CyberGhost VPN aims to be one of the most privacy-focused providers. Their different take on how a VPN client should work makes it simple for new users to understand the options. With over 20 million users it’s clear that they have a popular service, but is it the right service for you?
Having a VPN is more important today than ever before. Your trail of information as you browse the internet is tracked by companies and can be bought and sold. Free public internet hot-spots are everywhere but could be hiding malicious intent. Governments may block what content you can access. Your ISP may be throttling your internet speed. A reliable VPN can help protect against all of these.
A VPN essentially acts as a tunnel out to the internet. They protect the internet traffic coming out from your computer or device from inspection by the ISP or others sharing the same network. Because your traffic then goes through the VPN’s servers, if the VPN provider isn’t trustworthy, you may be worse off. Therefore, “free” VPN services should be avoided.
CyberGhost was founded in Romania during 2011. As anyone who has lived under Soviet rule will tell you, privacy and freedom are essential and must be protected. They are a small team mainly located in Romania and Germany. Their website has profiles of all the employees, including the cleaning staff.
Since they have such a large number of users, their server infrastructure is equally impressive. CyberGhost currently has a little over 3000 servers in 60 countries. These are concentrated in the USA and Germany, but they also cover Asia and Europe well. They have a presence in Africa and South America, so world travelers shouldn’t have issues. It’s important to note that BitTorrent is not allowed by certain countries to limit their legal exposure.
The cost of CyberGhost is average. Their month to month runs a little high at $13, but the yearly plan is only $5.25 per month. This is a tad less than some other big providers. It might be possible to find limited-time 2- or 3-year plans for even less. Their payment options are standard for VPNs of accepting credit cards, PayPal and Bitcoin. There are no options for alternative cryptocurrencies or other payment services.
A subscription allows you to have 7 devices connected to their service. Each device takes a slot on your account page. If you want to add more devices, you need to remove one from the service. This is different than most VPN providers, which only limit the number of simultaneous connections, not total devices. This could be an issue if you have many devices, and it also means that each of your devices is tracked by them. They offer unlimited bandwidth, but the terms of service mention an 80 GB threshold they can enforce if they chose to do so. The service includes ad-blocking and online tracker protection.
A connection client for CyberGhost is available for major platforms. This includes Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android. Manual instructions are available for home routers and Linux as well. They have extensive help and guides available for more complex set-ups, but they are of only limited use to the average home user.
Any time you use a VPN, there will be an internet performance impact. Connecting to a remote server will increase response times, and the encryption will introduce additional overhead that lowers your maximum theoretical performance. A good VPN service will minimize these and not introduce any additional slowdowns. All our tests are performed on a dedicated wired internet connection.
CyberGhost live up to their promise of speed. We use both speedtest.net and fast.com to test theoretical VPN speed. We run each test five times connected and disconnected from the VPN. CyberGhost performed better than many other services. The performance impact was less than the typical 20% reduction in total speed in our tests. Ping times were only increased by 1milliseccond. With speeds like this, you won’t even notice you are connected.
Websites loaded incredibly fast in our synthetic page load tests. We use a tool to load automatically and time loading websites ten times connected and disconnected from the VPN. We test both simple websites and complex ones with many advertisements. In most cases, websites loaded faster while connected to the VPN! This shows that CyberGhost gives you the fastest connections.
In day to day use, using CyberGhost for browsing and downloading was great. Speeds were fast, and pages were responsive. CyberGhost blocks BitTorrent traffic for their servers in the United States and some other countries. To use P2P, you need to connect through their specialized servers in other countries using their Torrent profile. This will affect your speed, and most other VPN providers don’t do this.
CyberGhost has a profile dedicated to video streaming to unblock sites that are country-specific. After selecting the service you want to watch, it will automatically connect you to an appropriate server.
Using their respective profiles, we were able to watch Netflix and BBC iPlayer. When connected to CyberGhost’s other servers, we were not able to watch Netflix. YouTube videos played without issue at 1080p on all servers we tested.
CyberGhost’s Windows connection client operates differently than other provider’s clients. This starts from the setup. The installer is only a small executable, and it downloads the rest of the files needed for installation. This included the older .Net 3 runtime which is no longer pre-installed in Windows 10. If you don’t have access to the internet or CyberGhost is blocked, it is not possible to install the client. Having an offline installer available would have been an easy fix for this, but none was available.
After signing in, the client gives you different connection profiles.
These are the types of activities you would want to do, such as browsing anonymously, streaming video, or BitTorrent. This controls what servers it connects to and some of the optional features. This is important since BitTorrent is only allowed when connected to certain countries. The video streaming profile will connect you to the correct country for the service you want to see. For example, they have Netflix or BBC iPlayer options. There is also a chose my server profile, which lets you choose the country and shows you the ping time and load on each server.
The settings allow you to control additional security features. The connection page lets you choose the protocol used. Website or IP ranges can be added to an exception list, so they don’t go through the VPN tunnel. The kill switch can also be configured to close certain programs if the VPN drops.
The CyberGhost mobile apps work well. They also use the concept of connection profiles to control features such as add blocking or what country to connect through. They also have optional data compression. This could potentially save you some money if your cellphone only has a limited data plan.
CyberGhost uses industry-standard encryption of AES-256. They support all the popular protocols, OpenVPN, PPTP, and L2TP. Their support site has one of the best descriptions of the Pros and Cons of each. The login process to connect to the service requires that their main servers be reachable by the client. This is a major issue if you are trying to access from a location that blocks VPNs. In certain circumstances, it could make their service unusable. If you are in a country like this, they recommend not to use a VPN as it’s possible to detect.
We use Wireshark to capture the sign-in process and some traffic. We noticed that the service URL, cyberghostvpn.com, is transmitted in plaintext during the handshake.
This would make it clear to anyone snooping on your connection that you are using a VPN. This makes their service easy to track and block. Their desktop client also lacks a way to block local network traffic. This could allow an attacker on the same network as you to try to exploit your computer.
CyberGhost offers a slightly different take on VPN services. They are a small team, with a friendly approach, who are motivated to protect your privacy.
Compared to other services, CyberGhost is a good value. They have a slightly below average cost while maintaining excellent speed and service. The desktop client has profiles for the different types of activity you may want to do. This makes it simple to find a server that does what you want it to do, but most other services allow all traffic from any of their undifferentiated servers. This isn’t a significant issue for most users, but you couldn’t watch Netflix and use BitTorrent at the same time, for example. Also, the lack of local network traffic blocking on their client and potential for leaking the service name might keep privacy-focused individuals from using them.
CyberGhost is a good choice for casual users who are looking for a great value. If you are a world traveler or place privacy above all else, though, there are better options to consider.