CyberGhost 2021 Review: All That Glitters Is Not Gold

by
Frederik Lipfert
Dr. Frederik Lipfert Founder, vpncheck
Updated on 8 Oct 2021
Frederik is a serial entrepreneur that jumped into entrepreneurship after earning his doctorate in physics. Founding and running an analytics company got him into the online privacy and security space he's now contributing to with vpncheck. Read full bio

Expert Contributions

Theodor Tonca
Theodor Tonca Pricing Expert
Alla Robert Aristakesyan
Alla Robert Aristakesyan Business Consultant
Monika Lewko
Monika Lewko Privacy & Data Protection Lawyer
Jaosn Alexander
Jason Alexander Cybersecurity Researcher
Barbara Niveyro
Barbara Niveyro User Interface Designer
Raeesa Essop
Raeesa Essop Network Engineer
This review is based on the exclusive research, analyses, and tests our experts have conducted of CyberGhost.

Our industry experts found that CyberGhost is one of the most transparent VPNs to buy in 2021. For our CyberGhost review, our VPN Reviews team purchased a subscription and critically analyzed all pertinent aspects of this VPN service to test if CyberGhost really offers great value. That’s not all; you will hear from the horse’s mouth (industry experts) as to what they have to say about this VPN.  

Now, there’s always something about a VPN company with a suspicious parent, a murky past, or even questionable technology that gives anyone who cares about online anonymity and security a pause. CyberGhost is a good VPN in a myriad of ways, yet some things hold it back from being truly the best. 

We will talk about the ghosts that haunt CyberGhost later on.

TL;DR: CyberGhost in a Nutshell

CyberGhost is a feature-rich VPN paired with decent pricing plans that makes it a very attractive choice. With a massive fleet of servers, a presence in 91 countries, and headquarters outside many international intelligence-sharing countries and jurisdictions, there is a lot to like about this VPN.

Here are some of this VPN’s highlights:

  • Security: CyberGhost protects you using 256-bit encryption and a kill switch, with additional security features you can disable or enable at will.
  • Privacy: The VPN makes bold claims about privacy, including that it doesn’t log the locations of servers you access, the total amount of data you transfer, or connection timestamps.
  • Multiple Servers: CyberGhost boasts over 7000+ servers in 91 countries, with recommendations for the best connections according to what you are doing, including streaming, gaming, or torrenting.
  • Unblocking: CyberGhost users can unlock over 35 popular streaming platforms from any of the 114 locations it supports, including Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max, Peacock, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and more.
  • Torrenting: The servers recommended by CyberGhost for torrenting and other specific functions are optimized. For instance, the servers dedicated to torrenting are P2P-optimized to deliver reliably high speeds.
  • User Experience: CyberGhost provides reliable user experiences across the many platforms it supports, including PC operating systems, iOS, Android, some smart TVs, gaming consoles, and routers.
  • Affordability: Not only is CyberGhost cheaper than many of the alternatives it competes with, but it also has a 45-day money-back guarantee, allowing you to put it through all sorts of tests, and get your money back if it doesn’t deliver.

CyberGhost Performance: Acceptable?

While VPNs are abundant, finding the one that suits your needs is usually a matter of comparing the performance. Our Network expert, Raeesa Essop, put CyberGhost through several evaluative, fact-finding tests to determine if it can deliver. This is what she had to say about CyberGhost VPN:

Our Expert Review and Rating of CyberGhost’s Network Performance

Raeesa Essop
Raeesa Essop
Network Engineer

The first impression made by this VPN was rather impressive. With such a vast number of servers with some specialised for specific purposes, it shouldn’t leave any user wanting. 

Many of the servers tested did not exhibit any DNS leaks or interception. They also did not disclose at any point that a VPN was being used. This has been an issue in the past that I believe CyberGhost has since resolved. There was unfortunately some DNS traffic logged in the packet capture when using Wireshark. 

Privacy was proven to be maintained through all of the tests conducted above. However, it is not conclusive evidence that a leak may never occur or that data cannot be intercepted/hijacked.

Regarding the speed/performance of the servers, the results were not so impressive. Depending on the desired activities, some of the servers had much slower rates than expected. The Romanian servers did have decent rates and that may be due to it being the VPNs primary location.

The download speeds never exceeded 22Mbps which shows a minimum drop in performance of over 50% (when compared to the base download rate). Considering the upload rates, they saw a minimum drop of 25% and a maximum drop of 91%. On average the Upload rates were decent, but surprisingly the closest exit node exhibited one of the worst rates. 

The Netflix optimised servers worked smoothly in unblocking geo-restrictions but could not stream well in anything above 4K. The videos experienced frequent buffering when played normally and when skipped through. The buffering often lasted between 2-5 seconds.There are many other servers for the purpose of entertainment via streaming and gaming. 

CyberGhost also holds a seemingly pro-torrenting stance with an entire section of servers placed under a ‘torrenting’ tab. The NoSpy servers that offer that extra level of anonymity and are operated independently boasted higher speeds on the website. They did not however provide a better performance according to online speed tests.

CyberGhost offers several VPN protocols to pick from with the newly added WireGuard.There is also AES 256-bit encryption provided for highly secured network traffic. CyberGhost does have a kill switch and allows split traffic in the odd chance a user needs that functionality.

With a decent upload profile and the availability of split tunneling, this VPN could be used for commercial use in smaller businesses. The VPN can also be used for more personal pursuits depending on the location of the user. With most of the download rates experiencing massive drops and the streaming quality being less than satisfactory it’s best for a user to test out the functionality in their country before committing. With zero ping latencies being less than 200ms and very few being close to 200ms these servers may also not be feasibly used for gaming in the reviewers location (South Africa).

 

Based on my opinion as an Electronic and Automation Engineer, I rate CyberGhost VPN

    7
    7

    If you’d like to know more about how our expert reached his verdict, based on actual research and years of experience, read more about the tests performed and conclusions reached at the end of this review.

    CyberGhost’s Streaming Capability

    A cursory look through this VPN reveals that it is designed to cater to the streaming community. One of the most common reasons people sign up for an account is so they can watch Netflix shows that are geo-locked.

    That error message you get telling you that you cannot watch a show you like because you are in the wrong country is quite irritating.

    Thankfully, CyberGhost has the right number of servers in strategic locations, to allow you to change locations easily and quickly, to access just about any show you want. Generally, it performs well for all the major streaming platforms we tested. Here’s what we found.

    CyberGhost speed test results - 9.47 Mbps download, 11.34 Mbps upload

    CyberGhost speed test via speedtest.net

     

     

    NOTE: For most, if not all, of these streaming services, you will need a subscription with the platform to access the content. CyberGhost is simply a way to allow you to look like you are in the country the streaming platform is accessible to.

    CyberGhost for Netflix

    Even with an excellent VPN, it can sometimes be difficult to pick the right server for streaming and unblocking Netflix. It is therefore a relief to find that CyberGhost categorizes the best servers for streaming Netflix in the same place so you can find them easily.

    Users can connect to servers that unlock Netflix US, Netflix UK, and any other regions where the platform has geo-locked content. We tested additional locations, including New York, Tokyo, Paris, London, Berlin, Lisbon, Madrid, Sydney, and more. They all played HD content with ease, showing no lag, even though the speeds vary.

    CyberGhost supports more than just Netflix, as we mentioned earlier. Other streaming platforms we tested include:

    Hulu: Unblocked

    Hulu has been performing well and features highly-rated shows, which has gone far in making the platform popular. We tried to watch the content from outside the US, but predictably, there was trouble getting through.

    A cursory check reveals that Hulu will say your email cannot be verified if you try connecting from outside the US.

    Hulu test signup shows registering from outside the US cannot be verified

     

    CyberGhost saved the day, just as we expected it to. The streaming servers optimized for the job made it easy to have an experience comparable to anyone watching from within the US.

    NOTE: It is recommended, that for the best experience with content geo-locked to the US, to connect to US-based servers for the best speeds and streaming experience.

    Disney+: Unblocked

    When Disney+ launched, it didn’t take long before it released a little show called The Mandalorian, which was the boost it needed to make headlines. However, since it was only launched in 2019, the streaming service is not big enough to span all the countries of the globe.

    You do not have to wait until Disney+ gets to your country to see what the fuss is all about. With CyberGhost, connecting to this platform is as easy as getting a subscription and connecting to a US server for the best performance.

    Prime Video: Unblocked

    Amazon’s Prime Video shows are some of the best, featuring titles like The Boys, Bosch, Fleabag, Good Omens, and an upcoming Lord of the Rings series with a billion-dollar budget.

    Amazon is big enough that it spans 200 countries across the globe but some restrictions include geo-blocked content and the fact that individual subscriptions are only available to households in the US, UK, and Germany.

    The rest of the world needs an Amazon Prime membership, which comes bundled with other Amazon services many can’t use or even access, but will still get billed for.

    If you are based in Italy, India, France, Turkey, Canada, or Australia, you cannot access Amazon Prime Video through its main site address, but instead through a dedicated site (primevideo.com).

    That seems like a lot of work that you can conveniently bypass using CyberGhost and showing up in the right location.

    NOTE: To stream Amazon Prime Video catalogs out of the UK or US, you will need to create an account with a relevant address from the preferred country.

    BBC iPlayer: Unblocked

    BBC iPlayer is another bloc-specific streaming platform that caters only to residents whose IP addresses are shown to be in the UK. Think of it as Britain’s idea of Hulu. Once again, with the ethereal powers of CyberGhost, you can appear to be where it works.

    Accessing BBC iPlayer from outside the UK brings up an error message that looks like this:

    BBC iPlayer shows a restriction message stating it only works in the UK due to rights issues

    However, a few clicks later on CyberGhost will have you enjoying the content you want to see. Who’s not in the UK now, BBC!

    DAZN: Unblocked

    Streaming content online is not all about movies and series. It’s also about sports. DAZN is a leading name in the sports streaming industry. According to the DAZN official website, the service is only available in the USA (Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands included), Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Japan, Canada, Austria, and Brazil.

    CyberGhost will enable you to connect to any of the appropriate servers to stream all your sports in one place.

    Sports doesn’t end and stop with DAZN, as CyberGhost also supports other similar platforms, including B/R Live, fuboTV, SlingTV, SBS, and BT Sport.

    Torrenting With CyberGhost VPN

    Even though VPNs can allow you to connect to things you would not otherwise be able to get, they can sometimes be restrictive, especially when it comes to P2P sharing, and may even have a data cap on how much you can do.

    Not only does CyberGhost support torrenting, but it also has dedicated servers optimized for P2P sharing. On the site, CyberGhost says that it does not condone the use of torrents to share copyrighted material but believes torrents should be safe to use and anonymous.

    CyberGhost dashboard includes a For Torrenting settings option

    If you pair the speeds offered, the optimized servers, and the no-cap bandwidth access, it’s clear that CyberGhost is a very good choice on the torrenting front.

     

    Compatibility and servers

    Every major platform is supported. CyberGhost can run on Mac, Linux, Windows Android, iOS, Chromebook, and more. Using a FlashRouter works even better to support all the major operating systems.

    Here is a list of CyberGhost compatible devices you can look through to see if yours is among them. There are also CyberGhost setup guides for different devices and operating systems to help you with the more complicated configurations for supported platforms.

    Locations

    At the time of writing, CyberGhost has a footprint in 91 countries and 114 locations. Every single one of them is accessible to you, as soon as you get a subscription. This network is supported by more than 7000 servers for comfortable speeds and reliable connections.

    CyberGhost UI/UX: Deceptively Attractive

    From the design front, CyberGhost seems to do a lot of things right. It is easy to log in, connect to a server, enable and disable settings, as well as navigate around to access the features provided. However, we wanted to get a professional view from an industry expert. Our UI/UX expert, Barbara Niveyro, conducted a full examination of the user interface, the user experience, and general design aspects of CyberGhost to compile a report.

    Our Expert Review and Rating of CyberGhost’s UI/UX Design

    Barbara Niveyro
    Barbara Niveyro
    User Interface Designer

    When analyzing CyberGhost VPN design style, and keeping in mind that this is a tool that the user does not expect to interact with for long periods of time since its goal is to set it up once on the phone/computer, make sure that it works, forget about, and move on using professional software and entertainment platforms, the CyberGhost VPN is good at being fun and simple, and the colour scheme of the service wears different shades of violet, a colour that is associated with creativity and wisdom and is not overwhelmingly giving too many messages or options. In other words, the service is visually attractive and creative. 

    But at the same time, when analyzing CyberGhost VPN UX and UI design, the service is not great at delivering a clear message about its connectivity, and the same issue happens in all the operating systems (Mac, Chrome, Android, etc). We need to keep in mind that this is one of the main features that a client would expect from a VPN service – if not the only one for a new/beginner user. This is because the interface has an icon designed to activate the connectivity or to modify it and switch it to a different location. To be more clear, this icon is a “power switch” icon (please see image below).

    CyberGhost's power switch in gray color when turned off CyberGhost's power switch in gold color when turned on CyberGhost's dropdown menu for location connection set to United States

    When the user clicks on this button, it is not clear if the VPN is getting disconnected, or if it is switching directly from one location to another. The icon’s circle switches from gray to gold when it is off or on, but this action is not clear. And the route to find the list with all the locations available is not intuitive: the user has to click on the last selected location, which again, is confusing. For gamers or similar audiences, this might be easier to understand, but that is a limited audience that might still intuitively try to find the options under “settings” or “locations” or an icon that has the image of a map, or a map – and these are all easy alternatives to fix this problem. The interaction with this button (and so, with the first interaction with the app) has been tested with two other people and they also found the “on” switch confusing and not user-friendly.

    Another communication and design issue is that the app has a button that says “best location”. What is “the best location”? It depends if the client prioritizes speed, the distance to the location, or the reason why they decided to acquire the VPN. “Best location” doesn’t say much, and as an option is not efficient. An alternative would be to include a filter to choose the locations by speed/distance / or purpose. 

    As a result, this makes the experience less accessible. Plus, the app (which was tested in different OS), does not offer accessibility features, and there are no options to customize the colours or caption size.

    In short, the service’s style and the transition through the interface look friendly and work smoothly, but the communication fails a lot, and this affects the overall experience, produces frustration in the user, and limits the accessibility.

    Based on my opinion as an Open Designer for Innovation, Communicator and Writer, I rate CyberGhost VPN's user interface, user experience, and accessibility features

      5
      5

      Well, it appears that the CyberGhost applications are not intuitive after all! Depending on whether you’re new to using a VPN, and how you intend to access/use CyberGhost, it’s probably not one of the best VPNs in terms of usability.

      But, let’s dive into the compatibilities and features offered for the various operating systems to see whether CyberGhost can redeem itself as a top-tier VPN service.

      Device Compatibilities

      Windows

      On Windows, CyberGhost supports installation on the Windows OS, beginning with Windows 7 (Minimum SP2), Windows 8 and 8.1, and Windows 10. You can run CyberGhost in both 32-bit and 64-bit architectures.

      As for requirements, you should have .NET 4.6, at least a 1GHz PC processor (for both 32-bit and 64-bit iterations), 2 Gigabytes of RAM (depends on your OS version), and about 310MB of free hard drive space (you’ll need only 280MB if you have installed .NET 4.6 already.

      You can connect using the WireGuard, OpenVPN, and IKEv2 protocols on Windows.

      Mac

      The CyberGhost VPN works for Mac users too and supports models like the MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro. The VPN also works for iMacs and their Pro versions, as well as Mac Pro and Mac minis.

      It is compatible with the following versions of the macOS: Mojave (10.14), High Sierra (10.13), and Sierra (10.12).

      You get a layout similar to what’s on Windows, with pre-configured profiles optimized for all sorts of tasks, including streaming and the like. Users connect on their Mac devices using the IKEv2 protocol and can enjoy the protections offered by the ‘Protect Wi-Fi’ smart feature.

      Android

      The Android experience CyberGhost provides is comprehensive and includes features like the one-tap connect for easy connections. You get access to the same number of servers and locations as on any other device, including Wi-Fi protection to ensure you get notifications when you connect to a public, unsecured network. Your data stays safe even at random locations.

      The app is compatible with the following version of the Android OS: Jelly Bean, KitKat, Lollipop, Marshmallow, Nougat, Oreo, and Pie. It can also be used on any Android tablet or any Android phone running any of the listed versions (5.0 and above).

      There’s a YouTube video on how to install and set up CyberGhost VPN on your Android.

      iOS

      Installing the CyberGhost VPN on iOS devices is as easy as on an Android device. You can download it straight from the App Store, sign in and be good to go.

      On iOS, you can run the CyberGhost VPN on iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, and iPod Touch. The apps are also optimized to perform even better for iPhone X Max, iPhone X, iPhone 11, and iPhone 12. It is also ready to use on iPhone 13.

      You can run the apps on iOS 13 or later with ease. Check out this guide: How To Use CyberGhost VPN On iOS

      Linux

      For the tech-heads who love what Linux does, CyberGhost makes things easy. Most VPNs are not easy to install on Linux the way they are on Windows. What you get is a command-based Linux app.

      You can find all the guides to install on every distribution including Debian-based ones like Ubuntu (16.04 | 18.04 | 20.04), Mint 20, Kali, and PopOS, as well as RPM-based like Fedora (29 | 30 | 31 | 32) and CentOS 7 and 8.

      If you are worried about getting lost in the technicalities of Linux, you can read this guide: How to Set Up CyberGhost VPN CLI App on Linux

      Home Router

      The perks of having a router that is protected and connects to the internet via a VPN like CyberGhost means that you can protect more than just seven devices when you are within the networked area. Setting one up at home means that you can go from 7 devices to, well, a lot.

      NOTE: Before you buy a router for use with CyberGhost, check to see if it is compatible. As a rule of thumb, you will do better with one that supports OpenVPN protocols. The information is usually in the router’s documentation. You can check your support if you already have one.

      CyberGhost is pre-configured in some models, which it recommends on its website. They include:

      • CyberGhost Netgear R6400V2 AC1750 DD-WRT FlashRouter (for up to 5 devices)
      • CyberGhost Linksys WRT3200ACM AC3200 DD-WRT FlashRouter (for up to 9 devices)
      • CyberGhost Asus RT-AC5300 AC5300 DD-WRT FlashRouter (for 10+ devices)

       

      3 recommended CyberGhost routers - economy, mid range, high end - all come with CyberGhost VPN pre-configured

      Once you configure a compatible model to work with CyberGhost, you will have access to all the perks and features every other device gets.

      The VPN supports the following router firmware types: DD-WRT, TomatoUSB, and TomatoUSB Merlin Build.

      Other Devices

      CyberGhost also supports the following:

      1. Gaming consoles – They include PlayStation 3 and 4, Xbox One and Xbox 360, Nintendo Switch, Nintendo Wii, and Wii U.
      2. Streaming consoles– They include Roku TV, Apple TV 4, and Apple TV 3.
      3. Smart TVs (with Smart DNS)– They include LG SmartTV run on webOS and Samsung SmartTV run on Tizen OS.
      4. Smart TVs– They include Android TVs and Amazon Fire TV. For both, you get one-tap connect, the highly secure OpenVPN protocol, and intuitive integration.
      5. Browser extensions – There is a CyberGhost VPN proxy for Chrome, Firefox, and Chromium-based browsers.

      Other niche supported devices include LibreELEC “Kodi”, OpenELEC “Kodi”, VU+ Solo², Raspberry Pi, and Synology NAS via OpenVPN

      With a CyberGhost subscription, you can sign in to a large number of supported devices. They include just about every major platform, OS, and device. The number of devices you can connect at any given time simultaneously is seven (7).

      NOTE: CyberGhost allows its users to do manual configurations (L2PT, IPSec, and PPTP) that allow them to use the VPN’s features and functionalities without the need for an app.

      Usability

      Let’s walk you through how to get the app, install it on your PC/Mac and get started.

      First, we go to the official CyberGhost website:

      CyberGhost's 2021 pricing plans - $2.25 per month for 3 years plus 3 months free, $3.49 per month for 2 years, $3.99 per month for 1 year and $12.99 monthly

      On the pricing page, you can pick a plan, payment method, and then download free VPN for Windows from their website.

      CyberGhost's download page for Windows

       

      Once you have made the payments and downloaded the setup, you can go ahead and install the app on your machine.

      After it is installed, use your login credentials to sign in to the app. After that, this is what you will see:

       

      CyberGhost user's home page shows a power button and an option to connect to the best server location

      The app will launch to the right of your screen in this manner. As you can see, one click will connect you. The little arrow to the left of the ‘Best Server Location’ button reveals more details:

      CyberGhost VPN Favorites setting for frequently used locations also indicates best servers for streaming BBC iPlayer and Netflix

      Here, you will find access to servers categorized into different tasks and uses. Even the streaming ones for Netflix UK, BBC iPlayer, and Netflix US are clearly indicated. You can access settings from here, create smart rules, check out your profile, and more.

      Since the layout is easy to use, if you’ve used a VPN in the past, you will not have a hard time connecting to servers. Once connected, the VPN looks like this:

      Connected CyberGhost VPN to the US server will also indicate that it is optimized for Netflix streaming

      We are going to take off the training wheels now (not that you needed them) and let you explore what else is provided in terms of safety and security.

      CyberGhost Security: So Near and Yet So Far

      CyberGhost in general has a good reputation in the VPN market. However, it has some skeletons in its closet. They are old skeletons, but ghosts are ghosts and we did promise to talk about them later.

      We asked cybersecurity expert, Jason Alexander, to find out how secure CyberGhost is as a budget VPN option. He reveals that there are some details people should be aware of, including the fact that CyberGhost does not have a clear history of third-party audits. 

      Like its contemporaries, CyberGhost offers encryption to make sure that your data remains private, through AES-256-CBC, which is the most popular cypher among many services. It is known to be uncrackable by even the most powerful computers of our day. Authentication processing is done using the SHA-256 cryptographic function, although there are other advanced forms that this VPN could be using (think SHA-512) but doesn’t. So, what do cybersecurity gurus say about CyberGhost’s security?

      Our Expert Review and Rating of CyberGhost’s Security

      Jaosn Alexander
      Jason Alexander
      Cybersecurity Researcher

      CyberGhost VPN offers a solid choice from a security perspective if their practices, policies, and obligations are still accurate since the change of ownership to Kape Technologies (more on that later).

      CyberGhost VPN tout they utilize all common Open Source VPN Protocols (OpenVPN, IKEv2 (IPSec), and WireGuard). WireGuard, as a protocol, raises some privacy concerns for some users as it holds the IP Address for a long time (this is an inherent feature of the protocol, nothing to do with CyberGhost VPN, though some competitors have developed workarounds).

      There was a single incident of a vulnerability in 2018 which was serious (CVE-2018-10646). A single vulnerability in 15 years is a good run – though keep in mind the actual amount of vulnerabilities may be different as not all are reported or found.

      CyberGhost VPN has very strong policies around how servers are provisioned, operated, and managed, with all VPN-related information stored only in RAM. They have a strict no-logging policy which, unfortunately, has not been audited by a third party.

      The big question is whether Kape Technologies (which had a sordid past under the name Crossrider – intentionally creating adware/malware) is a company you can now trust with your anonymity and privacy. Has this leopard changed its stripes? A third-party audit of their ‘No Logging’ policy at this time would be prudent. I have reached out to Kape to ask about this (26/07/2021) and am awaiting an answer.

      Based on my opinion as a Cybersecurity Specialist, I rate CyberGhost VPN's security at 6.5 / 10. They have all the right practices in theory and limited testing seems positive. If Kape Technologies backs its operation in Romania as being 100% independent; and allows a third party to audit the logging and data collection, I’d be rating

        8.5
        8.5

        As it is, even if Kape is secretly harvesting and reporting your information, some may argue you are no worse off with CyberGhost VPN compared to other providers in the ‘x Eyes Club’ (5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, 14 Eyes, etc.).

        Protocols and Security Overview

        For tunneling protocols, you will have the following choices:

        • OpenVPN – This is the most popular VPN protocol still. Typically, open-source security measures are highly regarded, since they offer the most oversight when developing most pieces of software.
        • IKEv2 – As one of the older protocols, it is compatible with many devices and works well on mobile devices.

        WireGuard – Perhaps one of the fastest tunneling protocols, WireGuard is also one of the safest. Many of the VPN services are phasing out the older technologies to support this one. CyberGhost got in right on time.

        CyberGhost Reliability: This Is Where It Really Shines

        To help us get the details right, we enlisted the expertise of Monika Lewko, an international Business and Privacy Lawyer and researcher to look at the company’s history and review the data privacy protections offered.

        Lewko presented us with her findings on jurisdiction and how it affects the effectiveness of the VPN, the privacy policy, the terms of service, and her overall opinion and rating of CyberGhost.

        Our Expert Review and Rating of CyberGhost’s Data Privacy Protection

        Monika Lewko
        Monika Lewko
        Privacy & Data Protection Lawyer

        CyberGhost VPN is registered as CyberGhost S.R.L. with headquarters in Bucharest, Romania, an EU country. It works in favour of its legitimacy and accountability of beneficial owners and other entity controllers. At the same time, Romania, as a Member State of the European Union, was obliged to transpose the 2006/24/EC Directive on data retention. This law was quickly declared unconstitutional by the Romanian Constitutional Court (RCC). The basis for those decisions was the lack of adequate precautions for the citizen’s fundamental rights, such as the right to privacy, freedom of expression, and confidentiality of correspondence. RCC confirmed this statement in the 2014 ruling. As a result, the Romanian lawmaker has not enforced similar laws so far. Additionally, Romania is not a member of the Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, or Fourteen Eyes alliances. CyberGhost S.R.L. explains that they moved their HQ from Germany because of Romania’s attitude towards data retention laws.

        The company claims to have a strict No Logs policy. Its Privacy Policy includes an enumerative list of data collected. CyberGhost states that listed Personal Data is not associated with any activity done by the user inside the VPN’s tunnel at any time, which is not recorded, logged, or stored. The company shows important registry data and contact details on its website. The company’s address is verifiable via Romanian Trade Register, and the VAT UE number (VIES) can be checked on the European Commission website. CyberGhost accepts cryptocurrency payments, which adds positively to the privacy aspect.

        Although the company gives a wide range of information presented clearly, it is essential to familiarize yourself with the Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions. It can contribute to a proper understanding of the scope of data retention because despite being established in a privacy-friendly country, the company is still subject to other EU laws. Whenever there is a reasonable suspicion that a crime was committed or a VPN is used for illicit activities, the court can still authorize law enforcement and special forces to access personal data. Companies like CyberGhost S.R.L. have to cooperate in such situations.

        Based on my opinion as an international business & privacy lawyer, I rate CyberGhost VPN's privacy

          8
          8

          Company Overview, History, and Reliability

          CyberGhost was founded in 2011 and headquartered in Germany at the beginning. At the time of this writing, the VPN service covers more than 15 million users.

          The company moved out of Germany, since changing EU laws meant that its users’ data could potentially and through legal means, fall in the hands of governments that seek to pry.

          So, the company moved to Romania, which is also an EU country, but has different data retention laws and does not belong to intelligence/surveillance-sharing communities.

          Even after it was acquired by Kape Technologies, it continued to operate out of Bucharest.

          This indicates that the company intends to keep its edge over the competition, by not moving operations to countries that have invasive laws about surveillance.

          Overall, our expert rates this VPN quite highly on the privacy scale, and with no serious concerns presented, CyberGhost comes across as a reliable, dependable and safe VPN for most users.

          Others might be hesitant about its new parent company Kape, which was formerly known as Crossrider. Before it changed its name, Kape was found creating adware, which is injected into its downloads. By all indications, Kape seems to have changed the way it operates and is now trustworthy since it completely switched from ad development to VPNs and has developed separate entities (Private Internet Access and ZenMate).

          The entities are in no way related to CyberGhost, which operates independently of Kape’s other units.

          However, we feel we must mention that due to the security challenges highlighted, as well as the third-party audit it has never had, CyberGhost may not be the safest VPN to use. If you are, however, looking for a VPN that won’t cost you too much money and is unlikely to sell your data, CyberGhost is the one for the win.

          CyberGhost’s Business Structure and Operations

          For our readers interested in finding out more about the company, we asked Alla Robert Aristakesyan, an experienced Business Consultant, to do some digging into CyberGhost’s business structure and operations. This is what she had to say:

          Our Expert Review and Rating of CyberGhost’s Business Structure

          Alla Robert Aristakesyan
          Alla Robert Aristakesyan
          Business Consultant

          Based on the research I have done, it is assumed that CyberGhost has a solid performance as a business, considering the fact that it was successfully purchased by Kape Technologies PLC, which has a strong performance and steady revenue growth over the past years. The Annual financial report 2020 of the Holding Company Kape Technologies highlights that the Digital Privacy Segment has seen continued growth with a 198% increase in revenues. Revenues for the year to 31 December 2020 increased by 85.0% to $122.2 million (2019: $66.1 million). The increase in revenues was driven by a full-year contribution of PIA as well as 31% organic growth in the Digital Privacy segment. Adjusted EBITDA increased by 167.7% to $39.0 million (2019: $14.6 million). Operating profit increased by 158.5% to $10.7 million (2019: $4.1 million). Taking a closer look at the ownership groups of Kape Technologies Plc (LON: KAPE), it seems that institutional investors have bought into the company. This implies the analysts working for those institutions have reviewed the stock and have trusted it to make an investment. 

          At the same time, it should be noted that there is limited information regarding CyberGhost SRL, which can be due to the fact that it has been recently acquired by Kape Technologies. While my research shows that the company shows positive results in terms of its user base, which steadily grows year by year and thus increases the profit of the company, there is no publicly available data on its financial performance reported by the company. Moreover, there is also limited information regarding its founder Robert Knapp and his current responsibilities and business activities. In this respect, it should also be noted that the number of employees for each category, that is for engineering, marketing/sales, and support staff have been averaged, as the data would not match current positions of employees indicated in LinkedIn with the employee numbers on the company website.

          Based on my opinion as a business consultant I rate CyberGhost VPN business

            7
            7

            CyberGhost Pricing: Is Being Affordable Really Enough to Commit?

            If you only plan on using the VPN for 45 days or less, you are in luck. CyberGhost has one of the longest trial periods we have seen of any of its peers. Most of the other VPNs have a 30-day trial period. For the 45 days, you are allowed to try CyberGhost, you will get full functionality, to thoroughly test every aspect before committing. CyberGhost offers four plans:

            1. The Best Value Plan

            CyberGhost calls this the best value plan since it is a long-term payment, which comes down to about $2.25 per month. It runs for 3 years and once paid for, you get 3 months free, on top of the 45-day trial.

            2. 2-Year Plan

            The 2-year plan is equivalent to about $3.49 per month. There are no free months offered, other than the 45-day trial period.

            3. 1-Year Plan

            This option comes down to $3.99 per month. It too has no free months tacked on. The only free time you get is the trial period.

            4. 1-Month Plan

            For $12.99/m, this is, by a wide margin, the most expensive plan to get unless you need it for a short time. While the other plans all have 45-day trials, this one has a 14-day trial. It’s almost as if you are highly discouraged from choosing the non-committal option, right? Well, that’s what you get for being afraid of commitment.

            One more thing: CyberGhost offers a security suite for Windows. It is an all-in-one platform that the VPN says can give you the freedom, privacy, and security you need to protect yourself online. It is equipped with an Antivirus, Security Updater and Privacy Guard.
            CyberGhost Security Suite For Windows add-on provides antivirus, privacy guard and security updater for $1.39 per month

            So, what does CyberGhost’s pricing criteria mean to you? Do you get value for your hard-earned money? No one can answer these questions better than our pricing expert, Theodor Tonca:

            Our Expert Review and Rating of CyberGhost VPN’s Pricing

            Theodor Tonca
            Theodor Tonca
            Pricing Expert

            Based on what I can see, CyberGhost’s pricing falls slightly above the industry average, which hovers around the $10 USD per month price point. 

            A subscription with CyberGhost currently starts at $12.99 per month and becomes cheaper for longer subscriptions and while these plans are competitive, the monthly plan leans on the more expensive side. Its straightforward refund policy – 14-day money-back guarantee for the monthly subscription option and 45-day money-back guarantee for all others, as well as easy cancellation process, are definitely positives, but are they enough to make one choose this VPN over the plethora of others available?

            CyberGhost is a powerful service, providing access to over 7000 servers across 91 countries and it even gives you the option to stick to a preferred IP address, for a small additional cost. However, this dedicated IP service only allows you to choose from a small handful of locations – Frankfurt, Paris, London, New York, Montreal, Manchester, Sydney, and Chicago for now, but more options may become available in the future. 

            Unless you are a dedicated Windows user and want to take advantage of some of the extras offered, such as the antivirus add-on, or are a heavy online streamer, as in a streaming subscription service content consumer and could really use a dedicated server, there is not much else to tip the scales in favour of CyberGhost over a VPN that you may already be using.

            As a Pricing expert, I rate CyberGhost VPN

              7
              7

              Extra Features

              Signing up to CyberGhost ensures that you get extra perks and features that you may not know about. One of them is that you are now a Ghostie because that is what CyberGhost fans call themselves. That aside, here are additional features you can get out of your CyberGhost subscription:

              1. Split Tunneling – This feature allows users to route some of their traffic through the VPN and keep the rest open if they want to.
              2. Unlimited server switching – Some servers work better for some functions than others and since we are all over the place when browsing the internet, we may sometimes need to switch between multiple servers. You’ll be happy to know you can do this without limitations on CyberGhost.
              3. Live chat – Not many support teams get back to you on live chat quickly. CyberGhost allows you to connect to helpful and knowledgeable people to get the help you need.

              CyberGhost VPN Pros and Cons

              Pros
              A quick comparison of the VPNs available out there will tell you that CyberGhost is cheaper. It provides premium features on par with its higher-priced peers at a lower price, especially with long-term plans.
              CyberGhost has one of the longest trial periods among VPN service providers, allowing users to test it for 45 days with a money-back guarantee and 1 day completely free without a subscription.
              CyberGhost is second to Private Internet Access when it comes to the server count, allowing you to connect to more locations.
              The speeds CyberGhost delivers are decent enough to support streaming and online gaming with little to no lagging (depending on your bandwidth).
              CyberGhost allows crypto payments, for users who want to be completely untraceable, something that most VPNs (usually in a jurisdiction with invasive privacy laws) do not allow.
              Their customer support is fast and helpful. There is an extensive FAQ section provided, in addition to the comprehensive guides offered for all platforms.
              CyberGhost makes it easy to find the suitable servers that fit your particular needs, by bundling them together and recommending them for various tasks. That way, you do not have to try and find the ones that work best.
              Cons
              There are no third-party audits, which is odd for a VPN as extensively adopted as this one, hurting its security rating.
              Even with its massive server fleet, CyberGhost struggles to deliver consistent network performance across regions and locations.
              The Linux clients are not intuitive like their counterparts.
              The per-month plan is not cheap.

              Conclusion

              Generally, CyberGhost is quite transparent and reliable, but premium security and network performance aren’t among its strong points. If you want a cheap, easy-to-use VPN that probably won’t sell your data, CyberGhost does the trick. But, if you’re looking for the best performance and security when torrenting, streaming, etc., prepare to find yourself slightly disappointed.

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