VPN Review: CyberGhost
Surfing carefree and anonymously, the dream of every VPN user. CyberGhost, a Romanian VPN provider, covers the tracks of its more than 30 million users, branding itself as "the one-click solution for all 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.
Pros and Cons
Offers good video steaming on Netflix or through the BBC iPlayer
Knowledgeable 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 creation of seven VPN connections. This sets CyberGhost apart as one of the most generous VPN providers in terms of device usage and simultaneous connections.
Like most other desktop clients we've reviewed, CyberGhost's app is installed for Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, and Linux with a few mouse clicks. Guides are also provided for how to connect FireTV or routers.
CyberGhost's seventh edition saw a completely overhauled interface introduced. This was clearly done to bring the VPN provider more in line with its competitors, who have enjoyed success based on their streamlined and simplified user interfaces.
CyberGhost's elongated smartphone interface, which uses drag and drop, allows for you to move freely around the screen. Like ExpressVPN, the focal point of CyberGhost's interface is the on/off button, with all other functions relegated to its periphery or under various menus. When you're in a hurry, a single click on this button can establish a VPN connection: It doesn't get much simpler than that.
When clicking on 'server location' under the central button, you can select from a list of your favorites arranged in a drop-down menu. Apart from this, all other settings and adjustments need to be made in a separate window. Both the arrow button and the settings menu (gear symbol in the upper-right of the interface) open new windows where you can configure your preferences.
Here, all servers are listed and can be filtered based on your favorites, or other criteria. For example, you can select servers that are designed for torrents or streaming. There are also a number of 'no-spy' servers, all based in Romania, that offer even more security than the regular servers.
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 terms of settings, CyberGhost achieves something of a balance between functionality and simplicity. The number of options is by no means exhaustive, however, most basic functions, especially those desired from a VPN provider, as well as a handful of interesting extras, are included.
Under "connection functions" additional security tools like an ad-blocker (which is rather mediocre) and a no-tracking function are offered. Apart from these, data compression can be activated which speed-up your connection through reducing data usage. Unfortunately, split tunneling is only available on Android.
In 'smart rules' guidelines for the app can be set, including auto-start, linked applications, and connection preferences for untrusted WLAN networks.
The remainder of the settings, such as protocol changing, or a kill switch, can be found under the 'additional options' sub-menu. The kill switch cannot be turned off, so its inclusion seems to be more about showing users that the feature exists, preempting any questions about whether the program has such a function or not. The app also has 'light' and 'dark' interfaces which can be chosen from at will.
Our video streaming tests using Netflix and the BBC's iPlayer went smoothly.
As the desktop and mobile apps have nearly identical appearances on Windows and Android (respectively), it should come as no surprise that the iOS version does as well. Clicking the central button establishes a connection with the nearest and best server, while opening the drop-down menu below allows for a server to be selected on the basis of its location.
Unlike the desktop version, the mobile version's language settings cannot be changed easily, and are linked to the system's language. Additionally, the mobile app's options are a bit less exhaustive than those of the desktop app; for example, protocol changes and a few other settings on the desktop app are not possible on the mobile app. However, as a complete package, CyberGhost makes a good impression both in its desktop and mobile apps, with only a few features from the former not integrated into the latter.
CyberGhost had the potential to make a very positive impression upon us: It is easy to use, optically pleasing, has nearly all desired functions (apart from split tunneling), and offers some of the most generous device access/usage from among VPN providers. However, this last 'feature' started to create problems for us shortly after installation. Time and again, all devices we used would be automatically logged out with error messages that we had disconnected, or that we had exceeded our capacity. Some time afterwards, following a few restarts, we solved the problem, however, we remained doubtful, and our confidence in the program had been shaken. The support team member we spoke with ensured us that the problem was known, and that a solution was being worked on.
The problems we encountered were of a temporary nature, with CyberGhost performing as envisioned on our devices without issue.
Score: 4 / 5
CyberGhost possesses 4,500 servers in 59 countries. Like nearly every other VPN provider we reviewed, most of these are located in North America and Europe, with the US and Germany two of the countries with the most servers. CyberGhost's global network is impressive, even though, like other VPN providers, most of Africa and parts of Asia seem to have been overlooked. For example, all of Africa is covered by 10 servers in South Africa, and additional 10 in Kenya.
This is a general problem though, especially since some of the largest VPN providers have similarly overlooked these regions. In total, CyberGhost's server network can be classified as good.
Score: 4.3 / 5
The speed of all VPNs which we tested was evaluated using a server in Europe with a 1 GB/s connection. We tested random CyberGhost servers 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 155.6 MB/s and an upload speed of 15.1 MB/s, consigning it to ninth place in our speed ranking. This was not enough for a place on the podium, but these numbers aren't that far off from those of the top 3.
The diagram below shows CyberGhost's average speeds over the past months.
Score: 4 / 5
Security and Privacy
CyberGhost offers the usual selection of protocols: OpenVPN, L2TP, and IKEv2. PTPP is not supported, however, this protocol isn't really up-to-date anyways. Most users will be content with CyberGhost's automatic selection: OpenVPN on Windows and Android, and IKEv2 for MacOS and iOS. 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. The company's strict no-logging principle, which it advertises, has been called into question, creating a great deal of controversy. The support team members we spoke with promised us that no logs were compiled, but they weren't able (or willing) to go into detail on the topic. Whether they are true or not, the accusations against CyberGhost are too numerous for them to not be mentioned here.
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, generally converts data into money. This doesn't necessarily implicate CyberGhost, however, diametrically opposed, or contradictory corporate philosophies between parent company and subsidiary don't create much confidence either.
Back to the positives: CyberGhost passed our VPN leak tests (IPv6, DNS, and WebRTC) without any difficulties. As mentioned above, the kill switch is not an optional extra, but for security reasons, always engaged. The expected security features are all present.
On paper, CyberGhost does everything right, however, owing to controversy regarding its commitment to not log its users' data, as well as its dubious parent company, a bad taste is left in the mouth.
Score: 2 / 5
Note from November 2nd 2019: CyberGhost asked us to reconsider our criticism of their data privacy guidelines. The company's annual transparency report, headquartering in Romania (a country not party to major surveillance agreements), and its team's openness should all demonstrate, according to CyberGhost, that the company has nothing to hide. We've gladly incorporated this rebuttal into our review, however, we won't change our score, since none of the arguments provided by CyberGhost address its handling of logs, or the shady history of its parent company.
CyberGhost's customer support can be reached via contact forms/support tickets 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 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 20% of the pay-by-month package. Contracts are also available for 12 and 24 months. A current price list for CyberGhost can be found below:
|18 Months||6 Months||1 Month|
|Price per month||$2.75||$7.99||$12.99|
|Contract period (months)||18||6||1|
|Number of devices||7||7||7|
|Number of servers||5,300||5,300||5,300|
|Number of countries||90||90||90|
Subscriptions can be paid by PayPal, credit cards, and Bitcoin.
There are many positives to report about CyberGhost: Its performance is solid, its apps are sleek and tastefully designed, and its support is highly responsive, friendly, and knowledgeable. Following a few growing pains, all of CyberGhost's apps did precisely what they claimed to be able to, allowing us to take full advantage of its good server infrastructure.
Some functions, such as split tunneling, were missing in the desktop app. Especially in regards to anonymity and privacy, CyberGhost is more of a poltergeist than a Casper. For those who value complete transparency, other VPN providers are recommended, however, those who can live with the controversy surrounding CyberGhost, and its parent company, will be satisfied with this provider.
In the aggregated reviews that we analysed, CyberGhost performed rather well: Its many features and user-friendliness were particularly praised. Some users reported occasional instability.
Note from November 2nd, 2019: When we first published this review, CyberGhost was reported to have more than 10 million users worldwide. The developer informed us that this figure is dated, and that more than 30 million Cyberghosties exist. The company's number of servers and support languages have also been increased. Additionally, we claimed that split tunneling was only available in Android, however, it can also be utilized in the desktop app.