CyberGhost VPN Review
Over the past few years, CyberGhost has come on leaps and bounds, establishing itself as a major player in the VPN market. Combining decent speeds with the ability to unblock geo-restricted streaming services like Amazon Prime Video and BBC iPlayer, it’s easy to see why CyberGhost has become so popular – especially when you consider its highly competitive pricing structure and generous cancellation policy. That said, CyberGhost still has room for improvement when it comes to customer support, while its parent company’s controversial past gives many users cause for concern.
Cyberghost VPN Key Features
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Pros & Cons
6 Things We Like:
- Competitive pricing
- Decent speeds
- 7 simultaneous connections
- Fast set-up
- Doesn’t interrupt Bluetooth / AirDrop
- Mobile app
3 Things We Didn’t Like:
- Disappointing technical support
- Streaming halted when changing servers
- Problems with Netflix
What would you like to do with Cyberghost?
CyberGhost delivered mixed results when I used it to unblock some major streaming sites. First of all, I tried out BBC iPlayer. Since I’m already in the UK, I just ran with the automatically recommended server, which worked fine for me. However, there’s also a dedicated BBC iPlayer option, which is optimized for iPlayer.
Then I switched over to a US server and to get past Amazon Prime Video’s rigorous geoblocking – and it worked! Although bear in mind that if you don’t have Amazon set up with a US address or credit card (and don’t want to change your account for this specific purpose), you won’t be able to get into the American Amazon Prime Video library. But anyway, that’s a measure Amazon has introduced internally, rather than the fault of the VPN.
To see how well CyberGhost would cope with hopping from one server to another, I went back to a UK-based server to stream a YouTube video of a hilarious interview with Irish comedian Aisling Bea…
… then switched over to the US server before I clicked on another video of her stand-up, which was explicitly labeled “Not viewable in the UK”…
Ha! Success. I want my dose of adorably enthusiastic Irish humor and it looks like you can’t stop me, YouTube.
Next, though, I tried the same thing with Netflix. And here’s where things got kind of disappointing.
First, I tried to access Netflix from the automatically suggested UK server. Immediately, I got this error warning:
I closed my browser window, cleared the cache, reconnected to the dedicated Netflix UK option, and tried again.
This time, Netflix loaded, but not with the UK library. I knew this because I’d just been watching the (highly addictive) UK-exclusive Season 3 of The Sinner, but now it was nowhere to be seen.
Just to be sure, I tried searching for a few other titles that I know are only available on Netflix UK – and none of them were there, either.
For comparison, I then switched over to CyberGhost’s Netflix US-ready server. Netflix stopped loading altogether. I also tried switching to a server in France. Again, Netflix now wouldn’t load at all, either in Safari or in Chrome. Once again, I closed everything down, cleared the cache, deleted the internet history, and restarted the CyberGhost app, trying the Netflix-friendly server in Japan. This time it connected and I even got the correct library.
So altogether… a little flaky. Especially when you compare it to the performance of other top VPNs that let you chop and change servers mid-stream without any interruption at all. And I never did manage to get the UK library working, even after speaking to customer support (more on that later).
Is Cyberghost Good for Torrenting?
CyberGhost doesn’t just allow torrenting, it even has specially created VPNs to make this work as well as it possibly can. All your P2P traffic is routed through an encrypted server – and because your real IP address is hidden, your ISP can’t throttle your internet traffic to prevent you from transmitting large files.
For a simple, above-board, no-illegal-activity test of CyberGhost’s torrenting capacity, I jumped over to Pirate Bay while connected to a US server and tracked down a public-domain copy of The Complete Works of Charlotte Bronte. This downloaded through uTorrent in around 10 seconds.
Before launching CyberGhost for the gaming test I had an excellent Ping rate of just 9 (as well as super speedy download and solid upload results):
With the VPN connected to the nearest recommended server, I still had great speed – in fact, these were barely affected. The Ping rate had gone up quite a bit, to 28. Anything under 30 is usually fine for gaming though, so this wasn’t too much of a concern.
I tested CyberGhost VPN’s performance by running the game Albion on Steam. It took a usually long time to connect to the game server, but once this had gone through, the updates downloaded pretty quickly.
Gameplay was smooth with no lags/delays or other noticeable problems.
Note that this game was played on desktop. If you’re using CyberGhost VPN for a gaming console like a Playstation or Xbox, you’d need to install this directly onto a router and connect via this protected router. It’s not possible to install a VPN app directly onto the console.
How Are Cyberghost’s Speeds?
CyberVPN delivered decent speeds when connected to local and US servers, although it was somewhat hit and miss for other places.
For comparison, here was my starting speed, before I connected to the VPN:
As you can see, with a download speed of 53 Mbps and an upload speed of 8.7, it wasn’t lightning quick, but still more than reasonable.
Interestingly, it actually got faster when I connected to a VPN, possibly because my internet traffic was being throttled by my Internet Service Provider. The ping speed slowed but the download speed nearly doubled, and the upload speed went up, too.
… In fact, it stayed higher even when I reconnected to a US server, with a download speed of 63, although the ping speed slowed dramatically.
I also had a pretty good speed when I connected to a Japanese server, nearly 6,000 miles away, with a download speed of 42.7 (albeit a poor ping score).
Cyberghost offers a feature whereby you can see how many people are connected to a particular server and what capacity it’s at. That allows you to choose the lower-load servers with a view to get better speeds… at least, in theory.
I tried connecting to a server in Bosnia, which had just 85 users and was at 30% load. As a European country, it isn’t *that* far away from where I am, but the speed was really poor:
For comparison, I then connected to one in Cambodia, which said it was at just 12%. Alarmingly, when I went to do a speed test, the site saw my real, UK IP address! When I closed the browser and reopened it, my IP address was detected as Phnom Penh, but that certainly shouldn’t be happening – and suggests something of a security bug.
I did, however, get a very good speed (a download speed of 77 Mbps), especially considering the distance.
When I connected to Estonia, which is relatively close geographically and was at just 11% server capacity, the speed ground almost to a halt!
… Whereas France, which was at nearly 50% server capacity when I tried it, has a super-quick connection, with nearly 100 times the speed.
So as you can see, mixed results. There were plenty of servers available with great speeds, they just didn’t always match up with what you might expect from the stats displayed by the app.
Security and Privacy
CyberGhost uses the very best, most cutting-edge data encryption algorithms: 256-bit AES Encryption. Nothing is cracking that code… which is why it’s the encryption type favored by governments and militaries to protect their secrets. You can’t fault it.
That means what you get up to online is shielded from the prying eyes of your government, institution or ISP provider. It also means you can use public WiFi without worrying about other people on the network spying on your or stealing sensitive personal and financial data.
However, I do have my suspicions that there may be some chinks in the armor – for example, the issue above, when the speedtest site was able to detect my real IP address while I was connected to the VPN.
DNS and IP Leak Protection
Not every VPN fully prevents your IP address from being revealed to DNS servers – but CyberGhost does.
When this slips through the net, it’s called DNS leak. CyberGhost protects against this happening by ensuring that your system goes through the CyberGhost Domain Name Server (DNS) for everything, rather than your ISP’s. I double-checked their claim by performing a DNS leak test while connected to a server in Japan and it checked out fine:
Just bear in mind that you will need to disconnect Dropbox and similar drives before you launch the app and then reconnect afterwards to be absolutely sure.
CyberGhost’s kill switch is automatically switched on and can’t be disabled or modified. While this might be frustrating for people who would prefer to “split tunnel” their internet traffic, only applying the VPN to certain apps or connections, it does at least mean you don’t risk your real IP address being accidentally displayed if there’s a dip in your internet connection or the VPN crashes.
CyberGhost’s Not-So-Secure Owner
One thing that worries many users about CyberGhost is its parent company, Kape Technologies. Or as it used to be called, Crossrider.
Kape/Crossrider is an Israeli tech company that bought CyberGhost in 2017, and which changed its name the following year to distance itself from some very dodgy past practices. Crossrider used to create malware, including adware for Macs, disguising these in software packages or fake Adobe Flash update installers. Some of these are still floating around the internet, infecting computers to this day.
Even if CyberGhost has stayed true to its purpose, it’s not a great sign when a company designed to improve security and privacy is bought out by a company that literally used to profit from undermining user security and privacy without their knowledge.
CyberGhost is based between Romania and Germany, the latter of which is a member of the “Fourteen Eyes” Alliance, along with the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Belgium, Italy, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Norway (plus the non-member partners Singapore, Israel, and Japan). This is an intelligence-sharing arrangement with Cold War origins.
Basically, if the government of any country in the alliance gets hold of your data, all the other members of the alliance will be able to get to it, too. This means that if the German government were to compel CyberGhost to hand over the information they have on you, the US government would be able to share that intelligence. For this reason, a lot of VPN users who err on the side of paranoia prefer to choose a company that’s based in a country with strong privacy laws and based outside of the Fourteen Eyes Alliance.
Should this be a concern? Well, by and large, Germany is a country that takes privacy protections and freedom of speech seriously. At the same time, the government has in recent years introduced legislation that increased its surveillance powers at home and abroad. Police are allowed to monitor your online activity even if they don’t suspect you of a crime.
What’s more, both Germany and Romania are members of the European Union (EU), which has at times passed pretty controversial data retention laws of its own, in the name of Counter-Terrorism (although, to be fair, Romania refused to comply with them).
No Logs Policy
All of that aside, CyberGhost does have a very thorough no-logs policy. The company is emphatic about this.
… Like, really, really emphatic. This is what they had to say about the no-logs issue:
“WE DO NOT LOG REAL IP ADDRESSES, WE DO NOT LOG ASSIGNED SERVERS, WE DO NOT LOG LOGIN OR LOGOUT TIMES, WE DON’T MERGE ANY REAL DATA (like purchase data) INTO ACCOUNT DATA, WE DO NOT LOG TRAFFIC DATA (e.g. which website are visited) NOR ANY INFORMATION SENT VIA A CYBERGHOST SERVER. CyberGhost VPN neither observes nor records content like messenger chats, telephone calls, video chats, or other communication forms, nor stores IP addresses (not the ones the users are heading to, and not the ones users have, when logging into the CyberGhost VPN network). Furthermore, it’s not possible to record, which account logged into which server at what time or to connect a real person to a certain CyberGhost VPN account.”
Well, that seems pretty clear. Plus, the company says that it locates its “no-spy” servers in Romania rather than Germany, which means that these are outside of the jurisdiction of the 14 Eyes Alliance. The Romanian government doesn’t enforce mass surveillance and data gathering techniques, meaning your privacy rights are stronger than if the servers were based in Germany.
However, if you’re unconvinced and want to know more, they welcome that, too. The company says they don’t expect anyone to trust them blindly and will happily answer any questions or concerns, as well as inviting NGOs, activists, and civil rights organizations to their headquarters to take a look at the source code (and server locations) for themselves.
All of which sounds very transparent until you notice this little nugget lurking in the T&Cs:
“CyberGhost undertakes no responsibility for your actions. In case of statutory violations by the user, CyberGhost may cooperate with public or private authorities at its sole discretion as provided by law.”
While obviously all companies need to comply with national laws when this is demanded of them, it’s unclear what’s meant by “private companies”. There have been some murmurings in the privacy and security space that CyberGhost could potentially share customer data with its parent company, Kape Technologies (see the “Security” section above). Given the company’s shady history, it’s a legitimate concern.
Anonymous Payment Options
One handy privacy feature is the ability to pay using Bitcoin, which means you don’t have to hand over real names or addresses. This just means that there’s no trail to show that you ever purchased a VPN. While this might not be a particular worry for many users, there are some countries, like Belarus, where VPNs are entirely illegal (or like China, where you can only use government-approved ones). In many others, you might reasonably worry that the authorities would hassle you if you were on their radar and they knew you were using a VPN.
… Or you may simply feel more secure knowing that even if the company was hacked or suffered a data breach, no one could get hold of your personal information and payment details. Whatever your reasons, cryptocurrency can provide a useful, privacy-friendly way to pay.
Usability – Is Cyberghost Easy to Navigate?
CyberGhost is very easy to download and set up – it just takes a few clicks and you’re all set. Once the app is running, you can choose to hit the connect button and have the app pick the best server for you automatically.
Alternatively, for more options, you can press the yellow arrow to reveal (and search) the full list of servers, selecting the best one for downloading or streaming.
As you can see, this also gives you a ton of extra information on each server, like the distance from you and the number of people connected to each server. That means you can pick a server that you know has a low load to help maximize your speed:
When you download the desktop version, CyberGhost will also email you suggesting you install the app on your mobile device(s), too, which makes it even quicker and simpler to install.
For the most part, it’s really easy to use. However, a few times, when I clicked on the app screen or icon while the VPN was connected, it switched off the VPN automatically. Once or twice, it also switched on the VPN by itself (after I had turned it off) both on my phone and on my laptop. This may just be a case of getting used to the system, but I haven’t experienced this issue with any other VPNs in the past.
CyberSecurity is definitely on the cheaper end of VPNs in this quality range. A one month subscription costs $12.99 per month, which is pretty standard, but it gets dramatically cheaper when you sign up long term. A one year subscription works out at $5.99 per month, a two year subscription at $3.79 per month, and a three year subscription just $2.99 per month.
You do have to pay the full $99 up front, of course, but you have a 45-day window to change your mind if you decide it’s not for you. Which is more generous than the standard 30-day cancellation period that most VPN providers offer.
Cyberghost Customer Support
CyberGhost doesn’t have phone support, but does offer live chat support. The problem is that you first need to deal with an annoying AI chatbot, which acts as the gatekeeper. This means when you ask even a relatively straightforward but non-stock question, the chatbot bombards you with suggested related material based on keywords extracted from your question, like so:
Yes, thank you, captain obvious. Not particularly helpful for dealing with my issue.
Especially as, to make it even more confusing, the chatbot then tells you to enter your email address so a real person can contact you about the problem, but once you’ve done this, it immediately connects you to a real person. (It took me a moment to realize this *was* now a real person, as I had to repeat all the same information again). This also led to a barrage of unnecessary emails over the next few hours, all telling me that I’d opened various support tickets, and a somewhat passive-aggressive follow-up from the person I spoke to, who seemed to think I’d contacted email support *after* our chat (I hadn’t). Altogether, a weird, awkward, buggy process – especially when you compare it to the excellent customer support offered by many competitor VPN providers.
Also, while the support techie was perfectly polite, the information they gave me was… well, it wasn’t true. As you can see from the screenshots, I’d reached out to explain that I couldn’t access Netflix UK while connected to a UK server on my VPN (as explained earlier in this review, this inexplicably took me to the US one). After half an hour of trying to figure this out, the tech support person concluded the issue wasn’t the fault of CyberGhost VPN, but rather “Netflix politics”, whatever that means.
To demonstrate that it really was a CyberGhost thing, I switched over to a different VPN, which allowed me to connect to Netflix UK instantly, and sent a screenshot. At this point, the support person said they’d need to take it up with their tech team and would get back to me ASAP. At the time of writing (several days later) I hadn’t heard back, so I’m not holding my breath on that one.
How Does CyberGhost Compare
Our Verdict, Your Choice
CyberGhost is a solid VPN at a very attractive price. It delivers great speeds from an enormous range of servers all over the world. It uses military-grade encryption to keep your connection extremely secure. It boasts a no-logs policy for privacy. It unblocks all major streaming services and social media platforms. It doesn’t interfere with things like wireless speakers or file transfer, whether these operate over Bluetooth or shared WiFi connection. You can install it on up to 7 devices, including those with Windows, iOS, and Android operating systems.
I did find it a little clunkier to use than other leading VPNs, though, and my experience with the support team wasn’t as productive as it could have been. If you need to jump between different server connections seamlessly for any reason (without disruptions like having to close and reopen your browser) it might not be the best option for you. I also have some concerns about possible security hiccups while using it which means I’d hesitate to recommend CyberGhost to people whose online privacy is a matter of life or death, or indeed users who are nervous about using this for torrenting. For most users, though, it should be more than adequate, especially if you’re using it primarily for streaming or gaming.
In short, you probably won’t be entirely blown away with CyberGhost, but neither will you be disappointed – especially when a long term plan costs just a few dollars a month. Besides, if you aren’t impressed with it, you have 45 days to change your mind.