Started way back in the early days of virtual private networks, HideMyAss! Is a legend in the VPN industry, a leader who, at one time at least, stood for the rights of personal privacy advocates everywhere.
Lately however, their record for protecting user privacy has been under fire thanks to the events that transpired with the hacker collective LulzSec, but does the company’s solid mobile app and user-friendly design do enough to make up for the sins of the past?
Read on in our HideMyAss! VPN Review to find out!
Checkout and Install Process
In order to get rolling on our subscription with HideMyAss!, first we needed to sign up for a monthly subscription for the odd-numbered cost of $11.52. You also have the option to sign up for a 6-month plan, and yearly plans.
To pay for these subscriptions, HideMyAss! accepts the following methods:
Credit Cards: Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, JCB
Others: PayNearMe, Wire Transfer, Check, UnionPay
As was the case with bigger sites like VyprVpn, I would have liked to see some kind of cryptocurrency option offered here, and it doesn’t even have to be Bitcoin to fill that requirement. That said, there is still the choice of PayNearMe, which lets you go to any local 7-Eleven and pay in cash instead.
Once it was time to install the client, we had our pick from a few options, including:
- Windows 7 and above
- OSX 10.7 and above
- iOS 8.0 and above
- Android 4.0 or newer
- Linux (Ubuntu 12.04 or above)
As you’ll find out in the next section, it’s not too surprising how quickly we were able to get HideMyAss! running and connected given how little there actually is to the process as a whole. That aside, it was still impressive to see a sub-three minute time hit the board for HMA! Here.
HideMyAss! did need to make a slight detour to install its own TAP adapter, but other than that it was smooth sailing from the download page to getting connected via the Windows 10 desktop application.
Editor’s Note: This evaluation is of the newest HideMyAss! version 3 client, which drastically reduces the number of settings you can configure from version 2.
HideMyAss! is another VPN that falls into the “user-friendly” category, which can help some services but hurt others who are trying to cast a wider net in their level of appeal to all customers of different technical skill.
As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, I’ve been in the world of VPNs for quite awhile, and I’ve seen the dozens (if not hundreds) of variations that certain providers have put their clients through over the years. HideMyAss is one of those providers, and from the earliest days until now it’s obvious that a whole lot of work and development has gone into making their Windows 10 app a simple experience even the most novice user out there.
But does all that whittling down of the VPN experience pay off? For someone like me; not so much. I like it when a VPN respects the intelligence of the user a bit more than what’s on display here, and actually lets you tinker around with the bits inside to cater the experience exactly to your liking.
Here, beyond the plain yellow button on the front of the app that tells you when you’re connected or not, there’s almost nothing to indicate a deeper level of protection at work on your connection. No time connected counter, no IP address display, nothing.
On a mobile app (which the desktop version is shaped like, for no reason) I could understand this kind of sacrifice given the limited screen real estate. But on a full-fledged desktop version of a VPN, I should be able to see that information at a glance at the least.
When you boot up the app you’ll be given the option of three different ways to connect: Instant Mode, Location Mode, and Freedom Mode. The first, Instant Mode, automatically roots out and connects to the fastest server available to you depending on your connection. Location Mode does pretty much exactly what it sounds like, letting you choose from an (admittedly beautifully-designed) server list that you can search through either by country, city, or on your Favorites list.
Continuing on that same “too minimal for its own good” thread, the number of configuration options in the settings menu is officially the least I’ve seen on any VPN before, and considering some of the ones I’ve reviewed thus far that’s saying a lot.
Although I’d love to say there’s more to what HideMyAss! has to offer than what you see above, that really is it on the technical side of things. You can choose to run your connection in TCP-only mode, which is helpful for a few select users who have problems with UDP traffic over their routers.
Other than that, you can change how the app acts when minimized and that’s it. Again, for a mobile app I’d understand such a huge lack of settings configuration options, but on a desktop there’s no excuse for excluding so many vital parts of the VPN puzzle for simplicity’s sake.
The taskbar controls are equally as limited, with just the option to either connect or disconnect available and no additional information displayed.
Performance and Speed
In our speed testing on a simultaneous 1GB up/down fiber optic line from Portland, Oregon, we connected to different servers offered by HideMyAss! all from different corners of the globe, and specifically in the cities of: New York, Singapore, LA and London. Each server test was run five times at specific intervals to see how the bandwidth was affected during off-peak hours (6AM local), peak (9PM local), and once more on a Monday at 9PM PST, which is the busiest day for VPN providers collectively.
With 930+ servers and 350+ locations in 300+ countries, the reach of HMA! Really starts to show beyond what you’d see in almost any other competing VPN company. The number of servers that HideMyAss! Supports is hard to compare to other providers, if only for the fact that it’s so many more that it wouldn’t even be fair to put them side by side in the first place.
In New York City during off-peak hours at 6AM EST, we found that off a base speed of 434.01Mbps download and 848.93Mbps upload, HMA’s link brought our average speeds down to only 152.96Mbps down, and 32.25Mbps up. That’s a decrease of 64.75% on the download side, and 86% loss overall in upload bandiwdth.
On our DNSLeakTest.com test of HMA!, the app scored top marks, but DNSLeak.com found a leak in all four of its individual runs. IPLeak.net detected a leak of 6 servers, however the proxy test went off without a hitch. WhatIsMyIPAddress results came back 100% squeaky clean, with our Manhattan server putting us square in the middle of NYC.
Finally, we give every VPN we review a shot to take our “best of the worst” challenge, which is a single speed test run on the closest possible server to our home base in Portland. While normally this would net the fastest time, the trick is we run it on Monday at 9PM PST, otherwise known as the worst possible commute hour (and day) for VPN networks on the West Coast.
In this test, HideMyAss! Held its own, but probably could have posted slightly better results given that it was the only one in the entire lineup of ten to actually have a server located in Portland. With a latency of just 10ms (the lowest of all), HMA! Placed itself near the middle of the top of our results, scoring a 95.17Mbps download against a 50.54Mbps upload score, taken from a base speed of 734.10Mbps down and 722.81Mbps up.
Just like the desktop version, everything you can do on the HideMyAss! Mobile app for iOS 10 is pretty much limited down to one thing: connecting to/or disconnecting from their network. The ever-present HideMyAss! Donkey mascot makes a reappearance, and will pop up anytime you’re linking up to a new server.
Other than that additional functionality or features are scarce, and even the main page doesn’t waste its time giving you any more information than it thinks you need (the connection location and current status i.e. - on or off).
The Account page doesn’t offer up anything besides your username and current subscription status, while the Settings tab only has two toggles smack dab in the middle of the page: the Always On VPN, and Connect At Launch.
The state of the app is saved just barely by the inclusion of in-app customer support ticket submissions, something I’m a huge fan of and think should be in every VPN being used in 2017.
Security and Encryption
To protect their users from threats like man-in-the-middle attacks and identity theft, HideMyAss! Offers four different security protocols to choose from: OpenVPN-UDP, OpenVPN-TCP, PPTP, and L2TP.
That said, there aren’t any actual methods of swapping between these encryption methods if one is connecting to slowly or another isn’t allowed by your router configuration. To change how HMA! connects, you need to manually go into your operating system’s registry or network settings and configure it from there.
On the mobile side of things, IPSec is used to protect the connection on iOS 10. Again, while this isn’t a bad protocol by any means, there still isn’t any way to change it from the app itself, and you’ll have to dig into your iOS settings to actually enable or disable any options when it comes to how your VPN chooses to behave while you’re using it on the go.
Because the app itself is so scarce when it comes to additional features, we thought it would be better to use this section to cover the various additional services that HideMyAss! Offers outside of their standard VPN.
The first is a trio of Chrome extensions, only one of which is actually used to protect your privacy against outside web queries. The HMA! Web Proxy lets you quickly, easily, (and freely) route your traffic through one of the company’s servers using a Chrome or Firefox extension, while the HMA! IP Checker will give you quick updates in the corner of your screen anytime it detects that your IP has changed.
The last is the HMA! Panic Button, which is more for personal privacy at the office than anywhere else. Using the Panic Button extension on Chrome, you can instantly hide all your open tabs at once, and even keep them hidden behind a password-protected screen just in case any snooping co-workers drop by your desk while you’re not there to see what you’ve been up to all day.
Using the company’s 24/7 live chat support, we were able to get a hold of a support representative very quickly, with only about a minute and a half passing between when we requested an agent to when they were live.
The live chat also had an interesting function where it could poll you on your system data from within the chat window itself, cutting down on all the time it takes to bring your support rep up to speed. The agent we spoke with was in full understanding of our issue, spoke in complete unbroken English, and was able to answer all the technical questions we had for them without needing to escalate the ticket to another department.
The company maintains a highly active blog, as well as a community forum where users can do everything from air their grievances over missing app features to coordinate on privacy events all around the globe.
Back in 2011, a lot of hubbub was being made over a new hacker group who had supposedly split off from the Anonymous leadership to form their own collective, calling themselves “LulzSec”. LulzSec made its name by shutting down online gaming services like Xbox Live and Playstation Network on Christmas Day, foiling the plans of millions of kids who just got a new console from Santa and wanted to take it online.
A very long and convoluted story cut short, one member of the LulzSec crew, Cody Ketsinger, was using HideMyAss! To protect his identity while chatting with his fellow hackers over IRC. When the FBI discovered that the chain of their investigation landed squarely on HideMyAss!’ front door, the company complied with all legal requests made by the Feds, and readily handed over all the information without batting an eye.
Ever since then, these events have left a sour taste in the mouths of privacy enthusiasts, who see HMA!’s handing over of personal user data to the government as committing one of the seven deadliest sins in the VPN community.
On its own separate page, HideMyAss! clearly lays out their logging policy in plain English so no users can claim to be confused by what they do and don’t keep track of, or why they had that specific information on Ketsinger.
HMA! says any data that is collected is stored on their UK servers for anywhere between two and three months, however there is no indication of what exactly determines whose data is kept for two months, and whose is kept for three.
“Except in the limited circumstances described below, VPN Data is stored for between 2 and 3 months on our secure servers, after which time it is deleted, except in certain very limited circumstances (see below). We delete VPN Data on a monthly basis, so data is stored until the end of the 2nd month after the month during which it is created.”
It’s this kind of vague language that makes us weary of trusting HideMyAss! as much as we’d like to be able to. That said, the fact that HideMyAss! posted a blog on the LulzSec situation as it was happening to lay out their side of the story says a lot about them, and at the very least their multiple pages that cover their logging and privacy policies shows they are trying to be as upfront as they know how to be.
Cancel and Uninstall Process
When it came time to finish up our testing, HideMyAss! Was just as easy to uninstall as it was to install, running everything off a single window that was launched when we right-clicked the icon from the Start menu and chose “Uninstall”.
Cancelling our subscription was equally as simple. We accessed the cancellation page from the “Manage Subscription” option on the main account page. After a short survey which asked why we were leaving (paired with a few different questions or suggestions that would pop up depending on which option we picked), HideMyAss! Ran us through just one single confirmation page and a follow-up email to finish out the job cold.
On TrustPilot, HideMyAss! Achieves a relatively decent score of 7.7/10, which isn’t the best we’ve seen, but certainly isn’t the worst either. The score was an aggregate of 1,918 user reviews, 1,182 of which gave the service five stars (61.6%), while 18.4% of users gave it four stars, 8.2% of users rated three stars, 3.9% rated two stars, and a slightly larger number, 7.9%, voted just one star.
Around the web HideMyAss! Seems to have a bit of a more mixed reception among critics, with bigger outfits like BestVPN only awarding the provider ⅖ stars, while TrustedReviews gave it a 7/10. In those breakdowns, the authors noted that while the 7-day trial and large number of available servers were big pluses in their book, the company’s muddy track record with privacy and limited number of extra features may not warrant paying such a high monthly cost.
Speaking of high monthly costs, aside from the 7-day free trial that HideMyAss! Offers with every new subscription, you’ll have a few different membership tiers to choose from when you sign up:
- 30-day monthly plan for $11.52 per month
- The six-month plan which goes for $8.33 a month ($49.99 billed bi-annually)
- Or 12 months for $6.55 per month, or $78.66 upfront
These prices definitely place HideMyAss squarely in the “premium” category of VPN providers, but I’m not all that sure the performance and features (including the limit of just two simultaneous devices on the network at a time) match the higher cost. When I pay that kind of price I expect something like NordVPN with its modern UI and fully-featured Windows app, not the shelled out version of a full VPN like what we saw with HMA!.
On the business side of things HideMyAss! Does have a number of enterprise plans to choose from, including:
- 5 devices for $210.00 per year
- 10 devices for $420.00 per year
- Or 20 devices for $799.00 per year
Of course, if for any reason you’re not happy with your service at HideMyAss!, the company offers a no-risk 30-day money-back guarantee.
There’s no denying that HideMyAss! is one of the pioneers of the VPN industry, and has continued to help push the privacy community further in new and exciting ways every day.
But a lot has changed in this world since HideMyAss! First launched, and there are a lot of other providers who are doing the job better and faster than HMA!, all while still providing their users with the option to really dig into the components of a VPN and customize at will.
Although there are a few things to love about it, I think the HideMyAss! 3 app takes a lot of unnecessary steps backwards for the brand, trying to simplify things down to a point so much that they lost focus of what makes their product good in the first place. If you want the simple experience, go with HMA! 3, but if you’re still an enthusiast like myself, you’re probably better off sticking with plain old HideMyAss! 2 instead.
- Simple, easy-to-understand UI
- Decent speeds on close servers
- Helpful and attentive customer support
- Windows app doesn’t have enough configuration options
- Slower speeds at a distance
- Failed DNS leak tests