With the recent rise in cybercrime and insecurity on many online platforms, it has become commonplace for the average internet user to protect the trail of their online activities using a VPN. After trying out several VPN services, I crossed paths with the HideMyAss VPN and decided to check out the service. HideMyAss is a famous brand on the VPN market, but beyond the bold appellation, I will be looking at and reviewing the pros and cons that users should be on the lookout for if they choose to use this service.
Before delving into the nitty-gritty, using HMA for multiple uninterrupted sessions on my laptop and smartphone revealed the VPN service provider as the most uncomplicated VPN service available. My two weeks of using the service further affirmed the reviews I have read about HMA being user-friendly due to its relatively simple interface. However, the quality of a VPN service goes beyond an attractive user interface; below are my findings after a 3-week extensive use of the HideMyAss VPN.
HideMyAss is one of the popular VPNs on the market that is committed to giving its users premium security and protection services on the internet. HMA provides secure servers that cover over 190 countries. These servers are spread globally to afford users the ability to unblock content from any location in the world at the fastest speed possible.
The VPN provides all the security protocols that ensure the safekeeping of all your information on the internet. It also has features that keep you anonymous as long as you are connected to the service. Despite its affordable pricing, it gives users some additional necessary features like a Kill Switch, an audited No-Logs Policy, Lightning Connect, Split Tunneling, and many others.
You can connect as many as 10 devices on some of its plans, and it’s compatible with major operating systems like Windows OS, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux, and many others.
Many VPN services are actively improving their infrastructure by adding to their existing global network of servers. At the time of writing this review, HMA has an established network of a little above 1100 servers. The servers are spread across 290+ locations in about 190 countries worldwide; this proves HMA to be among some of the most expansive networks of servers I have come across with VPN service providers.
Some of the 1100 servers of HMA are said to be virtual servers, but information about the ratio of physical to virtual servers is not available to the public. I also discovered that HMA had dedicated servers for high definition video streaming and P2P file sharing. Five interlinked servers are the backbone of the seamless video streaming experience on the HMA network. At the same time, eight are dedicated to protecting users who want to share a bulk volume of files via P2P.
Also, unlike some VPN providers who cut costs by using cloud server services, like those provided by Google, HideMyAss enjoys its parent company’s patronage – Avast. Avast provides all the required private DNS servers to create an uncompromised user experience. However, the advantage of the private DNS servers has been questioned by many VPN reviewers who do not trust that Avast can be discreet with users’ information.
Speed and Performance
HideMyAss has claims on its website of having an average server speed of 20Gigabits per second; however, I was forced to question the implication of this for the average user of HMA VPN in some remote parts of the world. Though several factors determine the downstream speed of devices used by VPN users, the installed VPN infrastructure’s speed ability plays a huge role.
Factors like the speed of the device’s processor, bandwidth allowance from the ISP, possible speed limits on installed switches, and routers could contribute to a VPN user’s overall experience regarding connection speed. For HMA, testing the performance and speed was not a great challenge, as the app comes with a self-testing speed tool to test the speed of all servers to which the concerned device can connect. Though the results obtained varied, I equally tried using a Broadband Speed Test app, and below is an overview of the speed result from local HMA servers on different continents, using the self-test tool.
The average speed of HMA’s available servers in Asia was 10 Mbps; servers in Europe averaged a rate of 45 Mbps; and the tests that yielded the fastest results from all the regions I tested came from North America, with an average speed of 45 Mbps. These results make HMA rank in the second quarter of about 40 different VPN service providers, with NordVPN leading the pack, as far as the connection speed is concerned.
The connection speed to HMA servers has been called out as being average, relative to some other faster VPN services. HMA VPN platforms are seldom prone to connection glitches and disruptions; besides, the Kill Switch feature is on hand to save users’ anonymity on the rare occasions of a connection drop. A hack that helps users find a way around speed lags is making a selection, in the app settings panel, from the list of HMA servers in the desired region for the option with the fastest speed.
A drawback of HideMyAss, which I cannot but cite in this review, is the significant drop in the observed connection speed whenever a user connects to the internet via their VPN app. But to avoid being unnecessarily biased, it is equally worthy of mention that I conducted the speed tests during the work-from-home restrictions. These results may not be entirely reflective of the usual connection speeds across the world; because the average internet traffic has skyrocketed in the past few months.
Safety and Security Features
Concerning security, I can attest that HideMyAss ranks high on the list of VPN service providers. Rightly used, the combination of features provided by HMA secures a user’s online surfing experience. Here are some of the said features:
- Multiple Encryption Protocols
HMA supports multiple data encryption protocols, depending on the platform through which users utilize their services. Upon perusing the ‘Preferences’ section on the HMA apps of my Windows 10 PC and Android 8.0 smartphone, I noticed OpenVPN as the standard preset protocol.
In Apple products, IKEv2 is the data encryption protocol supported on macOS and iOS versions of the HMA app. The two encryption protocols (OpenVPN and IKEv2) avail HMA users with robust encryption systems for packets of data being sent across the internet.
There are other protocols, PPTP and L2TP, which do not come with flagship HMA apps because data encryption via PPTP and L2TP is not as strong as the other two. For users who insist on using PPTP or L2TP, perhaps due to device compatibility issues, HMA customer support agents are always on hand to share a link to an app that permits selecting the mentioned protocols.
- The HMA Kill Switch
There may be times when the VPN app would experience a downtime, perhaps due to a minor glitch, like an ISP glitch or VPN reconnection. In such situations, the kill switch helps HMA automatically turn off the device’s internet connection, thus preventing leakage of previously anonymous data to the internet. HideMyAss also comes with app settings that allow Kill Switch features to work with only select device applications. This feature cuts off the internet connection of the applications in question while allowing others not included in the kill switch feature to continue using the internet connection.
- Split Tunneling
One of the exciting features of HMA is that it merely involves selecting the device applications that would be required to access the internet via the VPN channel. The excluded apps will visit online pages with the IP address allocated by the TCP/IP on the user’s device. In short, not all your device applications need to answer to HMA VPN if it is only one application that requires VPN. For example, I could ghost my streaming of Netflix US with HMA VPN, while other applications on my PC accessed the Internet via the regular route.
- Automatic Wi-Fi Protection
There are no more worries of connecting to free public Wi-Fi routers, as HMA clears off data trails. It becomes difficult for identity thieves who filter data packets sent over available networks to make any tangible use. The strong encryption renders the harvested data useless to the potential assailant. The automatic Wi-Fi protection is a feature that I have found familiar to about all VPN services.
- IP Shuffle
This feature is explained considerably in the section below. It is a feature peculiar to the HideMyAss service, which helps a VPN user shuffle between multiple IP addresses on the same server.
Anonymity and Privacy Features
Before a press release by HideMyAss in May 2020 in which it claims to have stopped logging users’ information, the company was known to keep records of details from users of their VPN services. HMA recorded information like users’ actual IP address; the allocated IP address(es) of users on VPN servers, login time, and duration of each usage session.
Though these sets of information cannot yield any incriminating data in itself, security agencies can use it to trace a VPN user’s online activities. According to what I learned through my research with credible online sources, the exact script played out in the widely reported ‘Lulzsec fiasco’ of 2012. A hacker named Cody Andrew Kretsinger was being investigated as a team member who executed a coordinated onslaught on the music and hardware giant’s online infrastructure – Sony.
In a bid to lay hold on convincing evidence to prosecute the hacker, the UK government issued a court order directing HideMyAss, which happens to be domiciled in the same judicial territory, to release the VPN activity log of Cody Andrew. Cody Andrew was initially discovered to have used HideMyAss VPN services as part of the then alleged offense. HMA obliged the UK government, excusing itself by citing its policy, which does not allow users of their services to utilize it for criminal purposes.
HideMyAss has fallen out of favor with many VPN users since the cited case happened. I agree with VPN users who stand aloof of HMA services because organizations should do all in their capacity to keep true to respecting their customers’ privacy.
However, since HideMyAss’ announcement of commencing a ‘No-Logs policy,’ the company has toned down user data collection to just login dates. I equally observed that HMA had gone all out to win back the trust of VPN users by employing the services of a hired independent cyber-risk consultant, which audits HMA VPN services concurrently.
I endeavored to stretch my 30-day HMA trial subscription to its limit by trying it on different smart devices, and here’s what I found:
- There is an HMA Android app that makes the ghosting service available for android smartphones. However, phones with the Android OS versions earlier than 5.0 will not enjoy the HMA VPN app.
- On the iOS App Store, the iOS version of HMA VPN is available for download, supported by iPhones with iOS 9.0 and higher.
- Though Linux operating systems users miss out on many apps launched into the public domain, HMA VPN is available for computers with the Linux OS’s recent release.
- Mac computer users with a MacOS 10.5 or later upgrade can enjoy the many benefits availed by HMA VPN services.
- Microsoft Windows was naturally the first operating system to support the HMA VPN application, but it is only usable on Windows 7 operating systems and later versions.
- Apple TV is another member of the Apple Inc. family that is compatible with HideMyAss.
- Online gamers have no reason to worry about geo-restrictions or early game releases that cannot be accessed in some regions until several months after the release date. The latest gaming consoles like PlayStation 4 and 5, or the new Xbox Series X, support the HMA VPN app.
- For devices that can connect to a wireless router but are not smart enough to use a dedicated VPN service, a VPN client compatible router can be used to secure their online footprint. However, HMA does not have a reliable package for such VPN client routers. I searched around and found a couple of third parties that offer VPN client servers with the HMA app pre-installed with the server’s firmware.
- HideMyAss VPN is also available for Web browsers like Chrome and Firefox as an extension. However, I discovered that the HideMyAss VPN browser extension merely secures browsing traffic, which passes from and to the browser, and is by no means an outright VPN.
The narration on HideMyAss’s homepage states that users can “Install HMA VPN on as many Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, and Linux devices as you want, and keep multiple connected at once…” Hurriedly reading the above statement almost misled me because it seemed to imply all the supported devices could be connected simultaneously, irrespective of number. But upon further perusal of the company’s statement, I noticed HMA clearly states that users can only connect five devices simultaneously on a regular subscription plan, and a maximum of ten devices on the ‘Family Plan.’
Streaming and Torrenting
Most VPN users are always on the lookout for services that permit streaming of High Definition videos, and HMA ticks the checklist of this feature. From soccer fans prevented from watching live matches, wanting to stream a live broadcast of Bundesliga or English Premier League matches to their smart TVs, to moviegoers that have been left no choice than to settle for Netflix. HMA VPN grants access to these streaming and torrenting services from virtually any part of the world.
HMA VPN has a couple of dedicated streaming servers, connected peer-to-peer as the proprietary gateway for video streamers and users who run torrents. However, I discovered that any of the connected servers could stream videos; thus, so far, the connection speed is good.
For the suitability of use with Netflix US and UK, I contacted a couple of my social media friends from the world’s representative continents who use the Netflix streaming service. The 30-day money-back option enabled them to stream Hollywood movies for two weeks straight. My friends’ feedback indicated that connections from Australia, North America, and Europe were relatively seamless; however, repeated glitches were encountered by the test users in Africa and Asia.
I also did a personal trial of the video streaming feature for a high definition video conference with the earlier mentioned friends. I found the HMA VPN service mostly hitch-free.
In other VPN apps that I happen to have reviewed, my device is assigned a single IP address each time a connection is initiated with the VPN server. Each time I access the internet via that same VPN server, the same address is allocated to the device. HMA comes with a feature that permits a user the privilege of shuffling between multiple available IP addresses on the same VPN server. On the rare occasions when I encountered buffering while video streaming, I clicked the shuffle button to re-establish the video streaming connection on the HMA server.
The IP shuffle innovation of HMA VPN has saved me the pain of missing out on live soccer matches and video conference meetings. HMA dedicated P2P servers to make secure file-sharing possible, especially for documents with sensitive or proprietary content.
Plans and Pricing
I tried to randomly visit the HMA VPN homepage using foreign IPs to check if the pricing for a single subscription plan is the same across the globe. This revealed several discrepancies. For example, the pricing of subscription plans varies between different regions.
Some few regions are allowed to make service payments via PayPal, and a heads-up to note is the fact that it is not made evident that the service subscription auto-renews itself. To avoid deductions for HMA VPN services when you’ve not cared to renew, please make sure to uncheck the auto-renewal box in the app’s settings panel.
The good news is that HMA permits a 30-day money-back period on plan subscriptions. So, not satisfied with the suitability of HMA for your VPN needs? HMA gives their word to refund your payment (not as if I tried going back on my one-time subscription) IF you indicate your displeasure within 30-days of subscription.
For the Smart Alecks, who may want to try utilizing a subscription plan to its full potential and then call-in, to voice a ‘displeasure’ in the service, HMA has incorporated a unique feature into their systems. This feature prevents users who have exceeded 10GB of bandwidth and 100 connection sessions from accessing a refund.
A visit to the HMA VPN homepage unveils a 3-year subscription plan that the company labels as its best deal; this plan is billed for a three-year interval at $107.64; this culminates in paying approximately a $3 token each month for premium access to HMA VPN services. Other available plans are a $5/month yearly plan and a $12 monthly plan.
In a bid to learn about all the HMA VPN service attributes, I also stumbled upon what they call the ‘Family Plan.’ The Family Plan’s 3-year deal equivalent of the $3/month regular plan comes at $6/month.
|Subscription Type||Monthly Plan||12-Month Plan||24-Month Plan||36-Month Plan|
|Regular plan||$12||$60 @ $5/month||–||$107.64 @ $3/month|
|Family plan||–||$95.88 @ $8/month||$167.76 @ $7/month||$215.64 @ $6/month|
Before trying out the HMA VPN, I read several reviews that vouched for the company’s VPN services to offer top-notch user experience. True to this summation, I tried out the HMA apps on my devices and found the claims to be entirely right. HideMyAss VPN has one of the most user-friendly interfaces available so far. The average computer user shouldn’t have trouble navigating the HMA VPN interface to specify the connection configuration settings.
The Customer Support live chat is available right from the HideMyAss landing page and is available round the clock. This feature makes it possible to have a real-time inquisition with the company’s knowledgeable and apt customer care representatives. And like any good customer care service, questions are not limited to technical issues alone; there is room to ask general questions.
Does HideMyAss Work in China?
Since China proves to be a vast market with a high potential of returns, I decided to contact an old acquaintance who has relocated to the world’s most populous republic. Our tests revealed HideMyAss as one of the blocked online services in China. There are, however, two sides to this coin. HMA has physical VPN servers installed in China, not a ticket for surfing China’s locally censored pages.
To find a way around this bottleneck, I registered for the 30-day money-back HMA subscription from my location and forwarded the access details to my acquaintance in China. Having your friends from other regions subscribe on your behalf would be a good hack for China residents, subscribing for HMA VPN in another country, and subsequently bypassing all local IP restrictions immediately; the VPN service is activated.
Some online content is also restricted to only users who access them through VPN servers located in mainland China. One such content is Youku videos, which I easily streamed by connecting through HMA’s China VPN servers.
Pros and Cons
Having had a personal experience of HMA VPN services, I would like to reiterate the strong points and drawbacks of its services below:
- Real-time Customer Service
It is usually a great relief when the user of an online service arrives at a bottleneck, notices a live chat button on the service page, sends a message, and get prompt feedback from a real customer care agent – not a Chabot. I ran into issues while searching for a preferred media streaming server, and after chatting with a customer support agent for some minutes, I was able to resolve the issue.
- Free Service Trial
It takes a company that knows its onions to give out a whopping 30 days of free trial access to their services. With this, potential users can quickly try out the suitability of HMA services for their purpose.
- Strong Security Features
The fact that HideMyAss provides robust security features is unquestionable, particularly with their AES 256-bit data encryption system, Kill Switch feature, and support of multiple protocols.
- Global Network of Servers
HideMyAss has a presence on every continent of the world, though the connection in some parts come with lagging speed or are outrightly inaccessible (e.g., China). However, the global reach is a strong point of HMA.
The very volatile user privacy issue is a restraining factor that prevents me from personally using HMA VPN services. HMA would have contested the top spot on VPN rating lists if it were not for their light-handedness with customer privacy.
- Barely Average Speed
The average speed of the HMA VPN service is barely average and very poor for some regions.
- App User Interface
HMA interfaces, though easy to navigate, seem to have received minimal upgrades since the first design by Jack Cator in 2005.
HideMyAss has many exciting services to offer its users; however, some significant improvements are lacking in a few areas of their services. If asked, I would recommend that users try out more superior VPN services in place of HideMyAss. HideMyAss is an average VPN; its services could do better, way better.