CyberGhost VPN Review 2018
CyberGhost provides a value-priced service for users wishing to protect their personal data while also covering their tracks on the internet.
There’s a free option that provides decent basic protection for casual use. An increased level of protection and connection options is offered via a premium tier of service that will prove attractive to business people and users with large families. Users who are looking for responsive customer service would do well to look elsewhere.
Ease of use
As any savvy internet user knows, using your computer or mobile device on an unprotected Wi-Fi hotspot is never a good idea. Even if you’re just surfing the web, prying eyes may be watching you. If you’re paying your bills, checking your bank balance or even shopping for a new sweater on an open hotspot, you’re really asking for it - unless you use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service like CyberGhost to protect your information.
As I travel quite a bit, much of it internationally, I need a way to protect my connection as well as my business and personal data from being monitored. In addition, I require a way to access websites and online services that might usually be blocked due to government rules or a provider’s policies.
I have taken it upon myself to try out as many different Virtual Private Network services as I can in order to find the most reliable, secure and efficient service that will give my family and myself peace of mind while online. Recently, my search for the perfect VPN provider led me to the CyberGhost VPN Service.
What is CyberGhost VPN?
CyberGhost VPN offers you protection from the prying eyes of the bad guys while also allowing access to websites and services that might not normally be available in your area. In addition, CyberGhost supplies anonymous connections to torrent servers, special features that allow efficient connections to streaming services and more.
One great thing about CyberGhost is that, in addition to their paid service (which is reasonably priced), they also offer a free VPN service. While lacking in the premium features provided by the paid tiers, CyberGhost’s free VPN service might be all the average, occasional user needs. More on that later.
CyberGhost is based in Romania, which is great news for users who are privacy-conscious. Romania is one of the few European countries to have struck down data retention laws based on the 2006 European Data Retention Directive.
At the time of this writing, CyberGhost has 2,780 Servers Online in 60 Countries, offering 40.50 GBits/s Total Bandwidth.
How CyberGhost VPN Works
A Virtual Private Network such as CyberGhost acts as an internet safeguard, cloaking your IP address from others by routing your internet traffic through their own servers. Anyone snooping on a CyberGhost user’s connection would see one of CyberGhost’s IP addresses instead of the actual address the user has on their home or hotspot connection.
VPNs also allow you to connect to websites and services that might not be available in your local area due to geo-restrictions or government-blocking of certain parts of the internet. This is especially handy for accessing streaming services from other countries and social networking sites such as Facebook, which are blocked out of hand in countries such as China and other restrictive regimes.
What’s more, VPNs allow you to access torrent servers and newsgroups via a disguised address, preventing groups that may be monitoring the traffic to and from such services from detecting where you are connecting from and which internet provider you’re using.
The CyberGhost Website
The CyberGhost website provides an easy-to-use layout with a clean design that makes it easy to find information about the service, its pricing and its capabilities. The service’s pricing structure is available from the front page, as is important information about the levels of service provided.
The website includes an informative graphic showing the difference between a connection without a VPN and a connection that is using a VPN. I’ve included it below.
In addition to the information above, the CyberGhost website offers the standard warnings about the hazards of using an unprotected internet connection. It also includes the advantages of using a VPN, such as encryption, accessing blocked content, blocking malicious content and more.
Subscription Options and Pricing
While CyberGhost supplies a free tier of service which has certain restrictions on its features, it also provides a full-featured Premium service tier, which offers more flexibility. This is especially nice for subscribers who may need to use the service on more than 1 device at a time.
CyberGhost does not offer a free trial period, except for iOS and Android users. The free VPN service tier, while lacking in some of the paid features, basically acts as a free trial.
If you are an iOS or Android user, you’re given a free 7-day premium service trial when first starting the app. At the end of 7 days, you’re either required to purchase a subscription via in-app purchase or allowed to continue to use CyberGhost on your device at the free level of service.
The trial period makes CyberGhost perfect for users who have never used a VPN, or those who wish to protect themselves for a short period of time. Users who are on a short business or vacation trip, or in a country with heavy restrictions on which websites and web services are allowed, will find this to be a convenient option.
All subscription signup is done via a secure HTTPS connection. Payment options for the service are VISA, MasterCard, American Express and JCB credit and debit cards. PayPal, PayNearMe, check, money order and Bitcoin are also options.
I particularly like the Bitcoin payment option. Bitcoin payments are anonymous when paired with a temporary “throwaway” email address. This prevents government agencies from forcing a payment processor to hand over identifying information about users. Payments are decentralized, so there is no need to trust a digital-payments processor to handle your credit card information properly.
Subscription options include:
CyberGhost has been kind enough to offer a special deal to Pixel Privacy readers: 1 year of CyberGhost protection for just $2.75 per month ($33.00). Visit the CyberGhost website via this link to learn more and to take advantage of the sale.
CyberGhost offers a 30-day money-back guarantee. The charge for CyberGhost shows up as “CyberGhost SRL - a store by cleverbridge” on your credit card statement. All payment processing is done by third-party payment processors, so CyberGhost has none of your payment information on file.
Free Service Tier
CyberGhost’s free tier of service is strictly no frills. While completely free, the service is slower and only allows 1 connection at a time. It’s also limited in the number of countries it can connect to and doesn’t allow users to select a particular city or server for their connection.
Additionally, the free tier makes you wait to access a VPN server. A counter pops up on your desktop showing how many users are ahead of you in the free queue. While it usually takes only a few minutes at the most to connect, this could be a deal-breaker for many.
Impatient users who prefer an instant connection will want to take a look at one of the premium tiers of service. These limitations do make sense, as the company makes its money from selling the premium VPN service.
Every 2 hours, as a free user, you’re subjected to an ad promoting CyberGhost and its current offers. Plus, you’re disconnected after 3 hours of use. However, this may only be a minor inconvenience for many, as you can immediately reconnect if you so desire. (But, you’ll find yourself at the end of the line, of course.)
While the free tier provides unlimited data with no monthly data cap, the 3-hour time limit for connections could make this unusable for some, especially if you need to transfer large files or participate in video-conferencing and the like.
Premium Service Tier
CyberGhost’s Premium tier supplies a number of improved features in trade for your hard-earned cash. You gain higher data speeds - up to 5x faster than the free connection. You also have access to every CyberGhost server worldwide and can select the country, city and individual servers if you’d like.
There are no forced disconnections after 3 hours of use and no waiting in a queue for a connection. And as would be expected, you won’t be subject to ads while using the Premium level of service.
Premium also offers additional features, including an ad blocker, malware blocker, tracking blocker, data compression and forced HTTPS traffic. What’s more, this tier of service furnishes unlimited data with no monthly data cap, but with the added benefit of unlimited connection time. You can also use the service on up to 7 devices simultaneously.
While I signed up for CyberGhost VPN on my Mac, iOS and Android users can also sign up on their devices via in-app purchases, which are maintained by Apple’s iTunes and Google Play respectively and would be charged against a user’s purchasing account.
At $33.00 for an annual subscription (when you use our special link), CyberGhost is one of the lowest-priced VPN providers around. The provider also offers a free tier of service that can help customers decide if CyberGhost is the VPN for them by trying it before buying it.
Installing the App on Your Computer
The CyberGhost download page offers versions for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS and Linux. The service is also available to users who wish to use the service on their open-source DD-WRT routers, TomatoUSB and Raspberry Pi devices.
While the Windows, Mac and mobile device downloads are merely a case of download and install, the other options do require a bit of work to set up. However, CyberGhost supplies handy guides with all the information needed to set everything up.
I was on my Mac when I visited the download page, and the installation app instantly began downloading to my computer. I saved it to my Download directory and waited a few moments for the file to download.
Once the download was complete, I double-clicked the installation file, which opened the window shown below. The installation consisted of dragging the “CyberGhost 5” icon over to the icon marked “Drag here 2 install.” (You can also drag the icon to your Mac’s Application folder to install the app.) The file copied to my Mac’s Applications folder in a matter of seconds, and I was ready to run the VPN app for the first time.
I found the CyberGhost 5 app icon in my Applications folder and clicked it to start the app. The CyberGhost app started up, ready for me to select the country I wished to connect to.
Windows users should find the CyberGhost VPN app as easy to install as my Mac version was, as the Windows install file comes in the form of an .exe file, requiring a simple download and double-click to install. The installation program installs the VPN app and then automatically runs it, ready for your login.
Installing the App on a Mobile Device
I also installed CyberGhost on my iPhone. Installation of the app is done in the usual Apple-uptight manner, which is to download and install the app from Apple’s iOS App Store. The download only takes a few moments, then a quick tap of the app’s icon, and you’re ready to go. The app automatically installs a certificate on your iOS device to allow for a VPN connection to the company’s servers.
Android users can expect a similarly simple method of installation, as the app is available via the Google Play store and installation takes only a few moments.
Features & Use
Following the installation of the app on my Mac, I was ready to try out the connections provided by the CyberGhost service. There are a few differences in how the app is used depending on whether you’re a free user or a premium subscriber. I’ll walk through the free usage steps first and then the Premium usage.
Free Tier Usage
If you’re using CyberGhost as a free user, using the service basically consists of selecting your “Simulated Country” (where the server you’ll be connecting through resides) and then clicking the giant yellow “Click Here to Start Protection” button to access the VPN service.
Free usage is a bare-bones experience. The service does one thing and one thing only: allow you to route your internet traffic through a VPN server and surf anonymously.
When you click the start button while using the free service, you’ll be greeted with this lovely screen:
I highly suggest you make use of the next few minutes or so wisely. Now would be a good time for a restroom break, a coffee break or some other semi-productive activity while you wait for the connection to complete. Or you can simply sit in your chair and watch the counter click down to the moment you’ll finally be connected to a CyberGhost VPN server.
Premium Tier Usage
A Premium tier subscription gives you access to more options in the VPN app and allows you to access any of CyberGhost’s 2,780 servers located around the globe. This service tier also offers the benefit of an instant connection, with no waiting or ads and a speedier connection that lasts for as long as you like.
You’ll also be able to make use of a number of Premium-only options, such as online tracking prevention, protection against malicious sites, ad-blocking, the use of HTTPS for all websites, data compression and “extra speed.”
Using the Premium version of CyberGhost consists of logging in, selecting your country, city or specific server and clicking the giant yellow “Click Here to Start Protection” button to connect to the VPN service. The connection to the selected server takes only a few moments, but there is a nice “Connecting” animation you can watch if you need entertainment.
iOS App Notes
Before closing this section of the review, I would like to point out what I think is a great feature of CyberGhost’s iOS app. When you have the app installed and running in the background, it automatically recognizes when you connect to a new Wi-Fi network. It prompts you via a notification on your iOS device to enable the VPN.
Apple Watch owners will also receive a prompt on their watch face, allowing them to tap their Apple Watch screen to enable VPN protection. The app lets you know whether you’re on the free or the premium level of service.
The actual features of the CyberGhost service depend on whether you’re making use of the free or paid levels of service. On both levels, the CyberGhost app is easy to use and connects quickly with just one click of a rather large button.
Free-tier usage is limited to a small number of servers, scattered throughout the provider’s service areas. Free service also requires a wait before connecting to a VPN server, and sessions are limited to 3 hours, after which you’re disconnected. Services at the free level are limited to VPN only, with no frills.
Premium service offers the choice of any CyberGhost VPN server, instant connections, protection from malicious websites, ad-blocking, no ads and faster connections.
Ease of Use:
The app is lightweight and doesn’t place a strain on system resources. The app is easy to use and connects quickly. It would be a good choice for users who are looking for a simple way to protect their internet connection or access content that might otherwise be blocked.
Connection Quality and Speed
To test the quality of the connections supplied by CyberGhost, I tested ping times, and download and upload speeds. I did this while using my normal internet connection in Tennessee, a VPN connection routed to a server in the United States and a VPN connection routed to a server in the United Kingdom. I did all speed and ping measurements using Speedtest.net.
Since CyberGhost offers both free and premium connections, I conducted testing with both tiers and will report those separately.
Ping, Download & Upload Speed
Local Internet Provider
U.S. VPN Server
U.K. VPN Server
Ping, Download & Upload Speed
Local Internet Provider
U.S. VPN Server
U.K. VPN Server
As you can see in the results above, in some cases the free tier actually outperformed the premium connection. I put this down to the luck of the draw on server selection, as well as possible heavy traffic through that server. In most actual usage cases, the premium connection outperforms the free one.
I found that on both service tiers, connection speeds could vary depending on the VPN server you choose. Selecting a specific server could help cut down on the “randomness” of the connection. I highly suggest that once you find a VPN server that performs well, make a note of it for future use.
A VPN connection will almost always perform at a lower level than an unfettered connection. This is due to a number of factors. Let’s take a quick look at what affects the performance, why it affects it and what steps you can take to improve it.
One factor that can affect both your ping numbers and your connection speed is the location of the VPN server you’re connecting to. If you’re in the U.S. and your connection to another U.S. point is routed through a server located in Ireland, the trip is bound to take longer than if it was traveling directly.
Your Internet Service Provider can also affect your connection’s performance numbers. If it isn’t up to par, or if there is a congested spot between the ISP and the VPN server, your connection’s numbers will suffer.
The protocols and encryption levels used by your VPN provider can also affect your connection’s speed. As a rule, a higher level of encryption will slow the speed of your VPN connection more than a lower level does. However, today’s encryption schemes are optimized for speed as well as data protection and so may affect your speeds the least.
Finally, your connection’s performance can also be affected by the current user-load of the VPN server itself. The more users connecting to a server at one time, the slower things will run. Any server is affected by its client load, and a VPN server is no exception.
You’ve heard of Denial of Service attacks? That’s how they work. An overload of requests sent to one server causes the server to bog down.
While using the CyberGhost service, I performed the following online activities. The results of my testing are noted for each test.
YouTube worked well in all cases, with no issues as to increased buffering times or stuttering. I was able to stream 1080p full-HD video with no lag or pixelization.
Click here to see the best VPNs for Youtube.
Netflix access is available via CyberGhost, but only for American Netflix content. The feature worked great for me - through my Premium account, I was able to consistently access Netflix using a United States-based CyberGhost server.
Keep in mind that CyberGhost doesn’t offer similar options for Netflix content based in other countries. However, for ex-pats looking for a little Netflix fun from back home, CyberGhost is a great option.
It should be noted that there is a constant battle of wits going on between VPN services and Netflix. VPNs are continually adding new IP addresses for use with their service, and Netflix is continually scanning for those new addresses.
This means that while sometimes a VPN service doesn’t work with Netflix, that won’t always be the case. While this is clearly an issue, it should be considered “situation normal” between the two “warring” factions.
Click here to see the best VPNs for Netflix.
Out of curiosity, I also tried my Hulu subscription, which allowed me to watch video. Both the free and premium connections worked quite well.
Click here to see the best VPNs for Hulu.
Skype and FaceTime
I placed Skype calls to a friend, and the service worked great on both U.K. and U.S. connections, both Free and Premium. I also placed a FaceTime call over both VPN connections and was satisfied with the connection and performance.
Click here to see the best VPNs for Skype.
I played a casual game via Steam over the free and premium connections, via both the U.K. and U.S. servers, and the connection was more than up to snuff in all cases. However, fans of first-person shooters may not find the connection sufficient for their online battles.
Click here to see the best VPNs for Gaming.
General Internet Use
I used CyberGhost to access Google Docs for word processing, spreadsheets and presentations. I also did my usual web browsing, which means I accessed tech sites, general news sites and viewed videos. In addition, I checked my email, as well as chatted with friends and family on Facebook and via instant messaging apps.
In all cases, the connection was more than sufficient for general web use. I experienced no noticeable slowdown or lag for these types of general internet activities.
CyberGhost shows some considerable connection speed slowdown from my unfettered ISP connection. That said, the speeds should be more than enough for day-to-day online activities, as well as streaming video or audio.
Global Server Coverage
CyberGhost offers 2,780 VPN servers in 60 countries. As shown in the screenshot below, CyberGhost has concentrated their servers in North America and Europe.
While their number of servers should offer users plenty of access with little connection slowdown, the company’s lack of global coverage means there will be plenty of spots around the world that you will not be able to access.
Global Server Coverage:
CyberGhost’s lack of comprehensive coverage could prove to be a major drawback for many users. Anyone considering CyberGhost should check the company’s global server coverage before committing to a paid subscription.
Privacy, Security & Legal
Traffic on the CyberGhost network is fully encrypted. If the user is visiting HTTPS pages, there is end-to-end encryption. The service uses OpenVPN protocol with AES 256-bit encryption, along with 2048-bit RSA and MD5 for HMAC authentication.
The company does not scan or record your data, usage data, connection times or similar data. Only the number of users on a server and its total bandwidth is known, which is not broken down by user, IP or connection.
VPN services located in the United States and the United Kingdom are subject to data-retention laws, requiring them to log traffic data. CyberGhost is not subject to such laws. As I mentioned earlier, Romania, where CyberGhost is based, is one of the few European countries to have struck down data-retention laws based on the 2006 European Data Retention Directive.
CyberGhost does not store details connected to the email address used to sign up for the service. Instead, it connects all information to the customer’s choice of username. The company also does not record any information related to the usage of the VPN connection, such as websites accessed or IP addresses.
CyberGhost’s logging policy means that your usage activity is not recorded in a way that could later be accessible by governmental or corporate policing. If you decide to download copyrighted content from a torrent site, that is between you and your conscience. No matter what you do or where you go on the web, that information is protected from being monitored - and that’s a very good thing.
CyberGhost provides excellent privacy protections. It keeps no logs of your online activities, and it’s located in Romania, where data-retention laws are friendly. The provider also accepts the privacy-friendly Bitcoin cryptocurrency as payment for subscriptions, adding another layer of privacy.
CyberGhost customer service is a bit weak for free users, as they are limited to FAQ and Online Troubleshooter access only.
Meanwhile, Premium users gain access to an online trouble ticketing system and “a Customer Support representative” who “will touch base with [them] asap.” (Their words, not mine.)
Also available to Premium users is a live support chat function, which makes the trouble ticketing system a bit redundant to me, although it would come in handy if the live chat function was down for some reason.
I opened a trouble ticket with some questions about the service around 9 a.m. on a Tuesday and received a response a half an hour later. The question was a simple one, about whether CyberGhost VPN would work reliably while inside China. (It does not.)
CyberGhost’s customer service is excellent, providing reliable information in a timely manner. The online FAQs and other support information on the site are quite informative and helpful.
Alternative VPN Options
While CyberGhost has a number of fine points to recommend, its connection speed and performance numbers means it rates quite low on the list of VPN providers I have reviewed when speed is the major consideration.
If you’re looking for a VPN provider that offers a consistently speedy connection, check out Hide My Ass!, Private Internet Access or VyprVPN. All three show the best connection numbers of any VPN I have reviewed.
Hide My Ass! boasts the fastest connection speeds I measured during my testing, regularly supplying speeds within single percentage points of my usual ISP numbers. In addition, the provider offers excellent global server coverage and customer service.
Private Internet Access supplies amazingly speedy connections, especially considering they are the lowest-priced provider among all of the VPN services I have reviewed. In addition to fast speeds and a low price, the company also offers kill switch protection and good multi-platform support.
VyprVPN also provides excellent connection speeds, within single percentage points of my usual unprotected connection. Plus, the provider offers comprehensive global server coverage, as well as kill switch protection and reasonable pricing.
CyberGhost is a capable and easy-to-use VPN service.
In both the free and premium tiers of service, CyberGhost performed well, allowing for speedy and responsive connections. On both free and premium connections, I was able to use the internet to perform my daily business and recreational activities quickly.
CyberGhost features convenient monthly and annual subscriptions, and also provides a nice discount on their yearly subscriptions.
CyberGhost has an impressive number of payment options, including Bitcoin, which will make it attractive to a significant number of possible users concerned about privacy while paying.
While I’m not able to give it the highest recommendation, the service will keep up with all but the most demanding user, especially those users who are looking to secure their mobile devices or to have for a more secure way to access public Wi-Fi hotspots.
CyberGhost offers easy setup and use, which will make it particularly attractive to the average user who doesn’t want to dig into the nuts and bolts of their internet connection just to feel more secure. CyberGhost’s one-click connection makes it easy to protect a user’s data from prying eyes, with very little hassle.
CyberGhost features convenient monthly and annual subscriptions, and also provides a nice discount on the yearly subs. For more information, or to sign up for the CyberGhost VPN service, visit the CyberGhost VPN website.