Hotspot Shield is a popular VPN platform that was recently acquired by Panama. With this acquisition, users who subscribe to the VPN service have access to three additional products –Password manager, Identity Guard identity theft protection (US only), and Robo Shield robocall and spam blocker (US only).
The VPN provider offers a decent ad-supported free tier, but it really shines with a premium version that removes ads and restricts data transfer, features, and server access. Specifically, each user has access to more than 1,800 servers in over 80 countries.
Apps are available for all major platforms – Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and Linux. Unfortunately, since the proprietary Catapult Hydra protocol doesn’t support many other platforms (for now), it can’t run on almost all but the aforementioned devices, as well as DD-WRT-supported and FreshTomato firmware for Android TVs and routers. The platform is also available as a Chrome extension.
Up to five devices can use the VPN simultaneously, but the fact that Hotspot Shield can be enabled on a single router allows coverage to be extended to an almost unlimited number of devices connected to that router.
Hotspot Shield 1-Minute Overview
In terms of short-term pricing, Hotspot Shield is not the cheapest at $12.99 per month for a rolling plan. The one-year plan; a small savings of $7.99 per month, but the three-year plan is the best value at just $2.99 per month. While this is not the absolute lowest price, it is still a good deal for a premium VPN.
Hotspot Shield primarily uses only the Catapult Hydra protocol (IKEv2 is also available), so no OpenVPN. Data privacyists may bemoan this loss, but while it’s not open source, Catapult Hydra is used by McAfee, Telefonica Bitdefender, and a few other big companies, so we’re confident of its security.
However, Hotspot Shield logs more user data than other VPNs, and while we’re sure none of that data can be traced back to the user, we’d welcome an independent audit, or perhaps a general tightening of logging practices.
Connection speed is Hotspot Shield’s trump card. It can deliver speeds of over 400 Mbps over short distances – faster than any other VPN we’ve tested. Even on a busy remote server, we were able to use it perfectly at around 60 Mbps.
Best of all, Hotspot Shield was great at streaming, unlocking Netflix, YouTube, iPlayer, Disney+, and pretty much every other service we tested. It’s also configured for P2P, making it a good choice for torrenting.
Customer support is industry standard, including live chat, email, and a knowledge base. We weren’t overly impressed with the written instructions, but unless you need a detailed explanation of a technical issue, it’s not a big deal.
Overall, powerful VPN that’s suitable for beginners and veterans alike, and while it lacks some of the configurations of its competitors, that won’t matter for most people.
- Servers in more than 80 countries
- Improved shipping protocol technology
- Off switch
- Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) and Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC) leakage protection
- WiFi protection (automatic connection)
- Allows five simultaneous connections
- Browser extensions for Firefox (very outdated) and Chrome (excellent and up-to-date)
- Malware detection
- Ad blocker/tracking blocker/cookies blocking
- Split tunneling
- Apps for Windows, Mac OS X, macOS, iOS and Android.
- Linux apps compatible with Ubuntu, Debian, CentOS and Fedora.
- Language switching in apps
- No data or bandwidth limitations
- Compatible with routers
- Peer-to-peer (P2P) enabled
- Robo Shield – Easily detect and block spam calls (premium only, only available in the US and Canada)
- 1Password – Password manager with free subscription (Premium only, available in the US and Canada only)
- Identity Guard – Monitor and protect against identity theft (Premium subscription available in the US and Canada only)
With servers in over 80 countries, Hotspot Shield Premium is certainly a great VPN for sharing content from around the world.
Hotspot Shield VPN’s website often proudly states that they were named “World’s Fastest VPN” in the Ookla 2019 Speed Test Awards. However, don’t just accept marketing claims without testing it yourself.
In this Hotspot Shield test, I did a speed test with a 500 Mbps connection from my US location. Overall, the speed test was not great.
First, I tested the Hotspot Shield server, which is a bit closer to my physical location in Seattle: 478 Mbps(on average).
That’s not very slow, but it’s not fast either.
Then I tested a Hotspot Shield server in Los Angeles. The speeds were a little better than before, but still not great at about 312 Mbps(On average).
The last US server I tested was in New York. The speed was about the same as the other sites: 504 Mbps(On average).
Then I tested the Canadian server. The speed was even slower than the US server from Hotspot Shield.
Here are the speed tests of the Hotspot Shield server in Montreal 235 Mbps(On average).
At these speeds, Hotspot Shield is definitely not the best VPN for Canada.
Finally, I ran a long distance speed test with a London server: 589Mbps(On average).
Overall, these are not very good speed test results. Hotspot Shield is far from the fastest VPN.
Hotspot Shield Prices
Among paid VPN providers, Hotspot Shield tends to be on the expensive end of the spectrum price-wise.
In fact, at $5.99 per month, their 12-month plan is a few dollars more expensive than our favorite VPN, NordVPN, and only $1 cheaper than ExpressVPN.
The only difference between the plans is the amount of time you can use the Hotspot Shield VPN service. Here’s a breakdown of the different pricing plans
- Monthly: $12.99
- 6 months: $53.94 ($8.99/month)
- 12 months: $71.88 ($5.99/month)
- 3 years: $125.60 ($3.49/month)
While their packages are a bit pricey, they all come with a generous 45-day money-back guarantee, which is the best I’ve seen in the VPN industry.
From what I’ve read on the web, this refund is pretty painless, which means that if you try Hotspot Sheld’s premium VPN service and decide it’s not for you, you can quickly get your money back and move on to the perfect VPN provider.
You can use all major credit cards, PayPal and even wire transfers as payment methods. However, they do not offer anonymous payment methods like Bitcoin.
- VPN software kept simple: Easy-to-use VPN apps
- Hidden fees and terms: None found
- Instant access after payment: It takes about 5 minutes to access the download files (after purchasing the software)
Servers and Locations
Hotspot Shield claims to offer servers in “80+” countries. This is a powerful option that does not fall short of the 94 countries served by ExpressVPN. Having servers in multiple locations gives you more options to disguise your location and means that you are likely to have a server close to your location.
The variety of locations served by Hotspot Shield is particularly striking. Hotspot Shield has servers in four African countries and South America, two regions often overlooked by VPN providers, and also offers servers in regions with repressive Internet policies, such as China, Russia, Turkey, and Vietnam.
Hotspot Shield has a sizeable 1,800 servers, and CyberGhost has the largest fleet we’ve ever seen, with more than 6,800 servers. More servers doesn’t necessarily mean better service, but it usually means you have more options for finding something that works.
Many VPN services use virtual servers, which are software-defined servers. A single computer can host multiple virtual servers. Similarly, a virtual site is a server configured to appear in a different location than its physical location. Neither is problematic in and of itself, but we prefer that companies know their infrastructure and where it is located. If your data is routed through a country, it may be subject to that country’s laws or monitoring systems.
Hotspot Shield says it relies only on hardware servers. That means it’s vague about virtual locations, saying only that 90% of its fleet has a physical presence where it can see it. The company needs to be more transparent about these practices, especially in the application. In contrast, Mullvad VPN will tell you exactly where its servers are located, whether they are owned or leased, and which company actually owns them.
An Aura representative confirmed to me that Hotspot Shield shares server infrastructure with five other VPN providers under the Aura umbrella. These are Betternet, Hexatech, TouchVPN, VPN360 and VPN in Touch. Hotspot Shield VPN has been white-labeled in the past, so it’s not surprising that it shares with sister companies.
The company takes steps to secure its infrastructure, but it doesn’t own all of its servers, which isn’t unusual. Some VPN providers, like ExpressVPN, have switched to RAM-only servers to prevent tampering. Hotspot Shield says it employs other security measures as well.
Many VPNs offer browser extensions, but these are usually very basic, rudimentary tools with little more functionality than a list of locations and a connect button. Not so with Hotspot Shield, whose Chrome extension is feature-rich and in some ways more powerful than desktop and mobile apps.
The opening interface isn’t hinted at, as it looks pretty much like the rest of the client: a mostly blank, dark panel with a connect button in the middle and not much else. You tap it, you press it, and you’re connected.
Since the browser extension is a simple proxy system that only protects the browser’s traffic, the connection is established almost instantly. It won’t work in all cases, but if you are mainly interested in unblocking websites, it can provide a great service.
The splitter becomes even more interesting when you tap the Configure button in the upper right corner. Here, for example, you can finally set a default server that Hotspot Shield will access the first time you connect, otherwise it will automatically connect to the nearest one. There’s also the issue that you can only access a relatively small number of servers – Canada, France, Germany, India, the Netherlands, Holland, Russia, Singapore, the UK and the US. Still, the added control is welcome.
There are numerous privacy extras, including ad, cookie, tracking, malware and WebRTC blockers, as well as a handy option to ignore resources stored on the local network.
Probably the best additions are the automatic protection and bypass lists, at least if you can find them (they’re on the Hotspot Shield settings page in Chrome, not in the extension’s console). Add websites that require a VPN to the Automatic Protection list, and Hotspot Shield will open automatically when you try to access them. Add websites to the Bypass list, and Hotspot Shield will route them over your normal connection instead of through a tunnel. This is handy for websites that can’t use a VPN or need to see your actual location (for example, streaming platforms that are only available in your country).
This is not as effective as it seems. For example, ad blocking is not as effective as the market leader, and there are no settings or options to customize how it works. Overall, though, it works very well and the Chrome extension is better than most proxy competitors.
Although hardly advertised on the website, Hotspot Shield also has a Firefox extension. It works almost identically to Chrome’s offering and looks the same, with one minor drawback (it doesn’t include an optional “sword mode” to provide web trackers with false browsing information).
There’s a lot to like here, and both the Chrome and Firefox versions are welcome additions to the Hotspot Shield product. However, we’d like to see the company develop them further. The Chrome extension’s privacy tools have been marked as “beta” for a long time, and it’s time to finish them and think about the next step.
Streaming and Torrenting
We tested the Hotspot Shield app to see how the service works with popular streaming services like Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, and YouTube.
We found that Hotspot Shield works consistently with Netflix in the US. Unlike some other providers, there is no dedicated US Netflix streaming server, but connecting to a generic US server works most of the time.
If your main US server does not unblock US Netflix, you can try almost 20 US city locations, and we always find at least one that works with Netflix. However, this may take some trial and error.
We were also able to unlock the following five Netflix libraries.
- United Kingdom
As in the US, we can simply select the country and instantly view content specific to that geographic region.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case with Hotspot Shield Free, which blocks access to Netflix with a paywall that asks you to sign up for a premium subscription.
Hotspot Shield Elite is also one of the best VPNs to unlock Disney’s new streaming service, Disney+.
Hotspot Shield’s super-fast download speeds make streaming HD video content easy and buffer-free.
After months of BBC iPlayer not working, the Hotspot Shield team has overcome the hurdle and you can now watch your favorite British shows through the UK servers without any problems.
Torrenting and P2P traffic is fully enabled and unrestricted on all of Hotspot Shield’s premium servers, although the free version of the VPN is not supported.
Hotspot Shield openly supports P2P activity, unlike some of its competitors – TunnelBear keeps its torrenting policy almost secret on its website, although it is allowed on all servers.The Hotspot Shield website even provides instructions for anonymous torrenting.
Fast upload speeds, a VPN kill switch (for Windows users only), and effective DNS leak protection make Hotspot Shield Elite a great torrent VPN. The VPN effectively hides your IP address, which means your P2P activity is hidden from your ISP.
However, this does not mean that you should rush torrenting with Hotspot Shield.
The opaque nature of Hotspot Shield’s own VPN protocol means that we cannot guarantee that it is the most secure P2P solution. The company’s logging policies are also not the most privacy-friendly.
While it’s likely that Hotspot Shield Elite is a safe choice for users looking for secure P2P activity, we’re reluctant to recommend it for torrenting over other VPN providers with more robust privacy policies.
Privacy Security and Records
Hotspot Shield has come under fire several times in the past for its questionable logging practices, so I was curious to see how the current version of the service protects user privacy.
Hotspot Shield was originally the flagship product of Swiss company AnchorFree. However, in 2019 it became part of a new company called Pango, which was later acquired by US-based Aura.
The US is a member of the Five Eyes Coalition, which is a deterrent for users who are particularly suspicious of international intelligence activities. However, this is only a concern for VPNs that carry logs.
More worryingly, Hotspot Shield’s track record is not good when it comes to privacy. A 2016 report, for example, uncovered some suspicious activity by the company.
In addition, a privacy advocacy group, the Center for Democracy and Technology, filed a complaint against Hotspot Shield with the Federal Trade Commission in August 2017.
However, Hotspot Shield is slowly but surely cleaning up its privacy policies. In an earlier test of the service, I noted that the company does log users’ IP addresses during sessions, but then deletes them. Now the company claims that it doesn’t log IP addresses at all, making it a truly log-free service, which is a big plus from a privacy perspective.
Here are some of the highlights of the Hotspot Shield Security Suite.
- Strong encryption: HSS uses 256-bit AES GCM encryption, 2048-bit RSA keys and ECDHE for perfect forward secrecy (ensuring that past sessions cannot be viewed if the key is compromised).
- Kill Switch (Windows and Android): It is turned off by default, so you need to turn it on in Settings > Advanced.
- Auto Protect: This is a nice feature that automatically connects to a VPN when you connect to a public WLAN.
- IP Leak Prevention: HSS has DNS leak prevention built in by default, but you can disable it in the settings.
The service does not guarantee leak protection for WebRTC or IPv6, but I tested for these leaks and found none. That said, I did observe IPv6 leaks in my last test, so it’s worth disabling that (and perhaps WebRTC) as a precaution.
Hotspot Shield doesn’t offer a live chat option, which means you’ll have to wait a while to get a response. But there are other ways to communicate with them.
If you want to get a quick answer, visit their FAQ page. It contains a lot of information about possible problems. Or you can contact customer service by opening a “service ticket”. They are very proactive about tickets and try to respond within a few hours.
They are also very active on social media. They respond to Facebook messages within a few hours. But they may also simply refer you to their ticketing system. In other words, perhaps the best way to contact them is through tickets. Their customer service will give you good and accurate answers.
How to Install Hotspot Shield on Windows, Android or Chrome Extension
Hotspot Shield is easy to install on both Windows, Android and Chrome Extension. Take the following steps for each platform.
Windows Hotspot Shield
1. Go to the Hotspot Shield website and select Pricing or Buy Premium.
2. Select your desired subscription package.
3. Enter your email address and pay using Paypal or a Credit Card.
4. After the download has begun, click Finish Account Setup.
5. Enter your password to complete the account setup.
6. Run the downloaded installer to install Hotspot Shield. When you’re finished, run the application.
7. Begin connecting to any of Hotspot Shield’s servers.
Android Hotspot Shield
1. Navigate to the Google Play Store and search for ‘Hotspot Shield VPN.’ Install the application.
2. Select Sign In from the start-up screen to log in using your Premium credentials.
3. Press the Connect button.
4. When requested for permission to connect to Hotspot Shield VPN, select Always Allow.
5. You have now successfully connected to Hotspot Shield VPN.
Installing the Hotspot Shield Chrome Extension
1. Navigate to the Chrome Web Store and look for “Hotspot Shield VPN.”
2. Two VPN proxies are listed. Click Add To Chrome on the topmost extension to get the free Hotspot Shield browser extension.
3. Once the download is complete, look for the icon.
4. With the Hotspot Shield plugin, you can now encrypt your browser.
How to Cancel Hotspot Shield
1. Access your Hotspot Shield account.
2. Select “Account Info” from the drop-down menu.
3. Under the “Membership” section, click “Cancel plan.”
Cancelling service with Hotspot Shield is a breeze. Log in to your account, review your account information, and then cancel. Your account will stay active until the end of your subscription term if you deactivate your Premium service auto-renewal. You can contact customer support directly from the Hotspot Shield website to obtain a refund during the 45-day money-back guarantee period, except costs handled through Apple or Microsoft (which you must approach directly in those cases).
Hotspot Shield Benefits
Hotspot Shield’s primary advantages are the access it allows to many restricted websites, the anonymity it enables users, the development of users’ online security, and its virus prevention capabilities. Here are some further details:
Websites can be unlocked
Libraries, schools, and businesses frequently put limitations on numerous websites such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. Because it can overcome firewalls and filters, Hotspot Shield VPN may be used in such locations to access those websites and others.
It safeguards the user’s identity
Users’ identities are safeguarded by erecting walls around them. These encryptions let individuals to perform online activities in a more secure and private manner, without worry of being spied on or monitored by their ISPs, companies, governments, or hackers.
Malicious individuals or groups, such as hackers, use people’s IP addresses to track their online activity. Worse, they may be able to exploit the IP address to access sensitive information such as bank accounts, credit cards, and so on. When Hotspot Shield is enabled, users’ IP addresses are hidden via a specified distant or alternative location provided by the VPN servers.
Increase your internet security
When users undertake online activities, the program delivers greater security. When customers use the VPN to browse, they are certain that personal information such as accounts and passwords are strongly secured. Hotspot Shield additionally protects users’ online activity whether they are using an unprotected network or a public hotspot by guaranteeing that no attackers or snoopers are watching them.
Hotspot Shield also protects users from malware assaults by verifying that the websites they visit are virus-free. If a website has one, the app blocks it to prevent it from infecting users’ devices.
Pros and Cons
- Free plan
- Free premium trial
- Super fast speed
- Great app
- Works with Netflix and BBC iPlayer
- Share nuggets
- 45 day money back guarantee
- Collecting and selling user data
- Security issues
- High price
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Hotspot Shield secure?
Hotspot Shield is secure, although it uses relatively low security standards.
Is Hotspot Shield free VPN proxy secure?
Hotspot Shield for Chrome is secure because it encrypts user data and changes IP addresses. However, it can only protect your browser.
Is Hotspot Shield free of charge?
There is a free version of Hotspot Shield and a paid version (Hotspot Shield Elite).
Is there a Hotspot Shield Elite crack?
There is no crack for Hotspot Shield Elite. You can try the premium version for free for 7 days.
Will Netflix appear slower?
In our own test of 4K movies on Netflix, the quality remained the best and we didn’t notice any buffering or lag. While many VPN apps charge a premium of 10-15% or more due to encryption, this has no effect on Netflix.
Does Hotspot Shield VPN work in China?
I don’t know A few years ago, Hotspot Shield worked in China. However, most users claim that they can’t connect. Hotspot Shield does not work without confusing servers.
How much does Hotspot Shield cost per month?
The shortest and cheapest monthly plan for Hotspot Shield costs $9.99. It is much cheaper if you purchase an annual plan.
Although Hotspot Shield is based in the US, it is a reliable and fast VPN. The VPN offers a good balance between speed, efficiency, and anonymity. We think that Hotspot Shield is an excellent HD video streaming service that is especially good for torrents.
However, Hotspot Shield offers an expensive plan, and it’s still a site that we think might cause distrust among various Internet users. That’s okay, if you’re looking for a VPN that can unblock all major streaming channels and download torrents at high speeds, Hotspot Shield is the right choice.