Last update: 02.08.2018
It’s quick as lightning but not very good at hiding asses. A decent choice for the casual user – read our HideMyAss review to learn more!
Once you step outside the Top 3 on the VPN market, the situation grows increasingly murky. Almost all products in the 4-10 range have some critical weakness. That doesn’t mean they’re all equal – some will find their ideal choice in this section of the top 10. Continue reading our HideMyAss review to see if it’s the best for you!
The humorously-titled HideMyAss (HMA! or HMA Pro) has demonstrated great longevity. Jack Cator began the product in 2005 at the age of 16. HideMyAss has grown significantly since then, but its success has been overshadowed by better VPNs. Currently, this once-startup belongs to Avast – one of the better-known cybersecurity companies in the world.
Let’s run HideMyAss through the gauntlet and see if there’s any substance behind that snarky tone!
In terms of security, HideMyAss offers market-standard AES-256-CBC encryption and uses the OpenVPN protocol. This is good, but also limiting – there are other secure protocols out there, and some VPNs will give you a choice. With that said, we’re a lot more bothered by HMA’s location and history of cooperation with law enforcement.
HideMyAss has also been shown to have “vanilla” WebRTC leaks on their Windows client, and “triggered” IP traffic/WebRTC leaks on their Mac client.
Speed & performance is probably HMA Pro’s strongest selling point. While the VPN doesn’t have that many servers (890+), its country list is impressive and contains over 190 names. You’ll be able to connect to corners no VPN has dared to tread. That can certainly come in handy! Unsurprisingly, the connection speed is also good, if not necessarily the best.
If you need a VPN solely for popcorn time, HideMyAss might be a good choice. It will let you watch Netflix regardless of your location and without significant interruptions. If, however, you’d rather use torrents to download that film – don’t look at HMA Pro. Trust us, you need better protection than that.
The prices are not terrible: 1 month for $11.99, 12 months for $6.99/month, and 24 months for $4.99/month. With that said, our HideMyAss review is forced to conclude that you can – and should – get more for the same amount with NordVPN or CyberGhost.
Is HideMyAss safe to use?
Some people have asses too big to hide…
There are numerous issues with the security/privacy protection record of HideMyAss. First of all, their company is registered in the UK – one of the primary members of the 5 eyes country group. These are five countries with a particularly strong intelligence cooperation framework. That’s a big privacy concern, particularly after Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations. There aren’t many worse locations for a VPN than the UK – in addition to intelligence agency surveillance concerns, the UK also has data retention laws and an overall intrusive attitude.
It’s not just the company’s location that should worry people in need of an ass-hiding. When researching for this HideMyAss Review, we found that HMA has already demonstrated how little their no-logging policy means. Data given by HMA! was crucial for the 2011 arrest of US hacker Cody Kretsinger as well as this naughty Texas judge in 2015. Regardless of your opinion on crime (we have a bad one, to say the least), it should be obvious that this is a deeply compromising situation for a VPN. After all, legality and morality sometimes have a strenuous relationship.
HMA Pro’s features are also problematic. First of all, the program has been recently shown to have serious WebRTC leaking issues. Most worryingly, the Windows version of HMA has a “vanilla” WebRTC leak. This means you can be connected to an HMA VPN server, and your public IP address will leak through the browser’s WebRTC functionality. Figuratively speaking, your IP is “Your Ass” in this metaphor, and it’s rather prominently on display.
As with most other VPNs, the Mac version of HideMyAss is less susceptible to leaks. If you’d rather remain completely leak-free – choose some other tool, period.
The encryption is decent, although far from the best on the market. The control channel undergoes AES-256-bit encryption with an RSA-2048 certificate, while the data channel is encrypted using Blowfish-128. This isn’t that big a deal (because the hacker would need to go through the AES-256 first) but Blowfish-128 is potentially vulnerable.
There are some good features we can commend HideMyAss for (such as having a kill switch), but there’s too much bad to concentrate on the good. Choose this VPN only if your activities are not very sensitive.
Speed and performance
HideMyAss can’t hide your ass if the NSA is looking for it, but can they at least hastily obscure it?
The answer is a resounding yes – HMA! offers some of the best coverage. Their servers number 890+, which isn’t that much to brag about, but they do claim to have servers in more than 190 countries. That, my friends, is a hell of a lot.
Of course, you have to take that with a grain of salt, since they’ve been found to exaggerate how many physical servers they have (as opposed to virtual servers). But more on that further below.
But let’s take our first look at server speed. VPN speed is one of those topics where discerning the reality can be challenging. Regular, over-the-counter speed testing methods will give you some sort of idea, but all they really show is the speed of your connection during some moment in time, and whilst connected to a specific VPN server. Consequently, it is always best to test for yourself – your home or work is the most relevant to you.
Unfortunately, this is not optimal for our purposes, because our HideMyAss review tries to make a statement about how fast it is on average. But we’ve tested, and it’s not as fast as it claims.
Our test started in Europe, with a no-VPN speed of 262 Mbps, 215 Mbps upload, and virtually non-existent latency. We tested these speeds 3 times over 2 days, to ensure that we’re getting pretty regular results.
We’ll calculate the speeds for servers in four different locations, both as absolute speeds (in Mbps), as well as in the percentage loss from the base speed.
Turning on HideMyAss and moving to the UK resulted in 30 Mbps download and 5 Mbps upload speed. That’s a pretty terrible result, seeing as it’s the server nearest to our location.
With a base speed of 262 Mbps, that resulted in a loss of -89%. But it only gets worse. However, you’d still be able to stream 4K movies with these speeds.
US, New York
Crossing the Atlantic turned out to be a pretty big task for HMA! – download speed plummeted to 18 Mbps, but the upload remained the same. This represents a speed loss of -93%.
The numbers are still good for almost any task, including streaming HD content. But don’t even think about streaming 4K movies and ending with online gaming.
Here, all the numbers are bad. You’ll be barely able to scrape by trying to stream HD content with these kinds of speeds. At 7 Mbps, that’s a -98% loss.
Hopping to the other side of the world left us with slightly better speeds than what we had above with HMA’s Tokyo servers. A speed of 8 Mbps represents a -97% loss, and the upload speed isn’t great either. That’s in addition to the serious 314 ms latency, which suggests waving online gaming goodbye.
In conclusion, we can say that HideMyAss! offers inconsistent speeds that seem to be getting worse. Our first speed tests showed losses of only about -20% or less, but that was a few months ago. Now, we’re faced with speed losses of around -90% or more.
Yes, the upload and latency crater, but that’s a price you will play most of the time when trying to cover 5-digit distances. Just keep in mind that your experience might differ from ours, so making a test during your 30-day refund guarantee period would be the Solomonic choice.
HMA’s virtual servers
Another issue we’ll have to bring up in this sad section is HMA’s use of virtual servers. Virtual servers, as you know, claim to be in one location (for example, Hong Kong), but are physically located in another place (like Seattle, Washington). This is because servers that are closer to your physical location are faster, but you still get the benefits of the virtual location’s IP address.
In that way, for best speeds if I’m in Germany, I can connect to a US virtual server, which is actually located in the UK. The use of virtual servers is fairly common with VPN providers, but usually they will identify which servers are virtual and which aren’t.
For example, HMA identifies these virtual servers when you search for them. Usually they show up as “Virtual Location (via Real Location)” as we can see here when looking for UK servers:
Easy enough to identify, right? Actually, no. According to recent research, HMA has been lying about how many virtual servers they’re actually using. In their study, the researchers write that:
The provider offering the most ‘virtual’ vantage points by far is HideMyAss. An analysis of more than 150 of their endpoints reveals relatively few physical locations. Dozens of locations in North, Central or South America, for instance, appear to be based out of the Seattle area, while dozens more vantage points appear to be based out of Miami, Prague, London and possibly Berlin. HideMyAss specifically advertises ‘virtual’ locations separately from physical servers, but still includes many clearly virtualized vantage points (like North Korea) in their list of physical servers.
What this means is that HMA is lying about how many real, physical servers they have in certain locations – and lying is never a good thing.
How to download it
“Why” is always the better question, not least because there isn’t much to say about the “how”.
You’ll need to go to the HideMyAss website. That may sound easy, but we had problems accessing it. Then we disconnected from our VPN and it worked. Odd and slightly disconcerting.
From there on it’s easy:
- Choose a pricing plan or go for the free trial.
- Create an account.
- Download the app.
How to install it
We went through the whole process for this HideMyAss review. Simple conclusion: if you’ve installed anything ever, you’ll know your way around HMA.
- Find the installer in your download directory.
- Right-click it and press “Run as Administrator”.
- Follow the instructions (“Next” a few times, choose an installation directory).
Congratulations (or condolences, as may be the case) – you have installed HMA! Pro.
How to use HideMyAss
Everyone’s brains work differently, and therefore discussions about GUIs can get very subjective. We would assume that HideMyAss is a good illustration of this.
HMA! have made an unorthodox software decision. They have introduced a new client but have also kept the old version. HMA! Pro 4+ is a highly simplified version of the client. It offers significantly fewer options and instead focuses on simplicity and design. We can’t really argue – it looks great. On the other hand, the older version has almost all the same features and more. Which is why this HideMyAss review shall cover both the new (4.3) and the old (220.127.116.11) versions, since version 2.x is where HMA!’s actual strengths lie.
HideMyAss 2.x is dead…
Let‘s start with the HideMyAss! v. 4.x interface. Namely, its three connection modes:
- Instant Mode will connect you to the server nearest to your location.
- Location Mode will let you choose a location.
- Freedom Mode will connect you to the nearest free-speech country.
The “Instant Mode” is pretty self-explanatory: push a button, get your connection VPNized. Simple? Yes. Instant? Quite. Boring? You decide.
On the other hand, HMA!’s “Location mode” lets you spice up your VPN experience with a decision or two. You get to choose your server location, and if you’re in some kind of a wild decision-making frenzy, HideMyAss! will offer you a further choice of specialized P2P and streaming servers.
Don’t get too excited yet, though. While the P2P server menu seems abundant enough, to keep you from suffering choice paralysis, HMA! gives you a whopping total of 2 (yes, two) streaming servers to choose from: the hilariously named UK Donkey Town and the US Liberty Island servers. Naming conventions aside, both streaming servers managed to bypass their respective geo-blocking restrictions, which is a win in our book.
Then there’s the “Freedom mode.” In theory, it’s supposed to automatically connect you to the nearest free-speech country, which in our case was the exact same HideMyAss! server that we got connected to in the “Instant mode.” The term “illusion of choice” seemed apt here, but for those in other parts of the world, the “Freedom mode” might indeed work as intended.
When you open the HideMyAss! “Preferences” menu, you get three tabs to choose from: General, Network security, and Kill switch.
The “General” tab is pretty basic, giving you the startup preferences and the option to display or hide your recent server connections.
The “Network security” tab is where HMA! finally gives you something to tinker with. Apart from selecting the VPN’s behavior when connected to an unsecured WiFi, here you can toggle the “IP shuffle” and “Use TCP only” functions.
IP shuffle is a tool that automatically switches between VPN servers in the same country every set period of time, thus randomly changing your IP address to confuse any potential onlookers. Great for increased anonymity, less great for connection stability.
Speaking of stability, the option to Use TCP only allows you to set TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) as HMA!‘s preferred protocol, which will make your connection more stable and secure at the expense of speed.
The “Kill switch” tab does pretty much exactly what it says on the cover: it allows you to toggle HMA!‘s kill switch function and add apps as exceptions to keep them connected in the event of a VPN connection failure.
And… that’s that. As we said, the newer HMA! version exchanges an abundance of settings for the sake of simplicity, and it shows. Fortunately for more advanced users, they still have the option to use the older version, which we will dissect below.
…long live HideMyAss 2.x!
The older HMA Pro client has a very basic, no BS feel. It’s clear and well-structured, the options have useful explanations, and it’s difficult to get lost. Perhaps therein lies the subjectivity – this basic approach can feel too textual for some. We prefer plain text over image-heavy GUIs, but this is understandably just personal preference.
HideMyAss greets you with a login screen, which leads to a “Dashboard”. You’ll see a menu on the left with the primary functions. Each item has a submenu on the right, and there are also some useful support links at the top.
The “Dashboard” menu lets you log in (if you haven’t done so already) and connect to VPN. It has a Quick VPN location change drop down menu and a Connection Log. You’ll also see a Diagnostics tab where you can test your connection – not useful for most users but the report can certainly help HideMyAss’ Support. The “Dashboard” Settings tab offers some important choices:
- Startup configuration:
- Launch on operating system startup
- Auto-connect after launch
- Start minimized
- Load balancing. Quite a nice feature: if the server you are connecting to has a load of over 30%, it will notify you of an alternative server in the same city. HMA! will also offer to connect to the less crowded server automatically. Your choices here:
- Choose whether HMA! should search for servers in the same City, State, Country, or Location (#LOC)
- Choose what the server load must be for HMA! to start looking at different servers.
- Auto Path. This is an interesting one: when Enabled, Auto Path will search for the fastest route to the VPN server, instead of simply using the chosen settings. To be more specific, it will switch between OpenVPN-UDP and OpenVPN-TCP, as well as try alternate ports. It is important to note that this feature only works with OpenVPN and would be more powerful if HideMyAss offered other secure protocols. As it stands, their only other choice is PPTP – an insecure, outdated security protocol.
- Notifications. Turn them off, obviously…
The “Country Selection” menu is where you can make a more-informed server choice. There’s a Quick server search and you can choose to list All servers or only Cities/Locations. The latter choice seems rather pointless because all it does is add or remove the location code from the server tagline. Below you can decide whether to connect to a specific server, random server or give HMA! a list of servers to randomly connect to. Some will find this very useful.
The HMA! “Country Selection” menu offers a list of 10 servers nearest to your location but unfortunately doesn’t give you the ping. Luckily a speed test function does exist, just in a different menu (Speed guide).
You can also have a look at the map and pick a server that way. Or so HideMyAss would have me believe because the map just wouldn’t load. One might say it hid its ass…
HMA’s “IP address settings” displays your IP address. You can make the VPN change it periodically and at random. Here you can also check your IP address against the HideMyAss IP database, which is pretty neat. In the “IP History” tab you can enable IP History Logging if, for some reason, you would like to know what IP was assigned to you at any moment in time.
These features are good, although some are more meaningful than others. The only thing we take issue with is this dispersion of available “settings”. Some are on the Dashboard, others have their separate menus – it seems counterintuitive to do it this way, rather than just have one “Settings” menu with a bunch of tabs.
“Secure IP bind” is Windows HMA Pro’s kill switch. What is a kill switch? Well, it’s a feature that provides a failsafe against unexpected connection disruptions. When this happens, your data might leak and become visible to entities you’d rather hide it from. In the event of a disconnection, a kill switch shuts your traffic down. There are several types of kill switch commonly found on the VPN market. Most can be divided into two categories:
- The app kill switch. This will kill only the apps of your choosing.
- The network kill switch. This will stop all internet traffic.
HideMyAss is slightly unusual in this area, because it has different kill switch varieties for Windows and Mac. The former has an app kill switch, while the latter has a network kill switch. It is also unusual because the (old) Windows app will ask you to install the kill switch separately. This is an approach our HideMyAss review hates with a passion so intense, that it rivals our feelings towards spatulas in kitchen drawers. With that said, the newer version of HMA! Pro doesn’t have this issue.
As previously mentioned, the “Speed guide” will let you speed test HMA’s servers. There are even several types of tests to choose from (as well as a “History” tab where you can track performance).
In “Proxy settings” you can set up an HTTP or a SOCKS5 proxy connection. To do that you’ll have to click one or the other and enter the necessary connection details. Using a proxy will give you an extra (flimsy) layer of security, which, frankly, HideMyAss could use. Realistically speaking though, proxies are not an answer – your security will depend on the quality of the proxy, and your connection speed will likely suffer quite badly.
By the way, HideMyAss also offers a free web proxy, which you can find on their site.
That’s all there is to know! Our HideMyAss review rates the interface and some of the features quite highly, but there are real shortcomings if we compare the old or the new app to industry leaders.
Apps and Extensions
HMA! has custom apps for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and Linux. That covers all major bases and the Linux version is a little bit extra. Not all VPNs offer a Linux client, although many support the operating system. There is no router app either, but you can make HMA! work on routers if you’re good at following instructions. Although if you were, you probably wouldn’t bother using HideMyAss in the first place, would you now?
While we haven’t tried all the apps for this HideMyAss review, let’s talk about some of the apps for platforms other than Windows. What about the Mac version?
Well, for one thing, there’s no old version available for Mac and that’s quite a shame. On the other hand, the Mac client is safer to use, because it doesn’t seem as inclined to leak your IP. That doesn’t mean the issue doesn’t exist – it’s just more difficult to stumble into.
You’ll be able to choose the server location along with a few other things, but there really isn’t much room for customization here. More advanced users will miss some of the features available on the old Windows version.
One thing can be said for this newer, prettier version of HMA! – it transitions very smoothly to both Android and iOS. There is one serious shortcoming when it comes to HMA! on mobile though. While OpenVPN is more or less enough for the desktop, IKEv2 is by far the preferred protocol for mobile devices. This is because IKEv2 offers better protection from leaks when the connection jumps from Wi-Fi to mobile data. That’s one more knock against HideMyAss’ security credentials.
HideMyAss for Netflix
HideMyAss!’s servers used to be blocked from streaming Netflix, but not anymore. Good speeds and a large network are the most important things for streaming purposes – HMA VPN has both. Fortunately, the VPN has managed to bypass the Netflix filter with its specialized server. For the time being.
Netflix has its own speed test Fast.com which we used to check the nominal speed before testing if HideMyAss unblocks the content. Our speed in Europe without a VPN was 37 Mbps. Please have this mind when deciding about the speeds we’ve got in other continents and look at them more like a percentage from original speed. We also invite you to run the same test from your location to know if you have chances to access your preferred Netflix library.
US, New York, “Liberty Island” streaming server
16 Mbps is more than enough for HD content streaming but not good enough for UHD which requires 25 Mbps. We managed to access Netflix US library and stream a show. Loading and skipping takes a couple of seconds, and there’s no stuttering at all.
US, San Jose and LA
We had a 4 Mbps drop off before reaching San Jose, but that didn’t matter as we got blocked by Netflix. Strangely, HMA’s San Jose server was detected as in Phoenix, which is more than 600 miles away and might have some impact if not on the bandwidth, then on latency and overall connectivity. Switching to an LA server gave us 20 Mbps but not the access to Netflix US library. Using the Netflix-optimized Liberty Island seems to be the better option.
Canada, Montreal or Toronto
Blocked when trying both locations. The speed was 14 Mbps – enough for HD.
13 Mbps – very good considering the distance. And most importantly – we had our show unblocked! Loading and skipping took a bit longer than in New York, but that’s not a biggie when streaming is smooth.
United Kingdom, London
23 Mbps – would’ve expected more since we’re still in Europe and there are still some more Mbps lacking for that UHD. But the most important thing is that neither London nor Glasgow server allowed us to binge on our show. Luckily, there was the streaming-optimized “Donkey Town” UK server. In addition to unblocking Netflix and BBC iPlayer, it managed never-seen-before 30 Mbps, meaning we finally had a chance to witness some serious drama in 4K. Loading and skipping took less than a couple of seconds as streaming was stutter-less.
The Netherlands, Amsterdam
33 Mbps but didn’t unblock.
30 Mbps without the access. Even a server routed via New York couldn’t do any good. And if it did, 3 Mbps would mean watching SD – who does that these days?
15 Mbps – after getting almost the same from Australia, we were a bit disappointed. But we felt totally upset when we’d found out that there will be no Netflix today.
All in all, we can say that we expected both better speeds and better unblocking capabilities from HideMyAss. The biggest issue was that of all US servers, only one in the East Coast is optimized for streaming and none seemed to work in California. Therefore, we can recommend HideMyAss for Netflix only if you live around New York or London. If not, your last chance is down in Australia.
It is unclear how good HMA is for HBO, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, etc., but at the very least we would investigate before buying.
HideMyAss for Torrenting
Yes, HMA! has got you covered for speed: there‘s a mighty wind blowing, caressing the white sails of your frigate. You stand proud as your Jolly Roger flutters giddily – a harbinger of top loot. Yarrr, etc.
Well, hold onto your hat there, cowboy of the seas. Fast you may be, but protected you are not. If we were you, which, clearly, we aren‘t, we‘d steer that HMA! boat clear of torrents. It has too many issues:
- The company is based in the UK – a country that couldn‘t care less about your privacy.
- HMA! has cooperated with the authorities in the past and doesn‘t make it a secret that they may do it again if necessary.
- Even if that doesn‘t end up happening, HMA! has leaks that could give your IP away to unwanted persons.
So, curb your enthusiasm and catch Larry David on Netflix!
Is it good for users in China?
This is a tough one: are you browsing something benign? Or would you like to find out how Ai Wei Wei‘s doing these days? If it‘s the first, maybe you can get away with using HideMyAss (although we wouldn‘t recommend trying). If it‘s the second, perhaps try one of these: NordVPN, ExpressVPN.
Life is short and best spent outdoors!
With that said, the service seems to work in China quite well. Although, granted, we base this section of our HideMyAss review mainly on reports.
HideMyAss has decent support resources. Their website is easy to navigate and you‘ll find no trouble getting to the Support section. You can get there straight from the app as well.
HMA! doesn‘t have the highest number of guides and troubleshooting articles, but they do cover a lot of the more important topics. There are also community forums with lots of threads on general VPN usage or issues specific to different versions of the app.
If that has failed to get your issues taken care of – get in touch with HMA support staff by creating a support ticket or via the 24/7 live chat function. The word on the street is that the chat is very responsive, although not necessarily capable of dealing with the most complex issues. Unfortunately, we are neither able to confirm nor deny this after getting a message “Sorry, we aren’t online at the moment.” more than a few times in a row.
We‘ve established in our HideMyAss Review that it isn‘t very secure but offers good speed. Should you buy it for Netflix or some other purpose where security doesn‘t matter? Depends on the price, right?
HMA! Pro has three pricing plans: 1 month for $11.99, 12 months for $6.99 a month, and 24 months for $4.99 a month. That makes it neither very expensive nor particularly cheap, more or less the same as ExpressVPN, NordVPN or CyberGhost. Is it as good as any of them, you ask? No way in hell!
It‘s not even like you can choose many ways to pay those extortionate fees for that mediocre product. You can pay by card or PayPal – there’s no crypto option. I suppose that doesn’t make HMA! much worse than it would be otherwise. After all, security is something you‘d better seek out elsewhere.
What else should you be seeking elsewhere? Clarity about the refund policy. There is a 7-day free trial, after which you will be automatically charged $83.88 for a 12-month plan because you have to leave your credit card details before downloading the client. There’s also a 30-day money back guarantee, but it doesn’t say if it applies after the 7-day trial. It comes with even more strings attached, though. HMA will limit your bandwidth, and apparently, it’s better not to overstep that boundary (or you’re not getting your money back). That is a very sneaky and desperate move. In their Support page, updated July 2018, they state there are no bandwidth, speed, or (re)connect limitations whatsoever. Yet in their April 1, 2018 article “How to apply for a refund”, it’s clearly stated that you will not get your money’s worth if you used 10 GB or more of bandwidth, or had 100 or more sessions. Seems like a really bad April’s Fool joke to us, if you ask.
Bottom line of our HideMyAss Review
As our HideMyAss review shows – it may sound cool, but there’s nothing cool about being lax on online privacy. This company has shown time and again that they are not the champions of anonymity we hoped them to be. If you need a VPN for truly sensitive activities – move along, this is not the VPN you are looking for.
If, however, you just want to lay down on the couch after a long day and watch some Netflix – you’ve come to the right place, step on in.