracks of its more than 30 million users, branding itself as "the one-click solution for your privacy needs". Our test shows whether this is really the case, or if CyberGhost's claims are just smoke and mirrors.
What Is CyberGhost?
CyberGhost is a VPN service headquartered in Bucharest, which was acquired in 2017 by Kape Technologies PLC, a British cyber-security company. With the release of CyberGhost Security Suite, the provider has supplemented its VPN service with a comprehensive antivirus solution. In this review, however, we'll only assess its VPN functions and related security features.
Pros and Cons
Offers good video steaming on Netflix or through the BBC's iPlayer
Competent and fast support
Relatively high speeds
Concerns about security and privacy
Dubious parent company
Installation and Features
Seven is CyberGhost's 'lucky number': Subscriptions allow the registration of up to seven devices and the creation of seven VPN connections. This sets CyberGhost apart as one of the most generous VPN providers when it comes to device usage and simultaneous connections.
Like most other desktop clients from our sample, CyberGhost's app can be installed on Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, or Linux with a few mouse clicks. Guides are also provided for how to connect smart TVs or routers.
You can see all devices actively using your VPN connection and download apps for new devices of your choice in the customer area's web interface.
The 2019 release of CyberGhost's seventh edition brought widespread change to the program, reorienting its design heavily on those of its competitors. One year later, the eighth edition of the software continued this trend, further polishing the program.
All functions in CyberGhost's smartphone app are subordinated to a prominent power button. When in a hurry on the go, a single tap on this button can establish a VPN connection.
If you've ever used a VPN before, it won't take long to get used to CyberGhost's apps.
You can select from a drop-down list of your favorite servers by clicking on 'server location' under the power button. Apart from this, all other settings and adjustments need to be made in the expanded menu. To access this, click on either the arrow symbol or the gear symbol in the sidebar.
Here, you'll find all servers listed, which you can filter based on your favorites or other criteria. For example, you can select servers that are optimized for torrenting or streaming. CyberGhost takes this a step further, even recommending which streaming services particular servers are particularly good for, such as "Netflix Japan" or "BBC iPlayer UK". During testing, video playback worked well most of the time with Netflix and the BBC's iPlayer, however, we did have some connection issues (more on that below).
For each country and server, additional information about their distance from you, ping, and usage can be seen. Unfortunately, the last of these is often overlooked, even by the market's heavyweights, so its inclusion by CyberGhost is a nice touch.
In the expanded menu, you'll be able to select from specialized servers or configure additional settings.
When it comes to settings, CyberGhost strikes a good balance between functionality and simplicity. The number of options is by no means exhaustive, however, most basic functions, especially those desired from a VPN, as well as a handful of interesting extras, are included.
Under "Privacy Settings", for example, you can find additional security tools like an ad-blocker., although, during testing, this wasn't particularly reliable. Also integrated are DNS leak protection, which obscures your browsing activity from the prying eyes of your provider, and an automatic kill switch, that severs your connection whenever your VPN tunnel is disrupted.
By clicking on "Smart rules", you can set guidelines for the app. These include auto-start as well as the simultaneous running of other programs when you start CyberGhost. It's also possible to configure how CyberGhost interacts with unknown WLANs.
Even though both DNS leaks and the kill switch have toggles, they cannot be turned off.
CyberGhost hides its split tunneling functionality under "Smart rules" in the "App Guidelines" area. Here, you can select which applications will use the VPN tunnel you create, and which should stay on your regular Internet connection. This is particularly useful if you'd like to stream content from abroad while downloading a large file at maximum speed from your location.
The provider does offer dedicated IP addresses albeit as an at-cost add-on to subscription packages.
As the smartphone app's design is based around that of the desktop version, it should come as little surprise that the iOS and Android clients look remarkably similar to one another. Tapping on the power button establishes a connection with the nearest and best server while opening the drop-down menu below allows for a server to be selected at will.
During our last review of CyberGhost (2019), we lamented the inability to change protocols in the smartphone app, however, we're happy to report that this has been rectified (more on this below). By default, protocols are set to "Auto", however. The mobile app's language cannot be changed manually, as it is based on your system's language.
Overall, CyberGhost's mobile app makes a good impression, importing features known from the desktop client and making them intuitive to use on the go.
Score: 4.3 / 5
CyberGhost possesses more than 6,600 servers across upwards of 90 countries. Most of these are located in North America and Europe, with the US and Germany well-served. The provider's global network is impressive, particularly considering its efforts in Asia and Africa, even though large parts of the latter continue to lack coverage.
CyberGhost's number of servers and geographic spread are constantly growing.
Those areas where CyberGhost lacks a presence are generally the same as nearly all other providers from our sample. With that in mind, CyberGhost possesses an excellent server network.
Score: 4.7 / 5
How well VPNs perform depends on a number of factors. Alongside their speeds, it's also important to note how they hold up during regular (continuous) usage when surfing, streaming foreign content, or circumventing governmental Internet restrictions.
We assessed all VPNs from our sample using a server in Europe with a 1 GB/s connection. Random CyberGhost servers in the US and Germany were connected to at different times of the day to more accurately evaluate their performances. More information concerning our methodology can be found in our VPN speed test.
The table below shows the average results from the last 365 days, arranged in order of download and upload speed (descending):
During testing, CyberGhost clocked a download speed of 118.6 MB/s and an upload speed of 18.4 MB/s, consigning it to fifteenth place in our speed ranking. Even though these numbers are quite a way off from the podium, they are solid.
The diagram below shows CyberGhost's average speeds over the past months.
The service was less consistent during surfing than its speed test numbers had suggested. At times, everything was fine and we benefited from good upload and download speeds. On other occasions, we could establish connections, but with nowhere near the kind of speeds we had reached previously, and that without straining or over-exerting the connection. More than once, we were completely unable to connect to a VPN server.
CyberGhost didn't have any difficulty providing us with foreign Netflix, Amazon Prime, or BBC iPlayer content. Content from Disney+ was more of a challenge, as we were unable to access it. On some occasions, owing to the speed issues noted above, even when we could connect to such services, we were unable to view their content.
Overall, CyberGhost's performance was better on paper than in actual use. Speeds were decent most of the time, however, the connection issues dampened our overall experience.
Score: 3.3 / 5
Security and Privacy
In addition to the usual selection of protocols (OpenVPN and IKEv2), CyberGhost also offers WireGuard. This state-of-the-art protocol provides the cutting-edge in encryption, guaranteeing high security. PTPP is no longer supported. Android users can select between OpenVPN and WireGuard, whereas for iOS devices, IKEv2 and WireGuard are supported. Connections are encrypted using AES 256, which offers maximum security.
CyberGhost is based in Romania, a country that belongs neither to the Five or Fourteen Eyes intelligence-sharing agreements. On both CyberGhost's website, as well as through its support staffers, we have been guaranteed that no logs are saved, however, the service's last independent audit (through QSCert) was nearly a decade ago in March of 2012. As such, we have to take the provider at their word and trust their annual transparency report.
Further complicating the situation is that CyberGhost's parent company (Kape Technologies PLC, earlier, Crossrider PLC) was accused of spreading malware in 2018, and as an ad tech company, generates revenue by monetizing data. This doesn't necessarily implicate CyberGhost, however, contradictory corporate philosophies between parent and subsidiary certainly don't generate much confidence either. And in the world of VPNs, trust is an absolute necessity.
CyberGhost passed all of our leak tests without issue.
Back to the positives: CyberGhost passed our VPN leak tests (IPv6, DNS, and WebRTC) without breaking a sweat. As mentioned above, the kill switch cannot be toggled off and is always engaged for security reasons. All security features that we look for in a VPN are present.
On paper, CyberGhost does everything right, however, its nearly decade-long lack of an independent audit, coupled with its parent company's corporate mission left us skeptical.
Score: 3 / 5
CyberGhost's customer support can be reached via contact form in a number of languages (English, German, Romanian, and French) as well as through live chat. Our queries were quickly answered, however, when we asked about the company's logging practices, the support personnel we spoke with were clearly overwhelmed. Both of our test emails to the support team were answered within an hour.
Like nearly every other VPN provider, CyberGhost only becomes 'cheap' when a long-term subscription is agreed to. The 3-year contract has a monthly cost which is 80% less than the monthly package. Two-year contracts are also available. A dedicated IP address can be purchased for $5 per month.
A current price list for CyberGhost can be found below:
|3 Years||2 Years||1 Year|
|Base price per month||$2.25||$3.49||$3.99|
|Contract period (months)||36||24||12|
|Number of Devices||7||7||7|
|Number of servers||6,400||6,400||6,400|
|Number of countries||90||90||90|
|No server logs|
Should you want to try CyberGhost before buying, you can test out the service for free for an entire day.
Subscriptions can be paid by PayPal, credit cards, and cryptocurrencies.
There are a number of positives worth mentioning in regards to CyberGhost: Its server network is excellent, its applications are elegant and user-friendly, and its support is commendable. During our speed test, CyberGhost put up decent numbers, however, when actually using the service for surfing, we ran into some connection issues.
Especially in terms of anonymity and privacy, CyberGhost would do itself a big favor in dispelling the concerns surrounding its parent company by submitting to an external security audit. For anyone that values security and transparency, there are better VPN providers, however, if these matters don't bother you, you could be very happy with CyberGhost.
In the aggregated reviews that we analyzed, CyberGhost performed rather well: Its many features and user-friendliness came in for particular praise. Some users reported occasional instability.
Should CyberGhost's performance frighten you, there are alternatives that did better in both our speed test and performance evaluation. First place in our overall VPN ranking went to NordVPN, which combines speed, user-friendliness, and a variety of features in a strong package.
If you're looking to start out with a free VPN and willing to accept some deficits in terms of performance, Windscribe might be an option worth exploring.