The following is my test report for Hide My Ass VPN, which is done independently. Tested on Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS and others. If you have any questions, you can contact me and I will answer your questions.
Security begins at the network, where your computer touches the wilds of the internet. To protect your devices, you need a virtual private network, or VPN, such as Hide My Ass. The name is very direct and so is the service, with an excellent, straightforward interface. This VPN makes a good impression, but it’s on the more expensive side and lacks many of the bells and whistles we have come to expect. If you’re taken by Hide My Ass’s bright and friendly design (and its donkeys), you’ll probably appreciate Editors’ Choice winner TunnelBear (and its bears), or its co-winners NordVPN and Private Internet Access.
What Is a VPN?
When you activate a VPN, it creates an encrypted tunnel to protect your data as it passes from your computer to a server controlled by the VPN. From there, your data exits onto the open internet. It’s a simple concept, but one with enormous consequences for your privacy and security.
For one thing, it prevents anyone lurking on your local network from monitoring or intercepting your activity. While the airport or coffee shop Wi-Fi network looks safe (it might even be password-protected) it’s not reallysafe unless you’re using a VPN. For another thing, a VPN can prevent your Internet Service Provider (ISP) from gathering information about your online activities so it can sell anonymized user data to the highest bidder.
A VPN also makes it more difficult to correlate your online activities with your identity. Because your traffic is exiting from the VPN company’s server, you appear to have its IP address, effectively hiding your true location. It also forces even the most determined attacker to try and sort through all the traffic from other users on the same VPN server to find what they’re after. For these reasons, and more, you need a VPN in your life.
Note that a VPN only encrypts your traffic until it exits through the VPN server. Provided the website you’re accessing uses HTTPS, your data should be secure all the way along its journey. Also, while VPNs can provide a modicum of anonymity, a tool like the Tor network is far better at concealing your identity.
VPNs have long been used by journalists and political activists to circumvent censorship in countries with repressive internet policies. They’re also handy if you’re looking to circumvent geographic restrictions on streaming content. A VPN can spoof your current location, giving you access to geographically restricted content like BBC streaming or MLB TV. Some VPNs don’t appreciate these activities (which may be in violation of terms of service or even local laws) and content providers such as Netflix are also cracking down on users who spoof their location and the VPN services they use to do it.
There’s a good chance that you may have never laid hands on a VPN before. If that’s the case, don’t worry! We’ve got a whole feature on how to set up and use a VPN.
Pricing and Features
If you’re looking to try Hide My Ass before you buy it, you’re out of luck. The service offers neither a free version nor a free trial. If you’re in need of a great VPN, but have nothing in your wallet, you can always try a free VPN. Most of these services place limitations on your service unless you pay, however. TunnelBear, for example, limits its free users to a certain allotment of data, while ProtonVPN’s free plan limits speeds and available VPN servers.
Hide My Ass, however, does have a 30-day money-back guarantee, and it offers loyalty rewards for convincing others to sign up. That said, it costs $11.99 a month, putting it on the higher end of VPN services. The current average monthly price for one of my top-rated VPNs is about $10.50. NordVPN also charges an above-average rate, but that gets you an above-average number of VPN servers and allows six simultaneous connections. Private Internet Access, on the other hand, asks only $6.95 per month, and it provides a powerful (if somewhat unfriendly) product in return.
If you are not afraid of commitment, you can get a Hide My Ass subscription for $47.94 for six months or $83.88 per year. Those are decent prices for those durations, but it’s worth noting that some VPN services, such as KeepSolid VPN Unlimited, offer lifetime plans, for long-term protection. Notably, KeepSolid also has a wide variety of plans—some as short as a week.
To buy a Hide My Ass subscription, you can use credit cards, PayPal, e-check, or cash at 7-11. What you can’t use are cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, which are accepted by many VPN services (Private Internet Access, NordVPN, and others). Crypto payments, and prepaid gift cards purchased with cash, make your transactions more anonymous.
Most VPN services, like Editors’ Choice winner Private Internet Access VPN$2.91 at Private Internet Access, offer at least five licenses without restriction. TorGuard starts you with five and then has low fees for adding as many more as you’d like. Hide My Ass recently changed its pricing plan to finally allow five devices on a single subscription.
There is one way around any VPN device restrictions, however. If you want to protect all the devices on your network, you can use Hide My Ass’s handy guide for installing VPN software on your router. Installing VPN on a router means that every single device on your network—from your laptop to your smart fridge—gets the benefit of VPN, and it uses only one of your licenses.
If you want VPN on routers and streaming devices, but lack that DIY zeal, fear not. Other companies, like TorGuard VPN$9.99 at TorGuard, offer routers and even streaming boxes like the Apple TV with VPN preinstalled.
Despite its impressive geographic coverage, Hide My Ass has nothing in the way of specialty servers. Editors’ Choice winner NordVPN$2.99 at NordVPN – Limited Deal, on the other hand, has a specific server type for high-speed video streaming, another that routes your VPN connection through the Tor network, others for P2P file sharing and BitTorrent, and yet another that provides double encryption. ProtonVPN also offers built-in Tor access, and a group of specially secured servers called the Secure Core network.
If you’re looking for a good VPN for BitTorrrent, I recommend TorGuard. The “tor” in its name refers to BitTorrent, and supporting the needs of downloaders is of utmost importance to the company. To that end, it offers static IP addresses that are unlikely to be blocked, and other add-ons.
There are many ways to create a VPN connection. My preferred method uses the OpenVPN protocol, which is known for its speed and reliability. It’s also open-source, and therefore has been picked over for potential vulnerabilities by anyone with the interest to do so.
Hide My Ass uses OpenVPN on Windows, with an older version of the app that supports L2TP, and PPTP, too. There are also two different versions of the macOS app that, taken together, support IPSec (IKEv1 and v2), L2TP, and PPTP. Note that these older versions of the app are being phased out by the developer. The iOS version uses only IPSec, and the Android app uses only OpenVPN.
That’s a bit of a hodgepodge, and I am disappointed that Hide My Ass doesn’t provide OpenVPN on all platforms. That said, some of the issue is with the platforms. Apple requires developers to jump through additional hoops if they want to include OpenVPN in an app, but many are beginning to move in that direction. I would like to see Hide My Ass do the same, across the board.
Servers and Server Locations
A key differentiator between VPN services is the number of available servers and their geographic distribution. Lots of servers means you’re more likely to find a server that’s not bogged down with other users. For its part, Hide My Ass has a very respectable 876 servers at its disposal. That said, NordVPN, Private Internet Access, and TorGuard VPN have well over 3,000 servers apiece. Those are my benchmarks for robustness in the VPN server category.
Geographic distribution of those servers is also very important. Lots of locations means more to choose from for spoofing purposes, but also ensures that no matter where you travel there will always be a nearby server for the best performance. Hide My Ass has a very impressive 286 server locations across some 220 countries. It’s easily the broadest list among the VPN services I have reviewed.
The list of available server locations offered by Hide My Ass is particularly noteworthy because it covers regions often ignored by other VPN companies. It has, for example, numerous server locations across the continent of Africa—a rarity among VPN companies. It also maintains servers in China, Russia, and Turkey, which have particularly repressive internet policies.
Some consumers might be concerned about a VPN company’s use of virtual servers. These are software-defined servers that make a single physical server effectively operate as several servers. Virtual servers can also be configured to behave as if they are in one country when they’re really in another, which is a problem if you’re worried about where your data is traveling.
A company representative told me that a full 225 of the 286 server locations offered by Hide My Ass are virtual servers. Only 61 of the server locations are hardware, and 450 of Hide My Ass’s 876 servers are virtual. That’s far beyond other services. NordVPN, Private Internet Access, TunnelBear, IPVanish, and TorGuard only use physical infrastructure for their server locations.
A company representative explained to me that bulk of the company’s physical server infrastructure is located in Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London, Miami, New York, Prague, Seattle, and Singapore. This doesn’t quite jibe with what Hide My Ass lists on its website. I’d like to see future versions of Hide My Ass be clearer about when you are connected to a virtual server.
Your Privacy With Hide My Ass
With any security product, you want to be sure that the company behind it will be operating in your best interests. This is especially true for VPNs, which are intended to improve privacy and security. If a VPN company is just as nosey as your ISP, there’s not much point in using it.
What is notable is that Hide My Ass will store this data for two to three months, while VyprVPN stores it for only 30 days. Other services hold even less information, or they dispose of it immediately. Hide My Ass says that it retains this data for this period of time in order to improve performance, prevent fraud, and prevent bad guys from using the VPN to send spam. The company, notably, also lists file sharing as one of the illicit activities it requires this information to prevent, despite the company being fine with the use of BitTorrent on some servers.
It might be possible that this information could be used to correlate a user’s identity to specific activity online, but it would likely be very difficult. Even with this information, an observer would have to know which VPN server to watch and then compare that activity against Hide My Ass’s logs, and be able to parse out the target’s traffic from everyone else using the same server.
In the past, some VPN companies monetized users by injecting ads into their web traffic. Hide My Ass says that it does not do that, and goes even further. A company representative explained to me that the company does not profit from user data in any way.
The actual location of a VPN company also matters, as it can inform what protections are afforded to customers. Hide My Ass has its company headquarters in London, and operates under the legal jurisdiction of England and Wales. Notably, the UK at large does have mandatory data retention laws. That’s not ideal. Many other VPN services operate in countries without mandatory data retention laws, or in ones that have favorable privacy protections for consumers.
I don’t believe it is possible to make a determination about the benefits of a company based solely on its location. However, it is important to understand the laws and policies at work in a company with such intimate access to your information. I encourage readers to consider this information, and choose a VPN service with which they can feel comfortable.
Hands On With Hide My Ass
I had no trouble installing the Windows version on my Lenovo ThinkPad T460s, which runs Windows 10.
The app is quite distinctive not just for its name, but for its brightly colored and donkey-heavy appearance. In that way, it’s quite similar to bear-themed TunnelBear.
The app presents three scenarios to help you get online quickly. The first is Instant Mode, which simply looks for the fastest, closest server and connects you. This is great for day-to-day use, and will likely reduce the impact of the VPN connection on your web browsing experience.
The second is Location Mode, which lets you select whatever server you desire. You can search the extensive list by country or city, and you can save favorite servers, too. The fast server selection of Location Mode is very handy, but it doesn’t offer specialty servers or information about the traffic load on the servers. You’re on your own. IVPN and NordVPN, among others, provide stats about each server that can help you decide.
The third and final mode is Freedom Mode. Click it, and you are connected to a VPN server in what Hide My Ass calls the “closest free-speech country.” When I tested the feature in my Manhattan corner office, it connected me to a server in Montreal.
While I appreciate the emphasis on real-world applications for VPNs, I think it’s better to just have a button to quickly get a person online safely. Most people might not be familiar with the benefits of using a VPN, or understand what the distinction is among the three modes. (Truth be told, I’m not sure Ido, either.) A big, simple button similar to NordVPN or TunnelBear, with other options under the hood, seems like the best approach. Still, it’s far friendlier and easier to use than, say, Private Internet Access, which is little more than a window to start your connection.
The app includes a few settings, but nothing too in-depth. You can, however, configure the app to activate automatically whenever you connect to an unsecured Wi-Fi network—a feature I appreciate. There certainly wasn’t the kind of advanced features found in other services, which is in keeping with the app’s focus on simplicity but out of step with its price tag.
Hide My Ass and Netflix
If you’re alive this far into the 21st century, you’re probably streaming videoand music on a daily basis. Unfortunately, just because you paid for that privilege in one country doesn’t mean you can access it in another. Many streaming companies, and especially Netflix, block VPN users in order to prevent them from accessing content that’s not meant to be streamed in their country.
I found that Netflix successfully blocked me from using its service while I was connected to Hide My Ass. That’s unfortunate. KeepSolid VPN Unlimited, TunnelBear VPN, and NordVPN all managed to sneak around Netflix’s prohibitions. Do note, however, that VPN blocking is a bit of a cat-and-mouse game. The service that works for watching Netflix with a VPNtoday might be blocked tomorrow.
After reading Netflix’s Terms of Service document, it doesn’t seem that using a VPN is explicitly forbidden. However, section 6c notes that Netflix will attempt to verify your location. It also says that you’re not necessarily entitled to content outside your primary country of residence.
Other services, like Private Internet Access and CyberGhost, include ad and tracker blocking, but Hide My Ass does not offer this kind of ability. If you need these kinds of advanced features, or even just the ability to change which VPN protocol to use, you’d best look elsewhere.
Speed and Performance
Using a VPN makes your web traffic jump through more hoops than normal, or optimal. As a result, you’re probably going to see some slowdown in your online experience while the VPN is in use. To get a sense of this impact, I compare the average results from Ookla’s speed test tool to find the percent change with the VPN on and off. Ookla measures latency as well as speeds for uploads and downloads, which I use in my testing.
I do these tests twice. The first time, I use a server located close to my physical location. This puts the emphasis on speed and performance, and is likely indicative of how most people will use the service. Then, I perform the same tests while connected to an Ookla test server in Anchorage, Alaska, and a VPN server in Australia. The vast distances involved act as a stress test of the service.
In the domestic latency tests, Hide My Ass had an impressively small impact, increasing ping time by only 42.9 percent. TorGuard VPN had the best score in this category, actually reducing latency by a slight 6.7 percent. Results were less rosy in the international latency tests, where Hide My Ass increased latency by 400.3 percent. TunnelBear had the best score in this round, increasing latency by 270.3 percent.
I consider the download speed tests to be the most important of the bunch, and Hide My Ass did not disappoint. It slowed download speeds by only 6.9 percent, not far from the best score in these tests. That’s held by TorGuard VPN, which reduced download speeds by only 3.7 percent. That success was short-lived, as Hide My Ass lowered international download speeds by 77.1 percent. In these tests, AnchorFree Hotspot Shield Elite had the best score, reducing speeds by 39.9 percent.
That was just a bump in the road for Hide My Ass, which performed well in the upload speed tests. It dropped upload domestic upload speeds by 5.25 percent. IPVanish had the best results here, reducing uploads by 2.9 percent. The international upload tests saw a cluster of similar scores, with Hide My Ass in among the rest. In these tests, it slowed upload speeds by 98.3 percent, while Private Internet Access took the best score, reducing speeds by 97.3 percent.
Overall, I am impressed by Hide My Ass’s performance, but I still discourage anyone from using speed as the only criteria for selecting a VPN. Still, it is an issue that concerns people. If you’re one of them and are keen to get the fastest VPN, I recommend TorGuard VPN. Its low latency and excellent download performance make it a solid choice.
Hide My Ass for Android
It has been quite some time since we last reviewed the Hide My Ass Android app, and I’ll be updating this review once we’ve taken a fresh look at it. At the time, I was impressed with the colorful design, which appears to have remained to this day.
One notable facet of the Android app is that it uses the OpenVPN protocol, which I prefer. All the best Android VPN apps include it, so that’s a good mark in its favor.
Hide My Ass for iPhone
We’ve reviewed the Hide My Ass iPhone app more recently than the Android one, and were pleased with its look and feel on the Apple handset. Its colorful, friendly design fits right in, and will be accessible even to people who have never used a VPN before.
The iPhone version of Hide My Ass only uses the IPSec VPN protocol. That’s too bad, although the reason likely has to do with Apple’s app developer policies. Still, several of the best VPN apps for iPhone include OpenVPN despite the hoops Apple makes developers jump through. I’d like to see future versions of Hide My Ass include this protocol.
Hide My Ass for Mac
We haven’t had the chance to review the macOS VPN app from Hide My Ass. As soon as we get the chance, I’ll be sure to update this review.
As with Windows, there are two versions of the Hide My Ass app for Apple computers. One is intended for legacy support, while the other is available from the Apple App Store. The legacy edition supports the L2TP, PPTP, and IPSec IKEv1 protocols. The version in the App Store uses the newer IPSec IKEv2 protocol. I’d prefer it if Hide My Ass used OpenVPN.
Conceal My Donkey
With its cheeky name, great design, and robust service, it’s easy to see why Hide My Ass has such an ardent following. Also, donkeys are great. But the service is still on the pricey side, despite offering a very robust global network of VPN servers. It’s also a bit disappointing that Hide My Ass relies so heavily on virtual servers.
The VPN space is crowded, and there are many options that excel where Hide My Ass merely meets expectations. TunnelBear is an Editors’ Choice winner that has bright colors and bears, as well as an excellent privacy and security pedigree. NordVPN is another winner that combines well-designed apps with powerful technology and a robust network of servers. And Private Internet Access is an Editors’ Choice winner that skimps on appearances to offer a powerful security tool at a bargain-basement price. Consider these three, in addition to your friendly security donkey.
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