Hotspot Shield is a VPN service developed by AnchorFree. The company is based in the US, in Silicon Valley, but it also has offices in other locations around the world, such as Russia and Ukraine.
The VPN service was first launched in 2008 as a Windows app and macOS app. The mobile apps (iOS and Android) were launched 3 and 4 years later.
During its first years of existence, Hotspot Shield was a decent VPN service but unable to compete with industry leaders. It had problems with unblocking geo-restricted content and failed to unblock Netflix with most of its servers. And as far as servers go, this provider had a small network of servers to choose from. However, things have improved dramatically in time and Hotspot Shield is currently a very popular VPN service.
Hotspot Shield has an impressive network of servers all over the world. There are more than 3,200 servers to choose from, located in over 70 countries worldwide. They cover the Americas (US, Canada, Mexico, Brasil), Europe (UK, Germany, France, Russia, Denmark, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, Italy and more), Asia (China, Hong Kong, India, Japan), Middle East (Iran, Turkey, UAE), Oceania (Australia, New Zeeland).
Hotspot Shield has dedicated apps for all the common operating systems and a browser extension as well. It has apps for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and a browser extension for Chrome.
Security is the number one reason why users turn to virtual private networks. Our data is very sensitive and fragile in front of online threats, whether its malware, phishing attacks, identity theft and so on. We are even more exposed to these threats when we use public WiFi networks to connect to the internet, because they are even less secure. That is why is of paramount importance to use a VPN service that offers solid security features, to stay protected and anonymous when surfing the web.
Hotspot Shield uses military-grade encryption, not only for its premium service but for its free VPN as well.
As far as protocols go, Hotspot Shield doesn’t use the common OpenVPN protocol, nor does it have support for L2TP/IPsec or IKEv2. Instead, this provider uses its own protocol, the Catapult Hydra. However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because this technology uses pretty standard methods and according to the company, it is based on the TLS 1.2 (Transport Layer Security). Hotspot claims its Catapult Hydra ‘optimizes multiple server connections that are stronger and faster over long distances’.
The beauty of this Catapult technology is that it favors performance and speed while still keeping you safe. The only downside to this proprietary technology is the fact that you can’t look into the code as you can with an open-source protocol such as OpenVPN, to identify potential bugs or ways to improve it. But the average user isn’t interested in that any way, because only developers can understand what’s going on in there anyway.
In addition to the AES 256-bit encryption, Hotspot Shield also includes the automatic kill-switch feature, which blocks your traffic in case the VPN connection drops. You will regain access to the internet once your VPN connection is reestablished. DNS leak protection is also included.
The interface of the app is very user-friendly and a lot of the features can be enabled or disabled with a simple mouse click.
When it comes to privacy, the bad news is the fact that the VPN service is based in the US, which is a member of the 5/9/14-Eyes Alliance. Hotspot Shield itself doesn’t store activity logs on its users, but it does collect quite some info: email address, username, your real IP and more.
Hotspot Shield allows up to 5 devices simultaneous, which is the average number.
This is a chapter where Hotspot Shield shines, as it allows torrenting on all its servers.
Hotspot Shield used to have problems with unblocking geo-restricted content, including Netflix, which didn’t work on most of its servers. Things have changed though over time and recent tests show that Hotspot Shield can now unblock Netflix on a lot of its servers. The VPN can also unblock Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, BBC iPlayer and more.
However, when it comes to working in China and other countries where virtual private networks are blocked (Turkey, Iran, Pakistan), you may fail to use Hotspot Shield.
Hotspot Shield can really stand its own when it comes to speed and it pretty much owes it to its Catapult Hydra technology, which increases performance. This VPN obtained impressive results in speed tests, for both close and long-distance servers.
Customer support is offered on a 24/7 basis via live chat to the paying customers. The website is also full of helpful resources such as a FAQ section, Troubleshoot issues and more.
Hotspot Shield offers a free version of the VPN, which is limited in the number of servers available and in bandwidth. The free version also comes with ads and doesn’t let you connect to several devices.
The paid version has 3 plans to offer, a 1-month plan, a 1-year plan and a 2-year plan. The 1-month plan is the most expensive and is priced at $12.99 per month. Find out more about Hotspot Shield’s pricing.