Hotspot Shield is an excellent VPN service provider if you’re just starting out with online security and still don’t have enough working knowledge of everything an average VPN entails.
The service was released back in 2008 by AnchorFree and it was completely free of charge. It still has a limited free version you can try out before potentially opting for Hotspot Shield Elite.
Today, we’re going to talk about the overall privacy and security levels offered by Hotspot Shield and whether they meet our rigorous criteria.
Hotspot Shield is located in the US, which is definitely not an ideal location for a VPN service. The US is the home of the NSA and CIA, but also a member of the Five Eyes surveillance treaty. On top of that, government agencies can always issue a warrant and force the companies to hand over sensitive user data. That’s why it’s crucial for companies to perform log deletion on a regular basis or, even better, not keep any logs in the first place.
According to the Hotspot Shield’s Terms of Service, it has the right to record user activity and share it with third parties. This is far from perfect and we definitely don’t like this clause since it opens all the users to potentially dangerous situations.
Hotspot Shield uses OpenVPN protocol, which is our preferred option since it offers the maximum safety level among all other alternatives.
It uses AES-256 encryption, which is an industry standard also implemented by the military. When you read that VPNs use the “military grade” encryption, this is what they’re talking about.
The connection is also protected with a 2048-bit public key encryption. This is still an industry standard although many companies are slowly switching to 4096-bit keys for the control channel. This is caused by the recent advances made by Chinese authorities in cracking these session keys.
We didn’t notice any DNS leaks during our testing phase. Our tests were also negative for IP leaks and WebRTC disclosures.