The Hotspot Shield VPN always comes under the radar for its controversial jurisdiction, company ownership, and past track record. Pango owned it until 2020, when Aura’s security company acquired it. However, its association with Pango raises questions about its reliability.
However, when a German lab tested the VPN, they were impressed with its features. Here’s a quick overview of Hotspot Shield VPN’s features:
Security and Privacy
- AES-128 bit encryption
- 256-bit encryption
- 2048-bit RSA key
- The US
- Follows shady logging policy with a suspicious track record
- Kill switch
- Smart VPN
- Password Manager
- Malware Protection
Streaming and Torrenting
List of Compatible Streaming Platforms
- Amazon Prime
- Disney Plus
List of Torrenting Features
- Smart VPN
- Torrent IP leak protection
No. of Servers
- 3200+ servers in more than 70 countries
- €11.99/m on 1-month plan (Family premium plan)€7.99/m on 1-year plan (Premium Plan)
- Online resources
- Live chat
- 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 vital 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, operating from a safe jurisdiction, and must not be a global member.
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. 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 also 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 consider whether to use this service. The VPN provider, headquartered in the US, 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, under these circumstances, users don’t feel secure using Hotspot Shield VPN easily.
Logging Policy – Does it Keep logs?
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 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 revealed the number of data requests it 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.
Still, Hotspot Shield VPN should audit its log policy to make users trust them in handing over their data and privacy.
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 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 can think of introducing other protocols, especially the OpenVPN protocol, to ensure data security when the proprietary protocol doesn’t work for any reason.
How good is Hotspot Shield VPN at bypassing censorship?
Hotspot Shield VPN can bypass censorship. The VPN uses the Catapult Hydra protocol to disguise the VPN traffic as regular internet traffic. This way, it can bypass internet restrictions and censorship and allows access to the web freely. Hence, you can access blocked sites and apps with Hotspot Shield VPN. In addition, the VPN 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.
Are any extra privacy and security features by Hotspot Shield VPN?
Along with basic privacy and security, a VPN must provide some extra features to enhance its users’ security and online anonymity. 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.
While using the Hotspot Shield VPN, you can use the impressive SmartVPN. It is the 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 bandwidth, increasing speeds. You can access this feature on Android and Windows apps under the settings option.
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.
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.
You can also use an identity scan feature for free on iOS devices. It checks if your accounts and passwords have been exposed to a breach. Moreover, it also allows you to remove your info from the junk mail and spam list to prevent seeing unwanted ads.
Another impressive feature that Hotspot Shield offers is malware protection. All premium users can benefit from this feature. It protects the users from the latest online threats like malicious, illegal, or phishing sites and websites that show ads to earn revenue. This feature is available on all supported devices, such as Android, Windows, iOS, Mac, and Linux, and ensures a safe and secure browsing experience.
Besides this, Hotspot Shield VPN doesn’t offer advanced features like other top-rated VPN providers.
Streaming and Torrenting
There are several issues associated with streaming and torrenting, so you need to use a VPN. Limited bandwidth, legal consequences, and file-laden malware are serious concerns for downloading torrents without a VPN. Similarly, you experience reduced video quality and geo-blocks while streaming 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
Besides this, the VPN allows users to watch live shows and favorite sports events such as NFL and UFC matches. The VPN doesn’t offer streaming-optimized servers; hence you can connect to any server to watch your favorite content.
Hotspot Shield is a good option for streaming because it offers unlimited bandwidth to enjoy blazing-fast video streams without significant buffering and connection lags. The VPN uses the patented Hydra protocol, whose advanced technology helps bypass the geo-blocks and makes accessing the blocked streaming content easy.
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. But, it provides a 3200+ server network, which is 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 servers. The speeds are enough for HD streaming, downloading, and playing online games. You can even enjoy a stable connection to long-distance servers. However, you have to look up the fastest available server because, unlike other VPN providers, Hotspot Shield VPN doesn’t automatically connect you with the fastest one 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 cause frequent connection lags and buffers. Thus, subscribe to the premium version for unlimited bandwidth and the fastest connection speed.
The Hotspot Shield VPN offers simple, intuitive, easy-to-download, and native apps. You can download the apps from the website or the app store easily. The VPN doesn’t offer advanced settings or customization options so that you can use it without 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 3200 servers in 70+ 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)
- France (2 cities)
- Italy (4 cities)
- Spain (2 cities)
- United Kingdom (2 cities)
The VPN offers virtual servers, and by default, the virtual location is set to the USA; you can change the location by navigating to the settings menu. The virtual locations vary from each quite impressive platform. 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. However, it was utterly disappointing to find that while testing Hotspot Shield VPN, the live chat feature wasn’t working.
This means that the live chat feature is unreliable; hence, email the support team if there’s some query. However, again don’t expect to receive a reply soon.
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. If you have opted for a free version, then, unfortunately, you couldn’t get in-human assistance as the free version only allows website support.
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:
The VPN also adds router support, meaning now you can download the VPN on the router instead of on every device. You can also use the VPN on gaming consoles and streaming devices like Apple and Android TVs. The apps are easy-to-use and download; visit the official website or the app store, and you can download the apps from there.
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 in free and premium versions. In addition, the company hasn’t issued any log or security audit reports to gain users’ trust and makes its name clear from past controversies.
The company should work on these areas to improve service and attract more audience.
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About the Author
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.More from Rebecca James
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