Windows Mac OS Linux Apple Chrome Firefox Android TV Apple TV Router

minimum price:

$2.79/month

Visit Website

CactusVPN Review

This VPN has established a reputation for being a highly versatile internet privacy tool. But is it as good in practice as it is on paper? Read this CactusVPN review until the end to discover what it can and can’t do.

CactusVPN Review

minimum price:

$2.79/month

Visit Website
  • Company Location: Canada
  • Number of Servers: 39
  • Zero-Log Policy: Available
  • Stealth VPN: Supported
  • Double VPN: Unsupported
  • Ad-Blocker: Unsupported
  • Torrenting: Supported
  • Protocols: OpenVPN, WireGuard, IKEv2, SSTP, SoftEther, L2TP/IPSec, and PPTP

works on:

Windows Windows
Mac OS Mac OS
Linux Linux
Apple Apple
Chrome Chrome
Firefox Firefox
Android TV Android TV
Apple TV Apple TV
Router Router

Best For

Streaming

STRENGTHS

  • Flexible plans
  • Unlimited simultaneous connections
  • Proxy filtering
  • Excellent customer support

WEAKNESSES

  • Small network of servers
  • Resets settings
  • Occasionally buggy Windows app
  • Short free trial

PRICING PLANS:

Biennial US VPN

$2.79/month

Biennial UK VPN

$2.79/month

Biennial Liberty

$2.79/month

Biennial Smart DNS

$2.79/month

Biennial VPN + Smart DNS

$3.95/month

CactusVPN is an all-around cybersecurity and internet privacy tool. It has been around since 2011. It’s a VPN, proxy, and smart DNS (Domain Name Server) service rolled into one.

This software’s operator is based in Montreal, Quebec. So, it’s subject to Canadian laws. The Great White North isn’t a repressive regime. But you shouldn’t trust it too much.

We’ll circle back to this point later and shed light on why Canada may be bad news for VPN users.

Despite the software’s 10-year history, there are actually not that many user-generated CactusVPN reviews. Nevertheless, you can find at least 31 testimonials about the software on leading sites.

On Trustpilot, 17 users have rated it 4.5 stars. G2 also users have given the app an average rating of 4.7. According to all four CactusVPN reviews on Capterra, the software has been a perfect five.

Is it really as good as these testimonials say it is? Let’s see if it measures up to its past performance.

CactusVPN Features

Here’s what CactusVPN can do: 

Cross-Platform Support

This software works on all major operating systems.

You can download VPN clients for Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android. Likewise, it supports popular smart TVs, digital media players, and video game consoles.

If you surf the Web with Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox, you can get the CactusVPN extension.

Although CactusVPN Linux setup tutorials aren’t as advertised as those for other platforms, they exist. You can install this software on Linux-powered devices with either a Softether client or an OpenVPN client.

In addition, you can also use an active CactusVPN account to secure your router. The software’s setup requires manual configuration.

Unlimited Simultaneously Connections

Unlike with most VPN vendors, you can connect as many devices as you want all at once with a single subscription. Yes, even if you’re only using the CactusVPN free trial.

You’re not limited in terms of slots for simultaneous connections. You don’t have to sign up for any family plan either.

If you want to subscribe for commercial purposes, however, you may only connect one device per plan.

Unlimited Bandwidth

CactusVPN has no data usage cap.

Even if you consider your private network secure, encrypting your traffic data at home can help you avoid internet throttling.

Your ISP (internet service provider) won’t be able to track and observe your online activity. As a result, it can’t purposely slow down your connection speed.

By all means, CactusVPN encryption can help you enjoy more stable speeds.

Although you don’t have to worry about your data consumption, you should still use it reasonably.

Using up an excessive amount of resources could ruin the experience of other users. If it comes to that, CactusVPN will permanently terminate your account.

Kill Switch

CactusVPN has two kill switches: one for the system and another for pre-selected programs (also called Apps Killer).

If you wish the software to force your entire device to go offline when there’s a VPN service interruption, activate the system-level kill switch. But if you just want to cut off the internet connection when the VPN drops, you can disable specific apps without affecting the rest.

Both kill switches aren’t enabled by default, though. You’ll have to do it manually.

You may not need the Apps Killer during your CactusVPN streaming sessions. But it can be useful when torrenting.

Shared Static IP Address

With CactusVPN, you can share a static IP (Internet Protocol) address with many other users. That way, the vendor makes it difficult for others to follow your tracks online.

Shared IP addresses may only be an issue with businesses that need to send emails and brands to protect. But there shouldn’t be any problem with personal use.

DNS Leak Protection

Unlike other VPN clients, CactusVPN for Windows (1 of the 4 products we tested) can expose your original DNS addresses.

To hide your web browsing activity, you’d have to go to VPN settings and toggle on DNS Leak Protection.

With our CactusVPN free trial, we’re able to do DNS lookups through the following services:

  • CactusVPN DNS (default)
  • OpenDNS
  • Google Public DNS
  • Cloudflare DNS

WebRTC Leak Prevention

This feature can prevent snoopers from learning your real IP address when using any of CactusVPN’s free proxy servers.

WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communication) leakage is a serious browser-based vulnerability. Web browsers use WebRTC to talk to websites and establish audio and video communication channels.

And so, this can expose your local and public IP addresses. It can blow your cover even if you transmit your data through an encrypted tunnel.

WebRTC leak protection is inherent to CactusVPN’s VPN service. It’s also an optional feature in the CactusVPN Chrome and Firefox extensions.

Favorites

You can bookmark your favorite CactusVPN servers in order to access them faster. 

CactusVPN Advanced Features

Here’s what sets CactusVPN apart from other comparative apps:

Smart DNS

As a smart DNS service, it can spoof your location and bypass geo-restrictions. All of that without reducing connection speed, because there’s no traffic data encryption.

Moreover, you can get around blocked content in different regions without having to switch servers each and every time.

Free Proxy Servers

CactusVPN offers proxy filtering at no extra cost. 

Every VPN server you can connect to is also a proxy server. You can use any of them at no extra cost.

You can use either CactusVPN browser extension to surf the Web more privately with a masked IP address. A proxy can help you circumvent geo-restrictions and maximize your streaming subscriptions, but not obscure your traffic data.

You can’t log into CactusVPN for Chrome or for Firefox with your VPN login details. Instead, you should use the company-provided username and password. You can find the correct credentials on your cactusvpn.com account under Settings.

Once logged in, you can choose from three-port options (3129, 8080, and 81) to configure the proxy.

Unlike CactusVPN for Chrome, the CactusVPN Firefox extension makes it possible to select between HTTP(S) and SOCKS5 protocols.

As a free service, it’s just a bonus. CactusVPN may decide to stop offering it at its discretion without any impact on the price of its subscriptions.

Obfuscation

Using Obfsproxy, you can hide OpenVPN traffic from the suspicious eyes of intelligence agencies and also your ISP. 

A casual internet user will find it difficult to install. But when set up properly, your online communications will appear as normal web traffic to third parties.

Sort by Speed

When enabled, this feature automatically puts the fastest servers at the top of the list.

You can choose to do this manually too. There’s a Sort by Speed button above the server selection. It can come in handy when you just want to minimize speed loss without any specific location to connect to in mind.

Auto-Connect

Other than setting the app to run at startup, you can also program its VPN and/or smart DNS functionalities to kick in upon signing in.

Also, you can set this software to reconnect on its own after losing a VPN connection.

Auto-Minimize

If you wish, you can set the software to disappear and simply run in the background after launch or once turned on.

CactusVPN Servers and Locations

The CactusVPN app doesn’t have the widest global coverage.

At the time of writing this CactusVPN review, it only had 39 servers across 22 jurisdictions. Its accessible network can even shrink to as low as four if you pick a certain plan.

Most of the CactusVPN servers are based in Europe. The vendor has a presence in only 6 and 3 jurisdictions in the Asia-Pacific and the Americas, respectively.

Unfortunately, CactusVPN’s infrastructure doesn’t reach the Middle East and Africa.

CactusVPN Speed

We used Speedtest by Ookla to see how our CactusVPN trial for Android can impact our internet connection.

Our base speed was:

Base speed

But how much did these figures change after sending our traffic data to the US, the UK, and Australia servers? Here are the results with CactusVPN encryption at work:

US

US

UK

UK

Australia

Australia

The steepest download speed drop we experienced was 58.50%. The upload speed was apparently unaffected. Naturally, we saw a higher ping increase the farther the server we connected to was.

CactusVPN Privacy and Jurisdiction

Every CactusVPN app is maintained in Canada. But it isn’t exactly a positive thing. 

Unfortunately, Canada is a signatory to the original close-knit Five Eyes Alliance. It’s a sort of an inner circle in the Fourteen Eyes Alliance. That’s an intergovernmental network of snoopers that conducts internet surveillance on their citizens and agrees to exchange intelligence with one another.

Half of CactusVPN’s server network involves either a member of the Fourteen Eyes Alliance or an unofficial collaborator with the group.

In addition, this VPN vendor has hardware in Russia. The country is infamous for geo-restrictions and strong-arming VPN service providers that refuse to dance to the state censor’s tune.

CactusVPN has no servers in the Chinese mainland, but it does have one in Hong Kong.

Traditionally, this autonomous region has been outside the scope of the Great Firewall of China. But the Chinese Communist Party is on the cusp of having a legal basis to censor the former British colony’s internet. The new security law in Hong Kong has threatened the privacy of internet users.

CactusVPN hasn’t joined the exodus of VPN vendors after the passing of the legislation, though. Its continued presence in the territory, however, gives the police the power to confiscate its hardware or mess with its databases.

So, is CactusVPN safe?

This VPN service won’t leak your online activity to any third party because it can’t.

CactusVPN requires some personal details on account creation, but it promises not to record the browsing data of its users.

Its logging policy states that it stores no IP addresses, traffic logs, connection timestamps, and other pieces of information that may identify users.

CactusVPN Security and Protocols

CactusVPN uses end-to-end encryption. Most of the tunneling protocols it supports rely on 256-bit AES encryption. Using DNS-over-HTTPS, CactusVPN encryption can obscure your DNS requests.

Below are the tunneling protocols you can use:

  • CactusVPN OpenVPN
  • CactusVPN WireGuard
  • IKEv2 (Internet Key Exchange v2)
  • SSTP (Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol)
  • SoftEther
  • L2TP/IPSec (Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol over Internet Protocol Security)
  • PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol)

All but SoftEther are readily available in the Windows client. IKEv2 is the default protocol.

When it comes to the Android app, you can only choose between OpenVPN and WireGuard. By default, it is set on OpenVPN in UDP (User Datagram Protocol) mode and uses the 443 port.

CactusVPN Leak Test Results

Using ipleak.net, we tested CactusVPN’s Windows client and the Smart DNS service for leakage.

Before our IP and DNS leak tests:

1CactusVPN Leak Test Results

2CactusVPN Leak Test Results

3CactusVPN Leak Test Results

4CactusVPN Leak Test Results

5CactusVPN Leak Test Results

6CactusVPN Leak Test Results

7CactusVPN Leak Test Results

After our IP and DNS leak tests:

These results confirmed that CactusVPN could prevent IP and DNS address leakage.

When using this VPN service, don’t forget to turn on DNS Leak Protection. This way, you can avoid inadvertently broadcasting your browsing activity to unwanted parties.

Furthermore, we conducted a separate WebRTC test to make sure that CactusVPN’s Windows client and browser extensions work as they should. We used a tool from PureVPN.

Our VPN and proxy filtering tests returned similar results. Check out these before-and-after screenshots:

WebRTC test without CactusVPN

WebRTC test with CactusVPN

Even a tool from a direct competitor verified that the browser extensions were able to stop WebRTC leakage.

CactusVPN and Streaming Services

The vendor offers multiple ways to beat the content restrictions of major streaming platforms.

The CactusVPN Netflix unblocker worked like a charm. We successfully accessed the Netflix US library from outside the States with the Smart DNS service. Have a look:

Netflix unblocked by CactusVPN

How Good Is CactusVPN for Torrenting?

CactusVPN has specialized VPN servers for P2P (peer-to-peer) file sharing. We hid our original IP address by connecting to a server housed in Sydney, Australia.

CactusVPN for torrenting

CactusVPN for torrenting

It worked. Our BitTorrent client detected our CactusVPN-provided IP address. 

Can CactusVPN Bypass Geoblocks?

A resounding yes!

You won’t run out of ways to skirt geo-restrictions with CactusVPN. CactusVPN Netflix unblocker is just a start.

With its smart DNS functionality or browser extensions, it claims to instantly unblock no less than 350 websites that are blocked in many countries.

We learned firsthand that CactusVPN does walk the talk. Its smart DNS service can help you stream TV shows, movies, documentaries, music, and sporting events blocked in your location.

Here’s what the Funimation homepage looks like before and after we turned on the CactusVPN Chrome extension or smart DNS.

Funimation blocked

Funimation unblocked by CactusVPN

Ease of Use

The user interface of every CactusVPN extension and app we tried was slightly different from the usual design of VPNs and proxies. But they’re intuitive.

Although CactusVPN’s server list lacks a search function, it supports categorization. You can sort VPN servers and proxies by speed. You can find all P2P-optimized servers in one place. And you can group your favorite ones together.

Casual users can navigate any CactusVPN app with ease. But it’s clear that the product is engineered with the tech-savvy in mind.

Admittedly, the Windows client is occasionally buggy. It can freeze without warning. Here’s what it looked like after it stopped responding:

CactusVPN crash

 

Also, CactusVPN for Windows has a tendency to not save the previous settings. For instance, it kept disabling DNS Leak Protection after we enabled the feature in our last session.

You can neutralize this issue with vigilance. But it can be frustrating to redo your preferred settings before the start of a new session.

Customer Support

CactusVPN offers a multitude of self-service options. It has three knowledge bases: How to Start, Learning Center, and Setup Tutorials. It has a FAQ page, too.

But if you’d like to speak with a customer support representative, you can get in touch with one through email.

We engaged with the company’s customer support team multiple times to clarify some basic questions we had as we tested for this CactusVPN review. We were delighted by the quality assistance we received. 

They were able to provide helpful answers in as fast as five minutes. The longest time we had to wait was an hour. It may be bad news if you have an urgent need, however. But other VPN providers can take days to reply. So it’s no wonder why most glowing CactusVPN reviews credit the company’s reps.

Their responses were brief and straight to the point. If necessary, they recommended helpful resources too. 

Despite speaking with two different individuals in one of our tickets, we never had to repeat ourselves. Kudos to CactusVPN for investing in excellent helpdesk software.

CactusVPN Price

CactusVPN offers five plans, 3 of which are VPN-only subscriptions.

You can buy a dedicated Smart DNS package only. But you can also buy the VPN and Smart DNS bundle to enjoy maximum CactusVPN streaming, torrenting, gaming, and web browsing capabilities.

All plans are available in four billing options: monthly, quarterly, annual, and biennial. As follows are their prices.

  • US VPN, UK VPN, Liberty VPN, and Smart DNS
    • 1 Month: $6.99
    • 3 Months: $5.99/month ($17.99 upfront)
    • 1 Year: $4.16/month ($49.99 upfront)
    • 2 Years: $2.79/month ($66.99 upfront)
  • VPN + Smart DNS
    • 1 Month: $9.99
    • 3 Months: $7.99/month ($23.99 upfront)
    • 1 Year: $5.83/month ($69.99 upfront)
    • 2 Years: $3.95/month ($94.99 upfront)

Plans’ Specifications

Below are the notable features of each plan:

  • VPN US
    • Nine US servers
    • No P2P support
    • No Smart DNS
  • VPN UK
    • Four UK servers
    • No P2P support
    • No Smart DNS
  • Liberty VPN
    • Nine VPN servers in six countries (Germany, Latvia, Romania, Spain, Switzerland, and the Netherlands)
    • No P2P support
    • No Smart DNS
  • Smart DNS
    • Smart DNS available
    • No VPN servers
  • VPN + Smart DNS
    • 39 servers in 22 jurisdictions
    • P2P support on 12 servers
    • Smart DNS available

If you want to give the software a whirl before paying, you’re in luck. There’s a CactusVPN free trial for the Smart DNS plan and the bundle.

Either is good for three days with no payment info required. The CactusVPN trial version is no different from the premium one. You’ll be able to access all features with the trial plan.

If you’re ready to subscribe to CactusVPN, you can choose from a long list of payment options.

Payment Methods

The company accepts:

  • Payment cards 
  • PayPal
  • Alipay
  • WebMoney
  • Przelewy24
  • iDEAL
  • Boleto Bancario
  • Cryptocurrency

In addition, you can enjoy a 30-day money-back guarantee on any subscription you buy even after taking advantage of a CactusVPN trial.

You can ask for a full refund. As long as you cancel no later than 30 days from the purchase date, the company shouldn’t reject your request.

Refund Requests

Having said that, CactusVPN will deny your refund application when you:

  • Violate its terms of service
  • Want to use its smart DNS service to access a site excluded from its list
  • Use any of its products on a platform or device it doesn’t explicitly support
  • Pay with crypto

Lastly, CactusVPN offers different ways to save money. If you want to buy a second subscription, you can knock 50% off of it.

You can join its referral program to enjoy one month’s worth of free services. If you’re a blogger with decent traffic, you can promote CactusVPN in exchange for some rewards.

The company regularly offers giveaways too. You can follow CactusVPN’s Facebook and Twitter accounts to stay updated.

CactusVPN Review – Verdict

CactusVPN is a solid privacy solution for many reasons.

It has one of the best (if not the best) customer support teams among all VPN vendors. Its decision not to impose limitations on the number of simultaneous connections is generous to say the very least. Also, its flexible pricing and free proxy servers can give more bang for your buck.

As mentioned in this CactusVPN review, however, its Windows client has minor bugs that occasionally hurt its usability. We hoped that we were able to test it much longer and in more locations too.

Nevertheless, its weaknesses are forgivable. It can and will protect your privacy and help you consistently overcome internet censorship.

ABOUT AUTHOR

Romj is a veteran copywriter who used to be a Jack of all trades. Now, he's trying to be a master of one: technology. He jumps down the rabbit hole to size the latest innovations up. As a content contributor for TechJury, he hopes to help you keep up in our fast-paced world with his discoveries.