Last update: 06.06.2018

Overview

HideMyAss is quick as lightning but not very good at hiding asses. Decent choice for the casual user!

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 is based in the UK – one of the worst offenders of online privacy in the entire world. There are data-retention laws in place in the UK, and HMA!’s Privacy Policy, therefore, has statements like “we will never voluntarily hand over your personal data to a third party unless we are legally compelled to do so in accordance with English law.” Forgive us if we don’t look reassured…

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 (760+), 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, 6 months for $7.99, and 12 months for $6.99. With that said, you can – and should – get more for less with NordVPN or CyberGhost.

Contents

Is HideMyAss safe to use?
Speed & Performance
How to download it
How to install it
How to use HideMyAss
Apps and Extensions
HideMyAss for Netflix
HideMyAss for Torrenting
Is it good for users in China?
Support
Pricing
Bottom Line

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. HideMyAss has already demonstrated that their no-logging policy means very little. 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 & 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! is very fast and offers some of the best coverage. Their servers number 760+, which isn’t much to brag about, but they can be found in more than 190 countries. That, my friends, is a hell of a lot.

Want to stream a local Pitcairn Islands reggae station or watch a Tokelauan Jerry Springer? No problem whatsoever. The examples are purposely flippant, but there are situations where this huge server spread may conceivably come in handy.

Let’s get a bit more precise about speed. VPN speed is one of those topics where understanding 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 HMA VPN review tries to make a statement about how fast it is on average. But we’ve tested, and it’s very fast indeed!

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:

  1. Choose a pricing plan or go for the free trial.
  2. Create an account.
  3. Download the app.

How to install it

If you’ve installed anything ever, you’ll know your way around HideMyAss.

  1. Find the installer in your download directory.
  2. Right-click it and press “Run as Administrator”.
  3. 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 3+ 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 really good. On the other hand, the older version has almost all the same features and more. We should just mention the newer version’s 3 connection modes:

  1. Instant Mode will connect you to the server nearest to your location.
  2. Location Mode will let you choose a location.
  3. Freedom Mode will connect you to the nearest free-speech country.

This version of HMA! transitions rather smoothly to Mac, Android and iOS. But let’s talk about the old version 2.8.24.0 – that’s where the strengths lie.

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:

  1. Startup configuration:
    1. Launch on operating system startup
    2. Auto-connect after launch
    3. Start minimized
  2. 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:
    1. Enable/Disable
    2. Choose whether HMA! should search for servers in the same City, State, Country, or Location (#LOC)
    3. Choose what the server load must be for HMA! to start looking at different servers.
  3. 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.
  4. 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:

  1. The app kill switch. This will kill only the apps of your choosing.
  2. 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. We hate this 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! We like HMA‘s interface and some of the features, but there are some 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?

Anyway…

We’ve discussed HMA’s Windows apps at length. 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 preferable 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 used to be good for streaming Netflix, but not anymore. Good speeds and a large network are the most important things for streaming purposes – HMA VPN has both. Unfortunately, you can’t use the speed if you can’t access the platform. 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 boat clear of torrents with HMA!. 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!

Support

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 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.

Pricing

We‘ve established that HideMyAss isn‘t very secure but does offer 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 $11.52, 6 months for $8.33 a month, and 12 months for $6.55 a month. That makes it neither very expensive nor particularly cheap. But it is more expensive than both NordVPN and CyberGhost. Is it better than either, 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.

There is a 30-day free trial/money-back guarantee available, but it comes with strings attached. HMA will limit your bandwidth, and apparently, it’s better not to overstep that boundary (or you’re not getting your money back). If true, that would be a very sneaky and desperate move.

Is HMA VPN any good?

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 hope them to be. If you need a VPN for truly sensitive activities – move along, there‘s nothing to see here.

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.