As a virtual private network reviewer, one of the hardest lessons I've learned is that no matter how clean a company's code, how skilled its development team, how many transparency gestures it offers users -- VPNs are still businesses based on asking us to trust what can't be seen. We typically engage a VPN service to better protect our online privacy, while understanding that all of our data -- every click, every site, every background app -- is being funneled to a single company, whose servers most of us will never see with our own eyes.
Because VPNs ask for so much trust, reputation can make or break a service. Similarly, when I'm examining a service's parent company and background, I'm looking for red flags around potential privacy concerns. That's what's got under my skin about CyberGhost when I recently gave it a fresh review.
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In CNET's first evaluation on CyberGhost in 2019, we praised the service for its roster of competitive features, but noted lackluster results in speed tests, some problems with its privacy tools and -- most importantly -- security verification that it failed due to its lack of obfuscation technology. Its low price made it worth considering if you needed to change the appearance of your location online, but not if you wanted best-in-class
Since then, CyberGhost has seen a significant performance boost following the addition of more than 2,000 servers to the company's fleet over the past year, beating Norton LifeLock's Secure VPN in our speed tests. Its Netflix, gaming and torrenting-focused and proprietary NoSpy servers appear to be attracting more praise than complaints, with good results in my own tests as well. And the service is prepared to roll out a new suite of privacy tools in the coming weeks, all while remaining one of the cheapest VPNs we've reviewed at $2.75 per month for a 3-year plan.
I was initially thrilled about the company's privacy-friendly Romanian jurisdiction, located outside of US intelligence-sharing agreements, and its crack team of German developers, who seemed eager to address questions large and small about CyberGhost's history and vision. To top it off, some of the smartest tech enthusiasts I know have grown to love the service, joining the base of loyal CyberGhost's fans known as "ghosties."
Unfortunately, I can't at present recommend you join the ghostie brigade, and that's not entirely CyberGhost's fault.
Sure, CyberGhost gets my side-eye for the excessive amount of trackers on its website and app. And, yes, its ad-blocker is almost wholly impotent and uses an untrustworthy method of traffic manipulation no VPN should touch. And, naturally, I have beef with CyberGhost for still not having proper obfuscation -- meaning your internet service provider can see that you're using a VPN, which endangers people in countries where VPNs are outlawed.
But the real thing holding me back from recommending CyberGhost is the sordid history of its parent company, Kape Technologies.