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Hotspot Shield VPN Review: Is It Secure to Use In 2022?

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Hotspot Shield VPN Review
Provides strong encryption
Ensures super fast speeds
Access Netflix, BBC, Hulu
Fast & secure Torrenting
Uses the Catapault Hydra Protocol
Provides the Dashlane password manager
Fastest servers list

30 Days Refund Policy

The Hotspot Shield VPN provider offers impressive benefits and services to the users. Pango owned it until 2020 when Aura’s security company acquired it. However, its association with Pango raises questions about its reliability. 

A report found that Hotspot Shield VPN’s Android app injects JavaScript codes for advertising and tracking purposes. This makes users concerned about trusting their data and digital privacy with Hotspot Shield VPN. Moreover, the company was accused of unfair and deceptive trade practices. 

However, when a German lab tested the VPN, they were pretty impressed with its features. Here’s a quick overview of Hotspot Shield VPN’s features:

Security and Privacy:

Encryption
  •  AES-128 bit encryption
  • 256-bit encryption
  • 2048 bit RSA key
Jurisdiction
  • The US
Log Policy

Follows shady logging policy with suspicious track record

Security Features

Streaming and Torrenting

List of Compatible Streaming Platforms 
  • Netflix
  • Amazon Prime
  • Disney Plus
  • Hulu
  • Twitch
  • YouTube
List of Torrenting Features
  • Smart VPN
  • Torrent IP leak protection

User-friendliness 

No. of Servers 
  • 1800+ servers in more than 80 countries
Pricing
  • $11.99/m on 1-month plan
  • $7.99/m on 1-year plan
Customer Support 
  • Email
  • Live chat support
  • Online resources
Compatible Devices 
  • Android
  • iOS
  • MacOS
  • Linux
  • Windows
  • Routers
  • Streaming devices,

To discover the truth, the best way is to test the VPN. The following Hotspot Shield VPN review includes all the information and how credible the VPN is.

Security and Privacy

Security and privacy are the foremost vital factors when choosing a VPN provider. The best secure VPN is the one that provides a top-notch level of security by utilizing strong encryption and tunneling protocols. Moreover, the VPN should keep your activities private and out of the reach of prying eyes by following a strict no-log policy and operating from a safe jurisdiction and isn’t a member of the global.

– What Type Of Encryption does Hotspot Shield VPN Use?

Hotspot Shield VPN provides the utmost online protection in free and premium versions. The VPN uses both AES-128 bit and AES-256 bit encryption to safeguard your internet traffic from privacy intruders. However, the AES-128 bit encryption is the standard encryption, and if you want to increase the security level, you can switch to a greater encryption version. 

Moreover, the VPN uses a 2048-bit RSA key for server authentication and the Elliptic Curve Diffie-Hellman algorithm for Ephemeral key exchange. Neither the ISP nor the hacker can intercept your online communications due to these high encryption standards.

– Jurisdiction of Hotspot Shield VPN

Hotspot Shield VPN’s jurisdiction makes people think that they should use this service or not. The VPN provider is headquartered in the US, which has intrusive privacy laws. Also, the country is part of the five eyes alliance that retains and shares citizens browsing data with international intelligence agencies. Thus, users don’t feel secure using Hotspot Shield VPN easily under these circumstances. 

– Logging Policy – Does it Keep Logs?

Hotspot Shield VPN claims to follow a no-log policy, but in reality, the VPN’s logging policy is a bit questionable. The VPN provider doesn’t log your browsing activities, but it collects other information. According to the privacy policy:

Hotspot Shield log policy

However, in their Privacy note, the company mentions that the VPN servers are with such infrastructure providers that don’t collect any information about the users. Even if the government surveillance agencies seize the VPN servers and break into the disk encryption, they won’t find any logs or data that can reveal the users’ real identity and activities via the VPN connection. 

This gives users some relaxation, but they are not fully satisfied as the VPN hasn’t undergone a third-party log audit. In 2019, Hotspot Shield VPN issued its annual transparency report that reveals the number of data requests they received from the higher authorities since 2016. The report clarifies that the VPN didn’t hand over any user data to the authorities because they don’t have any data. But since 2019, there has been no news that the company has released a new transparency report. 

Besides this, an independent malware test lab AV-TEST GmbH tested the VPN’s service and released a report. The report praises the VPN for its features and performance but doesn’t go deep into the privacy policy. 

Still, to make users trust them in handing over their data and privacy, Hotspot Shield VPN should audit its log policy. 

– Which Tunneling Protocols Does it offer?

Unlike other top-rated VPN providers, Hotspot Shield VPN uses limited tunneling protocols. The VPN supports only the following two protocols:

  • IKEv2 protocol
  • Advanced Catapult Hydra tunneling protocol.

 Both the protocols are secure, reliable, and offer stable connection speed. They are compatible with all the supported devices, and by navigating the settings, you can easily switch the protocols according to your preference. 

 The IKEv2 protocol is another secure and fast protocol to use. It is light in bandwidth because of its code and is relatively secure.  

The Hydra is Hotspot Shield VPN’s proprietary protocol. It’s based on TLS 1.2. and uses 128-bit AES encryption and 2048-bit RSA certificates for server authentication. Also, it uses perfect forward secrecy that generates new session keys and ensures that no one can intercept your data traffic. 
This protocol works slightly differently from others and can differentiate between different types of packet losses. It means it won’t overreact with the packets, reduce your bandwidth, and deliver faster speeds than any other protocol. However, Hotspot Shield VPN should support other protocols, especially the OpenVPN protocol, that can ensure data security when the proprietary protocol doesn’t work due to any reason.

– How good is Hotspot Shield VPN in bypassing Censorship?

Hotspot Shield VPN can bypass censorship, but it’s not an excellent choice to use like NordVPN or ProtonVPN. The VPN uses the Catapult Hydra protocol to disguise the VPN traffic as the regular internet traffic. This way, it can bypass internet restrictions and censorship and allows access to the web freely. 
Hence, with Hotspot Shield VPN, you can access blocked sites and apps. Moreover, it also offers servers in highly restrictive countries like China and UAE. You can bypass the restrictions and browse the web safely by connecting to these servers. However, for much-improved performance, Hotspot Shield VPN should introduce more advanced features that ensure an excellent user experience while you defeat censorship.

Past History of Hotspot Shield VPN

Formerly, Hotspot Shield VPN was owned by Pango, which also owns a few other VPN providers like Betternet, TouchVPN, and Hexatech. Later, in July 2020, Aura bought it. Since it belongs to the invasive jurisdiction of the US, the company can record and share user information. 

The company’s involvement in shady practices like injecting codes for tracking makes people doubt its credibility. A CSIRO report in 2016 reveals that the Android app inserted JavaScript codes and used tracking codes to collect users’ data, which they could sell to third-party advertisers to earn revenue. 

Moreover, the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) accused the VPN in 2017 of practicing misleading data retention practices. 
All these events make it difficult for the users to trust a company that values profit more than privacy.

Any Extra Privacy and Security Features by Hotspot Shield VPN?

Along with basic privacy and security, a VPN should provide some extra features to enable advanced information security and online anonymity to its users. When you buy the premium version of Hotspot Shield VPN, you can enjoy using some extra features that improve digital privacy and the overall user experience. Following is an insight into these features.

Smart VPN

While using the Hotspot Shield VPN, you can use the impressive SmartVPN that’s Hotspot Shield VPN’s version of split tunneling. It allows you to select apps and websites you want to secure with VPN encryption. This way, it improves your online security and saves the bandwidth, which results in increased speeds. You can access this feature on Android and Windows apps under the settings option. 

Kill Switch

A kill switch is an impressive safety feature that protects your data and identity without causing any damage. It disconnects you from the internet until the VPN connection is restored. It adds an extra security layer that keeps you anonymous when the VPN connection is lost accidentally. This feature is always running in the background and requires no manual configurations. 

Password Manager

To boost the security of your online accounts, Dashlane partnered with Hotspot Shield VPN to offer its services to premium users. You can now use the Dashlane password manager and the VPN to protect your account security. 

Besides this, you can use an identity scan feature for free on iOS devices. It checks if your accounts and passwords have been exposed in a breach. Moreover, it also allows you to remove your info from the junk mail and spam list to prevent seeing unwanted ads.  

Other than this, Hotspot Shield VPN doesn’t offer any advanced features like other top-rated VPN providers.

Streaming and Torrenting

There are several issues associated with streaming and torrenting, and hence you need to use a VPN. Limited bandwidth, legal consequences, and file-laden with malware are some serious concerns for downloading torrents without a VPN. Similarly, while streaming, you experience reduced video quality and geo-blocks due to content licensing restrictions. The best way to get around these issues is to use a reliable VPN like Hotspot Shield. 

– Compatible Streaming Platforms

Hotspot Shield VPN allows streaming in the premium version. You can bypass the government-imposed content licensing restrictions and can access your favorite content from:

  • Amazon Prime
  • Netflix
  • Hulu
  • Twitch
  • YouTube

Besides this, the VPN also allows users to watch live shows and favorite sports events such as NFL and UFC matches. The VPN doesn’t offer any streaming optimized servers meaning you can connect to any server to unblock and watch the content you love. 

Hotspot Shield is a good option for streaming because it offers unlimited bandwidth to enjoy blazing-fast streams without buffering and connection lags. The VPN uses the patented Hydra protocol, whose advanced technology helps bypass the geo-blocks and makes it easy to access the blocked streaming content.  
Moreover, the protocol offers a consistently fast speed that guarantees a fantastic streaming experience. But Hotspot Shield VPN lacks certain streaming-centric features like SmartDNS play or no borders mode, making it less than other VPN providers.

– Is Hotspot Shield VPN Good For Torrenting?

Torrenting is another area where you can consider using Hotspot Shield VPN. The VPN’s unlimited bandwidth, vast server network, and smart VPN features make it a good choice for downloading torrents. The free version of Hotspot Shield VPN doesn’t support torrenting. Hence, you should subscribe to a premium version to enjoy unrestricted torrenting. 

Unfortunately, the VPN provider doesn’t offer any dedicated servers for torrenting. It provides 1800+ servers which are enough for finding a fast and secure connection for P2P file-sharing. 
Many VPNs restrict your bandwidth while torrenting, but Hotspot Shield Elite provides unlimited bandwidth that ensures that you download torrents without any restriction. It also protects from IP and DNS leaks, increasing your online anonymity and making it impossible for anyone to see your torrent traffic. Besides this, the VPN provider also offers a smart VPN (split tunneling) and a kill switch feature that results in fast and safe downloading. But the smart VPN feature is only available for Android and Windows devices.

– How Fast Is Hotspot Shield VPN?

Hotspot Shield VPN offers impressively fast and reliable speed across all the servers. The speeds are more than enough for HD streaming, downloading, and playing online games. You can even enjoy a fast and stable connection to long-distance servers. However, you have to look up the fastest server available because, unlike other VPN providers, Hotspot Shield VPN doesn’t automatically connect you with the fastest server available

Moreover, in 2019, the experts from Ookla Speedtest.net performed an independent study to find out which is the fastest VPN. Hotspot Shield VPN, under all circumstances, remains the fastest VPN in the industry. One reason why Hotspot Shield VPN offers super-fast is that it uses Catapult Hydra as its default protocol. The protocol provides blazing-fast speeds that are 2.4 times faster than OpenVPN over long distances. 
However, if you’re using the Hotspot Shield free version, you won’t experience such high speed. The free version allocates a 500MB data limit per data, which can offer up to 2Mbps speed which can cause frequent connection lags and buffers. Thus, if you want unlimited bandwidth and the fastest connection speed, then subscribe to the premium version.

User-Friendliness 

The Hotspot Shield VPN offers simple, intuitive, and easy to download and use native apps. You can download the apps from the website or the app store easily. The VPN doesn’t offer any advanced settings or customization options so that you can use it without any trouble.  

– The Number of Servers Hotspot shield VPN Provides 

Hotspot Shield free VPN allows you to access one server in the US. The paid version consists of more than 1800 servers in 80+ countries, including 35+ cities, and will enable users to browse safely and access the blocked content from anywhere. You can find a server in all major countries, including those that experience heavy internet censorship. Some popular Hotspot Shield VPN location includes:

  • Australia (5 cities)
  • America (27 cities)
  • Canada (4 cities)
  • China
  • Turkey
  • France (2 cities)
  • Italy (4 cities)
  • Spain (2 cities)
  • United Kingdom (2 cities)
  • UAE

The VPN technology automatically connects you to the best VPN server. It uses Hydra technology to ensure that you don’t have to get into trouble with multiple configurations.   
However, the VPN doesn’t offer specialized servers for streaming and torrenting, making it less than other VPN providers.

– How Good is hotspot shield VPN Customer Support?

Hotspot Shield VPN offers email support and a 24/7 live chat option for paid users. The chat agents are knowledgeable and respond timely. But if there’s some query they find difficult to solve, it’s converted into a ticket, and you receive a reply via email.
 Moreover, the website also has a support category to help the users. If you’re a free VPN user, website resources like the FAQs and troubleshooting can help you.

– What Devices Is hotspot shield VPN Compatible With?

Hotspot Shield VPN is compatible with all major devices and operating systems. Here’s the list of devices the VPN offers native apps:

  • Android
  • iOS
  • MacOS
  • Linux
  • Windows

The VPN also adds router support, meaning now you can download the VPN on the router instead of every device. You can also use the VPN on gaming consoles and streaming devices like Apple and Android TV.

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FAQs

How many simultaneous connections does it offer?

Hotspot Shield VPN free users can connect to only one device with their account. Depending on the premium plan, you can simultaneously enjoy up to twenty-five connections on all compatible devices. If you want to connect more devices, you should upgrade to the premium family version. It offers accounts for five members, and each can connect to five devices. In contrast, the premium plan allows one account to connect to five other devices. 

Does the VPN offer a free trial?

Hotspot Shield VPN is generous enough to offer a free version and a seven-day free trial period. At this time, you can test the premium VPN service without paying. The subscription starts after the free trial period ends. If you feel dissatisfied with the service, you can cancel the subscription and demand a refund within 45 days by contacting the customer support team.

Is it recommended to use the Hotspot Shield VPN free version?

Hotspot Shield VPN ranks among the reliable free VPN providers you can consider using for the short term. The VPN offers a 500 MB of data limit each day with an average speed of 1 Gbps. Unlike the pro version, you can’t access the entire server network as it’s only limited to one location. Moreover, you can’t access any blocked streaming site, download torrents, or play online games. 

Besides this, though the VPN uses the AES-128 bit encryption and secure tunneling protocols, it won’t allow you to benefit from the Smart VPN, kill switch, or the anti-phishing protection feature. Also, the VPN in the free version records your data logs and doesn’t keep your activities completely private. Hence, for a much more secure and improved browsing experience, you should use the paid version of the Hotspot Shield VPN.

Which is better: NordVPN or Hotspot Shield VPN?

NordVPN is one of the leading and top-rated VPN providers that’s safe to use. When compared, NordVPN comes on the top and proves to be the best in every aspect. It uses the highest encryption standard, advanced tunneling protocol like NordLynx, and a range of extra privacy and security features. These things boost the users’ online security; the VPN’s verified no-log policy and safe jurisdiction make it a better option to use instead of Hotspot Shield VPN. 

The Hotspot Shield VPN uses the AES-128 bit encryption, uncrackable but not as secure as the AES-256 bit ciphers. Moreover, it belongs to the five eyes alliance jurisdiction and has a shady log policy with no independent log audit reports or latest transparency reports. The VPN’s history also doesn’t make it the most preferred choice for users. But, some users might use the Hotspot Shield VPN because it uses the Catapult Hydra protocol that ensures blazing fast connection speed. 

So, if you’re privacy and security-focused and want a VPN with excellent unlocking abilities, you should use NordVPN.

How much does Hotspot Shield VPN cost?

The Hotspot Shield VPN is one of the free VPN providers. But it allows users to upgrade to a paid version. The VPN provider offers two different premium subscription packages depending on your preferences. If you want to use the VPN for individual use, you should select the premium plan for $7.99 per month. If you have an extended family or run a small-size business, you can opt for the premium family plan that costs $11.99 per month. Both the plans offer the same benefits like speed, unblocking capabilities, server access, and data limits. The only difference is in the member accounts and device connections. 

Final Verdict 

Hotspot Shield VPN is a mediocre VPN that provides basic security but has many more areas for improvement. It offers fast and reliable speeds, so you can use it for streaming and torrenting. But it lacks several privacy and security-focused features that boost digital privacy and the overall user experience. 

The most concerning thing about the VPN is its logging policy that’s not a genuinely no-log VPN and keeps data both in the free and premium versions. In addition, the company hasn’t issued any log audit or security audit reports to gain users’ trust and makes its name clear from the past controversies. 

The company should work on these areas to improve their service and attract more audience. 

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Rebecca James is an IT consultant with forward thinking approach toward developing IT infrastructures of SMEs. She writes to engage with individuals and raise awareness of digital security, privacy, and better IT infrastructure.

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