For all the downsides of being a ghost – existing between two states of being, lacking a corporeal form, scaring people – one can’t help but envy the ability to move about invisibly, untraceable and unbound by physical barriers. Nowhere is this desire more prevalent than online, where every move you make is tracked and monitored by advertisers, administrators, ISPs, governments and hackers.
Enter CyberGhost, a VPN provider that pledges to turn you into, well, a cyber ghost.
With your location masked and your data encrypted, you’ll have free reign over the creepy old house that is the internet. Stalk the halls, rearrange the wall hangings, raid the fridge, do anything you like, for you’ll be perceived as nothing more than a shapeless, directionless blur in a snooper’s peripheral vision.
But how does CyberGhost stack up against its competitors, who bundle their VPNs with different features, different metaphors and different implications for your security and privacy? Our CyberGhost review will reveal the answer; let’s yank the sheet off and get started!
CyberGhost was founded in 2011 by Robert Knapp, an entrepreneur from Romania. Knapp’s passion for technology and his belief in privacy as a fundamental human right made him a natural fit for the VPN industry.
Today, CyberGhost has offices in Germany and Romania, with the latter serving as the company’s official headquarters. With a purported 30 million users across the world, it’s one of the most prominent VPNs in the cybersecurity community and beyond.
CyberGhost’s website is accessible and easy to navigate, with enough content that you never feel bombarded with “buy now” buttons and superfluous marketing copy. This is particularly true in the FAQ and the Privacy Hub, which are virtual treasure troves of information pertaining to the VPN and digital privacy, respectively.
The FAQ is surprisingly comprehensive for a VPN company, covering not just CyberGhost’s service and features but also the ins and outs of IP addresses, VPN protocols and other pertinent technologies. Some of the articles cover topics we haven’t seen on any other VPN websites, such as VPN server structures and DNSCrypt.
In the Privacy Hub, you’ll find guides for scrubbing your data from web giants like Facebook and Yahoo, primers on data breaches and software exploits, privacy news from around the world and other blog post-style articles about the digital age. It’s an excellent resource for the internet at large, not just CyberGhost’s customers.
CyberGhost offers desktop apps for Windows (Vista and up) and macOS (10.12 Sierra and up). A command-line interface is provided for Linux users running Ubuntu 18.04, Ubuntu 16.04 or Fedora 29.
Mobile apps are available for iOS and Android. Optimized versions of the Android app are available for Android TVs and the Amazon Fire TV Stick.
CyberGhost provides guides for configuring the VPN on Windows Phone, Raspberry Pi, Synology NAS, VU+ Solo2, Chrome OS and routers running DD-WRT or Tomato. You’re not precluded from using the VPN on other devices, but you’ll need to have enough technical expertise to configure everything without a guide.
Finally, CyberGhost offers free browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox. These extensions only protect your web browser and limit you to just a few servers, but they’re useful for users on a $0 budget or anyone who needs a quick VPN solution on a borrowed computer.
As with most VPN apps, the first thing you see when booting up the CyberGhost desktop app is a quick connect button. It’s accompanied by a short drop-down list of recommended servers and a connection status indicator; pick your server from the list, hit “Connect” and you’re all set.
If none of the recommended servers strike your fancy, you can open up the full location picker and make your selection with the help of some unexpectedly detailed statistics. Unlike with some of CyberGhost’s competitors, which limit your selections to the country or city level, you can whittle your results down to individual servers in a city, and each is labeled with distance, server load and the number of users currently connected to it.
You can also compile your own list of favorite servers or select from CyberGhost’s specialized streaming and torrenting servers.
In the “Connection Features” tab, you can enable or disable settings like ad and tracker blocking, malware detection and forced HTTPS. A unique data compression feature saves bandwidth and speeds up loading times by compressing images, videos and other web elements to reduce their file sizes.
The app’s “Smart Rules” tab lets you configure the VPN for all manner of scenarios. You can have the app automatically connect when a specific app is launched, set up connection rules for individual WiFi networks or boot up your web browser upon successful VPN connection.
If certain websites (like streaming sites or banking sites) don’t work properly when you’re connected to the VPN, you can add them to the CyberGhost app’s Exceptions list, which will cause them to use your base connection rather than the VPN. This is similar to the split tunneling feature offered by other providers, though unique in that it covers URLs, not apps.
Other settings include VPN protocol switching, DNS and IPv6 leak protection, a kill switch and port randomizing. The latter option directs your traffic through a variety of ports to evade VPN bans that rely on the ports that are typically used by VPN traffic.
The mobile apps follow the same basic layout but are more limited in the settings department – neither has a kill switch, leak protection or protocol options, for example. But the Android app does offer ad/malware/tracker blocking, port randomizing and data compression; both apps let you set up WiFi network rules like the “Smart Rules” from the desktop apps.
Usability Score: 8.5/10
CyberGhost’s website avoids many of the pitfalls we’ve observed on other VPN websites, balancing product information with tutorials and educational articles that cater to all who are interested in online privacy, not just paying customers. Of course any company’s goal is to make a profit, but CyberGhost’s Privacy Hub demonstrates that money isn’t its only motivation – internet freedom is equally important.
All the main OSes (and then some) are covered by CyberGhost’s apps, which blend good looks with intuitive controls. We especially like the detailed server lists and the extensive settings; data compression and port randomizing are both novel and useful, and we’ve rarely seen so many options for WiFi rules.
However, the mobile apps lag considerably behind their desktop counterparts on the features front. Most of the settings from the desktop apps aren’t carried over, including some fairly basic ones like leak protection and the kill switch; we hope that future updates will bring more functionality to CyberGhost’s mobile apps.
Servers and Locations
CyberGhost hosts over 3,800 servers in 58 countries, with enough diversity that even if you can’t find a server in your desired country, you should be able to get pretty close.
North America and Europe are, of course, the best-represented regions in CyberGhost’s server list. The USA alone accounts for over 700 servers, while Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the UK are each home to over 100 servers.
Asia is covered reasonably well, with servers in Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand. South America has four countries with CyberGhost servers; Africa and the Middle East have two countries each.
Some VPN providers use virtual servers to boost their coverage; these are partitions of a single physical server that can be configured to provide IP addresses from a country other than their true location. This can create concerns about data jurisdictions and provider transparency, especially if the virtual servers aren’t labeled as such or if their real locations aren’t disclosed.
CyberGhost does use some virtual servers, but they are always located in the country they claim to be in (except for the Luxembourg servers, which are located elsewhere, though their true location isn’t stated). On the user’s end, there isn’t any notable difference between the virtual and non-virtual servers in a given location.
Internet speeds have improved drastically over the past few years, to the point that if you have a solid base connection, any speed loss from using a VPN typically has little (if any) effect on your browsing experience. Because of this (and because of the countless variables involved in determining internet speeds), we don’t advise choosing a VPN provider based solely on speeds.
Since your base connection is one of the biggest VPN speed bottlenecks, we evaluate speeds relative to it – if you’re connected to a local server, for example, your speed should be within 80% of your base speed. With long-distance connections between Europe and North America, we like to see speeds fall within 50% of the baseline; it sounds like a big reduction, but on a typical cable or fiber home connection, 50% should still be more than enough for browsing, gaming, HD streaming and torrenting.
CyberGhost doesn’t quite reach the highest highs attained by some of its competitors, but it still meets our standards with ease. Local speeds range from 85-95% of baseline, while longer-distance connections within Europe or North America reduce speeds to 60-75% of baseline.
Transatlantic speeds approach our 50% benchmark but don’t fall below it, even with connections between the west coast of the USA and mainland Europe.
But things get more unpredictable once you venture outside of Europe and North America – speeds in Asia can fall to 15% of baseline, with some locations experiencing sporadic drops down to around 1Mbps. Many providers, especially those who use physical servers, have occasional issues with speeds in distant locations, so these results aren’t unusual.
Streaming appears to be a source of pride for CyberGhost, which offers specialized streaming servers for a wide variety of streaming sites around the world. This is no small feat, since many of these sites (especially Netflix) do everything in their power to detect and block VPN users as a means of complying with the licensing geo-restrictions put in place by copyright holders.
CyberGhost’s streaming servers evade these blocks by using an ever-changing roster of IP addresses. If a streaming site blocks one IP, a fresh one can be conjured up readily, keeping the VPN one step ahead of the streaming site.
All of the usual suspects – US Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, HBO Now, ESPN, YouTube – can be unblocked by CyberGhost, but it doesn’t stop there. The UK, France and Germany Netflix sites are also accessible, as are international sites like Brazil’s Globo, Germany’s ZDF and Zattoo, HBO Go Romania and France’s Canal+.
Performance Score: 9/10
CyberGhost doesn’t boast the highest number of servers, nor the most diverse spread of countries, but it doesn’t need to; its offerings should be perfectly sufficient for the vast majority of users. We appreciate the company’s transparency regarding its use of virtual servers, though we would like to see the few existing ones labeled with their physical locations.
Speeds are mostly excellent, with a few weak spots in the usual areas, like southeast Asia and South America. This is a problem that’s by no means exclusive to CyberGhost; weaker infrastructures in these areas have an inevitable impact on speeds regardless of provider.
Where CyberGhost really shines is its streaming performance. Rather than setting up a server for US Netflix and calling it a day, as many competitors have done, CyberGhost seems committed to providing access to a huge range of streaming sites both domestic and international.
With a whole wide world of content out there, we’re glad that CyberGhost isn’t limiting its efforts to just one or two streaming sites. Fans of international films, TV shows, news or sports are sure to be glad as well.
Choosing a VPN protocol is a bit like choosing your route to work: your vehicle is the same and so is your destination, but some roads are faster (or safer) than others. Usually there’s a clear preference, but it’s always good to have options in case circumstances change.
CyberGhost offers four protocols, some of which may not be available depending on your device: OpenVPN, IKEv2/IPsec, L2TP/IPsec and PPTP. The intricacies of these protocols are beyond the scope of this review, but here’s a quick overview of each option.
With the help of its open-source development community, OpenVPN has become one of the most popular and well-rounded VPN protocols. Its top-of-the-line AES-256 encryption provides the toughest security for your data, while its optimized code ensures minimal slowdowns and high reliability.
CyberGhost offers OpenVPN in its Windows, macOS and Linux apps; it’s also the only protocol included in the Android app. If you’re having issues with dropped packets or flaky connections, you can switch OpenVPN from its default UDP port to the slightly slower but more consistent TCP port.
IKEv2/IPsec is the second best protocol after OpenVPN. It has a slight edge over its open-source brethren on mobile devices as it can maintain a VPN connection during a switch between WiFi and mobile data, but it’s often blocked by firewalls on public and business WiFi networks.
All of CyberGhost’s apps (except Android and Linux) support IKEv2/IPsec. It’s the only option on iOS; Apple restricts the use of OpenVPN in iOS apps and CyberGhost, like many other providers, hasn’t jumped through all the convoluted hoops required to include it.
Many older devices stopped receiving updates before the advent of the two aforementioned protocols, so if you want to use a VPN on them, you’ll most likely be using the L2TP/IPsec protocol. It’s clunkier than its successors and rumored to be hackable by intelligence agencies like the NSA, so it’s best avoided if you have other options.
CyberGhost’s Windows and macOS apps support L2TP/IPsec. The protocol can also be manually configured on Android, iOS, Linux and Windows Phone.
When speed matters more than security (or when your OS is so old that security is a moot point anyway), PPTP is there for you. It’s the oldest VPN protocol and is generally the fastest as well, but it’s been cracked so many times that at this point it’s more like a proxy than anything else: it’ll change your location just fine, but it shouldn’t be used for any sensitive purposes.
PPTP can be manually configured on all OSes, but it’s not an option in the official CyberGhost apps. This is a good thing, as PPTP shouldn’t be used by anyone who doesn’t know what they’re doing.
CyberGhost’s regular servers should provide plenty of security for the average user, but for some people, there’s no such thing as too much security. Political activists, journalists and others who are at high risk of surveillance can rest a little easier by using the special NoSpy servers.
Rather than being rented from third party data centers, the NoSpy servers are all owned and operated by CyberGhost directly. They’re inaccessible both physically and virtually by anyone other than CyberGhost employees, so there’s no chance of any in-person tampering by data thieves or governments.
Though the NoSpy servers are located in Romania, they have their own dedicated uplink to ensure high speeds around the world. Because of this, they may appeal to those who don’t necessarily need beefed-up security but want the best speeds and highest reliability possible.
Windows and macOS users can take advantage of CyberGhost’s kill switch feature, which automatically cuts off all internet traffic in the event of a VPN disconnect or other connection error. This prevents applications from continuing to transmit data without the protection of the VPN, potentially revealing your IP address and unencrypted data in the process.
Unfortunately, the kill switch is not available for iOS or Android, nor is it available to users who manually configure their VPN connections rather than use the CyberGhost apps. Android users running version 8 or up can use the OS’s built-in kill switch to achieve the same results, and some routers include a kill switch as well.
Security Score: 8/10
CyberGhost provides industry-standard AES-256 encryption via, among others, the two most-recommended VPN protocols: OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPsec. It’s a pretty typical VPN offering, but that’s because it works so well; as the old adage goes, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
We’d like to see OpenVPN offered on iOS, but it’s an understandable omission given Apple’s harsh scrutiny of non-native VPN protocols. Slowly but surely, more VPN apps for iOS have begun to include OpenVPN support, so hopefully CyberGhost will join their ranks soon.
The NoSpy servers probably won’t be of interest to most users, but as with many security features, you’ll be glad they’re available if and when you do need them. We always like to see a VPN offer extra security options for the most vulnerable users, whose need for digital privacy is sometimes a matter of life or death.
Kill switches are everywhere these days, so it’s a bit surprising that CyberGhost only includes one in two of its apps. If anything, mobile users need a kill switch more than desktop users, since they tend to experience network changes (and interrupted connections) more frequently; hopefully CyberGhost adds this feature to the Android and iOS apps soon.
CyberGhost Privacy and Policies
CyberGhost is based in Romania, which lacks mandatory data retention laws. This means that CyberGhost isn’t legally required to collect or store any type of user data for any length of time, which enables the company to uphold its no-logging policy (see the next section for more information).
The EU’s 2006 Data Retention Directive, a law that required internet companies to store certain types of user data, was highly contested in Romania; in 2009, the Constitutional Court of Romania ruled that the law violated Romanian citizens’ right to privacy. Though the EU pressured Romania to enact the law again in 2012, the CCR overturned it a second time in 2014, the same year that the EU’s own courts invalidated the law across all member states.
Though laws against copyright violation and digital piracy exist in Romania, they’re rarely enforced as most authorities view these acts as victimless crimes. Enforcement is so lax, in fact, that Romania is featured in the USA’s Special 301 Report Watch List (PDF link), a compilation of countries whose intellectual property laws America deems inadequate (if not actively dangerous).
Overall, Romania is an excellent place for a VPN company. Its blasé attitude towards piracy and its history of protecting its citizens’ digital privacy are good signs that the government will continue to allow CyberGhost and its users to go about their business without interference.
CyberGhost has a no-logging policy, at least for session data. This means no records of browsing activity, IP addresses, timestamps, server locations, bandwidth statistics or any other data relating to your VPN usage are ever created or stored; there is no way to associate you or your CyberGhost account with any of your VPN activity.
Your email address is collected at signup for account creation and login purposes. If you pay with a credit card, your payment information is also collected and stored by a third party payment processor for billing and refund purposes; CyberGhost does not have access to your payment information.
Some anonymized and/or non-personal information is collected when you visit the CyberGhost website; this includes your OS version, browser version, country and language. This information is collected and stored by browser cookies; it’s used to remember your website preferences and for analytic purposes.
You have the option of providing CyberGhost with app debug logs on a routine basis or when you submit a support ticket. These logs include non-personal data such as your app version, device and OS information, timestamps and other data needed for troubleshooting; at no point are you required to provide these logs and telemetry can be disabled at any time.
Each year, CyberGhost releases a transparency report detailing all of the legal requests it received, including DMCA complaints, malicious activity reports and police requests. Because there are no logs and no ways to associate users with their activity, CyberGhost can’t provide any data in response to these requests.
CyberGhost does allow torrents on some of its servers. The P2P-approved servers are labeled as such both on the server list and on CyberGhost’s website.
The company states that it prevents torrenting on some of its servers to conserve bandwidth and ensure that performance isn’t hindered by high torrent traffic. It does this by blocking several ports that are typically used by torrent clients; this doesn’t prevent all torrenting, but it does limit it significantly.
Other servers disallow torrenting due to their location – in countries with strict copyright laws, such as the USA and Australia, excessive torrenting could have legal repercussions for CyberGhost, so the company prohibits torrenting on those servers. Countries with P2P-enabled servers include Canada, Japan and most of Europe.
As a proponent of internet freedom, CyberGhost works with journalists, activists and nonprofits who share the company’s belief that privacy is a human right. CyberGhost provides free VPN service to those who meet these criteria, ensuring that they can continue the fight for digital privacy and freedom of speech.
CyberGhost also assists users in countries where internet censorship and surveillance run rampant. In 2014, it provided VPN licenses to 30,000 users in Turkey, one of the most oppressive countries in the world when it comes to internet freedom.
Privacy and Policies Score: 9/10
By far the most important aspect of a VPN’s jurisdiction is whether or not mandatory data retention laws are in place. In this regard, CyberGhost is optimally located in log-free Romania, which has proven on multiple occasions that it believes in every citizen’s legal right to digital privacy.
The minimal information that CyberGhost collects – email address, OS version, country – is essentially useless, as it’s not tied to your browsing activity or (if you used an anonymous email address to register) your identity at all. While it would, of course, be ideal if no information was collected, the non-personal website usage data that CyberGhost collects is actually far less than most other websites (including other VPNs) collect.
CyberGhost was the first VPN provider to release a transparency report, an excellent indicator that the company is truly serious about its users’ safety. We’d like to see the company undergo an independent security audit as some of its competitors have done; this would increase trustworthiness even more and provide reassurance that CyberGhost doesn’t make any promises it can’t keep.
While it’s unfortunate that copyright enforcers have driven CyberGhost to block torrenting on some of its servers, P2P is far from a lost cause. Other providers limit torrenting to just a few servers, with some banning it entirely; CyberGhost offers a solid selection of P2P-enabled servers that should provide torrenters around the world with plenty of options.
We always like to see companies giving back to the community, as CyberGhost does with its Freedom program. By providing VPNs to those who need them most, CyberGhost shows that its internet freedom rhetoric is more than just a sales tactic – it’s a deeply-held principle.
CyberGhost Service and Value
CyberGhost offers two avenues for customer support: live chat and email support tickets.
The live chat function is difficult to find; you’ll need to scroll to the bottom of any support base page and wait for a “Help” button to appear in the lower right corner. Click on it and it opens a search box; type something into the box, hit Enter and then you’ll be shown a “Live Chat” button under the search results.
Once you complete this convoluted process, things get considerably better. The live chat reps are quick to respond and helpful for a surprising range of issues – they’re able to assist with everything from account issues to server selection to technical troubleshooting.
The support ticket system is pretty standard: enter your email address, provide some details like your OS and a description of your problem, attach any screenshots or debug logs you have and you’re all set. Responses are friendly and timely, arriving within an hour or two most of the time; unlike some other providers, CyberGhost’s support reps reply to your actual question rather than providing a form response.
Pricing and Payment
CyberGhost offers one service tier: unlimited bandwidth and seven simultaneous devices.
Simultaneous devices are handled differently here than with most other VPN providers. Rather than limiting your simultaneous connections – the number of devices actually using the VPN at the same time – CyberGhost restricts the number of devices you can associate with your account, whether you’re actively using them or not.
Once you’ve used the VPN on seven different devices (even if you only used some of them once), you’ll need to remove some from your account before you can use a new device. It’s a strange policy that seems unnecessarily restrictive – the number of devices that are able to use the VPN shouldn’t matter so much as the number of devices actively using it.
Prices are on the high side compared to other top providers: at $12.99 per month, the monthly plan is considerably more expensive than the average equivalent plan, which is typically closer to $10. If you pay $71.88 upfront for a year of service, the monthly price drops by more than half, down to $5.99.
CyberGhost’s two-year plan costs $88.56, which reduces the monthly cost to $3.69; the three-year plan provides the most bang for your buck at $99, which works out to just $2.75 per month. If you’re not afraid of commitment, these long-term subscriptions are an excellent value and are quite competitive with the equivalent plans from other providers.
The one-year, two-year and three-year plans include access to the NoSpy servers as well as a “One-time PC clean-up Reimage license.” Reimage is a Windows program created by CyberGhost’s parent company, Kape Technologies; it claims to optimize your computer by cleaning up old and unused system files and repairing corrupted ones.
The Reimage license and NoSpy servers are not included in the monthly plan and cannot be added onto it.
If you need a dedicated IP address for business, banking, gaming or any other reason, you can purchase one for an additional $5 per month. The extra fee is charged in accordance with your plan – if you pay monthly, you’ll pay an extra $5 each month; if you pick the annual plan, you’ll be billed an extra $60 at the start of your subscription.
The monthly plan comes with a 14-day money-back guarantee, while the other plans come with a 45-day money-back guarantee. Most providers offer a 30-day refund period at most, so this extended guarantee is a nice perk.
Payment options are fairly limited, though they cover all the most common methods: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, PayPal and Bitcoin (via BitPay). By using a throwaway email address and paying with Bitcoin, your CyberGhost account can be completely disassociated from your identity.
Service and Value Score: 7/10
CyberGhost’s customer support is skilled and responsive, but accessing the live chat is harder than it needs to be. It seems designed to force the user to search for their own answers before asking for help, which is understandable, but it’s so hidden that it took us nearly 20 minutes of clicking around before we were able to find it.
Prices start out high but become more reasonable as you commit to longer subscriptions. While $12.99 a month is definitely one of the priciest plans we’ve seen, $2.75 a month with the three-year plan is among the cheapest; the value here is largely dependent on how much you’re willing to hand over upfront.
CyberGhost’s handling of simultaneous devices is perhaps our least favorite thing about this VPN. You shouldn’t have to completely deauthorize an inactive device in order to use your VPN on a new one – the inactive device isn’t using any bandwidth or doing anything at all, so it seems silly to call it a “simultaneous connection.”
But we do like that you’re able to purchase a dedicated IP address, and it’s also nice that you can pay with Bitcoin. It’s a sad but true fact that many VPN providers still don’t offer any anonymous payment options, defeating the purpose of a privacy-enhancing service.
Final Score: 8.3/10
If you don’t want your online activity to come back and haunt you, CyberGhost is an excellent option. With this VPN, your data isn’t just protected by encryption, it’s guarded by strong Romanian privacy laws and a strict no-logging policy.
Server selection is solid geographically and stellar in terms of streaming capabilities. It’s getting tougher and tougher to find a VPN that can access international Netflix and other streaming sites that aren’t US Netflix or BBC iPlayer (and even those are getting rarer); kudos to CyberGhost for offering such a robust streaming experience.
Though CyberGhost’s desktop apps are among the best in the industry, its mobile apps leave something to be desired, namely better security. Without a kill switch, leak protection or any other security features from the desktop apps, Android and iOS users are at a disadvantage; we hope future updates help the mobile apps catch up to their desktop counterparts.
Above-average prices and a non-standard simultaneous device policy also work against CyberGhost, but they’re minor complaints relative to the overall value of this VPN. It’s a fantastic choice whether you’re looking to watch foreign TV, kill time at work or simply exercise your right to privacy no matter what you’re doing.
Now that you’re done reading the review, you could ghost us… but we’d love if you made the most of us! We’ve got plenty more knowledge to share with you – like these articles:
What Are the Best VPNs for International Netflix?
If you’ve binged your way through everything US Netflix has to offer, fear not: the rest of the world has plenty of content awaiting your eyes (and your time). VPN providers like CyberGhost and ExpressVPN can unblock many international Netflix sites and other foreign streaming sites.
Which Countries Protect Online Privacy?
The right to privacy shouldn’t be up for debate, but unfortunately, much of the world is ruled by governments that disagree with that statement, especially when it comes to the internet and digital data. But some nations, such as Switzerland and Romania, have taken steps to protect their citizens’ online privacy from both corporate and government surveillance.