CyberGhost is an Israeli-based (previously Romanian-based) VPN provider founded in 2009. They are notable as one of the only mainstream providers to offer a free account alongside its paid subscription accounts.
CyberGhost is not a big brand in the VPN industry despite their 10 million reported users. CyberGhost offers a network of 700+ servers across 29+ countries via a range of devices including Android, iPhone, Mac & Desktop. They have a unique approach to P2P (neither banning nor fully allowing), a good focus on usability and complementary features.
After years of foolishly running my online business via public WiFi, I decided to start using a VPN to secure my communications (and access a bit of out of market sporting events while traveling).
But I found out that – similar to web hosting – there is no such thing as a “best VPN provider”. In fact, it’s like a whole world of confusing information where even trustworthy information is near-useless since it’s so complex. This CyberGhost review is my notes from trying them out for my own purposes as a security-aware, traveling, US-based businessperson who needs good usability and good pricing. I am not a political activist or someone who regularly travels to firewalled countries.
Whether you are looking for a VPN for privacy, for website access, for avoiding geotargeting, for protecting communications or all the above, hopefully, this CyberGhost VPN review will be useful.
See CyberGhost’s Plans here…
Here’s my CyberGhost VPN review – structured with pros & cons based on my experience as a customer.
Disclosure – I receive referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All opinions and data are based on my experience as a paying customer performing independent research.
CyberGhost Pros / Advantages
CyberGhost VPN provides all the features you need and expect from a VPN service. The basic features are simple and straightforward, so those new to VPN can use them without a hassle. Advanced features are available for those with more experience around VPNs. Here are some of the advantages that I found using CyberGhost.
Multiple Plans w/ Free Option
It’s rare to find a free VPN that actually works. Of course, the free plan isn’t nearly as fast or reliable as a paid subscription, but it’s a great way for newcomers to test out a VPN service for themselves.
Upgraded service plans are also very competitive against CyberGhost’s premium competitors. For just $5.83 per month (billed annually), the Premium plan gives you faster speeds, access to more servers, an ad-free experience, and the ability to connect to 1 device. Premium Plus runs at $9.16 per month. for up to 5 devices/
CyberGhost’s Premium plan and Premium Plus plan both come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
If you are using multiple devices, then that will run a bit more expensive than single price plan competitors. But if you only need a single device, then that pricing is excellent.
Every plan, including the free plan, comes with unlimited bandwidth and unlimited traffic. All plans utilize OpenVPN protocol with AES 256-BIT Encryption for the utmost in security.
The free service is only available on a single Windows, Mac or Android device. CyberGhost VPN is available for use on other platforms, such as Linux, by upgrading to a paid subscription.
Speed is the main difference between the free service and the premium paid plans. Speeds are about five times faster with the paid subscription (although free speeds aren’t bad at all).
Account Set Up
You don’t even need to create an account to use the free CyberGhost VPN.
Simply download & install the client software. You can log in and use the service without creating an account as soon as you install it.
Create an account at any time to upgrade to the paid subscription. You’ll then be able to access the additional premium features, including multi-device, multi-platform support.
A username, password, and special key are created automatically when you create an account.
*Caveat – creating an account is the only confusing part of the whole process. If you let CyberGhost create an account for you and then change the username/password – then you will technically have 2 accounts. If you upgrade an account, then be sure that you are logging into the account with the upgrade. Otherwise, it will look like you don’t have a premium account.
Store the special key in a safe place as there’s no way to reset your account/password if you lose track of it.
CyberGhost is now headquartered in Israel. Though an offshore headquarters is always preferred, Israel is still a decent place for a VPN service.
Israel doesn’t currently have any data retention laws in place. However, the fact that it’s in a conflict zone means that government surveillance of the Internet is more than likely in some form or another.
Though Europe-centric, CyberGhost maintains a variety of servers around the world – although servers in Latin America and Asia are lacking.
A massive 136 servers are available in the United States, making CyberGhost excellent for unblocking entertainment like Netflix and Hulu while overseas.
Just over 700 additional servers are scattered across 29 other countries. As I’ll mention in the disadvantages – that’s a lot of servers, but also not a lot of countries.
Security and Encryption
CyberGhost features AES 256-BIT Encryption with a 2048-BIT RSA Key and MD5 for HMAC authentication.
Though this level of encryption is satisfactory, it’s not the absolute best around. CyberGhost plans to upgrade to SHA-2 authentication soon.
CyberGhost utilizes perfect forward secrecy as an additional security measure. The tool randomly generates a new private key each time you log in to further protect your online history if your connection is somehow compromised.
OpenVPN is the default protocol but can be switched manually to L2TP or PPTP.
CyberGhost claims not to keep logs of user information or activity. They state clearly on their website that they don’t observe, track, or record anything.
There have been some issues with this claim in the past. A recent issue regarding a root certificate installed when using certain privacy features calls the company’s claim that they don’t monitor user activity into question.
However, CyberGhost has directly addressed these issues. They fixed them in subsequent versions of their software.
CyberGhost’s transparency and willingness to engage with the public about security and privacy issues is uncommon among VPN providers (and is much appreciated by VPN users).
Caveat – Note that no VPN is 100% secure. Your traffic is still routing through a company. Any company can go out of business or go rogue. If you are trying to avoid your American ISP – then you are simply replacing distrust of Comcast/Charter with the trust of your VPN. If you are a political activist where trust is a life or death situation, you need to be using something like Tor. This highlights this section of CyberGhosts’s unique features, but the point remains using a VPN does not instantly create security/privacy. That is something you do via aligning company incentives (ie, paying for companies who maintain security) & being proactive.
User Interface & Features
One of the highlights of CyberGhost VPN is its intuitive user interface.
It’s beautifully laid out and easy to navigate. Everything from installing the client to connecting to an IP address is easy. CyberGhost requires you to select why you’re using the VPN after logging in. Your options include:
- Surf anonymously
- Unblock streaming websites
- Protect my Internet/Wi-Fi connection
- Torrent anonymously
- Unblock basic websites
Knowing why you’re using a VPN helps CyberGhost connect to the IP address in the region best suited for your specific needs.
It’s also possible to manually select the region and IP address you want to connect to.
Additionally, CyberGhost bundles a range of complementary privacy-related tools such as a do not track tool, ad blocker, and force HTTPS tool. All these are generally free to use via browser extension (ie, uBlock Origin)
Performance / Settings
Without fast, reliable performance, a VPN service is all but useless.
Of course, all VPNs that use OpenVPN create a slight lag in Internet speed. This is just par for the course, and not solely an issue with CyberGhost.
And it’s important to note that the speed drop can range from horrible to not noticeable.
My typical VPN testing wasn’t possible with CyberGhost due to the fact their US servers block P2P connections, which (I’m educated guessing here) look like testing tools.
Anyway, although I wasn’t able to look at latency – I was able to look at bandwidth with overseas servers.
Here’s my test in Stockholm. The bandwidth runs half of my normal 50mbps / 10mbps non-VPN speeds.
But the London server (with fewer people online) did even better with download speeds. It nearly hit my non-VPN bandwidth speeds.
Connections were fast and reliable enough to use streaming services such as BBC without a problem.
It’s also worth mentioning that the paid subscription plan has faster speeds (up to 5 times faster) than the free plan. However, the free service’s speeds aren’t anything to complain about given the price.
CyberGhost VPN comes with a built-in Internet kill switch to cut off all your online traffic in case you’re unexpectedly compromised.
CyberGhost also provides some (but not many) settings to mess around with to try to increase and/or unblock your connection.
It’s not much but more than other name-brand VPNs like Avast.
Website / Transparency
Though it’s not a “feature” necessarily, the CyberGhost website is worth a mention.
Like the user interface of the service itself, CyberGhostVPN.com is well-designed and user-friendly. It’s easy to find the information you need.
The CyberGhost Server Overview gives you a real-time look at the number of servers they have online, which country each is located in, their total bandwidth, and the number of users currently online.
Potential new users can see exactly what each of the VPN service’s features do. You can also easily compare the Free, Premium, and Premium Plus versions side by side.
VPNs have a scary, daunting, technical sounding name, which can turn many people (who should be using the service) off from actually using it.
A perfect VPN that you never use is worse than a good VPN that you actually do. And on this area – CyberGhost does well.
Additionally, CyberGhost VPN that stands out to me is their transparency. It’s rare for a VPN provider to be so upfront.
The public transparency report page outlines malicious activity on CyberGhost servers. It also lists DMCA requests, law enforcement notices, and government requests.
CyberGhost Cons / Disadvantages
There is no such thing as a perfect or “best” VPN. Only the best for your need and experience. There are certainly plenty of CyberGhost complaints online – some valid, some anecdotal. One of CyberGhost’s disadvantages is that it’s arguably more beautiful than it is functional. While the simple, streamlined user interface is perfect for VPN beginners, it’s not necessarily functional enough to meet the needs of a more experienced user. That said, here are some of the big picture disadvantages that I found using CyberGhost VPN.
24/7 customer support is always appreciated, especially by new VPN customers.
Unfortunately, live support is only available from CyberGhost during working hours – and those are Eastern European working hours.
Despite the lack of 24/7 accessibility, the support I did receive from CyberGhost VPN was good. But the fact remains that I had to create a ticket and wait. CyberGhost also provides an extensive “Help” section on their website. It includes a FAQ area and a help center.
Range of Servers
CyberGhost maintains a lot of servers – especially in America where the traffic is highest.
However, they don’t have a ton of diversity of servers – even in America. If you are traveling or simply looking for an uncrowded, close connection – this can present issues.
Additionally, while CyberGhost does a good job allowing full, unfettered connections around the world – they are quite strict with their American services.
Also, worth keeping in mind is that the most popular (read: best) servers sometimes get overloaded with traffic. This bogs speeds down – although the vast number of servers available makes it relatively easy to find one that’s free.
Additional Encryption Features
While CyberGhost bundles several useful privacy features, they don’t have additional, bundled high-grade privacy options like direct connection via Tor (or the highest SHA-2 encryption). If security issues are a primary concern for you – I’d certainly explore other providers.
But the main issue comes from trust. Like I’ve mentioned before – using a VPN does not instantly create security & privacy. What it does do is transfer trust to a company that you are explicitly paying to keep you safe. The company you use still has to do their actual job and not breach that trust.
Given this trust, the privacy issues CyberGhost has had in the past are a reason to worry.
I’ve mentioned it numerous times already, but there was an issue with an update in the past that installed a root certificate (thereby allowing CyberGhost to monitor your activity, in theory). The fact that CyberGhost cleared these issues up, and was so transparent about them, helps ease the worry – but it’s still something to keep in mind.
Another potential negative is a dubious root certificate. Updates to the privacy features of a now-outdated version of the service involved packet inspection. CyberGhost fixed the problem in the latest versions of the service, but the lapse in judgment is still a cause for some concern.
CyberGhost Review Conclusion
CyberGhost VPN is a reliable option if you’re thinking about using a VPN for the first time. The company has made its way into the mainstream in recent years thanks to the popular free version of its service.
While the free plan gets the job done for very casual VPN users, I’d recommend opting for one of the two paid subscriptions. Not only are the premium plans much faster, but they also offer a wider range of features and customization settings.