Last update: 03.25.2019
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!
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.
HideMyAss is based in the UK – one of the worst offenders of online privacy in the entire world.
If you need a VPN solely for popcorn time, HideMyAss might be a good choice., but we wouldn’t recommend it for serious VPN users. Read more about this VPN provider in our HideMyAss review below.
Security and privacy
HMA has the following security features:
- AES-256-CBC encryption
- uses the OpenVPN protocol
- comes with a kill switch
This is not an extensive list of features, which is disappointing. Additionally, the service has recently been 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.
Does HideMyAss keep logs?
First of all, there are numerous issues with the security/privacy protection record of HideMyAss.
Their company is registered in the UK – one of the primary members of the 5 eyes country group. 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.
- License ID
- a time stamp when you connect and disconnect to our VPN service;
- the amount data transmitted (upload and download) during your session;
- the subnet of the IP address used to connect to our VPN (we anonymize the last octet: i.e. 188.8.131.523 becomes 92.145.233.000)
- the IP address of the individual VPN server used by you.
However, their logging policy doesn’t stand up to reality. 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, it should be obvious that this is a deeply compromising situation for a VPN.
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
When it comes to VPN speeds, it is always best to test for yourself – your home or work is the most relevant to you.
However, in our HideMyAss review, we’re trying to determine how fast it is on average. We went ahead and tested it, and it’s not as fast as it claims.
Our test started in Europe, with a base (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.
- Download: 30 Mbps
- Upload: 82 Mbps
- Dropoff: 89%
US, New York
- Download: 18 Mbps
- Upload: 83 Mbps
- Dropoff: 93%
- Download: 7 Mbps
- Upload: 4 Mbps
- Dropoff: 98%
- Download: 8 Mbps
- Upload: 5 Mbps
- Dropoff: 97%
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.
HMA! offers some good 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.
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.
Ease of use and multi-platform support
HMA! has custom apps for:
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.
When it comes to using the VPN, HMA! has 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 will cover both the new (4.3) and the old (184.108.40.206) versions, since version 2.x is where HMA!’s actual strengths lie.
LHideMyAss! v. 4.x has 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. On the other hand, HMA!’s “Location mode” lets you spice up your VPN experience with a decision or two.
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 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.
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
- Load balancing: 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.
- 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 (works only with OpenVPN).
In general, we rate 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.
HideMyAss for Netflix and Kodi
HideMyAss!’s servers used to be blocked from streaming Netflix, but not anymore. Fortunately, the VPN has managed to bypass the Netflix filter with its specialized server.
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. Our speeds ranged from 13-33 Mbps.
Netflix worked on the New York and Melbourne servers, but didn’t work for these servers:
- San Jose and LA
- Montreal or Toronto
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.
What about Kodi?
Since Kodi allows for a range of official and unofficial add-ons, you can definitely find ways to make HMA work on Kodi.
However, depending on what you’ll be using Kodi for, we’d recommend you reconsider since the VPN provider has been shown to keep logs and work with authorities.
HideMyAss for P2P and torrenting
Yes, HMA! has got you covered for speed
But while you may be fast, you won’t be protected. If we were you, we’d keep our torrenting activities far away from HMA. Here’s why:
- 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!
HideMyAss has the following support resources:
- Knowledge base
- Support ticket
- 24/7 live chat
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. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a good experience with this since getting the message “Sorry, we aren’t online at the moment.” more than a few times in a row.
HMA! Pro has three pricing plans:
- 1 month for $11.99
- 12 months for $6.99 a month
- 24 months for $4.99 a month
- 36 months for $2.99 a month
That makes it neither very expensive nor particularly cheap, more or less the same as ExpressVPN, NordVPN or CyberGhost.
You can pay by credit card or PayPal – there’s no crypto option. 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.
This 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.
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.