CyberGhost VPN Review Summary
- Total (2.8 / 5.0)
CyberGhost is a large VPN service that is owned by an Israeli advertising/analytics company called Crossrider. Extensive testing for this review found it to underperform with speed and performance, especially in back-to-back testing with ExpressVPN. CyberGhost has a user-friendly VPN app, but the “ad blocker” appears to be completely broken for HTTPS sites. There are also some privacy issues, with their website using invasive tracking and analytics (explained further below).
- User-friendly applications
- Competitive price
- Live chat support
- Mediocre speeds and performance
- CyberGhost’s website uses invasive analytics and tracking
- Contradictory “no logs” statements
- Broken ad blocker
- Selling “lifetime VPN” subscriptions through third-party websites
Alternatives to CyberGhost VPN:
Who owns CyberGhost? (Crossrider)
CyberGhost was previously owned by Robert Knapp – a German tech entrepreneur – and based out of Romania.
However, last year Knapp decided to sell CyberGhost to an Israeli advertising/analytics company called Crossrider for €9.2 million.
Crossrider is owned by the Israeli billionaire Teddy Sagi. According to Wikipedia, Sagi has an interesting history, which includes being a convicted of “grave deceit, bribery and insider trading”, for manipulating bond prices in Israel.
When you research the company Crossrider, you find numerous articles about Crossrider malware/adware and how to remove it from your device (see for example this article from MalwareBytes).
Crossrider describes itself as an “online distribution and digital product company” and appears to be heavily focused on advertising and data collection (the two go hand-in-hand). There isn’t much discussion about Crossrider on the CyberGhost website, other than the Terms and Conditions page.
Reading through the Terms and Conditions, I did find this excerpt:
You understand that CyberGhost undertakes no responsibility for your actions. In case of statutory violations by the user, Crossrider may cooperate with public or private authorities at its sole discretion as provided by law.
Cooperation with “public or private” authorities essentially means any third party. Furthermore, there is also the statement, “at its sole discretion” which could mean at any time and for any reason “as provided by law”.
CyberGhost VPN website (tracking)
Another concerning issue I found is that CyberGhost is utilizing aggressive tracking measures on its website.
I found Hotjar analytics scripts, which are used to literally record visitors using the website. These “session recording scripts” are increasingly common, despite posing risks to privacy and security, as explained in this article by Motherboard (Vice).
We discussed VPNs that were found to be using session recording scripts in the article ‘VPN Websites Caught Recording Visitors‘ after examining the findings published by a group of researchers from Princeton University. Another concern with using this invasive tracking software is that the recorded sessions (videos) are typically stored on third-party servers. Furthermore, there is no option to opt-out (but you can block the scripts from executing).
Here is Hotjar Analytics currently in use on the CyberGhost website, as well as the embedded scripts.
CyberGhost uses Piwik, an Open-Source-Software for the statistical assessment of user access on cyberghostvpn.com.
CyberGhost VPN price
CyberGhost VPN offers the following pricing tiers:
This is on the lower end of the price spectrum, particularly for the longer-duration plans.
Refund policy – CyberGhost gives you an excellent 30-day money-back guarantee. This is pretty good for industry standards, with the average refund window being seven days.
CyberGhost lifetime subscription
CyberGhost is now marketing lifetime subscriptions through the third-party sales website StackSocial.
This is a red flag.
As explained in the VPN scams guide, “Lifetime subscriptions” have typically been associated with the worst VPN providers in the industry. There have been many examples of VPNs offering discounted “lifetime” subscriptions, only to close down a few years later and run with the money. There have also been cases of VPNs converting all “lifetime” accounts into recurring paid subscriptions.
Also keep in mind, the “lifetime VPN” subscription is not the lifetime of the buyer, it is the lifetime of the VPN company – however long it stays in business.
CyberGhost VPN apps
CyberGhost offers dedicated VPN apps for:
- Mac OS
Additionally, CyberGhost provides full support for Linux, routers, NAS, and Chromebooks.
We’ll take a closer look at the Windows app and Mac OS app below.
CyberGhost encryption and servers
CyberGhost currently uses an AES 256-bit cipher with a 4096-bit RSA key and SHA256 for authentication. They recently updated the certificate and the authentication to SHA256. CyberGhost refers to this as “military grade encryption”, which the VPN industry typically associates with the 256-bit cipher.
According to the CyberGhost website, they offer about 2,000 servers in 60 different countries.
It is not possible to see real-time server bandwidth loads on the website – only server status. However, you can see available bandwidth for every server directly in the VPN apps.
In general, server loads seemed a little heavy, which may explain the performance issues noticed below.
I tested out the CyberGhost Windows client using a Windows 10 desktop and it performed reasonably well.
The CyberGhost Windows app has a good design and layout. Accessing various settings and features is easy and intuitive. Here is the main connection screen for the CyberGhost Windows app.
Within the CyberGhost Windows client you can select different startup options, languages, proxy settings, and also get detailed information on every server in the network.
Operation profiles – Another interesting option with CyberGhost are the different operational profiles you can select. Each profile is designed to meet a different use case. The main difference here with the profiles are the servers you will be using and the VPN settings. The VPN encryption, however, stays the same for every option.
I ran the Windows client through some basic VPN tests and did not find any issues. Below I am testing the CyberGhost client with a VPN server in Sweden.
There are many factors that may contribute to IP address leaks or DNS leaks. That’s why it’s always good to regularly check your VPN to make sure everything is working.
CyberGhost offers a decent Mac OS app that includes all of the main features as discussed above. For this CyberGhost VPN review, I tested the Mac OS client on High Sierra.
Here is what the CyberGhost Mac client looks like, along with the connection notification that appears below the Mac OS menu bar.
CyberGhost is still using version 5 for the Mac OS client, compared to version 6 with the Windows client.
Below is a test of the CyberGhost Mac client for leaks. I did not identify any obvious leaks when running some basic VPN tests and checks.
Overall it seems to be a decent application for Mac OS. If you are a Mac user, you can also check out the guide on the best VPNs for Mac.
CyberGhost “ad blocking”
UPDATE: Unfortunately, after performing a number of real-world tests, I found that CyberGhost’s “ad blocker” does not do very well. In fact, it does not even function on HTTPS websites, which is problematic since most websites are now encrypted. Furthermore, it only works on HTTP websites through traffic manipulation – something a VPN service should not be doing.
See the VPN ad blocker test results for additional details.
The CyberGhost ad-blocking feature is currently available for Windows, Mac OS, and iOS devices. Android is currently under development.
An alternative that offers better protection against advertisements and tracking is the TrackStop filter from Perfect Privacy, which effectively filters thousands of advertisement, tracking, and malware domains at the VPN server level (rather than locally on your device).
CyberGhost VPN speed test
I tested CyberGhost VPN in a number of different speed tests with servers around the world. Overall the results were not very good.
My baseline speed (without a VPN) was about 100 Mbps, and my physical location for testing was Germany.
With nearby servers (Western Europe) I could typically get about 20 to 60 Mbps. Here was the first test I ran with a nearby CyberGhost server in Zurich, Switzerland.
Download speed: 22 Mbps
For this CyberGhost review I also decided to run some back-to-back tests with ExpressVPN.
Here are a few of those comparison speed test results.
CyberGhost speeds with a Netherlands server were about 52 Mbps.
Next, I ran a comparison speed test with ExpressVPN, also using a server in Amsterdam.
ExpressVPN outperformed CyberGhost in this speed test, at about 72 Mbps download speed with the Amsterdam server.
The other location I tested was New York.
Next I tested speeds with a CyberGhost server in New York. The results were mediocre, with speeds around 5 Mbps.
Immediately after testing CyberGhost I tried ExpressVPN and tested one of their New York servers.
Again, the speeds with ExpressVPN were better at around 35 Mbps.
I ran a few other tests with servers in Europe and Canada and the results were similar. Of course, with servers located further from my location, slower speeds are to be expected due to the increased latency.
Speed Test Winner: ExpressVPN
Overall it’s important to remember there are many factors affecting VPN speed and performance, so it’s always good to test the VPN yourself. If performance is important to you, two faster alternatives would be ExpressVPN and Perfect Privacy.
CyberGhost free trial
UPDATE: It appears that CyberGhost is no longer offering a free trial. They are instead giving users a 30 day refund window with all subscriptions.
CyberGhost’s free Windows VPN appears to give you all the features of the full VPN client. Whenever you connect with the Windows client, you will be alerted to how much time is remaining on your free trial.
I also tested the CyberGhost free VPN on Mac OS. It gave me lots of annoying popups trying to get me to upgrade. Not recommended.
You can get more information on the CyberGhost free VPN from their website.
For general information about free VPNs, see the free VPN guide.
CyberGhost offers good support, which is available via live chat most of the day. At the time of this CyberGhost review, live chat was available from 8:00 to 17:00 Central Europe Time (CET).
However, the representative informed me that they will be switching over to 24/7 live chat support very soon.
Aside from chat support, the CyberGhost website also offers various guides, troubleshooting information, FAQs, and a support ticket system.
The chat support seemed to work well. I was usually connected to a representative within a few minutes and they were helpful with all questions/issues.
You can access chat support directly on the website in the bottom right corner (but beware of the invasive website tracking).
CyberGhost seems to be an OK option if you’re looking for a torrent VPN – although there are better choices that offer more speed.
There are certain servers in the CyberGhost network that are designated for torrenting and P2P filesharing. If you use the CyberGhost Windows client, you can select the torrenting profile from the home screen. This will connect you to a nearby torrent-designated server.
Regarding the policy on torrenting, here is the exact explanation from the CyberGhost website.
None of the current P2P technologies are illegal per definition, but 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 Hongkong (China).
In the list of servers you will find a check mark on P2P/Torrent compatible servers.
Many VPNs block or restrict torrenting on various servers, simply because multiple copyright violations may cause the VPN to lose server hosting. See the VPN for torrenting guide for additional options.
CyberGhost is another VPN service that carries out logging, but still claims to be “no logs” in its advertising and marketing practices.
You see the “no logs” mantra repeated often on the website. Here it is directly on the homepage:
Additionally, the “No Logs” claims are also repeated in the applications. You can see this in the screenshot above in small print at the bottom.
Other than what you see above, CyberGhost does not disclose exactly what’s being logged with these third-party analytics services. When I spoke with a chat representative, he confirmed that there is no way to opt-out of this data collection when you use CyberGhost apps.
One solution here would be to not use CyberGhost’s applications. Instead, you could go with open-source alternatives, such as Tunnelblick (Mac OS) or the OpenVPN GUI (Windows). Another alternative is Viscosity, which is a third-party app that costs $9 for a lifetime license (Mac OS and Windows).
Additional note on logs – CyberGhost provided additional clarification on their no logs policies via email:
I can guarentee that we do not log, which websites a user requested, we do not store the user’s IP address and we keep no logs, which server was assigned to which user at a time. That’s why by no chance we are able to provide any logs to authorities about which users have been using which VPN server at a specific time.
You can judge for yourself.
Is CyberGhost recommended?
No. Not at this time.
While it’s certainly not a horrible choice, the drawbacks seem to outweigh the benefits. These include mediocre speeds, features that do not work properly (ad blocking), invasive tracking analytics on their website, and contradictory statements about no logs.
On a positive note, they do have a 30 day money-back guarantee if you want to give them a try, but there are also some other options worth consideration.
Alternatives to CyberGhost VPN: