Every day, vast amounts of music, movies, TV, eBooks, games, and other apps are shared via peer to peer downloading (or torrenting). It’s a great way to find entertainment content or to share professional data. But torrenting is far from secure.
In fact, it’s easy for ISPs, copyright holders, and government agencies to snoop on P2P users, while torrents are notorious for transferring malware as well. That’s why many people now automatically fire up a VPN before their torrent client.
Hotspot Shield is one of the biggest VPNs around, with over 650 million users. So how does it measure up as a shield for your torrenting activities? Let’s find out.
What is Hotspot Shield’s torrent policy?
First things first: what is the Hotspot Shield policy regarding torrenting? As we’ve mentioned earlier, not all VPNs are happy to host P2P traffic, so where does Hotspot Shield fit into the picture?
The initial signs are actually pretty positive. Hotspot Shield has a handy explainer on the value of using VPNs for P2P downloads, and they mention P2P-related features like unlimited bandwidth. However, it’s quite hard to find a clear statement of the Hotspot Shield torrent policy, which is a little bit suspicious.
To find out more, you need to dive into the VPN’s Help Center, where the company urges users to “[protect] your privacy and download Hotspot Shield to torrent securely today!”
From the fragments of information available, it certainly looks like Hotspot Shield is optimized for torrenting, but it’s also true that the VPN isn’t keen to highlight that fact. And if VPNs aren’t passionate in their defense and promotion of users’ right to torrent, that’s not a good sign.
7 features that make Hotspot Shield for torrenting a good idea
If we put those doubts to one side for a few moments, it’s worth having a quick look at some of the features which make Hotspot Shield a torrenting contender. And there are plenty of attractive aspects of this VPN package. For instance, you’ll get:
1. Unlimited bandwidth
Torrenting is very data intensive, and data limits are an absolute no-no. Thankfully, Hotspot Shield doesn’t suffer from these limitations, providing all paid users with as much bandwidth as they require when downloading movies or TV shows.
2. Military-grade encryption
VPNs depend on the quality of their encryption to protect data as it passes through their servers, and Hotspot Shield won’t let you down here. Military-grade 256-bit AES encryption is as good as you’ll find, and should protect torrenters at all times.
3. Kill switch
All torrent-friendly VPNs should have some sort of fail-safe features to cut out your connection if coverage drops. In Hotspot Shield’s case, the kill switch should cut out your internet connection whenever VPN coverage fails, ensuring that there’s only the tiniest risk of IP leakage.
4. A huge server portfolio
Hotspot Shield claims to manage over 3,200 servers in 70+ countries. This should mean that torrenters can find a fast server in whatever jurisdiction their prefer. Additionally, the VPN’s Catapult Hydra protocol is designed to find the optimal server for each connection, which theoretically leads to the fastest possible torrent speeds.
5. Multiple devices
Hotspot Shield users can install the VPN on as many as 5 devices, so you can torrent on your desktop, laptop, tablet, or even your smartphone safely.
Hotspot Shield claims to operate a strict “no logs” policy, while providing total IP address anonymity – exactly what torrent users need if they are skirting the boundaries of illegality with their everyday downloads.
7. 45-day money back guarantee
Sometimes, users are just unlucky with their geographical location, and even high-quality VPNs can’t deliver the speeds they need. With Hotspot Shield, you can use their 45-day moneyback guarantee to try the VPN for a few weeks, before switching to another provider if needed.
That’s a comprehensive range of features for torrenters. Speed, security, value – Hotspot Shield scores quite highly on all of these key areas. But that’s not the whole story. We need to look a little deeper to find out exactly how this VPN stands where privacy and performance are concerned. So let’s do that now.
Possible issues to think about when using Hotspot Shield for torrenting
Firstly, payment is an area where Hotspot Shield might raise some alarms.
Generally speaking, the best torrenting VPNs offer anonymous payment options, such as cryptocurrencies. There’s none of that with Hotspot Shield, which relies on standard credit cards and PayPal. So when you sign up, you’ll have to hand over sensitive personal information, which, in theory, can be used to link you to a Hotspot Shield account by law enforcement.
Controversial logging practices may alarm torrenters
There are also some potential issues relating to the Hotspot Shield “no logging” policy.
In 2017, privacy organization the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) alleged that Hotspot Shield had been “intercepting and redirecting web traffic to partner websites, including advertising companies.”
According to the CDT, Hotspot Shield had been unmasked as collecting users’ IP addresses and location data, which could be monetized to benefit advertisers. Moreover, the VPN employed five separate third-party tracking libraries to gather data.
It’s important to note that this controversy focused on the free Hotspot Shield VPN (used by 97% of the VPN’s customers). So Premium users probably don’t have to worry. But given the company’s “no logging” ethos, this kind of underhand behavior should make torrenters think twice.
Actually, there are some phrases which are a little bit worrying. For instance, when users connect to their app, Hotspot Shield collects and stores “device identifiers, browser types, device types and settings, operating system versions, mobile, wireless, and other network information.” Again, that’s a little bit alarming.
Moreover, while Hotspot Shield “does not store any information that identifies what you browse, view, or do online,” they “analyze certain usage, device, and diagnostic information to understand aggregated usage trends and user engagement.” It may be anonymized, but this data is still being logged and preserved. Not all VPNs are so hungry for data, and this should definitely concern torrenters.
What about Hotspot Shield’s relationship with governments?
Finally, there are reasons to be concerned about Hotspot Shield’s relationship with major governments, especially the USA. Washington has long been hostile to P2P downloads, so any VPN should be very clear about its resistance to government intrusion in this area. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case with Hotspot Shield.
And here’s the kicker: “Laws in other countries may be different to those that apply where you reside.”
So, wherever you use Hotspot Shield for torrenting, you’ll need to be aware of US data laws
In other words, you’ll be risking the wrath of the government that’s most hostile to torrenting activity.
What have users said about torrenting with Hotspot Shield?
Despite these privacy issues, it’s still possible to use Hotspot Shield for legitimate torrenting activities. With its unlimited bandwidth and secure encryption, it should be a very capable VPN. But what have users said about how it performs?
Reddit is always a good place to look for feedback. With its huge user base and tech-savvy community, it’s a place people go for support when using torrents for P2P downloads, and Hotspot Shield is no exception.
First off, some Reddit users report excellent Hotspot Shield torrent speeds, which is encouraging
But almost all threads quickly feature critics of the free Hotspot Shield package, citing the way the company shares data with advertisers.
Some users have also encountered serious payment issues, such as having their cards charged up to 10 days before their subscriptions (or guarantee periods) expire.
The general consensus is that Hotspot Shield is a poor option for torrenting, especially the free version (which the vast majority of people on Reddit refer to)
So if you want to follow the privacy crowd, don’t use Hotspot Shield for torrenting. Go for something like ExpressVPN instead.
Is a Hotspot Shield and torrent combination viable?
As we’ve seen, Hotspot Shield is definitely an option for torrenters. It has no blocks on P2P traffic, offers unlimited bandwidth, has a huge server portfolio, and includes good security features.
But beware. Major concerns have been raised about how safe Hotspot Shield is, and whether their “no logging” policy holds water. And stay away from the company’s free VPN at all costs – at least for P2P activities. It’s just not worth the risk.