Hotspot Shield VPN (Free & Premium): Full Review

In this article, we will explain the different facets of Hotspot Shield VPN. Definitely, this article will make you understand if Hotspot Shield VPN is worth using or not. VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and is used to make secure connections with different networks and servers. VPNs are also used to visit region-restricted areas and to safeguard your browsing activity from certain issues. Nowadays, a huge number of VPNs have come into the picture due to the high growth of the internet. With so many different VPNs and their features, people find themselves stuck in between which one to choose. To make the right decision, you need to have proper information about the VPN you are going for.

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

Hotspot Shield VPN

Introduction to 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 is growing day by day. It offers the customers two kinds of benefits; a free service and a paid/premium service. Free Hotspot Shield VPN sponsors the Ads and offers up to 500 MB of per day data limit. As soon as you switch to the premium version, there will be no ads to interrupt your work. Additionally, the premium version offers unlimited bandwidth with access to more than 80 countries in the world.

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.

It has already been tested that Hotspot Shield VPN has the fastest connection speed among all. 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 really improved its services nowadays.

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Where is Hotspot Shield VPN Based?

Earlier, Hotspot Shield was owned by a company named Pango which was formerly known as AnchorFree. But after July 2020, a security company Aura took control over the app and is monitoring the app to date. Aura is a very popular security company having its base in the United States. The company is known for its strict privacy policies and laws in the world. 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 quite secure for users in the past years with its excellent features. The VPN includes exclusive features such as a VPN kill switch. The VPN hasn’t reflected any kind of leak in the IP or DNS information. To provide you with complete security measures, the VPN offers you DNS leak blocking, IPV6 leak blocking, and VPN kill-switch.

Aura tends to offer you amazing features that put the VPN best in the competition. Hotspot Shield VPN offers leak protection features using AES-128 encryption your data travels through different networks. So, everything is designed to provide 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 in case 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 major oversight for an app with such a huge user base.

Also, your IP address might get exposed in case you are switching between different servers. During the switching process, the kill switch feature doesn’t get activated. Though your personal information may be leaked for just a couple of seconds, it is a matter of security concern and should be provisioned.

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 would suggest you disable these options from the setting for better results.

HYDRA VPN

HYDRA VPN is a special kind of connection protocol followed by the Hotspot Shield team. Unlike the standard VPN protocols such as OpenVPN, Hotspot Shield VPN relies on IKE2 and its personal proprietary protocol, the HYDRA VPN. HYDRA VPN was previously known as catapult Hydra. Studies and researches have already concluded the HYDRA VPN is the fastest VPN protocol in the world because it mainly focuses on data transportation that impacts the overall VPN performance greatly. With HYDRA VPN protocols, you can get long-distance connection speeds up to 2 times faster than the OpenVPN.

The VPN connection protocol is based on TLS 1.2 and uses 128-bit AES encryption. The server authentication is completed using 2048-bit RSA certificates. For casual users of the VPN, 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 is considered as it provides the customers with a reliable and trustworthy VPN protocol. The major 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 bugs in the VPN protocol and can try to fix them.

IP, DNS, and WebRTC leaks

Hotspot Shield VPN has undergone different security and data leaks tests and all the versions of the app made up to our mark. The VPN didn’t show any kind of data leaks during the tests and also was able to hide the real 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 you are provided with an IPv6 address by your ISP, the VPN might leak your personal data while you surf the internet being connected to it. If you want to prevent your VPN from leaking your personal data, you should disable IPv6 on whatever device you are using.

Trackers, Malware, and Permissions

When you are using security-related software on your device as a VPN, it becomes very important that you not only know about how it encrypts your data but also if it releases or installs any additional files or other things on your device. These extra or additional things can be Trackers, Malware, and Permissions.

When tested, the VPN was found to be using 7 trackers in its code that is above par for such a top-quality VPN. The seven trackers included in the code of Hotspot Shield VPN are as follows.

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

The major 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 are responding to the issues they face while using the VPN such as bugs or crashes.

Despite the VPN using these trackers to collect data of their users 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 have to test a VPN, checking its performance on different online video streaming platforms can be very beneficial. Hotspot Shield VPN showed great performance when tested with different online video streaming platforms such as 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. In case the main US server is unable to 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 as well. They are 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 special Hotspot Shield Elite for the users 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 amazing 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 with super fast speed among different regions of the world.

The protocol used in the VPN has been tested to improve connection speeds as compared to other VPNs. The average speed you get in different servers in the USA is approx 57.8 MBPS. In the UK, the network speed goes up to 62.60 MBPS. 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 you are 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 a number of thoughts and hesitations in our minds. Right from the start, the VPN has been accused 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 have found the information that is collected or provisioned by the Hotspot Shield team. The data collected while you are connected to the VPN are as follows.

  • 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.

In case you are using only the free version of the VPN, the team may also keep an eye on some additional information about your device. The major information collected by the Hotspot Shield team when you are using the free version of the VPN is the following.

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

Please note that while you use the free version of the app, 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 and what device you are using to make the request and timestamps.

While you use the free version of the VPN, you will be sharing personally identifying information with your advertisers. 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.

Also, connection timestamps may be used alongside other data points. This is done to prove that you have visited a specific website in certain circumstances.

Server Locations

Hotspot Shield doesn’t claim to have the most number of servers among all the VPNs but it has spread its servers well around the world. The VPN covers more than 80 countries in the world with more than 1800 IP addresses. Most of the network servers are associated with big countries that include the USA, UK, Canada, and Australia. The VPN also provides you with a moderate server connection at less common destinations that include 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 of different cities that include New York, Los Angeles, and Dallas. This wide range of servers has turned out to be a great benefit for North Americans, and for the customers who are looking to shop or browse from specific US locations. Recently, the Hotspot Shield team added a few servers in Australia, Canada, and Italy. 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 both virtual and physical servers all around its network. However, they are not willing to reveal those servers due to security or privacy reasons. Also, to ensure your privacy, the team assigns IP addresses that can be shared among multiple users. This allows you to easily hide among a large crowd.

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 of the 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 and also has a downloadable app for the platforms 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

Conclusion

Hotspot Shield VPN claims to be the best VPN in the market and is surely among the best ones. The VPN covers more than 80 countries in the world with its super-fast servers that have already been counted more than 1800. The app comes in two versions, the free version, and the premium version. When you switch on the premium or elite version of the VPN, you are allowed to access a wide range of video streaming platforms and torrents.

The VPN has been tested to be compatible with most of the 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 somewhat seems to be misleading as far as your privacy is concerned.

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