HideMyAss has a cool name and pretty unique logo but in terms or privacy, this VPN raises quite a few concerns. It is owned as a subsidiary by Avast, but headquartered in the United Kingdom. Performance also leaves a bit to be desired but it certainly isn’t the worst in this area. Overall, this is a service you need to consider carefully before buying in to. Learn more.
October 21, 2020•
Started by a 16-year old in 2005, HideMyAss (HMA) has a long and storied history. It was first built to circumvent network restrictions in a relatively limited context. Its developer steadily expanded and grew the service over the years.
In 2015, a mere ten years after the base concept was first launched, HMA was sold to AVG Technologies for a whopping $40 million. In turn, AVG was acquired by Avast, which is where HMA sits today.
Pros of HideMyAss VPN
Cons of HideMyAss VPN
Despite its original intention to help users circumvent blocks, HMA came under the spotlight even before it was sold. In 2012 the company complied with court orders in the UK to hand over information on the activities of a user.
The company’s policies and behavior has set it apart from most VPN service providers who try their best to prevent authorities from accessing their user information.
Whatever I may think of HMA, their security is still pretty good. Here is what they have in store;
They offer fixed high encryption rates at 256-bit. By default, all Windows and Android users get OpenVPN, while MacOS and iOS users will be on IKEv2.
There is also the option to use PPTP if you really want, but that’s not included in the core HMA application. PPTP is known to be less secure than OpenVPN, but if you really want to use it you can get in touch with their customer service.
They’ll point you to a link for a different app where you can select between OpenVPN and PPTP. I do recommend you stick to OpenVPN though since it is a much safer option.
Today’s norm is that each of us often has multiple smart devices. HMA understands this and you can connect up to five devices at a time to their service. This helps keep all your devices safe at the same time.
All in, there are applications that support all mainstream platforms plus a few extra, including AppleTV and a select number of routers. Unfortunately, for routers there is also a catch. You can’t install it on your own, but you need to have it pre-configured through a third party like Flashrouters.
As an additional feature, this VPN includes a kill switch to stop the transmission of data in or out of your device if it detects any problems with the VPN tunnel.
It also has a split tunneling option so you can actually choose to allow certain apps to bypass the VPN service.
Tests on HMA for both DNS and WebRTC leaks went fine. There was no leak of our origin IP despite trying out a few different server connections. DNS and WebRTC tests are fairly simple to run. There are a lot of pre-built tools online and simply visiting those sites and running it will let you know if your DNS is leaking with your VPN active.
Altogether, HMA has a network of over 1,000 servers spanning 298 locations.
That is probably the widest coverage I’ve seen in terms of individual locations, with most other top VPNs ranging from 90 to 100-off countries.
HMA has a few select servers through which you need to connect if you want to either stream movies or run torrents. To be honest, although many VPN service providers spin this as a benefit and tout those servers as specialized, I have my doubts.
Nonetheless, my opinion notwithstanding, HMA has fine-tuned five servers for media streaming and eight for P2P. Some key locations like New York are counted twice since you can do both on those servers.
My focus for Netflix has always been on their US region since that’s where almost all the good movies are. It also has the largest library among all Netflix regions and with HMA, you can watch it all from anywhere around the world.
My Netflix burn-in test (i.e. a binge watch over two days) showed that streaming remained smooth throughout. There was once an occasion where the VPN connection was dropped but not once did I get the dreaded Netflix proxy warning.
Despite unimpressive US server speeds, it was more than enough for me to enjoy a seamless Netflix experience. I did not observe any excessive buffering even as I skipped chunks of minutes within movies.
While I realise that the BBC iPlayer isn’t on the top of most people’s ‘must watch’ list, I like to use it as a test of a VPN’s capabilities. The iPlayer has some pretty strict restrictions on its usage – almost as bad as Netflix.
Being able to circumvent this is definitely a plus. With HMA being a UK-based service, I was not mistaken in guessing it would work fine here though. Connecting to Donkey Town, UK, streaming was actually surprisingly fast.
Not the same as the Melbourne Shuffle, an IP shuffle is something which I’ve seen only on HMA so far. They have a very convenient button in the app which allows you to ‘shuffle’, or change, your IP quickly.
This can be very helpful if you find that one of the streaming services won’t work for the server you’re connected to. Simply hit the shuffle button and it will swap your IP so you can try the streaming service again.
Most of HMA servers have multiple IP addresses you can swap between, especially on their streaming servers. For instance, their New York server which allows both P2P and Streaming has 56 IP addresses available.
While HMA may not be the best at everything, one area in which it does excel is customer support. This was an idea situation since I had a number of questions to ask them, both generally as well as more technical in nature.
Using their live chat I managed to get a response very quickly. Believe me, this isn’t a norm when it comes to Live Chat services and I found myself getting a response almost as soon as I had sent in a query.
There was absolutely no nonsense of excessive queueing or having to wait forever for an email reply. The chat agent was courteous and knowledgeable, able to furnish me with the exact details and information I sought.
Some of you may think this isn’t exactly a big deal – but seriously, it is. I have experienced long waits and very obstructive customer support agents before who would do their level best to blame the customer’s equipment or actions while refusing to answer direct questions in a relevant manner.
That was not my experience with HMA and I sincerely hope that they will maintain these excellent standards moving forward. Kudos to the team for this.
Consider it a trial run or an extended money-back guarantee, this is absolutely something to look out for when investing in a product you will be using long-term (such as with my three-year subscription to HMA).
There have been instances where some VPN providers have a strict no-refunds policy and to be honest, I have always been very wary of those. If you have a good product, why have this fear that users will be unhappy and demanding their money back in droves?
The money-back guarantee is a solid assurance of a company’s faith in their own products, and to have it spelled out clearly to users is important. One thing I have to mention though is that signing up with HMA opens yourself up to auto-renewals, so make sure you disable that to avoid a surprise at the end of your plan.
Be warned that this will perhaps be the biggest chunk of my review and that many of you will probably be very unhappy upon reading it. User privacy is one of the first and foremost things that a VPN service should be protecting and in my opinion, HMA throws up so many red flags here that it should be banned from the industry.
The cloud of ownership that hangs over HMA like an albatross is a dark and gloomy one. While overall it is under the Avast banner, it is directly managed and operated by UK-based Privax Limited.
The Czech Republic is actually pretty privacy friendly, but the parking of HMA under Privax Limited is an absolute red flag. The UK is one country in the original UKUSA agreement, otherwise known as the “Five Eyes”.
Since the UK has left the Euro jurisdiction, businesses in the country are no longer bound to protect user privacy under umbrella standards. In fact, HMA has a terrible history of protecting the privacy of its users.
It has come under the spotlight a number of times for simply handing over user data upon the request of authorities, once with the UK and once with the US.
As we note above that HMA cooperates with authorities upon request, we can also obviously tell that this isn’t a VPN that offers a “No Logging” service. In fact, HMA explicitly states that it does log user information although it claims not to log activities.
From the convictions arising in the cases where it has handed over what it does log, it is still enough for users to get nabbed by authorities. If you want a VPN that protects you, this is not the service to sign up with.
In addition to the handing over of logs, HMA has also been known to cooperate with the handling of DMCA violations. In fact, users have complained that the service itself hands out DMCA violation notices, similar to what ISPs have been doing in the past.
I run my VPN speed tests off the same machine and ISP line each time, a 500Mbps fiber connection via Ethernet. This usually gives me my full advertised speed so long as the connection is clean.
For my tests, each remote location undergoes a series of tests, each in a pair. Once with the VPN on and then off. This will allow you to observe the matching latency and speeds in both scenarios.
Of late, thanks to Work from Home directives the Internet has been strained to breaking point. Hence it is advisable to take these test results with a pinch of salt until the globe is back in equilibrium once again at some later date. I will review speeds periodically and make adjustments when necessary.
Speeds with or without a VPN on US-based servers were a little lacklustre during the time when I conducted my tests. However, since the US is literally across the world from where I am located, the barrier with and without the VPN remains the same.
The speeds are usable and certainly enough for streaming but downloading is a hit or miss and P2P certainly won’t be that useful.
For the Eurozone, recently I’ve been testing closer to my location for example – with German servers. However, with HMA I was hoping for solid performance off the UK service since essentially that is the home base of this provider.
Sad to say downstream speed fell flat on its face with a barely-useable 13Mbps. Strangely enough, upstream was quite good which, the be honest, isn’t much use to most people.
With such a sprawling network as HMA has, it is one of the few VPNs that actually bothers with an African continent presence. Surprising me even further was the fact that there are a number of connection points in Africa for them.
Still, spread didn’t equate to quality of service and once again I got barely usable speeds.
As usual my favorite location for testing a VPN in the Asia region is Singapore – both for its proximity to me as well as for its excellent infrastructure. This showed clearly in low latency and strong speeds both down and upstream with a server in the Republic.
Still, my usual Ping times to that location are normally better so I believe under regular circumstances, speeds on HMA via Singapore would be improved even more.
The land down under isn’t all that far and as part of the Australisia region does pretty much ok in terms of VPN connection speeds. Still, at 30Mbps down with HMA on – that’s quite a sad result.
Overall I say that HMA needs to work on improving its infrastructure rather than spending time and resources policing its users on behalf of governments around the world. A sad state of affairs indeed.
One thing that is of interest in the HideMyAss app is that it includes a built-in multi-location speed test tool. This lets you flag various servers in their network for testing and can be useful – if it really worked well.
I found that the results delivered by the speed test tool were usually far different from those on the hugely popular Ookla Speed Test that most people use.
HMA is available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Linus, and even routers. However, there are some oddities to look out for in their signups & pricing;
This isn’t something I have normally seen in VPN services since their very concept is globalization of services. Yet I visited their page for a number of regions and found that prices vary – in some instances by a huge amount.
As an example of this, their three-year plan in the US costs $143.64 after the steep sign-up discount, but the same plan costs RM252 (approximately $58) for those who sign up from Malaysia. While I am not above region targeting in price, this discrepancy is pretty huge.
Also, in some regions you can sign up with PayPal, while it’s not available in others. This combined with their complex sign up process really is astounding for a service that has has more than ten years to streamline its business processes.
As I mentioned earlier, if you sign up for HMA, it automatically gives them the right to renew your plan when it expires. You should note that the plan renews at full price, not the discounted rate at which you signed on.
If this isn’t what you want, make sure to disable the auto renewal as soon as possible.
With something as complex as a VPN (to some people) it behooves service providers to ensure user experience is as seamless as possible. This is yet another oddity of HMA and makes me suspect that the VPN may not have changed in fundamental design over the years.
When trying to navigate between options in the app, it tends to create pop up windows rather than transition in a single main application interface. This method of design is very old school and brings me back to the early days of Windows. It is annoying and distracting to say the least.
One of the things that I noted about HMA before I signed up was that ultra cool, well, ass (or donkey?). Yet what you see isn’t always what you get and the iconic logo, turns out not to be so iconic after all.
It morphs depending on where you see it and in some cases, turns out absolutely horrifying.
This is perhaps the easiest question I have had to answer for a long time. Not just “no”, but “Hell No!”. The thought that a VPN service provider would actively work against its customers interest is simply baffling.
Couple that with all the inadequacies of it as a service and you have a certain recipe for disaster. This is one VPN I would advise potential customers to steer well clear of!
In fact, head over to our list of Best VPN and you may find better alternatives!