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Hotspot Shieldfor Windows

8.4.1

6

Hotspot shield is the world’s most popular VPN service. Does this make it the world’s best? With over 650 million users, unparalleled speeds and over 2,500 servers around the world, Hotspot Shield are the global giants of the VPN industry. They continue to grow at a phenomenal speed. Stellar service or awesome marketing? Let’s find out. Hotspot Shield is a VPN, i.e. a “Virtual Private Network” that hides your computer's IP address, allowing you to browse securely and (supposedly), privately. VPN services exploded in popularity after the Snowden allegations, and continue to be a popular way for safe internet use. Hotspot Shield was developed in 2005 by AnchorFree, a US company based in San Francisco. A freemium product, with the Hotspot Shield Elite removing the ads, adding features and increasing the speeds.

Good design, decent speed, and easy to use

Hotspot Shield VPN: unparalleled speed at a price
Now for the pros, of which there are many. The first thing I noticed when I downloaded Hotspot Shield was its sleek design and beautiful simplicity. It took less than a minute to find it, download it and fire it up. The black backdrop, with a star-studded world map and simple power button in the middle is aesthetically awesome. One click of the power button and boom, you are protected! On the free version, you are automatically given a server (in my case the United States) but if you upgrade to Hotspot Shield Elite you can choose your server from 61 countries. You can run up to 5 devices simultaneously, and AnchorFree supports anonymous torrenting and even provides a guide to get you started. Hotspot Shield provides great protection, in the even that a server fails, a kill switch will automatically disconnect you, instantly hiding your real IP address and sensitive information. I couldn’t access Netflix, but with the premium service you can stream Netflix, access geo protected YouTube videos and even the obstinate UK based BBC iPlayer. Customer support is available 24/7 (although through live chats or support tickets, they are famously slow to respond to emails).

Of course, where Hotspot Shield blows its competitors out of the field is the incredible speeds they offer. While I only tested the free version, users reported download speeds of double other VPNS, lower latency and increased ping times. AnchorFree claims this is thanks to their exclusive Hydra Protocol which is based on TLS and OpenSSL. In fact, it is also used by security giants such as McAfee, Bitdefender and even Vodafone. Their network uses a hyper secure AES-2526 encryption to ensure the privacy of your data from everyone – except AnchorFree. This takes us to the major flaw of an otherwise impeccable VPN.

Hotspot is headquartered in California. The United States is a member of the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance, and current US law allows the Government to invoke gag orders on VPN companies. Effectively, AnchorFree could be forced to hand over your personal data (and be prevented from notifying you). This is before we even get to the shady contradictions between their latest Transparency Report and their Privacy Policy. The former has a zero-logging claim, while the latter admits that Hotspot Shield does “collect anonymous aggregate data about which websites you visit and which apps you use.” Formal complaints have been lodged against the company alleging them of selling data on to advertisers. Other cons include the lack of bitcoin payment options, and you can’t manually set up routers as there are no other VPN tunneling protocols available. Also, the free version only lets you browse from US servers (which are significantly slower than their other global options) and limits you to 500 MB per day.

Where can you run this program?

Hotspot Shield is compatible with most major devices. The VPN app is available for Windows, Mac and both Android and iOS smartphones. There is also a browser extension for Chrome and Firefox.

However, because the VPN exclusively runs on the Hydra Catapult protocol, there is no option to manually set up routers. As a result, Hotspot Shield is incompatible with Linux, gaming systems and smart TVs. Basically, you won’t be able to run Hotspot Shield on any of their fairly long list of unsupported devices. This includes any rooted phones, Kindle, Windows or Blackberry phones or the Amazon Fire TV stick.

Is there a better alternative?

If it is raw speed you’re after, then the only rival to Hotspot Shield is Express VPN. Although you can’t connect as many devices simultaneously, and there is no free version available. For ultra-private browsing, try the Private Internet Access or Surfshark VPNs. If you need to do a lot of torrenting, then TorGuard VPN is a great option. I found the TunnelBear was an awesome VPN, there was no ads even in the free version. CyberGhost is great for accessing BBC iPlayer. Across the board however, the best alternative is NordVPN. It offers great speeds, Netflix streaming, smooth torrenting and highly secure protocols. This is the best VPN for secure and fast browsing without sacrificing your privacy.

Our take

Surely, the whole point of using a VPN is for your safety and privacy. So why choose a VPN app that is headquartered in the US, with a shady privacy policy, and who were alleged of malpractice by the Center for Democracy and Technology?

Sure, nothing in life is free. Hotspot Shield comes at the price of ads and limited bandwidth in the free version. It seems even the Hotspot Shield Elite comes at a price of your privacy.

Should you download it?

You could try the 7-day trial version, with money back guaranteed. But unless you are looking for raw speed and nothing else, give Hotspot Shield a miss and try one of the more private VPNs.

Hotspot Shieldfor Windows

8.4.1

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