CactusVPN is a VPN provider based in Moldova that has evolved over the years. Today, CactusVPN offers a worldwide server network with top quality features and a user-friendly interface. In this review, I’ll touch base on everything CactusVPN offers – and ultimately decide if they live up to our expectations.
CactusVPN offers an interesting variety of pricing and plans. To start, they offer a subscription that includes both its VPN service and its Smart DNS service. That plan is $6.99 for monthly payments – $17.99 for quarterly payments – and $54.99 for yearly payments.
The annual option is probably your best bet, as it includes access to all of the servers and server locations, provides P2P support and includes its Smart DNS. The other plans offered include a US and UK specific VPN, a Liberty VPN option, and an option for the Smart DNS service only.
I’m extremely satisfied with the payment methods provided by CactusVPN, as they offer both PayPal and cryptocurrency options. They also allow major credit card payments and a few others.
CactusVPN does offer a free 24-hour trial for both its VPN and DNS services. They also offer a 30-day money-back guarantee if you come across issues with your service.
CactusVPN offers some fantastic features in its VPN service, including:
14 server locations with 22+ servers
Five simultaneous connections
OpenVPN, IKEv2, L2TP/IPSec, SSTP, PPTP and SoftEther protocols
P2P support on select servers
24/7 live chat customer support
Free proxy servers
Shared static IP
24-hour free trial & 30-day money-back guarantee
Despite only having 14 server locations, CactusVPN continues to grow and expand. In the meantime, the 14 server locations are in popular countries, which should make accessing country-specific entertainment libraries a piece of cake. In addition to that, the variety of protocols offered by CactusVPN is definitely an appealing feature – especially SoftEther, which is rarely supported by VPN providers.
Smart DNS Service
CactusVPN also offers a Smart DNS service that’s included in the main CactusVPN VPN package. One of my favorite things about its Smart DNS service: you get unlimited device connectivity, provided your devices are connected to the same network with the same external IP.
The interface for the Smart DNS service is user-friendly and easily accessed, with servers in 8 countries (including the US and UK). The CactusVPN Smart DNS service also offers access to 250+ blocked websites.
For more information on Smart DNS services and how they work, visit our website dedicated entirely to the subject.
CactusVPN offers great privacy implementations, including a strict no logging policy. CactusVPN doesn’t store anything – from IP addresses, traffic logs and connection timestamps to used bandwidth and session durations. This means that there’s no worry of personal data getting stored or handed over to third parties.
That being said, CactusVPN does explain that they may “send personally identifiable information about you to third parties” if they have your consent or if they receive a subpoena that requires them to disclose registration data or any other information.
CactusVPN’s Legal Situation
CactusVPN is based in Moldova, which happens to be the home of the fastest and cheapest internet in the world. That being said, Moldova is also lacking in privacy rights. While surveillance in Moldova is only permitted after obtaining a court order, there is a comprehensive centralized database that has information on all Moldova citizens (including VPN providers) called the “registru” (registry).
Consequently, human rights activists have shared their disdain that the registry represents “unwarranted and unprecedented surveillance”. Fortunately, because CactusVPN practices a very strict no logging policy, it is still a great choice as a VPN service. After all, what better way to combat surveillance than with a VPN?
CactusVPN uses a variety of payment processors, including Stripe, PayPal, PayPro, and CoinGate. Some of these are more recognizable than others, like PayPal, and most (if not all) are based in the US. Still, they’re also the payment processors for thousands of other big league companies. Take from this what you must.
The point of using a VPN is to enhance your privacy and security. Thus, if the VPN provider’s website has 15 trackers on you, it’s not a very good feeling. Fortunately, there’s a way to prevent this and it’s called Privacy Badger. When you use the Privacy Badger extension, you can not only view which websites are tracking you and how they’re tracking you, but you can stop them from tracking you entirely.
Fortunately, CactusVPN only has a few potential trackers – and only one of them is active. Out of the dozens of trackers that other VPN websites tend to have, one active tracker isn’t bad at all.
CactusVPN has good encryption, although it isn’t top-of-the-range. To start, the company provides the OpenVPN encryption protocol via an AES-128 cipher and SHA-1 HMAC authentication (on both data and control channels) with a RSA-2048 handshake. In addition, new keys are distributed for connections using perfect forward secrecy or PFS.
Overall we would prefer to see an AES-256 cipher with stronger authentication, so encryption is slightly lacking on this platform.
CactusVPN includes two different kill switches: an internet kill switch and an application killer. The internet kill switch is your basic overall kill switch, while the application killer can target specific apps. DNS Leak protection is also included in the VPN’s features.
For more information on VPN encryption, read our VPN Encryption Guide.
Not only is the CactusVPN website visually appealing, but it’s informative and well put-together. To start, its overhead menu links to features for both its VPN and Smart DNS service, pricing for both, customer support, blog, and client area. The homepage offers useful information on both services, as well as customer testimonials.
The bottom of each page offers relevant links for things relating to the VPN’s services, resources and company overall.
CactusVPN’s customer support is impressive. When you click on the “Support” link at the top of the homepage, it’ll take you to a page that offers guides, tutorials, the FAQ, and ticket-based support. The ticket-based support system is fairly quick, and the answers are definitely relevant to the questions. Customer support successfully answered my question within 24 hours.
Registration for CactusVPN is simple – you simply scroll the homepage until you see “Try VPN for free” and then you click it. After entering your email, your free 24-hour trial will be active. If you decide to stick with the service after your trial expires, you’ll simply have to add your desired payment method to your account.
For step-by-step instructions:
Select “TRY VPN FOR FREE” on CactusVPN homepage
Enter the information requested
Navigate to your email’s inbox
Open the email from CactusVPN
Follow the instructions to set up a password
Download the app!
Using CactusVPN is extremely easy! The following instructions are for Windows OS, however, the client is visually similar across platforms.
After signing up for CactusVPN, navigate to Client Area
Under Active Services, select your VPN plan
Change your login information if desired
Under VPN Login Details, select the CactusVPN app link
It will take you to the download page
Select the appropriate download file, in this case Windows OS
Follow the installation prompts
Open CactusVPN after installation is complete
The login screen will pop up
Enter your login information – NOTE: this is NOT your email
The client interface will appear
To change your server location, select the server drop-down menu
Then select Connect
You will be connected
To change your protocol or to access other settings, select Settings
To set up the CactusVPN application killer, select App. Killer
Bam! You’re all set!
Performance (Speed, DNS, WebRTC and IPv6 Tests)
When selecting a VPN for prolonged use, it’s important to know of the VPN’s performance levels first. If you end up with a slow VPN that leaks your IP address, you’re defeating the purpose of a VPN in the first place. This is why, at BestVPN.com, we make it a point to test these things for you.
Speed & Leaks
BestVPN.com has recently started using a new speed test system to provide you with better, more accurate results when comparing different VPN service speeds. For more information on what exactly the new speed test system entails, visit this guide. As for CactusVPN’s server speeds, they were definitely better than average – but not better than some of our top VPNs.
As you can see from the picture above, CactusVPN had an average download speed of 21.3 Mbit/s and a max download speed of 64.5 Mbit/s. In comparison with the other VPNs in the picture, CactusVPN is on the lower end. On the other hand, when compared with other VPNs, CactusVPN is still (just barely) better than average.
Fortunately, CactusVPN didn’t suffer from any IP or DNS leaks during my testing. To test your own CactusVPN for leaks, visit ipleak.net or doileak.com.
The CactusVPN app is available for the following platforms: Windows OS, macOS, Android, iOS, Android TV, and Fire TV. In addition, the manual configuration files for OpenVPN are also available for installation on other devices.
The CactusVPN mobile app for Android and/or iOS is easy to use with a very basic infrastructure. To install it, simply register with CactusVPN, download the app from the App Store/Google Play Store, open it and connect!
Variety of protocols including OpenVPN and IKEv2
Internet kill switch
DNS Leak protection
Unblocks BBC iPlayer
No logs policy
Shared static IP
Dedicated P2P servers
Free proxy servers
Smart DNS service included
Free 24-hour trial
30-day money-back guarantee
I wasn’t so sure about:
Small server network
Weak AES-128 encryption on the OpenVPN protocol
Can’t get into Netflix
CactusVPN is a worthy VPN in most categories. You can use it to access the geo-restricted content on many TV streaming services (not just for the Netflix unblock), or to participate in P2P activities without worry of surveillance. You can use it to enhance your online security and privacy. CactusVPN’s two kill switch options are also a plus, along with its DNS leak protection and (sometimes) included Smart DNS service.
In addition, the VPN provider’s strict no logging policy is also something to favor. The only detrimental negative that comes with CactusVPN is its weak AES encryption, as its server network is regularly expanding and it’s only a matter of time before they have more server locations.
If you’re hesitant to try CactusVPN, remember you can use the 24-hour free trial for a quick sample – and if you end up unhappy with the service after paying, you can use their 30-day money-back guarantee! My final conclusion is that CactusVPN has serious potential to be a top-notch VPN provider, but is somewhat lacking at the moment. Not amazing for privacy, but pretty good for streaming. Give them a try today!