Hotspot Shield VPN (Free & Premium): Full Review

This article will explain the different facets of Hotspot Shield VPN. In addition, this article will make you understand if Hotspot Shield VPN is worth using or not. VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and creates secure connections with different networks and servers.

VPNs allow you to visit region-restricted areas and safeguard your browsing activity from specific issues. Nowadays, many VPNs have come into the picture due to the high growth of the internet.

With so many different VPNs and features, people find themselves stuck between which one to choose. To make the right decision, you need to have accurate information about the VPN you will buy.

Hotspot VPN is one of the best trending VPNs that provide the best quality services to its customers. Moreover, this article focuses on Hotspot Shield VPN’s essential features and benefits.

Hotspot Shield VPN

Hotspot Shield VPN

Hotspot Shield VPN has been one of the best VPN service providers in the world for years. The VPN has more than 650 million downloads over the internet and grows day by day.

It offers the customers two benefits; a free service and a paid/premium service. Free Hotspot Shield VPN sponsors the Ads and offers up to 500 MB of daily data limit. As soon as you switch to the premium version, there will be no ads interrupting your work.

Additionally, the premium version offers unlimited bandwidth with access to more than 80 countries globally.

In this Hotspot Shield VPN review, we have focused on both versions, i.e., free and premium, to test the performance. The major factors we will focus on include features, security, speed, logging policy, and compatibility.

Hotspot Shield VPN has the fastest connection speed. In addition, the VPN provides user-friendly mobile apps that allow you to stream US Netflix, P2P, and torrent traffic on all servers.

Hotspot Shield VPN has a controversial history because of its customers’ security concerns. However, the company has improved its services nowadays.

Where is Hotspot Shield VPN Based?

Earlier, Pango, formerly known as AnchorFree, owned Hotspot Shield VPN. But after July 2020, a security company Aura took control over the app and is monitoring the app to date. Aura is a top-rated security company having its base in the United States. In addition, the company is known for its strict privacy policies and laws globally. So the same applies to the Hotspot Shield VPN.

In certain circumstances, United States jurisdiction has the power to enforce privacy laws on companies like Aura to retain or share their users’ information.

The official Website of Hotspot Shield VPN is https://www.hotspotshield.com/

Features of Hotspot Shield VPN & Security

Hotspot Shield VPN has been entirely secure for users in the past years with its excellent features. The VPN includes exclusive features such as a VPN kill switch. In addition, the VPN hasn’t reflected any leak in the IP or DNS information. The VPN offers you DNS leak blocking, IPV6 leak blocking, and VPN kill-switch to provide you with complete security measures.

Aura tends to offer you excellent features that put the VPN best in the competition. For example, Hotspot Shield VPN provides leak protection features using AES-128 encryption; your data travels through different networks. So, Hotspot Shield VPN provides you with complete security. However, the browser extension of the VPN seems to be insecure in some ways.

Let’s review Hotspot Shield VPN and have a closer look at each of the main features.

Hotspot Shields Kill Switch

The windows version of the application comes with a kill switch feature that hides your IP address if your internet connection goes down suddenly. Aura provides you with the VPN with the kill switch mode disabled by default.

If you want to use that feature, you can turn it on manually. Also, the feature doesn’t work with macOS, Android, or iOS. The unavailability of the kill switch feature in the app has been a significant oversight for an app with such a vast user base.

Also, your IP address might get exposed if you switch between different servers because the kill switch feature doesn’t get activated during the switching process. Although your personal information may leak for just a couple of seconds during this process, it is a matter of security concern, and a VPN should have this provision.

Leakproof DNS

Hotspot Shield VPN provides a DNS leak protection feature for its users on Windows by default. However, the company has been unable to provide the customers with complete IPv6 and WebRTC leak protection. Therefore, if you are a privacy-concerned user, we suggest you disable these options from the setting for better results.

HYDRA VPN

HYDRA VPN is a unique connection protocol followed by the Hotspot Shield team. Unlike the standard VPN protocols such as OpenVPN, Hotspot Shield VPN relies on IKE2 and its proprietary protocol, the HYDRA VPN. HYDRA VPN was previously known as catapult Hydra.

Studies and research have already concluded that the HYDRA VPN is the fastest VPN protocol globally because it mainly focuses on data transportation that significantly impacts the overall VPN performance. For example, you can get long-distance connection speeds up to 2 times faster than the OpenVPN with HYDRA VPN protocols.

The VPN connection protocol is based on TLS 1.2 and uses 128-bit AES encryption. Hotspot Shield VPN server authentication happens using 2048-bit RSA certificates. For casual VPN users, the HYDRA connection protocol is much more secure than they expect it to be.

One minor issue, or say transparency issue, arises when you talk about the procedures going behind the scenes. The users of the VPN cannot analyze or see what is going behind the scenes when they are using the VPN. Due to such issues, OpenVPN offers a reliable and trustworthy VPN protocol.

The significant benefit of OpenVPN is that it is fast, secure, and open-source that allows the users to see what is going behind the scenes through coding and inspection. Also, users with a proper understanding of coding can inspect for VPN protocol bugs and try to fix them.

IP, DNS, and WebRTC leaks

Hotspot Shield VPN has undergone additional security and data leaks tests, and all the versions of the app made up to our mark. The VPN didn’t show any data leaks during the trials and was able to hide the actual IP address of the user while he was connected to the VPN and was surfing on the internet.

Please note that the VPN doesn’t support IPv6 traffic. So if your ISP assigns an IPv6 address, the VPN might leak your data while you access the internet. So if you want to prevent your VPN from revealing your data, you should disable IPv6 on your device.

Trackers, Malware, and Permissions

When you are using security-related software on your device as a VPN, it becomes essential that you know about how it encrypts your data and if it releases or installs any additional files or other things on your device. These extra or different things can be Trackers, Malware, and Permissions.

When tested and found that Hotspot Shield VPN uses seven trackers, the seven trackers included in the regulation of Hotspot Shield VPN are as follows.

  • Google Ads
  • Google Crashlytics
  • Kochava
  • Google Firebase Analytics
  • Mix Panel
  • Adjust
  • Bugsnag

The primary function of most of the trackers is to collect data about how the users are interacting with the app on different platforms. With the help of the data collected, the app finds it easier to produce marketing analytics profiles. Also, the collected data helps the VPN analyze how users respond to the issues they face while using the VPN, such as bugs or crashes.

Despite the VPN using these trackers to collect their users’ data to improve their performance and services, it doesn’t seem to be fair for the users as their privacy is compromised in some way, ultimately. As we have found, VPNs can still perform better without having trackers. For example, Astrill VPN contains zero trackers in its code.

Streaming

When we test a VPN, checking its performance on different online video streaming platforms can be very beneficial. For example, Hotspot Shield VPN showed excellent performance when tested with various online video streaming platforms like Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Disney, and YouTube.

The VPN seemed to be perfect when tested with US Netflix, even after not having a dedicated US Netflix server like all the other VPNs. If the central US server cannot open Netflix, you are allowed to try 20 different city servers to unlock the video streaming platform. Apart from the US, there are some other Netflix libraries mentioned below.

  • Canada
  • Brazil
  • Japan
  • United Kingdom
  • Australia

When it comes to unlocking Disney +, the Hotspot Shield team provides you with a wide range of options. There is a unique Hotspot Shield Elite to unblock Disney +. Also, the Elite version of the VPN worked perfectly in unblocking Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and many similar video streaming platforms.

Is Hotspot Shield VPN Fast?

Analysts claim Hotspot Shield VPN to be the fastest VPN among all. With the app, users experience fantastic speed due to the unique catapult HYDRA protocol that works to fix the latency issues in the app. With reduced latency speeds, the VPN serves you at a super-fast pace among different regions of the world.

The average rate you get in different USA servers is approximately 59 MBPS. In the UK, the network speed goes up to 62.60 MBPS. On the other hand, in countries like Germany and Hong Kong, the average connection speed falls up to 65 to 70 Mbps.

When we compared the connection speed of the VPN with other popular VPNs in the market, Hotspot Shield VPN kept itself right at the top.

Unlike the other VPN, Hotspot Shield VPN allows you to select a specific US server and then connect to it with complete security and fast speed. When selecting a server to connect to your VPN, remember that the nearest will be the best.

Hotspot Shield VPN Logging Policy

The logging policy of the VPN raises several thoughts and hesitations in our minds. From the start, users accuse the VPN of having misleading logging policies. The company claims that it doesn’t collect any of your logs. But it does collect other information that might be a privacy concern for you.

We have dug the internet and found the information contained or provisioned by the Hotspot Shield team. The following data is available when you connect to the VPN.

  • Device information (specific): Your device information may also be under monitoring by the Hotspot Shield team. Your device-related information may include device identifiers, browser types, device types, operating system information, mobiles, wireless, and other network information. Your ISP name and application versions names may also be subject to collection for the team.
  • Non-personal logs of the website: Some website logins may also be provisioned by the Hotspot Shield team. Domain names and not specific URLs visited by the Hotspot Shields server can be collected by the team to improve its services.
  • Your geographical area (approx): The team holds the right to collect your approximate geographical location with the help of your IP address. The goal is to connect you to the nearest location taking reference from your IP address.
  • Connection Timestamps: Your connection timestamps are also collected while you are connected to the VPN. The connection timestamps are used to monitor, support, and optimize VPN services. The data is stored for almost three years.
  • Bandwidth used per session and per user: The team also collects your bandwidth to monitor, support, and improve VPN services. Your bandwidth data is stored for a period of three years.
  • Your IP address: The Hotspot Shield team keeps an eye on your IP address and can collect it for certain purposes. However, the stored data is encrypted and is collected only for the duration of your session. The team has nothing to do with your activity while using the VPN.

If you are using only a free version of the VPN, the team may also watch some additional information about your device. However, the following is the primary information collected by the Hotspot Shield team when you are using the free version of the VPN.

  • Unique advertisement ID
  • IMEI number
  • City-Level location
  • Max address

Please note that while you use the app’s free version, the team can also share the additional data stored with a third party.

Monitoring and Sharing Data

The users of Hotspot Shield elite are subject to provision for the Hotspot Shield team. The team will monitor the nature of requests that you are making to the servers. The nature of requests includes what kind of request you make to a specific server, what device you use to complete the request and timestamps.

While you use the free version of the VPN, you will be sharing PII (Personally Identifiable Information) with your VPN service provider. If you are new to using network security-related tools or applications, let us tell you that it is best to keep yourself away from ad-supported services when you are trying to stay private online.

VPN service providers may use connection timestamps to prove that you have visited a specific website at a particular time.

Server Locations

Hotspot Shield doesn’t claim to have the most servers among all the VPNs, but it has spread its servers worldwide. The VPN covers more than 80 countries globally with more than 1800 IP addresses. Most of the network servers are associated with big countries, including the USA, UK, Canada, and Australia. However, the VPN also provides a moderate server connection at less familiar destinations, including Ecuador, Egypt, and Thailand.

If you are looking to connect your VPN to a server in the USA, you will get a total of 27 server options from different cities, including New York, Los Angeles, and Dallas. This wide range of servers has turned out to be an excellent benefit for North Americans and customers looking to shop or browse from specific US locations. Recently, the Hotspot Shield team added a few servers in Australia, Canada, and Italy. So, in these countries, now you can find the following number of city options.

  • Australia- 5 server locations (cities)
  • Canada – 3 server locations
  • Italy – 2 server locations (cities)

We have found that the Hotspot Shield team uses virtual and physical servers all around its network. However, they are unwilling to reveal those servers due to security or privacy reasons. Also, to ensure your privacy, the team assigns IP addresses to share among multiple users. As a result, this allows you to hide among a large crowd easily.

Compatibility

When it comes to compatibility, Hotspot Shield VPN undoubtedly can overshadow most of the other VPNs of the market. As tested, the VPN is compatible with most major platforms and devices. Also, if you are using the premium version of the VPN, you can connect up to five devices at a time.

This fast VPN can work with almost all of your devices, as mentioned below.

  • Microsoft Windows
  • Apple MacOS
  • iOS
  • Google Android
  • Linux, and
  • Android TV

Pros & Cons

Below, we have provided you with a brief about the Pros and Cons of the Hotspot Shield VPN.

Pros

  • Superfast VPN
  • Proper protection of DNS, WebRTC, and IP leak
  • Unblocking of Netflix, Disney +, and Amazon Prime with the premium version of the app
  • A wide range of VPN servers around the world covering more than 80 countries

Cons

  • Unfriendly privacy policies and logging policies
  • Firefox add on is not supported
  • Your personal data may be shared with a third party when you are using the free version
  • Consists a controversial past regarding privacy policies

Final Thoughts

Hotspot Shield VPN claims to be the best VPN in the market and is undoubtedly among the best. The VPN covers more than 80 countries globally with its super-fast servers. The app comes in two versions, the free and premium versions. When you switch on the premium or elite version of the VPN, you can access a wide range of video streaming platforms and torrents.

Hotspot Shield VPN is compatible with most platforms and devices. It has also introduced downloadable app versions for different platforms. The only issue that the users might face with the VPN is privacy concerns. The VPN holds a controversial privacy policy and logging policy that seems somewhat misleading as far as your privacy is concerned.

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