CyberGhost VPN

CyberGhost's Windows client may steal the show but this VPN has plenty to offer elsewhere.

CyberGhost VPN

CyberGhost is a Romanian and German-based privacy giant which provides comprehensive VPN services for 38 million users.

CyberGhost VPN boasts 8,900+ servers in 110+ locations across 91 countries. That's far more servers than most, although ExpressVPN claims 160+ locations, and HideMyAss has over 290.

Torrents are allowed on most servers, and the company has apps for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and more.

CyberGhost VPN supports connecting up to seven devices simultaneously. That's better than many (even the premium ExpressVPN only supports 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, and that's one of your slots used up. If you run out of slots, you can log out of individual devices, but that quickly becomes annoying. (Though not as annoying as KeepSolid VPN Unlimited, where you can only free up one device slot per week.)

Elsewhere, a web knowledgebase is available if needed, while chat and email support is on hand to help you through any particularly tricky situations.

Optional extras include dedicated IPs. Sign up for this for an extra $5 billed monthly ($4.25 on the annual plan, $3.75 if you sign up for three years) and you'll get the same IP address, unique to you, every time you log on to the service.

Dedicated IPs allow you to access IP-restricted networks, which is handy if you need to access a business system while connected to the VPN. They also reduce the chance that you'll be blocked by streaming and other platforms, as they haven't had their reputation trashed by other people's bad behavior.

The catch? Dedicated IPs allow other sites to recognize you, because you'll have the same IP address every time you visit. Fortunately, CyberGhost enables switching between dedicated and dynamic IPs as required, so you can easily use a dedicated IP where necessary and dynamic for everything else (more on that later).

CyberGhost Payment Page

You can pay for your CyberGhost plan using PayPal, Bitcoin or credit card, and more (Image credit: CyberGhost)

CyberGhost pricing

Signing up for CyberGhost VPN's monthly account costs $12.99 a month, which is at the high-end of the industry-standard $10-$13.

As usual, extending your subscription saves money. Prices drop to an equivalent $4.29 a month on the annual plan, whereas signing up for two years cuts the cost to $3.25 a month, and the three-year plan is $2.29 a month for the first term (three years plus three months), and $2.48 on renewal.

That's good value for the longer-term plans, although there are a handful of providers with even better deals. Private Internet Access gives you three years and three months protection for only $2.03 a month, with a simple antivirus included. And Ivacy's five year plan is a rock-bottom $1.19 a month. (That's $78 upfront for two years of CyberGhost protection, and $71.64 for five years with Ivacy.)

Upgrading to CyberGhost Security Suite adds antivirus and a Security Updater to check for missing software patches. It's priced from $5.65 a month billed monthly, to $1.29 on the three-year plan. That's not a lot, but then it's a relatively basic suite. If your security is a top priority, keep in mind that Avira, Avast, Bitdefender, Kaspersky, Norton and more all now have full-featured security suites with VPNs included.

Whatever deal you choose, you're able to pay by Bitcoin, as well as PayPal, credit card, Google Pay and Amazon Pay (beware, though, your options might vary depending on location).

CyberGhost Free Trial

While CyberGhost's free trial is useful, waiting in a long queue to test out the service is less than ideal (Image credit: CyberGhost)

There's even a free trial. It's short, though, at just 24 hours for the desktop build (7 days on mobile devices) so only start it when you're very sure that you'll have the free time to run whatever tests you need.

If you sign up and then find the service doesn't work for you, there's more good news: the company has a lengthy 45-day money-back guarantee (14 days for monthly-billed plans), one of the most generous deals around.

CyberGhost Privacy Audit

CyberGhost keeps no logs on the online activity of its users, as verified by an audit (Image credit: CyberGhost)

Logging and privacy

CyberGhost's website proudly boasts of a 'strict no logs policy' on its front page, and the service privacy policy backs this up with some very clear statements: 

"When using the CyberGhost VPN, we have no idea about your traffic data such as browsing history, traffic destination, data content, and search preferences. These are NOT monitored, recorded, logged or stored by us.

"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."

Sounds good, but you don't have to take the company's word for it. In September 2022 CyberGhost announced that Deloitte had carried out an independent audit of its "No Logs policy and its implementation, plus our change management, configuration management, incident management, and dedicated IP token-based systems."

The company didn’t discuss the verdict, saying "excerpts from the report cannot be shared… [with anyone other than CyberGhost customers]... in order to ensure none of the audit results are taken out of context and misunderstood." (That’s not an excuse – it’s a condition placed on CyberGhost by Deloitte.)

We’ve read the report, and essentially it says Deloitte didn’t see anything in CyberGhost’s server setup and management that contradicts its no logging claims. But we can’t properly summarize it without quotes, so for the full picture you should ideally read the report yourself, if you can find it. (The audit announcement post says it’s available to customers from their web dashboard, but we couldn’t find it when we looked, and support wasn’t able to give us a download link.)

CyberGhost Installer Telemetry

CyberGhost's apps allow users to opt out of data collection (Image credit: CyberGhost)

Privacy tests

Privacy policies and audit reports are useful, but we also like to run some practical tests of our own.

To kick off, we used DNSLeakTest.com and related sites to check desktop and mobile apps for DNS and other privacy leaks. The good news was that our identity and web traffic was shielded at all times.

CyberGhost says its apps have the ability to block domains used for ads, trackers and malware – but is this really doing anything useful? To get an idea, we turned on the feature, and tried to access 150 common trackers. The app blocked a respectable 110, outperforming Surfshark (80) and landing in the same area as Atlas VPN (102) and Private Internet Access (111).

Speedtest.net performance benchmark

We used several different speed testing sites to measure CyberGhost's performance (Image credit: Speedtest.net)

Performance

We measured CyberGhost speeds from US and UK locations with 1Gbps connections, using several performance testing services (SpeedTest's website and command line app, nPerf.com, SpeedOf.me and more). We checked the download speeds at least five times from each site, then checked again using another protocol, before repeating this all over again in an evening session.

WireGuard speeds were above average at 540-730Mbps, which earned CyberGhost ninth place out of our last 20 speed tests. (Surfshark, TorGuard and Norton led the way with 950Mbps or over).

CyberGhost also supports the older (but secure and very versatile) OpenVPN protocol. You may need to use OpenVPN to get connected in some situations, so we test its performance, too. And the results were good, with speeds peaking at a very respectable 380Mbps, two to three times what we’ve seen from some providers. 

Netflix menu showing popular shows

CyberGhost proved to be a mixed bag for accessing streaming content, but did well enough with Netflix (Image credit: Netflix)

Netflix and streaming

Some VPNs make you work to unblock streaming sites. If you're looking to access US Netflix, for instance, you might have to try each of the US locations in turn before you find one that gets you in.

CyberGhost doesn't waste your time with any of those kinds of shenanigans. Its app location lists have a Streaming tab with specialist servers for Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney Plus, HBO Max and more.

North American and European customers get the best coverage, but our app also listed servers in Australia, Brazil, India, Japan, Korea and Singapore. These cover both the top platforms and smaller regional services: RTL, MTV Finland, France TV, AI Play and more.

We began our tests by connecting to the BBC iPlayer location, and found we could stream iPlayer content without difficulty. CyberGhost continued its successful run by unblocking ITV and Channel 4.

We switched to the US Netflix server, and again this allowed us to browse and stream whatever content we liked. CyberGhost was just as effective with Netflix Australia, Canada and Japan, although it failed in the UK.

The mixed picture continued with our final tests, where CyberGhost failed with Disney Plus and Australia’s 10 play, but succeeded with 9Now and Amazon Prime Video.

CyberGhost Torrents

CyberGhost hides your IP to protect you while torrenting (Image credit: CyberGhost)

Torrents

CyberGhost doesn't support P2P on all locations, but there’s still plenty of choice. Choosing the ‘For torrenting’ filter on our Windows app listed 70 P2P-friendly countries, which is more than most VPN providers support in total.

We checked this by connecting to three P2P-friendly locations and successfully downloading a torrent from each, with no connection or other issues.

Handy bonus features in the Windows app Settings box include the ability to automatically connect your preferred CyberGhost server whenever you launch your torrent client (more on that later).

Sourcing torrents from more dubious sites can sometimes leave you exposed to attack, but CyberGhost's malicious URL filter, another welcome addition, should help block the most dangerous threats.

CyberGhost Windows App

The Windows client is clean and lightweight, but powerful (Image credit: CyberGhost)

Windows app

CyberGhost's Windows client opens with a clean, lightweight console which includes a 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 countries and their distance from you. This can be filtered by continent, or to display servers optimized for gaming, streaming or torrents, and a Favorites system makes it easy to build your own custom list.

We found the app connected slowly for WireGuard at around 10 seconds, but quickly for OpenVPN at around six seconds, the reverse of what we’d usually expect. Perhaps as a result, the app automatically chose OpenVPN whenever we connected. That’s an issue, as OpenVPN is much slower, but you can tell the app to always connect via WireGuard if you prefer.

Whatever protocol you use, we noticed there are no notifications to tell you when it connects or disconnects. That means you can't be completely sure of whether you're protected unless you're looking at the CyberGhost app.

CyberGhost Smart Rules

CyberGhost's Smart Rules panel gives you a great deal of control over how its Windows client functions (Image credit: CyberGhost)

The app's Smart Rules panel gives you an unusual level of control over when the client launches. Most VPNs have an option to launch when Windows starts, for instance, but CyberGhost also allows you to choose a preferred server, and then 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 connecting to new networks. You can have the client automatically connect to the VPN if the network is insecure, for instance, or never connect if it's encrypted, or indeed perform custom actions for specific networks (always protect at home, never protect at work) – or simply ask you what to do.

Built-in App Rules allow you to automatically connect to a specific VPN location when you open an app. You could connect to the specialist US Netflix location when you open the Netflix app, for instance, or choose a torrent-friendly location when you launch your P2P application.

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, and 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, and generally optimize it to suit your needs, CyberGhost gives you a mix of options and opportunities you simply won't see elsewhere.

CyberGhost Protocols

CyberGhost supports OpenVPN, IKEv2 and WireGuard protocols (Image credit: CyberGhost)

Settings

The Settings box lets you choose your preferred protocol (OpenVPN, IKEv2 or WireGuard), using random ports to connect (which might bypass some VPN blocking), and enabling or disabling a kill switch, IPv6 connections and DNS leak protection.

Our tests showed the kill switch generally worked very well. We tried forcibly closing VPN connections, and even killing CyberGhost's OpenVPN and WireGuard helper processes, but the kill switch blocked our internet access immediately. However, there were some issues.

As we mentioned earlier, the app doesn't raise notifications if the connection drops. Unless you're looking at its console, you'll have no idea why your internet has just died.

This won't matter much with OpenVPN or IKEv2 connections, as we found the app updated its connection status and automatically reconnected within a few seconds.

When we closed the WireGuard process, though, the app didn't appear to notice. Our internet was correctly blocked, but the app told us we were still connected. Hitting the Disconnect button got us our internet access back, but this could still leave users confused for a while. And if the app thinks it's connected when it's not, that leaves us wondering whether there are other issues here that CyberGhost missed.

CyberGhost Mac App

CyberGhost's Mac app is a very streamlined affair (Image credit: CyberGhost)

Mac app

CyberGhost's Mac app opens with a stripped-back mobile VPN-like panel, little more than the currently selected location and a Connect button. Good news if you're not interested in the low-level technicalities: just point, click, and you're connected in a very few seconds.

Tap an 'Expand' icon, though, and a panel appears to the left, with a list of locations and links to various settings. It looks much like the Windows app, but with some unexpected differences.

The Mac location list doesn't include the distance to each server, for instance, as we saw on Windows. But it adds a 'server load' figure, helping you identify which locations are busiest. Both details are useful, but wouldn't it make more sense if each of the apps displayed both figures?

The app sidebars have different location lists, too. Windows gives you lists for gaming, torrenting and streaming; Mac only gives you downloading and streaming lists.

As usual with Mac VPN apps, it doesn't have all the features available on Windows. Click Privacy Settings, for instance, and you only get the ad, tracker and malware blocking options. There's no configurable DNS leak option or automatic kill switch.

The start-up rules are much simpler than we saw with Windows, too. You can set up the app to automatically connect when it launches, or whenever you access untrusted Wi-Fi networks. But you can't have the VPN connect when you run particular apps, and there's no 'Exceptions' option to define websites which won't pass through the VPN tunnel.

Still, it's important to put this in perspective. CyberGhost's Windows app is one of the most configurable we've seen, and even though this version can't quite match that, it's still a capable Mac VPN app which is user-friendly and equipped with plenty of useful tools and features.

CyberGhost Split Tunneling

CyberGhost's Android app offers split tunneling, allowing the user to specify which apps use the VPN, and which do not (Image credit: CyberGhost)

Android app

Mobile VPN apps are often underpowered when compared to their desktop cousins, but CyberGhost's offerings are surprisingly capable.

The app opens with the usual very simple portrait interface, for instance, little more than a Connect button and the name of your selected location. But switch to the tablet-friendly landscape mode and you get the location list and Connect button on the same screen, making it easier to find the server you need and get online.

You can have the app automatically connect when you access insecure Wi-Fi, and protocol support includes OpenVPN and WireGuard (but no IKEv2).

The app includes the desktop client's ability to use a random port when connecting to the VPN, a simple trick which might help bypass VPN blocking.

A Content Blocker supports blocking domains associated with malware, ads or trackers. We've never found it particularly effective – and it's turned off by default, which also suggests it's not a huge security plus – but the feature is available if you'd like to try it.

Split tunneling is probably the highlight here, allowing you to decide which apps use the VPN and which don't, in just a few clicks.

There's also support for domain fronting, a clever technique which bypasses some VPN blocking by directing key CyberGhost traffic through a content delivery network (CDN). We didn't test this but we're happy to know it's available (and curious why it's not included in the Windows client).

You don't get a kill switch, unfortunately. That's not a critical issue – you'll just have to set up the Android system-level kill switch instead – but many VPN apps have at least some instructions on how to do that, and we'd like to see the same here.

CyberGhost iOS app

CyberGhost has apps for iPad, iPhone and even Apple Watch (Image credit: CyberGhost)

iOS app

The iOS app shares the same look and feel as the Windows and Android versions, and getting started is as easy as logging in, then tapping Connect to access your nearest location.

VPN apps for iOS never match Android VPN apps for features, just because Apple's security model doesn't allow them the same control, but there is a sprinkling of useful features here. For example, you can set up the app to automatically connect when you access insecure or specific networks. Or you can set your protocol to IKEv2 or WireGuard (no OpenVPN), or run a connection checker to analyze your internet connectivity, see if CyberGhost's VPN servers are accessible, and generally troubleshoot any problems.

Overall, these aren't the best mobile VPN apps we've ever seen, but for the most part they're a likeable and well-judged mix of power and ease of use. They come with a 7-day trial, too, so it's easy to check them out if you're intrigued.

CyberGhost Dedicated IP

Choose the location of your dedicated IP from CyberGhost's web dashboard (Image credit: CyberGhost)

Dedicated IP system

CyberGhost now offers dedicated IPs for an extra $5 a month, dropping to $4.25 a month (recently up from $4) on the annual plan, or $3.75 a month over three years. Hand over the cash and you'll get a unique IP address for your use only, reducing the chance that you'll be blocked by sites for the bad behavior of other people, and allowing you to access IP-restricted business networks while using the VPN.

Sign up for the scheme and you're able to choose your preferred location from an impressive 10 countries (NordVPN only offers five, Private Internet Access eight). Those countries include: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Singapore, Switzerland, plus two cities in the UK and five in the US. 

We chose New York and the website presented us with a token consisting of a lengthy text string ('DIP26mZCWKAQP3oKioFu8YLRburW6LxR') which represented our IP. We pasted this into the Windows app, and our dedicated IP became available from the location picker.

Although this may sound like a hassle, there's a good reason for the scheme. CyberGhost doesn't associate the IP with our account, which ensures it remains as anonymous as a regular VPN IP address; the company has no way to connect any web action to a particular account.

This does leave some scope for problems, however. In particular, if you lose your IP token, there's no way to get it back because CyberGhost doesn't know what it was. But that's no surprise, and the company does its best to help, for example automatically generating and downloading a plain text file containing your token as soon as it's allocated.

Once your new address is activated, it immediately appears in the Dedicated IP section of CyberGhost's location picker. You can select it whenever necessary, or browse the usual location lists when you need a dynamic IP.

This all worked smoothly and as advertised for us. Our shiny new IP was allocated quickly, and it appeared to be in New York, as we requested, and Cyren, BrightCloud, Talos and other IP reputation checkers all found it was clean and blocklist-free.

It's a simple and straightforward system, and fair value on the plan, but other VPNs also have decent dedicated IP schemes. Check out Ivacy ($1.99 a month) and PureVPN ($2.99 a month) for more options.

CyberGhost Support

You'll need to choose the right keywords to find what you're looking for in CyberGhost's knowledgebase (Image credit: CyberGhost)

Support

CyberGhost support begins with its web guides, where you'll find advice on setting up the service on Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Android, Linux and more.

These do a fair job of explaining key tasks, such as installing the Windows app, with screenshots and helpful extra tips (how to choose a secure password, for instance). But there isn't the depth or the detail to match the likes of ExpressVPN or NordVPN.

The knowledgebase search engine isn't particularly intelligent or helpful. It relies on you carefully choosing the best possible keyword (you'll get very different results for searching on 'speed' and 'performance', for instance), and even if you get that right, the results don't appear to be sorted by usefulness.

A 'Recent activity' panel looked like a good idea, as it lists recently added or changed support documents. But then we browsed down the page and realized CyberGhost had only added one article in the past year. Seems like we shouldn't expect the knowledgebase to significantly improve any time soon.

Still, there is just about enough useful content here to help you with the basics. And if that fails, you can also talk to a real, live, human being, fortunately, via email or live chat support.

We opened a live chat session, and only 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, the agent immediately understood what we needed, and clearly explained everything we needed to know.

CyberGhost's support site may be a little 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 review: Final verdict

CyberGhost has a number of issues – especially the ‘seven specific devices’ usage limit – but it delivers on the top VPN priorities for most people, with speedy connections, decent unblocking, loads of features and helpful live chat support. Give it a try.