What Is a VPN?
Public Wi-Fi networks at your favorite coffee shop or the airport may not be as secure as you think. Unsecure networks make it easier for other bad actors on the network to see your data and potentially intercept sensitive information. Furthermore, internet service providers (ISPs) are legally allowed to sell anonymized data from users, so you aren’t safe from privacy threats at home either.
You need to use a VPN to protect yourself from these potential incursions. Several things happen when you connect to a VPN server. A VPN encrypts your data and tunnels it to a server controlled by the VPN company, so that your data appears as gibberish to any outside observer. Your public IP address also changes to that of the VPN server, as opposed to one that can be traced back to you. In effect, using a VPN makes it significantly more difficult for an ISP or anyone else to spy on your traffic. One comparatively minor effect is that you will likely experience some dips in performance, which we discuss in a later section.
Although you don’t need to know the low-level technical details of how a VPN works, you should have a basic idea of what it does to protect your privacy. That said, most services make it easy to set up a VPN, especially via mobile apps; the best of them don’t require you to know much about the services at all.
In addition to understanding the benefits of using a VPN, you should also be aware of potential faults and vulnerabilities. To that point, make sure to read our guide on how to tell if your VPN is leaking your real IP address. The tips in this story are useful no matter which VPN you choose. Essentially, if your IP address does not change after you connect to a VPN server, then it likely is not working correctly. VPNs—like other security software solutions—are built on trust, so you should feel confident in whatever VPN service you end up choosing.
Note that a VPN on its own does not make you invincible to online privacy threats. Using a VPN in conjunction with the Tor network or installing privacy extensions such as Privacy Badger are additional steps you can take to ensure a more private online experience. Note however, that the idea of total security is a myth. Instead, you should try to make yourself as inconvenient a target as possible, since threats to your privacy and security are always evolving. Antivirus software and password managers are good places to start.
Pricing and Platforms
CyberGhost’s price per month depends on your subscription period. CyberGhost costs $11.99 if you choose to pay on a monthly basis, which is more than the $10.16 average of the top VPNs we’ve tested. For comparison, Private Internet Access comes in much cheaper at $6.95 per month. NordVPN charges a comparable $11.95 per month.
As with most other VPNs, the price per month decreases as the subscription period increases. For example, with CyberGhost, you can pay $59.95 per year, $90.96 every two years, or $99 every three years. All accounts offer the same VPN product.
Notably, CyberGhost is ending support for its free version. ProtonVPN is currently the best free option, since it doesn’t limit the amount of data you can use, but make sure to check out our roundup of the best free VPNs for additional choices.
CyberGhost lets users connect up to seven devices simultaneously, which is better than the five connections most competitors offer. However, IPVanish takes the top distinction, opening up 10 simultaneous connections to users. In any case, CyberGhost’s offering outclasses that of other top VPNs, including KeepSolid VPN, TunnelBear, and TorGuard.
CyberGhost is available on a wide range of platforms, including Android (version 4.1 and up), iOS, Linux, macOS, Windows, and some routers. For the Google faithful, check out our guide on how to install a VPN on your Chromebook. On Android devices, CyberGhost says it uses a custom implementation of the OpenVPN protocol. We prefer this protocol, since it is open-source and thus can be tested for vulnerabilities by the wider security community.
Servers and Server Locations
The number of servers and server locations a company offers directly affects the type of performance you can expect. In other words, the more servers and server locations a service offers, the less likely you are to experience performance slowdowns due to overly crowded servers or large physical distances.
At the time of publishing, CyberGhost maintains around 3,000 servers, which is more than most VPN services. NordVPN offers more than 5,100 servers and Private Internet Access more than 3,500, but CyberGhost handily outclasses the server networks of TunnelBear, IPVanish, and ProtonVPN.
CyberGhost currently maintains servers in 61 countries and covers a good geographical range. For example, CyberGhost hosts servers in several countries in Africa and South America, which are often left out of the VPN fun. And although CyberGhost doesn’t cover some countries with strict internet regulations such as Cuba, Syria, Saudi Arabia, it does have a presence in Russia, Pakistan, and Vietnam.
CyberGhost offers servers in about the same number of countries as NordVPN and IPVanish, but significantly fewer than HideMyAss VPN and PureVPN, which tally 190+ and 140 countries, respectively. CyberGhost’s selection does, however, beat those of Private Internet Access (33) and Proton VPN (25).
One thing to keep in mind when it comes to server counts is whether a service uses virtual servers. Virtual servers are software-defined servers that can be configured to spoof their actual location. This could pose a problem, since your data may pass through countries that do not have as privacy-friendly laws as the one they selected.
According to a representative from CyberGhost, it maintains around 340 physical dedicated servers. The representative further noted that the company “rents dedicated bare metal servers that are fully under our control” and runs its own process-virtualization technology on those machines.
Although we aren’t confident enough in our knowledge of data collection laws to make a definitive judgment of a VPN’s efficacy based on the location of its headquarters, this information is still good to have as part of an overall picture of the VPN service. CyberGhost is based in Romania, which is not a member of the 14 Eyes alliance, a data sharing initiative between intelligence agencies of global powers. A CyberGhost representative explains that since it doesn’t “store any user logs on our servers, we cannot provide personal data when receiving such requests.”
A CyberGhost representative said the company makes all its money from subscriptions and that CyberGhost is independently operated, though owned by a company called Kape. According to Kape’s website, it “want[s] to make the internet a safe and accessible place for everyone.” In addition to CyberGhost, Kape offers a PC reimaging tool and driver utility software.
CyberGhost’s Android App
We had no trouble installing or signing in to CyberGhost on a Google Pixel running Android 9. CyberGhost has improved its mobile app significantly with this latest version. Gone is the confusing four-panel layout and segregation of VPN features. On the main screen, you now get a simple slider for connecting to the VPN. The app’s visual design has been simplified as well, and it uses a pleasing combination of blue and yellow elements.
At the bottom of the main screen, you can choose the location in which you would like to connect. Tapping on the location button brings you to a selection screen divided into three sections: All Countries, Streaming Friendly, and Favorites. If you pick any of the top-level countries, CyberGhost automatically connects you to the best available server. The vertical overflow button positioned next to each location opens up a menu with more information, such as how many servers are available, the current number of users connected, and the usage load. You can also select an individual server from a list or add the country to your favorites.
The Streaming section lists a number of servers that are optimized for certain services, such as Amazon Prime, Hulu, Netflix, and Spotify. These aren’t, however, organized in any discernible way, and the search feature doesn’t work as expected. For example, typing “Netflix” into the field, yields no results, even though there are several servers in the list optimized for the service.
Once you sort through this problem and make a server or location selection, the main screen displays your outfacing IP address, as well as a timer that shows how long you have been connected. We could do without the timer, as it doesn’t add any discernible value. Advanced users should tap on the gear icon in the upper-right part of the screen to access some of the more advanced options that CyberGhost offers.
CyberGhost and Netflix
Netflix and other video streaming services are notorious for preventing you from using their services while connected to a VPN or proxy. One reason you might want to do so is to access region-locked content, but as mentioned, finding a compatible VPN can sometimes be difficult. However, the majority of the Android VPNs we tested worked just fine with the Netflix app. We tested Netflix compatibility on a Nexus 5X running Android 8.1, since we experienced some issues with Netflix on our Google Pixel with Android Pie. CyberGhost is no different. We had no trouble launching an episode of Disenchantment after enabling the VPN.
If watching content on your phone is important to you, you should check out our roundup of the best VPNs to use with Netflix. The VPNs in that roundup worked at the time of testing, but we can’t guarantee that they will continue to work in the future. And you’re on your own if Netflix catches you and takes action against you for breaking the terms of service you’ve agreed to. If Netflix does end up blocking a VPN that previously worked, then you can always just disable it temporarily or enable your VPN’s split-tunneling option to exempt certain apps. Note however, that some VPNs, including CyberGhost, do not support split-tunneling features.
A VPN will slow down your internet connection in most cases. It’s difficult to measure how much of an effect a VPN has, since your speeds depend on so many factors, including your location, the time of day, your device, and the server you choose. In light of those variables, consider our test results more as a snapshot of performance at the time of testing rather than a definitive benchmark. In any case, check out our roundup of the fastest VPNs according to our tests, but note that for a VPN, security protocols and privacy policies are more important characteristics.
To test the speed of Android VPNs, we run Ookla’s internet speed test app several times to establish a baseline network performance with the VPN turned off. (Note that Ookla’s Speedtest.net is owned by Ziff Davis, PCMag’s publisher.) Next we run the same tests with the VPN enabled and all other variables the same. We record ping (ms), download speeds (Mbps), and upload speeds (Mbps), and calculate the median result for each category. Then we calculate the percent change between the results of the baseline and VPN scores.
In our tests, CyberGhost increased latency by around 200 percent. It also decreased download and upload speeds by 76.6 and 80 percent, respectively. All of CyberGhost’s results are below the average across the VPNs we tested.
For comparison, NordVPN, Private Internet Access, and TurboVPN all only increased latency by 20 percent. Speedify took the top slot in our download speed results, only decreasing speeds by 3.4 percent. NordVPN turned in the quickest upload speed results, only slowing down speeds by 22.6 percent, with KeepSolid close behind at 29.6 percent.