Editor's Note: What immediately follows is a rundown of the latest changes and additions since this review was last updated.
- The service now has over 5900 servers in 90 countries. (January 2020)
- CyberGhost stopped supporting PPTP and L2TP protocols. (January 2020)
- The service now has over 6050 servers in 87 countries. (February 2020)
- Linux app was updated and the new app has WireGuard support. (February 2020)
CyberGhost VPN boasts more than 4,800 servers across 58 countries. Torrents are allowed on many, though not all servers, and the company offers custom clients for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and more.
Apart from the regular VPN functionality, CyberGhost VPN includes a host of bundled extras. It can block malicious websites, ads and trackers. Automated HTTPS redirection ensures you make the most secure connection possible to every website, and optional data compression can reduce bandwidth, maybe saving money on mobiles.
- Want to try CyberGhost? Check out the website here
Turning on so many powerful functions at once can cause browsing problems in some situations, but fortunately you're able to choose which, if any of these features you'd like to use, while disabling everything else.
CyberGhost supports connecting up to seven devices simultaneously. That's a little above average (the industry standard is five), but keep in mind that these must be specific devices. Connect from a phone, or a games console, or a Smart TV, just once, that's one of your slots used up. If you run out of slots, later, you can log out of individual devices, but that can still be a hassle.
Elsewhere, a web knowledgebase is available if you need it, while chat and email support is on hand to help you through any particularly tricky bits.
Plans and pricing
Signing up for CyberGhost VPN's monthly account costs $12.99 a month, at the high end of the industry-standard $10-$13.
The price falls steeply as you extend your subscription, though, with an annual plan costing an equivalent $5.99 a month, dropping to $3.69 over two years, and a bargain $2.50 over three.
Some plans may include unexpected extras. During a previous review, for instance, the one year and longer plans came with a 'One-time PC clean-up Reimage license.' This wasn't visible until we chose a one-year plan and selected a payment method, so be sure to try that before you buy.
Whatever you choose, you're able to pay by Bitcoin, as well as PayPal and credit card.
There are free trials available, although they're more complicated to understand than usual.
Download and create an account via Windows, for instance, and you'll get just 24 hours to try the service out. Not only is this very short, you're also not getting access to the full service. The client doesn't enable connecting to some of the specialist streaming connections, for instance, and every time you connect at all you're warned that all the 'free slots' are used up, and you must wait a minute or two.
You can get more trial time by signing up with the iOS app, giving you seven days. But you have to sign up with the app first. If you create your account via Windows, then sign into your iOS app using the same account, its trial will also expire after 24 hours.
Install the Android app, though, and you don't have to create or log into a CyberGhost account, which means you'll get your full 7-day trial, no matter what.
Confusing? Yep. The best approach is probably to start with the Android app, if you can, to get a feel for CyberGhost performance and see if you can access Netflix and other blocked sites. If you like what you see, pick a day when you've nothing else to do and spend it intensively testing the desktop client.
We would prefer something simpler - would it really be so difficult to have seven days free, whatever your platform? - but at least CyberGhost gives you a chance to try before you buy. And if you do sign up and then find the service doesn't work for you, good news - the company now has a lengthy 45-day money-back guarantee, one of the most generous deals around.
Logging and privacy
Like many VPNs, CyberGhost's website proudly boasts of a 'strict no logs policy' on its front page.
"...when using the CyberGhost VPN, the user's traffic data such as browsing history, traffic destination, data content and search preferences are not monitored, recorded, logged or stored by the Company. More than this, when using the CyberGhost VPN, we are not storing connection logs, meaning that we don't have any logs tied to your IP address, connection timestamp or session duration."
Brief descriptions like this aren't always precise, so the policy goes on to spell out the implications.
"We do NOT know at any time which user ever accessed a particular website or service We do NOT know which user was connected to our CyberGhost VPN service at any given time or which CyberGhost VPN server IP they used We do NOT know the set of original IP addresses of a user’s computer"
If you need more, a a 'Does CyberGhost log? No!' support document adds a little extra detail.
While we applaud CyberGhost's clarity, the reality is these are just words on a website, and there's no way for an individual user to know how the service actually works. Some VPN providers (NordVPN, VyprVPN) are addressing this by having independent audits run on their systems, and we hope CyberGhost and the rest of the industry will soon do the same.
We quickly noticed one odd issue. Most VPNs maintain your privacy by providing DNS from their server IPs, so if you've connected to a New York server, you'll have a New York DNS IP address. But when we connected from the UK, CyberGhost gave us a New York IP, but a DNS IP address from the UK.
This isn't a major failing. CyberGhost's DNS protection was doing its core job, replacing our original DNS server with its own. It's not unusual for devices to use DNS servers which aren't in their own country, so websites would have no reason to assume we were in the UK, rather than the US. And providing DNS servers closer to our own location should help to improve browsing speeds, so there are benefits.
CyberGhost is giving away fractionally more information than most top VPNs, then. But the concerns are mostly theoretical, and unlikely to make any real day-to-day impact on your privacy.
Measuring VPN performance is difficult as there are so many factors involved, but we tried to get an idea of CyberGhost speeds by testing local UK and US speeds with benchmarking websites including SpeedTest and TestMy.
Our nearest UK servers delivered solid and exceptionally consistent speeds, averaging around 63Mbps on our 75Mbps fiber broadband line.
The added encryption of OpenVPN had reduced performance, inevitably, but CyberGhost still only cut our speeds by around 6-7%, a minimal overhead.
We carried out our US tests on a fast 475Mbps connection, and saw speeds range between 125-155Mbps. That's slower than some of the top competition - ExpressVPN's servers sustained speeds of more than 400Mbps - but it's better than most, very consistent, and more than good enough for most devices and situations.
Measuring speeds to more distant servers is less reliable as a benchmark, as there are extra routing and latency issues to consider. Still, even by these standards, CyberGhost was a little disappointing. Australia managed a usable 25-30Mbps, but most Asian locations were significantly less, Vietnam struggled to reach 3Mbps, and the Indonesia server was so slow that most tests either failed, or returned results of under 1Mbps.
The performance picture is mixed, then, but keep in mind that our tests only give a snapshot of speeds at a point in time. If you have specific server needs outside of the most common European and North American locations, though, we'd recommend you test them carefully before you buy, to check how the service performs for you.
Unblocking Netflix and similar sites can be a challenge, even with the best of VPNs. That's because most providers won't tell you which servers work, and which don't, forcing you to work down every server in the target country until you finally get lucky.
CyberGhost's apps seem to make life much easier by highlighting locations which support the services you need. When we chose the Streaming filter in our Windows client, for instance, we saw recommended locations for US Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, YouTube TV and more, along with other specialist servers for Canada, France, Germany, Finland, Poland, Brazil and more.
The UK servers worked for us, bypassing the BBC's VPN detection and allowing us to stream iPlayer content without difficulty.
It was the same story in the US, where choosing the highlighted servers got us into US YouTube and US Netflix right away. If you're looking for an easy way to unblock Netflix, CyberGhost could be a smart choice.
While some VPNs hide their torrent-friendly status, CyberGhost is rather more up-front. Just launch the Windows client, for instance, and you'll find one of its server lists is titled 'for Torrenting'.
There are some helpful tweaks buried in the Settings, too, including the ability to automatically connect your preferred CyberGhost connection whenever you launch your torrent client (more on that later.)
Bonus features include a malicious URL filter, enabled by default, which could help you avoid a lot of trouble.
If you ignore the 'for Torrenting' list and connect to a VPN location manually, there is some scope for problems. CyberGhost explains that "we have to block P2P protocols on certain servers, either due to strategic (this is traffic that unnecessary slows down other user's traffic) or due to legal reasons in countries where we are forced by providers to block torrent traffic, among them USA, Russia, Singapore, Australia and Hong Kong."
If you stick to the recommended list, though, CyberGhost works well, and overall, it's a simple and straightforward way to anonymize your torrenting activities.
CyberGhost does its best to make sure the setup process is as easy as possible, and for the most part it's very successful.
Clicking the Trial link on the website quickly downloaded the tiny Windows installer. We accepted the terms and conditions, entered our email address and password, and after clicking the usual 'please confirm your address' link in a follow-up email, that was it. We were ready to go, with no payment or other details required.
It's much the same story with the mobile apps. The CyberGhost site links you to each app store, and you download and install the apps in the usual way.
If you need the OpenVPN configuration files to set up a router or other device, though, your life becomes considerably more complicated. While other VPN providers typically give you a bunch of standard .OVPN files to download, CyberGhost asks you to log in to your account; add a device profile; choose the features you need (ad blocking, data compression, malware protection, more); choose OpenVPN TCP or UDP; choose your target country; note down a server name, custom user name and password; and download the .OVPN file, certificates and key files in a zip file. If you're looking to set up multiple locations, you must also rename each .OVPN file to something appropriate.
This approach has some advantages - it's secure and gives you a high level of control over how each connection works - but if you're just hoping to download 50 standard OpenVPN configuration files, get ready for disappointment. There's a lot of setup work to do.
CyberGhost's Windows client opens with a clean, lightweight interface: a simple console with connection status, a list of locations and a Connect button.
Don't be fooled, though - there's a lot of functionality tucked into a right-hand panel which you can open whenever you need it. A location picker lists all servers, along with their distance and current load. You can filter this to display servers optimized for streaming or torrents, and a Favorites system makes it easy to build your own custom list.
Right-clicking CyberGhost's system tray icon also displays all the available servers, with submenus for torrenting, streaming and your favorites. You could opt to choose, switch and close connections without ever bothering with the main client interface.
Useful options start with a Connection Features panel, where you're able to enable privacy features including blocking for ads, trackers and malicious websites. CyberGhost can automatically redirect HTTP connections to HTTPS for extra security, and a bonus Data Compression feature compresses images and 'other elements' to reduce traffic and improve performance.
A Smart Rules panel gives you an unusual level of control over how the client works. Most VPNs have an option to launch when Windows starts, for instance, but CyberGhost also allows you to connect to your preferred server, and automatically launch a particular app, such as your default browser in incognito mode.
There's even more flexibility in the Wi-Fi Protection panel, where CyberGhost allows you to decide exactly what happens when you connect to new networks. You can have the client automatically connect to the VPN if the network is insecure, for instance; never connect if it's encrypted; perform custom actions for specific networks (always protect at home, never protect at work), or simply ask you what to do.
The surprises continue, everywhere you look. App Protection can connect you to a specific location when you open an app, for instance. No need to remember to enable the VPN before you use your torrent client-- CyberGhost can automatically do it for you.
There's another handy touch in the Exceptions feature, where you can build a list of websites which won't be passed through the tunnel. If a streaming site is only accessible to users in your country, add it to CyberGhost's Exceptions and it'll never be blocked, no matter which VPN location you're using.
If this sounds too complex, maybe you're only after the VPN basics, no problem, it can all be safely ignored. You'll never even see it, unless you go looking. But if you'd like to fine-tune the service, optimize it to suit your needs, CyberGhost gives you a mix options and opportunities you'll rarely see elsewhere.
Elsewhere, the Settings box enables choosing your preferred protocol (OpenVPN, IKEv2, L2TP), using random ports to connect (may bypass some VPN blocking), and enabling or disabling a kill switch, IPV6 connections and DNS leak protection.
Our tests showed the kill switch worked very well. Whether we forcibly closed an OpenVPN or IKEv2 connection, or even killed the openvpn.exe process entirely, the client spotted this, raised the alarm (sometimes a little slowly, but eventually), and automatically reconnected, without ever exposing our real IP. That's a tough test, but CyberGhost passed it without difficulty.
CyberGhost's mobile apps are far simpler than their desktop cousins, with much less functionality and a relatively basic interface.
The iOS app opens with little more than a Connect/ Disconnect button, for instance. By default, it connects to your nearest server, but you can also browse a list of locations. Tapping a location displays load information, including the number of connected users, and you can save specific locations to a Favorites list.
Settings are minimal - you can't even choose your protocol - but the app does a good job of helping you define how it should be used with particular networks.
When we first launched the app, for instance, it displayed our nearest wifi network name on the opening screen. That's unusual, but a very good idea, as it helps you see what you're using to connect. If you tap the name, you can specify whether you want CyberGhost to automatically protect it in future, or prompt you to decide each time. And the app can save the appropriate actions for all the networks you use regularly, so it knows exactly what to do at home, work, the coffee shop or the library.
The Android app doesn't display your current wireless network, unfortunately. It does have some web filtering options not offered by the iOS version, though, including the ability to compress data, and block trackers and malicious websites. You also get the desktop client's ability to use a random port when connecting to the VPN, a simple trick which might help bypass VPN blocking.
There's also a Favorites list for storing your most commonly accessed locations, especially handy on a mobile device where it's less convenient to find items on a lengthy list.
Overall, CyberGhost's mobile apps aren't bad, but they're still short of some key functions you'll often see elsewhere (kill switch, a choice of protocol and protocol settings), and there's plenty of room for improvement.
Point your browser at the CyberGhost support site and it's hard not to be impressed by the sheer weight of articles. There are guides for Windows, iOS, Mac, Android, Linux, Kodi, consoles and routers, along with troubleshooting articles and assorted other FAQs.
When we looked more closely, though, we began to spot plenty of issues. These start with how the articles are organized. We would expect installation issues to have a section all on their own, for instance, but instead they're spread around and mixed with other articles. You can search the articles for keywords, but this doesn't help very much, as the results don't seem to be sorted by usefulness.
Article content is often poor, too. We headed off to the Troubleshooter's 'Connection and speed problems' section and noticed that there wasn't a single guide offering generic speedup advice (connect from a different network, connect to a different location, try a different protocol, reboot your hardware - you know the drill.) Instead, we found pointless content like this:
"If you use UMTS boards to connect to the Internet, you normally install that board's software as well. These programs may cause problems, when using CyberGhost VPN, surprisingly even after stopping using the UMTS board."
That's not a snippet, we've not edited it or left anything out. It's the entire article. Previous CyberGhost users seem to share our view - the article states that '0 of 8 found this helpful' - but it's still here.
Out-of-date guides were a problem. A Windows tutorial talked about how CyberGhost gives you a 7-day trial, for instance (it's now just 24 hours.)
Other articles included some questionable advice. The very first article in the Troubleshooter section, for example, suggested that a clean install of CyberGhost's client will 'solve most of the issues.' If you're an experienced VPN user, ask yourself - how many of your worst problems have ever been due to a problem with the client installation?
It gets worse. The very first practical suggestion for "What to do, if CyberGhost seem to slow down your Internet connection" was to change your MTU from 1500 to 1300, way too drastic as a first step. That's way too drastic as a first step and could easily slow down your non-VPN connections, too, but CyberGhost doesn't give you a hint of that, or warn non-technical users to undo the step if it doesn't work.
Some of these articles appear to have been poorly translated from the original, too ("in daily life quite a few adversenesses influence the real possible speed"). Although they're still generally understandable, this means the content isn't always as precise and clear as it needs to be.
You can also talk to a real, live, human being, fortunately, via email and live chat support. CyberGhost does its best to hide the chat support - you must click a Help button bottom-right, then enter a keyword to search the knowledgebase, before the Chat button appears - but we found it eventually.
One click and a couple of minutes later, a support agent was responding to our question. Despite us choosing a slightly technical topic on the generation of OpenVPN configuration files, he immediately understood what we needed, and clearly explained everything we needed to know.
CyberGhost's support site may be dubious, then, but that's not the end of the story. If you're running into problems, there's a good chance that the live chat support will quickly point you in the right direction.
CyberGhost is a capable VPN service with an exceptionally powerful Windows client, packed with features yet still easy to use. The mobile clients are much more ordinary, but there's still plenty to like here, from Netflix unblocking to low three-year prices and helpful live chat support.
- Also check out the best VPN services of 2020