Hotspot Shield is probably the most successful VPN on the market today – if we only take the number of users into account. This VPN provider boasts an incredible 650 million users.
The desktop apps for Hotspot are relatively secure for basic geo-unblocking and IP spoofing. You may even stream Netflix with a premium subscription. However, the Hotspot Shield for Chrome extension may not be your safest choice as a standalone VPN. Let’s find out more about this app and what it could be good for.
Why use a VPN for Chrome
There can be several primary reasons for you to use a VPN for Chrome. For starters, this is one of the least secure browsers when it comes to privacy. If you live in a censorship-friendly country like China, Iran, or the UAE, you definitely want to stay under the radar. But the same is true if you’re a traveler or a journalist going abroad. You may need to access websites that are simply banned or blocked at your location.
This is when you can’t secure your online communications and keep your privacy protected without a VPN for Chrome. And, this is why we’re here to introduce you the Hotspot Shield Chrome VPN proxy app.
In general, you can use the Hotspot Shield Chrome extension for:
- Ad-free browsing
- Security: encryption of all your data while browsing
- Privacy: your IP address is faked
- Safe and secure public wifi connection
- Bypassing censorship
How to install Hotspot Shield for Chrome
You have two options. Either visit the Chrome Web Store directly and search for the Hotspot Shield Elite VPN Proxy. Or go to the official website, select the Products menu, and click the Chrome button to redirect to the download page. Then, press the Get Hotspot Shield button. This will redirect you to the very same Chrome Web Store page.
If you click the Add to Chrome button, you’ll see the usual popup with the permissions you’re about to grant.
We advise you to read it carefully, and only click Add extension if you’re totally fine with what the extension can read and change.
It’s also important to mention that apart from the premium subscription, you have two other choices. First, you may want to test the premium 7-day free trial version. Second, you can use this VPN for free. Of course, there will be limitations, such as only a few foreign servers to use (see below).
It’s clear from the Configuration menu that only the Germany, Netherlands, Canada, and Russia servers are available with the free account.
Of course, if you choose the free version, you’ll be notified quite frequently by popups and browser redirections to buy the premium VPN or the desktop version.
Hotspot Shield for Chrome features
Surprisingly, the Hotspot Shield for Chrome app is packed with seemingly useful features. If you click the Configuration icon in the upper right corner, this is what you’ll find:
Let us explain each feature for clarity:
- Sword: feed web trackers fake web activity to keep your real web activity private
- Tracker blocker: enable or disable analytic trackers
- Ad blocker: enable or disable ad blocking
- Malware blocker: enable or disable ad malware blocker
- Cookie blocker: enable or disable web cookies
- Bypass local network: to bypass local resources, such as internal network, localhost, etc.
- WebRTC blocker: to prevent IP leaks
These, of course, only function during your Hotspot Shield VPN sessions, i.e., while you’re connected to a VPN location.
Unfortunately, we found serious WebRTC leaks when we tested the Hotspot Chrome extension. This was true actually when we turned on the beta WebRTC blocker feature. It leaked all the way. However, when we finally turned it off, it stopped leaking immediately. So, you may want to be careful with that toggle for now.
There are two other features that you can find on the home screen below the location information:
- Auto protection: add websites you want to secure when Hotspot Shield is off
- Bypass websites: add websites you wish to bypass Hotspot Shield security when it’s on
How to use Hotspot Shield for Chrome
After you click on your Hotspot Shield icon in the browser toolbar, a very simple blue panel pops up.
If you click the Power button, you’ll connect to the default server, which may be the one closest to you or whichever is the most optimal. But, if you want to choose a location yourself, you need to click the Configuration menu icon in the upper right corner of the app window. First, you’ll see the Connection mode options, but further down, you’ll find the server locations.
After selecting a radio button for your chosen location, you need to close the Configuration window and click the Power button to connect. This is a bit awkward and annoying.
Other than that, it’s quite a straightforward Chrome extension.
Unfortunately, even if you buy the premium version, you’ll only have nine country locations to connect to.
The Settings menu is rather disappointing. You can access it by clicking the Menu icon in the upper left corner of the app.
Now, select Settings, and here’s what you’ll see:
Well, not the kind of customization paradise you might dream about.
While using this Hotspot Shield for Chrome VPN proxy, you may see a Connection alert popup to push you to download the desktop version. To be frank, we believe that it could be safer to use the two together.
Hotspot Shield Chrome vs Windows client
There are two major differences between the Hotspot Shield Chrome and Windows clients: the number of available server locations and the configuration options. Hotspot has 2,500 servers in 25 countries, which is far from good global coverage. However, you can connect to these 25 countries with desktop apps only.
On the other hand, the Chrome extension lets you use just nine country locations with the premium account.
Hotspot Shield uses its own proprietary protocol called Catapult Hydra, which is supposed to be safer and faster than OpenVPN itself.
The Hotspot Shield Chrome app uses the same security features as the desktop versions. If you’re careful with the WebRTC blocker toggle, you may be able to hide your IP and access geo-restricted content, Netflix included.
Hotspot Shield is one of the best free VPN services for Chrome, but those thinking about their privacy and anonymity first should look elsewhere, especially because a browser extension alone cannot protect your internet connection.