HideMyAss VPN Review
Private Internet Access (PIA) VPN may be one of the few VPN providers today that lives up to the hype. It is common for many companies to make promises they simply can’t keep. In the case of PIA, the provider does a pretty good job of satisfying the claims its makes about its VPN service. Of all the services we’ve reviewed, Private Internet Access VPN scores high marks in all categories. If you want reliability, speed, security, and good customer service, this is a provider worth looking at.
About HMA HideMyAss VPN
HideMyAss has been in the VPN business for a long time. They were founded in 2005, and for many years the company specialized in a free proxy that was browser-based and left much to be desired in the area of secure browsing. Eventually, the company moved more toward a paid platform, and it would be fair to say that they have had some success. A big part of the change in how HideMyAss does business these days can be attributed to a change in ownership. The parent entity behind HMA is Privax LTD., and this company was acquired in 2015 by AVG Technologies. Yes, the same AVG that serves up antivirus protection to an estimated 200 million users worldwide. Things got even more complicated recently when AVG was purchased by Avast Software.
There is an extremely important factor that must be considered by anyone thinking about hiding their ass with this company’s VPN. The company is based in the UK, one of the worst places for a VPN provider to do business. The UK has an entity known as the GCHQ which is comparable to the NSA in the United States. The UK gives the GCHQ wide-sweeping powers when it comes to monitoring Internet traffic, and mandatory logging is also enforced. This is a severe negative when it comes to ranking the services provided by HideMyAss.
There is one thing that about HMA that no one can dispute. They have what appears to be the largest collection of VPN servers of any provider. The company maintains almost 950 servers in 350 locations across the world. They also have 120,000 IP addresses. This is impressive, but if the overall setup of a company compromises security anyway then an abundance of servers are essentially meaningless.
It would be neglectful not to mention some of the recent publicity surrounding HideMyAss. A Galveston, Texas judge named Chris Dupuy recently made headlines when he was arrested for placing photos of his ex-girlfriends on fetish websites. Dupuy was using a HideMyAss VPN account to cover his tracks. What is most interesting is that Dupuy was using the paid version of the HMA VPN, not the free proxy that the company still offers. Buyer beware and make of this sad story what you will.
HideMyAss VPN Speed
Speed is a big concern for anyone that wants to use a VPN. If one wishes to use services like Netflix in a restricted area or a VoIP application like Skype, the VPN server has to come close to the user’s regular connection in terms of speed. We don’t want to sound like we’re piling on HMA here, but speed tests reveal that overall the company has one of the slower VPN services. The download and upload speeds can vary from server to server, but all of them seem to be consistently slower than those of HMA’s competitors.
All VPNs present some challenges where speed is concerned, but very good ones like the VPN offered by VPN-accounts.com make the difference in speed hard to note. The biggest thing is that a VPN has to be dependable, and there were a few cases where connecting to the HideMyAss servers was a bit of a hassle. True enough, the company has its own client that helps in some small way to sort out servers that are fast and ones that are slow, but the user really wants to be able to connect to any of the servers offered and receive a comparable level of speed across all of them.
It really shouldn’t come as a surprise that the fastest servers offered by HMA are located in the UK. Download speeds in the UK averaged about 20 mbps. The same computer and connection used in testing was able to achieve a download speed of almost 80 mbps while not connected to the UK VPN server. That’s a pretty big difference, and one that you will surely notice after being used to the speed of your standard connection.
A very few of the 950 servers provided by the company were essentially worthless as they offered download speeds far below what many users will tolerate. The good news is that most of these servers are located in countries that most users will have no interest or need to use for connectivity.
HideMyAss VPN Features and Price
As we stated above, HideMyAss still offers a free web-based proxy for those who do not want to pay for a VPN. That’s your choice, but try to remember that nothing in the world is truly free. You might find yourself fretting over how HMA can provide this service. Do they sell information to third-party companies? We’re not saying they do, but we are saying that maybe you should ask some questions if you decide to go the free route.
For paid VPN service, HideMyAss offers a competitive pricing model. The best value is to be found in purchasing VPN service for a year. By doing this, the monthly cost is just $4.99. Those that prefer a shorter commitment can opt for six months of service at $6.66 per month. What we would recommend, however, is a month-to-month package at $9.99 until you are able to determine whether or not the service is going to fit your needs.
VPN Subscriptions to HideMyAss are recurring and can be paid for with a major credit card, PayPal, or a bank transfer. Something the company might want to consider moving forward is implementing the use of Bitcoin as a payment option. Bitcoin has soared in popularity with VPN providers as users are starting to recognize that the crypto currency offers another level of anonymity.
The features which stand out for Hide My Ass are its 950 server locations in 350 countries and wealth of IP addresses, but there are a few other things that earn the company some high marks. They have free extensions for Chrome and Firefox that include a Panic Button which will disconnect you from your ISP if the VPN connection drops. HideMyAss also offers an anonymous email service for free. You can create a truly anonymous email account, and, in theory, use it to sign up for an HMA VPN. They also have a service which lets users cloak referral links so that they cannot be traced back to their point of origin. We’re not sure exactly how many VPN clients will be interested in this service, since most are only concerned with staying anonymous online. Oh, well. It’s included for free. You can also download a version of the HMA client for Android and iOS phones for free, but these devices already have a built-in VPN client.
Other than that, the feature set of HideMyAss is pretty straightforward and bare bones. That’s not really a negative because many VPN users want their service to be simple and easy to use. You don’t need a lot of bells and whistles to use a VPN.
Connecting to HideMyAss VPN
All Internet-ready devices these days have a built-in client, which means that you don’t need to download software to use the VPN. All you have to do to use the VPN from HMA is simply configure your client with the credentials that the company will provide to you after you subscribe. HMA will try to convince you, however, to use their simple interface.
The HMA client is very basic. It allows a user to choose from three different options. The first of these is Instant Mode. In this mode the user is automatically connected to the closest VPN server in an effort secure the best speed. The second option is Location Mode. This is the option that will allow you to choose from any of the company’s 950 servers. Finally, there is Freedom Mode. Now, we’ve seen some tricks in our time but this one is exceptionally creative. In Freedom Mode, HMA chooses a connection in the nearest country that has what the company calls “a high level of freedom of speech.” Here’s a little newsflash. Freedom of speech and Internet freedom are not one and the same. You don’t have to be posting anything to have your browsing spied on.
The other primary feature of the HMA client is a slider that will allow you to change your IP address if you so desire. That can be useful for the hardcore privacy buff, but the average user probably won’t touch it.
HideMyAss VPN Security
Those who use a HideMyAss VPN can choose from four different protocols. These are OpenVPN-UDP, OpenVPN-TCP, PPTP, and L2TP. By default, the OpenVPN protocols are used. This can be changed as necessary at the user’s discretion.
A big problem where HideMyAss is concerned is that they are still using 128-bit Blowfish encryption. The industry standard today among VPN providers is AES-256. This isn’t a very comforting flaw. In our reasoning, shouldn’t you get the latest technology when you are paying for VPN service?
HideMyAss claims that they do not keep any logs of user activity, which is confusing since the country they are located in requires them to do so. In fact, there have been some HMA users that have reported receiving warning letters in regards to copyright restrictions while they were using the service.
HideMyAss VPN Verdict
Here are some of the primary benefits of HideMyAss:
- Roughly 950 server locations across the world. Truthfully, that’s about 940 more than even a hardcore VPN user will connect to. Still, if you need a server in some remote third-world locale where people can access the Internet easier than they can access food, HMA has you covered.
- A simple and easy-to-use client.
- Free anonymous email.
We’d be lying if we didn’t say the negatives are pretty scary:
- Based in the UK which enforces mandatory logging.