Among the lowest-cost options for virtual private networks, CyberGhost and Surfshark both offer cutthroat prices for their security products. But when it comes to quick connection times, streaming site access and overall web traffic privacy, the two VPNs stand in stark contrast.
Up-and-comer Surfshark continues its aggressive race to the head of the VPN pack, outpacing CyberGhost on speed, security and features.
Here's how the two stack up against each other.
Read more: Best VPN services for 2021
In CNET's previous coverage of virtual private networks, we've praised CyberGhost for its roster of competitive features. Our in-depth review of CyberGhost last year included speed testing, security verification and an analysis of its full suite of privacy tools -- though we also found that it exposed your VPN use to your internet service provider. Since then, CyberGhost has increased its number of servers and is prepared to roll out a new suite of privacy tools, all while remaining one of the cheapest VPNs we've reviewed -- at $2.75 per month for a three-year plan.
But as we've bolstered our approach to VPN reviews in recent months, CyberGhost has raised some red flags. Its parent company's history warrants skepticism, its website and app trackers are more numerous than necessary and its ad-blocker uses an untrustworthy method of traffic manipulation no VPN should even think about. Not to mention its previous issue of letting your internet service provider see that you were using it, which could land you in trouble in countries where VPNs are outlawed. While its low price previously made it worth considering if you needed to change the appearance of your location online, it won't provide you best-in-class security.
Running CyberGhost caused a loss of nearly 49% of average internet speed, outperforming competitor Norton Secure VPN's speed loss of 57%. But it doesn't hold a candle to other speed-intensive competitors like Surfshark and ExpressVPN, which lost just 27% and 2% speed in our tests, respectively. However, performance improvements following the addition of more than 2,000 servers to its fleet over the past year suggest CyberGhost may be in the midst of a continued upswing in speed.
No IP address, DNS or other potentially user-identifying data leaks were detected during our testing, but CyberGhost didn't hide the fact that I was using a VPN, so I recommend some caution here. In March 2019, a CNET reviewer likewise found that CyberGhost failed one of our data leak tests, which allowed internet traffic to be seen by an internet service provider.
While CyberGhost's speeds and security appear to be improving, I don't currently recommend using CyberGhost if you are in a country where VPNs are illegal. I also recommend that anyone in the US review CyberGhost's parent company, Kape Technologies, before deciding whether to pay for a subscription.
CyberGhost's best offer right now is $2.75 per month, or $99, for a three-year plan with seven simultaneous connections, which is a great deal for the budget-minded. But Surfshark manages to best it when it comes to its two-year plan, price, speed and security features.
It won't be long until big-name VPNs realize what kind of threat Surfshark really is: It's faster than a VPN of its size should be, has stronger security than you'd expect, offers a suite of impressive features and has cutthroat prices to go with its unlimited simultaneous connection allowance. During our 2020 testing, Surfshark has given even our most highly recommended VPNs a run for their money on speed, security and cost.
You want to watch Netflix from any country? Surfshark's watertight DNS features make that possible. You want to torrent quickly and privately? Surfshark routes you to its own P2P-configured servers out of the US. You want to block fingerprinting trackers, use a private search engine and camouflage your traffic so it looks completely normal with the assurance of a kill switch? Surfshark's CleanWeb ad-blocker, Blindsearch search engine and on-board obfuscation have you covered.
With more than 3,200 servers in 65 countries, we lost less than 17% of average internet speeds during our most recent speed tests. That's faster than the 27% speed loss we saw in previous tests, and pushes it ahead of both NordVPN and ExpressVPN to be the current front-runner in our speed comparisons.
Surfshark is living up to its name with an aggressive pricing scheme. Right now, it's offering an 83% discount, bringing costs down to $2 a month for a two-year plan ($48, billed every two years). That offer stands up easily to CyberGhost's three-year plan for $2.75 per month. Surfshark also offers unlimited simultaneous connections compared to CyberGhost's seven-device limit.