CyberGhost VPN Review
CyberGhost VPN Review.
There was once a time when you had to be a little computer savvy to make use of a VPN. It’s a lot easier to make use of this technology today but some people may not understand what a VPN is or why they should consider using one. Simply put a VPN (Virtual Private Network) in this context is an encrypted tunnel to and from a computer in a remote location that relays information securely.
Normally when you browse the internet you connect directly to any site you visit. This leaves behind a lot of information about your computer, real world location and unless the site supports HTTPS any information entered is sent in the clear and could be intercepted without your knowledge.
Even without this ‘Man in the middle’ type of attack, it’s likely that your surfing habits are being monitored and perhaps even sold or shared with third parties by your Internet Service Provider. The last few years have exposed some nasty tracking habits around the globe and the climate for privacy related applications has taken a dramatic shift in response. Gone are the days when the general public thought using a VPN means you must be paranoid or have some malicious secret to hide. Today, it’s simply an easy way to help retain your privacy.
That isn’t all using a VPN can do for you though. Some sites have region locked streams or videos. By using a VPN, these types of restrictions can be bypassed as the site will only see the IP of the VPN connection you choose, not your real one.
As I mentioned before, VPN software has become much easier to use and CyberGhost 5 simplifies things even more. We’re going to be taking a look at the Windows version of CyberGhost 5 but it’s important to note that there is a Mac version available as well. In addition to this it also supports other protocols without the need to install their specific software. The CyberGhost service can be used on many Operating Systems and devices including Android, ChromeOS, Linux, iOS, Raspberry Pi or even routers
The installer can easily be found from their website and does not require an email address or any form of sign-up. It weighs in at just over nine MBs. It doesn’t include any useless extras such as toolbars or third party software you sometimes have to watch out for. The installation process was primarily normal with only one exception. CyberGhost needs to install a virtual network driver from the ‘OpenVPN’ project which is commonly used and something I expected to see having tested a few VPNs, even CyberGhost, before.
You’ll need to allow it to install in order to make use of CyberGhost or just about any other available VPNs for Windows. The OpenVPN project is open source and has it’s code available for inspection publicly though doing this isn’t something that most users will find easy to do.
When the program first launches you’ll encounter a screen similar to the one shown below but it will instead show a map more suited to your location. The main interface is easy to grasp but it might seem overly simplistic for more advanced users. The Geographic map used to show your location takes up a majority of the screen but there’s no denying that even I like this bit of eye candy.
CyberGhost makes it easy to get started even as a free user. Just hit the button in the center and it’ll automatically choose a connection and begin routing your traffic through their servers.
If you want to exert more control over where you connect, CyberGhost is happy to oblige. It allows you to change your location manually but free users are limited to a certain collection of servers. This can be done by selecting ‘Simulated Country’ on the left or ‘Simulated IP Address’ on the right. They’ll both bring up similar windows which makes it rather easy to pick your own. If you’re on a free account you’ll need to keep an eye out for the ones marked with a star though as they are reserved for paying ‘Premium’ users and will be inaccessible to its free users.As you may have noticed from the screenshot above P2P (Peer to Peer) connections such as bit-torrent are not supported on the free servers but they are supported on many of the premium servers.
Clicking the gear icon near the top of the main interface will open up the settings. It starts off with only three tabs available but a few more can be shown by clicking on the ‘Show advanced settings…’ link. The ‘General’ tab holds some basic program settings related to whether CyberGhost should start at boot and automatically connect or not.
The ‘Privacy Control ‘tab contains some potentially important options you might be interested in activating. I was surprised to see these weren’t active by default. I quickly realized why at least one of these options wasn’t activated by default though. ‘Activate Anti Fingerprinting and Content Blocker also for encrypted HTTPS traffic’ while a useful feature requires CyberGhost to install their own trusted root certificate. Not everyone might be willing to allow this, especially after the more recent uproar concerning Lenovo and Superfish. Unlike them though, CyberGhost was polite enough to inform me of what it needed to do in order to process HTTPS pages. I’ve tested CyberGhost before and used their VPN previously and as I already trusted them and as they were nice enough to tell me what they were doing and why – I decided to allow it.
There are a few other tabs that I’ll only touch on briefly as they are fairly self explanatory as well. ‘My Account’ shows the information for your current plan. ‘Exceptions’ can be added if they are needed and ‘Proxy’ settings can be entered if you happen to use one.
This leaves one last tab in the settings which holds some rather important options. ‘Connection’ starts off with ‘Force using CyberGhost DNS-Servers’ selected by default. I couldn’t have been happier to see this as not all VPN software providers include protection for DNS Leaks. Another one located here which you may want to pay special attention to is the ability to ‘Disable IPv6’. CyberGhost isn’t yet compatible with IPv6 so your country ID or other anonymous-breaking information could be exposed if your ISP is using it. The ‘Prefer TCP instead of UPD connections’ can be helpful if your ISP throttles UDP or you experience data corruption or constant interruptions.
There are a few other restrictions placed on free users in addition to being limited to specific servers and not being able to use P2P apps. You can only maintain a connection for three hours at one time at which point you will be disconnected and be required to reconnect. Also during the peak (busier) times of the day, free users may experience a delay or even need to wait through a queue. Around 5PM EST which is around the time my internet usually takes a hit, I experienced this myself and had to wait about thirty seconds to a minute in order to continue forward and start using the service. For a free service I can’t really complain as they must limit the total number of users on the free servers at any given time or risk having them become unusable.
Even when there wasn’t a queue to connect there was still sometimes a noticeable lag in pages loading but usually reconnecting to a different location would solve this in my tests. Generally those server locations closest to you have the best results but depending on the load you may find better speeds elsewhere.
I was able to get some decent download speeds on the free servers using just Internet Explorer, about 500 KB/s. It’s obviously not quite as good as I recall from the premium servers but still nothing to scoff at. Using a download manager could likely improve upon that speed a bit.
While I’ve mentioned privacy over and over throughout this review VPNs can be used for security as well. The connections made with CyberGhost 5 are done using 256 bit AES encryption. This is great if you are on the go and happen to connect to public wi-fi spots as they are often used by the more malicious in nature to harvest data or steal information from unsuspecting users.
Switching back to privacy there’s two more things worth noting. The first is that while some VPN providers retain logs, CyberGhost does not. The other is that some of the payment options they have available for purchasing a premium subscription allow you to keep your identity hidden- even from them by using options such as bitcoin.
If a user has any questions or issues there’s an online ‘Help and Faq’ area to aid you. I didn’t encounter a single problem in my tests but not every computer setup will be the same so I thought it’d be worth mentioning.
For the Windows version the System Requirements are:
1) Windows Vista or 7/8
2) Microsoft .NET 3.5 SP1
3) 1 GHz Processor
4) 200 MB of free drive space (Less if you already have .NET)
5) An Internet connection
Get the best cyberghost coupon code here
Conclusion and final thoughts:
I haven’t been a fan of .NET programs in general. Whenever one crosses my path I get this expectation that I will experience problems. I do enjoy it when this expectation falls flat on its face though. CyberGhost 5 didn’t crash and it wasn’t slow to respond like some of the programs I’ve tested before. (which helped create this distaste).
The interface is simple to use with the most common functions being easily accessible and the ever helpful visual location map being displayed. There aren’t a plethora of options but then, it doesn’t really need to have a lot. They’ve narrowed things down well leaving the most used functions on the main screen followed by the settings being broken into two sets with the more complex ones being tucked away inside of the ‘advanced settings’ so as not to overwhelm the standard user.
My experiences with CyberGhost over the years have been consistently positive so it’s easy for me to say that I think anyone looking for a VPN provider should give it a try.
New: Get Free Exclusive Access to CyberGhost NoSpyProxy Servers!
256 bit AES encryption.
They keep no logs!
Quick and comes with servers that be used for free.
Easy to use, stable, interface.
Wide variety of protocols and devices supported.
The ghost icon doesn't go 'boo!' when you get disconnected.