Hotspot Shield Review

Hotspot Shield Review

What is Hotspot Shield?

Hotspot Shield, it’s one of the world’s most popular VPN services, with over 650 million users worldwide and has servers based in over 80 countries. Hotspot Shield is ranked as the eight most sold VPN on the App Store. We tested Hotspot Shield against our usual testing criteria the results were impressive.

Fast and effective Hotspot Shield can unblock all the most popular streaming websites and have user friendly dedicated apps with supports for P2P  torrenting. If you have any issue Hotspot Shield has a 24/7 live chat support.

How Does a VPN Work?

First, we need to understand how the internet works. When you visit a website like Facebook or Twitter, you type in the domain name.

That domain name is a “nickname” for the websites’ IP address. An IP address is just like your home address; only it consists of numbers, and not street names or post codes.

because it is much easier to remember names than a string of numbers, websites have a domain name such as Facebook, Twitter, PayPal, YouTube, Instagram and so on which the server translates.

Your phone, laptop, desktop, and smartwatch have IP addresses too, and any other device that can browse the internet. Whenever you are browsing the web and type a domain name into the search field in Chrome, Firefox or even Internet Explorer, your data gets forwarded to the internet until it reaches its destination server–the website or information you are looking for. The destination server translates the data and sends you back the site you requested.

The problem with this is when you send that data to the server; you are also sending them your IP address and lots more information about yourself. This is where hackers can intercept to get to your information. A VPN protects you from these threats, however a VPN cannot protect you from every threat online and we recommend you use a standalone anti-virus program and a password manager if possible.  If you have access to 2FA please enable it.

What are the advantages of a VPN?

Besides securing your data and protecting you from danger online, a VPN also makes you completely anonymous online! Nobody, not even your internet service provider knows what you are looking at online. A VPN can also unblock vast amounts of content on streaming sites like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney Plus etc and much more..

Hotspot Shield Servers

When connecting to a VPN server you want to connect to the closest possible server to your physical location, this reduces latency or lag. With this in mind the more servers a VPN provider has faster the connection and less chance of crowding or the bad neighbor effect. Hotspot shield has over 3,200 servers in around 80 countries, although this is ever increasing.

One thing to note here is that hotspot shield provides servers in the more oppressive regions of the world such as Russia, China Turkey or Vietnam.

Encryption and Protocols

Hotspot Shield uses AES 256-bit encryption, which is a military grade encryption. In addition, Hotspot Shield uses Perfect Forward Secrecy, which is a key agreement protocol that continuously changes your encryption key. 

The chances of your VPN session with Hotspot Shield becoming compromised are so very remote and in some ways, this is almost overkill given the robust strength of AES 256-bit encryption.

However, if you’re connected session encryption key was somehow compromised, this ensures all your other data remains secure. Hotspot Shield uses Catapult Hydra protocol which is an open SSL protocol, IkeV2 is available on iOS and windows and OpenVPN which is our preferred method is available on routers. using OpenVPN on your router will secure any device connected to that router, even unconfigured smart devices. 

Catapult Hydra protocol

Catapult Hydra protocol is basically an enhanced transport protocol of the open SSL library by using multiple channels to distribute the data thereby increasing speed and reliability, especially over longer connection distances.

Hotspot Shield is currently working on rolling out IkeV2 and OpenVPN across all their services.

Automatic Kill Switch

If for any reason your Internet connection, Wi-Fi or your connection to the VPN should drop during a session, the automatic kill switch kicks in and temporarily disables your Internet connection until the VPN connection is restored. This ensures none of your data is leaked at any point and is another layer of protection. A point of note is the kill switch is only available for Windows at present.

Besides these measures’ Hotspot Shield provides DNS leak protection and malware protection, which all in all provides high security environment.

Does Hotspot Shield keep logs?

Privacy is of the highest importance when using a VPN, we’ve scrutinized the Hotspot Shield privacy policy to see exactly what the company stores in relation to usage.  

So, does Hotspot Shield keep logs? Hotspot shield is headquartered in the U.S which is a member of the 5/9/14 eyes alliance. This won’t be very encouraging reading to privacy lovers. The VPN’s privacy policy states that the Hotspot Shield doesn’t keep usage logs but they do log other information…

From what we read in the privacy policy Hotspot Shield logs the following information: email address, username, unique mobile ID, hardware model, operating system, language and your real IP address, a company representative explained this is to match you with the best possible server and the information is encrypted and then deleted at the end of each session.

Hotspot Shield also provides a free VPN service. However, they pay for this free VPN service by using third party advertisements on the Android version of the app they do this through Google ads and SDK’s.

The company is noticeably clear about this in its privacy policy and provides a tool to De-target these ads and prevent information sharing from the free version. The information used for these advertisements is

: Location, although this is defined city location rather than your actual address. Advertising ID, mobile IMEI, wireless carrier on MAC address.

Given this information, we do not recommend using the free version of Hotspot Shield if you have any privacy concerns, as this information is almost enough to identify you as an individual. 

Another possible issue is that because Hotspot Shield is headquartered in the U.S it’s subject to U.S laws and may be obliged to provide information if requested by the U.S government or law enforcement agencies. As yet Hotspot Shield has produced no transparency reports or external audits, so it’s difficult to tell.

Speed

We conducted our usual speed and performance tests on Hotspot Shield using Fast.com and Speedcheck.org.

These tests were as always carried out over a 10-day period. The results were fast and consistent, with extraordinarily little variance in speeds between 90 – 110 MBPS. 

If you wanted to Stream Netflix in Ultra HD Netflix themselves recommend a 25 MBPS connection speed.

A point of note here is that the unique Catapult Hydra protocol is specifically designed to eliminate latency issues over distance and increase connection speeds.  What we found very impressive was speeds in Australia and Hong Kong and other Asian countries we’re consistently high! This is unusual given most VPNs experience speed latency over these distances very few VPNs we tested could give such consistent and reliable speeds in Australia and Asia.

Overall hotspot shield is excellent for streaming and torrenting speeds and is one of the fastest VPN we have tested so far.

Value for Money

Hotspot Shield offers four different subscription plans; each plan comes with all the same features, and the only difference between the plans is the length of the subscription. This is standard across the VPN industry.

Also standard across the VPN industry is the longer the subscription plans, the more value for money you get. A monthly subscription is always more expensive than let’s say a three-year subscription, which in this case would be under 3 dollars a month. Whereas a monthly subscription to Hotspot Shield will set you back $12.99.

This is higher than the industry standard of $9.99 per month however, when you sign up the Hotspot Shield you get a Pango account which gives you access to the 1Password manager, Identity Guard which is an identity theft protection service and Robo Shield call blocker. These additions add great value as the 1Password password manager alone costs $3.99 a month. Additionally, there are several other features available in the Pango security suite you received with this account.

Is Hotspot Shield Free VPN good?

Although it’s good that hotspot shield offers a free VPN because most provider don’t. You only gain access to the US virtual location and you cannot stream content from certain services, there is also 500MB daily limit.

If you want to try Hotspot Shield for free, we recommend you take advantage of the seven-day free trial which gives access to a full premium version of Hotspot Shield and all its features.

Hotspot shield is so confident in their product they offer a very generous 45-day money-back guarantee, which is higher than the industry standard 30-day money-back guarantee.

You can purchase Hotspot Shield using a credit card or PayPal, Hotspot Shield does not accept Bitcoin payments at present.

Licences

When it comes to licenses hotspot shield offer protection for five devices and five simultaneous connections which is standard across the industry.

Torrenting

Hotspot Shield allows you to torrent on all their servers and device platforms using P2P file sharing and BitTorrent. Hotspot Shield mask your IP address and hide your P2P activity from your Internet service provider (avoiding throttling). This is done using the split tunneling feature which allows you to assign traffic flow. During testing we found Hotspot Shield performed consistently well and delivered excellent upload and download speeds.

Designated Domain Access

This is a unique and excellent feature! Hotspot Shield lets you designate domains that can be accessed without the VPN, which is handy for using your online banking and local services. You can also specify which apps should and should not use an encrypted connection.

What is DNS leak protection?

DNS leaks are a security defect that expose your DNS requests to your Internet Service Providers DNS servers. Even if you are using a VPN these DNS leaks can happen.

During testing, we used dnsleaktest.com and dnsleak.com to test for DNS leaks in 20 separate instances. We found no DNS leaks on the Hotspot Shield servers we tested.

Hotspot Shield Apps

Hotspot Shield is compatible with most devices and has dedicated apps for Mac OS windows IOS and Android, in addition there’s a browser extension for Chrome. Hotspot Shield is not compatible with Linux, gaming systems, or smart TV’s. And The kill switch is only available on the windows app. The Hotspot Shield native apps are user friendly and easy to navigate.

The interface provides information such as session length amount of data uploaded or downloaded alongside a map of your current location. Overall, a very appealing user experience despite a lack of advanced settings, this VPN is ideal for those of you knew to VPN’s.

Netflix

Hotspot Shield has no problems unblocking popular streaming services like Amazon prime, Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, BT Sport app, etc. During testing we could connect seamlessly and enjoyed extremely fast and consistent streaming speeds. 

Does Hotspot Shield Work in China?

Strict Internet policies and VPN blocking make China a tough nut to crack for most VPNs. when we tested Hotspot Shield, we got mixed results, sometimes we could connect with no problems at all other times we had to try several alternative servers before connecting.

Support

The Hotspot Shield website help center it’s full of useful resources and troubleshooting guides which are device specific. There is a searchable help database, although the best thing about this service is the 24/7 live chat support which we found very responsive, helpful and friendly.

Wait times were under 3-minutes and we tested the responsiveness of the chat support in several locations at peak times and in the middle of the night.

Overview

Hotspot Shield is a U.S based company with one of the largest amounts of users worldwide and ranks as the 8th most sold VPN on the App Store.

They encrypt your data using 256-AES protection (used by banks and the military).

Hotspot Shield is lightning fast with consistent download speeds. The 1Password manager and security package provided with the free Pango account adds a lot of extra value.

With an industry standard 5 devices protected using a single licence, a 7-day free trial and a 45-day money-back guarantee, you can try Hotspot Shield risk free now.

Hotspot shield Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Consistency fast download and upload speeds
  • Unblocks Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime and more
  • All servers optimised for torrenting & P2P traffic
  • Over 1800 servers
  • User-friendly GUI
  • 24/7 customer support

Cons

  • Kill switch only available on windows
  • No Linux supports
  • No ad blocker
  • Privacy policy issues
Features
Details
Number of countries with servers
85
Number of servers
1800 +
Does hotspot shield VPN keep logs?
no with caveat
Does hotspot shield VPN include a kill switch?
limited to windows
Number of devices per CyberGhost license
5
Unblocks Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney +, HBO Go, ESPN
Yes

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