How secure is Hotspot Shield VPN

Hotspot Shield test

Hotspot Shield: the mole in the system?

If you decide on a provider from our VPN provider test, one thing is most likely important to you: the security of your data and your anonymity on the Internet. However, if you decide to use the Hotspot Shield service, one or the other of you would get a bit queasy. At least if you believe the voices on the web and take a closer look at Hotspot Shield.

The American provider is not any VPN provider. This tool was brought onto the market by the company AnchorFree in 2008 and is financed, among other things, by Goldman Sachs funds. In addition, alleged connections to the NSA are said to exist in the wild, wide web - which I consider wild speculation, as there are no reliable sources on this matter.

Nevertheless, the question immediately arises: How do supposedly secured anonymity and cooperation with this organization fit together?

And it is precisely this curious fact that we get to the bottom of in this test: How secure is Hotspot Shield really? Does it offer you serious security? Or are we even dealing with a program that spies on you instead of securing you, as is so often denounced on the web?

Let's dive into the, at first glance, quite contrary world of Hotspot Shield.

Functions (40 v. 100 - poor)

With regard to the functions offered, the American provider disappoints me very much: What other services such as PureVPN through its {Smart-DNS Service} for online streaming or NordVPN through its {Double VPN-Tool} contribute in terms of their own features and thus create a unique selling point , is completely absent from Hotspot Shield.

Once you've used the program, you'll know what I'm talking about. Under the item "Settings", where loads of specifications are waiting for you with other tools, you will only find two selectable buttons on Hotspot Shield. You can set an automatic program start when your computer boots up or activate notifications if the program detects a supposedly unsafe WiFi signal. That's it. That is the entire functional range that Hotspot Shield brings you.

Otherwise you only have the connection to a server that you cannot select in advance. In my experience, you first connect automatically to the American location and then you can try your luck with other servers. Incidentally, the selection of those is not extremely diverse. A pretty atypical process, in my opinion.

Nevertheless, there is something positive to report in this category: If you want to use streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Co., you have an easy game in every Hotspot Shield tariff: All streaming options available on the Internet can be used here.

However, if you also want to believe rumors that are shared in various VPN forums and are also supported on other websites on the subject, the tool is provided with a kind of "Trojan" that can "monitor" you despite a possible deinstallation of the program . I could not find any evidence for this and therefore do not want to go into this aspect in more detail.

Nevertheless, none of this should be seen as positive and does not correspond to my ideas of a reputable and trustworthy VPN service. That's why there is a clear grade here Inadequate.

Pro Contra

  • Nice design + great layout
  • Ease of use
  • Practical smartphone app
  • Log file storage
  • Time-limited live chat in support
  • Direct connection to US authorities
  • Possibly the "wolf in sheep's clothing": data transfer to US authorities cannot be ruled out
  • No payment through bitcoins or other cryptocurrencies

Costs & tariffs (50 of 100 - poor)

The good news first: This VPN service offers you a 30-day money-back guarantee and the first seven days after your registration are free of charge - almost as a trial period.

The bad news, on the other hand, is that the price-performance ratio of this service is in my opinion nowhere near justifiable. I would like to remind you once again that the functions leave a lot to be desired for the most part and that there is no unique selling point. Nevertheless, a single monthly tariff without a long-term contract period is almost more expensive at 12.99 euros than with any other provider!

Hotspot Shield may want to move you directly to a longer tariff, but the overpricing of this package cannot be denied.

Otherwise you have the choice between one month, twelve months or 3 years. With the one-month package, one month costs 12.99 euros. Twelve months cost 7.99 per month and thus amount to an annual payment of 95.88 euros. Three years costs 2.99 euros per month (with a 3-year subscription for 107.64 euros). A maximum of 5 devices are included in the tariffs.

There is also a serious problem here: As you will see in a moment, you can also download the app from Apple's App Store. The app is of course free, but requires a subscription from you immediately after downloading it.

However, after downloading the app, you will not be able to link the tariff previously selected and booked on the website. In order to get access to the app at all, you have to confirm a payment via your Apple ID after a seven-day trial period - even though you have already set up a paid account. Paradoxically, you can only do this to link to your confirmation. If you cancel the subscription via your Apple ID, you no longer have access to the app.

But that's not all: you can only choose a tariff of 14.99 euros per month when purchasing from the Mac App Store. A price that seems completely out of thin air, as it does not appear in any of the manufacturer's publicly available price tables.

The costs and tariffs that you have to face with this service - and as a Mac user the app problems that arise - make using this app incompatible for me personally with the performance and functionality that I would receive as a customer.

That’s why there’s the grade here too Inadequate.

Ease of use (70 v. 100 - satisfactory)

In addition to all the problems already outlined, there is still a ray of hope to be announced. Because: The usability as such proves to be extremely intuitive and simple. Although there are not too many functions that would make a more complex operation necessary, the apps are designed for all devices that can be used both chic and intuitive.

But let's start on the website: If you visit the Hotspot Shield website, you will find an English homepage that you can have translated into German in the footer without further ado. So far so good. However, this only applies to the start page. If you have set the German mode, you can only see the start page in German. All other pages including support are in English.

So if you try to call up another subpage in the German-language mode, you will immediately be taken back to the English-language version.

Registering and logging in still works without any problems. You should get ahead here even without a great knowledge of English. Once you are logged in, the product download awaits you, which you don't have to search long for. In turn, I find that extremely pleasant.

The software installation runs without problems on all platforms - with the exception of the Mac version. Here, Hotspot Shield redirects you to the Mac App Store, which is progressive and practical for Mac users. If you download the app here for free, you are now faced with the challenge of the inscrutable tariff structures described above.

When I asked for support about how I could solve this problem, I received the following answer:

To link a Mac device to your account, first, download the latest version of Hotspot Shield from the App Store, then sign in to your account from the Mac device. Visit our Help Center for info on How To Log In.

If you would like to link other devices to your Elite account, please check the following articles from our support page:

If you have problems linking your device or have any other inquiry, please let us know. "

The support can't really help me with this problem either and links to the standard support articles. In this you will learn how to store your account, but will not solve the problem that still exists. When I asked again, I received no answer. A really poor support service if you ask me.

The user interface as such is nevertheless modern and attractive. You can connect directly with one click, but only then select a server other than the American one. A somewhat strange process. Rather, there is unfortunately nothing more to say about this, as there are no more functions to operate.

The connection to the server is quick and easy to use.

Incidentally, it is used on the smartphone in exactly the same way. Due to the fact that the program window on the computer and on the smartphone is the same size as on the smartphone, no other statement can be made about the operating mode than: Nicely designed and easy to use, but at the expense of a lack of functions.

Supported devices (60 v. 100 - sufficient)

Hotspot Shield supports Apple's iOs and MacOS, Google's Android and Chrome, Mozilla's Firefox as well as Microsoft's Windows and Windows Phone, all common operating systems that are predominant on the market. But I don't find a real breadth of compatible devices here. The service does not support routers, smart TVs or other devices, all of which are integrated by PureVPN, for example.

Therefore my recommendation: If you want to go beyond the standard and are looking for a VPN service that also supports other devices besides the usual smartphones and computers, Hotspot Shield is definitely the wrong partner for you. At this point I advise you again to use the PureVPN mentioned above.

Server locations (60 v. 100 - sufficient)

I don't have any good news for you in this category either: With 25 possible server locations, Hotspot Shield has the lowest offer in the entire VPN test. In addition, there is the automatic connection to the American server, which you inevitably have to establish before you can select another server.

If you ask me, none of this looks necessarily professional, which is why Hotspot Shield does extremely poorly in this category compared to the competition.

Speed ​​(85 - good)

In the speed test, on the other hand, Hotspot Shield shows class: With this tool, you can adjust to the lowest possible speed losses and streaming is hardly restricted either.

In my test, the download speed fell by only around one Mbit / s, the upload speed by only about 0.2 Mbit / s.

Without a VPN
With VPN

Security (35 of 100 - insufficient)

The supposed security of this service gives me a little stomach ache due to the rumors mentioned at the beginning. Even though I cannot support them, as I simply could not find any evidence for a "Trojan" in the system: I still have a strange gut feeling. Especially if we take a look at the actual security precautions of this service:

First and foremost, there is consistent data storage with this service. That means you surf the net “anonymously”, but Hotspot Shield still secures all your browser data in its own ranks. If we now combine this fact with the actually existing connections to American authorities, it seems to me personally as if your data is more insecure than ever before through this service.

Incidentally, functions such as the {kill switch}, which many providers have recently integrated, are missing at this point.

Technically, Hotspot Shield is still state-of-the-art: With the integrated Open VPN mode, the provider uses the most secure encryption technology that you can expect from a VPN service.

In our DNS leak test at least the provider withstood the requirements: The IP details cannot be read out and remain encrypted.

Support (60 v. 100 - sufficient)

The Hotspot Shield support leaves an average impression on me. A support center is available to you, where you can find the most common problems and questions as well as corresponding solutions.

In addition, this service provides you with an in-house blog, with which you receive regular news and updates from the field of VPNs.

On the other hand, it is not always possible to join a direct conversation partner in the event of an urgent problem: Hotspot Shield only supports you with a live chat with a support employee for a limited period of time.

In addition to all these services and features that you will find in the support center, the bad impression from my support request remains. Even after a week, I got no further answer to a simple account management question.

So personally, the Hotspot Shield support does not convince me: A limited live chat and unhelpful support answers are not what I imagine competent support to be.

Conclusion

For the "normal" user without great technical knowledge and without great demands, Hotspot Shield can be very tempting. Nevertheless, I advise you against this service.

ADVANTAGES

  • Nice design + great layout
  • Ease of use
  • Practical smartphone app

DISADVANTAGE

  • Only 35 different server locations
  • Incomplete translation in German
  • Hardly any functions & only a few supported devices, use on routers excluded
  • Log file storage
  • Time-limited live chat in support
  • Direct connection to US authorities
  • Possibly the "wolf in sheep's clothing": data transfer to US authorities cannot be ruled out
  • No payment through bitcoins or other cryptocurrencies

You have the normal option of connecting to a server location and thus supposedly surfing “anonymously”. Nevertheless, you must always be aware that this provider secures your data and maintains direct connections to the relevant authorities.

In addition to the non-existent security precautions, the poor choice of servers remains. You have only 25 different server locations to choose from here. With a view to other providers, there is definitely more.

Nevertheless, the provider turns out to be one of the most expensive in its class - with the fewest functions, mind you.

Personally, it looks to me as if Hotspot Shield is trying to cover up a lack of security and missing functions with a superficially modern and really chic design. The program is easy to use, which may seem pleasant at first glance, but that is ultimately only due to the lack of tools and settings.

That's why I advise you: Choose another VPN provider such as our test winner ExpressVPN! Hotspot Shield is not a serious option due to its completely unsuccessful price-performance ratio if you are looking for a VPN tool with a certain claim.

What do you think about it? Have you already had experience with this provider or have you even tried it? How would you choose? We would be happy to receive your comments!