Hotspot Shield

I am thinking about signing up for Hotspot Shield protection. It is a software application and service provided by AnchorFree. They are a US-based company working out of California. Essentially they provide a VPN service through their worldwide servers. They will secure your network communications.

Hotspot Shield was first released for Windows and Macintosh back in 2008. They expanded to the iOS and Android mobile markets in 2012. The main features are free. But you may be subjected to ads, a slower connection, and might not be able to use Netflix. There are paid plans that bill monthly ($13) or lifetime ($139). Be warned that the monthly plan might cause you to be nagged to subscribe for the lifetime plan.

The security they provide is, like any VPN, encrypted data. They also hide your IP address from sites you visit. Those sites see AnchorFree's server IP addresses. Of course, using TOR would be a better move to remain anonymous. AnchorFree does have some extras like warning you about malware or arriving at phishing sites.

Although they used to use industry standards such as IKEv2, I hear that AnchorFree has moved to a proprietary protocol called Catapult Hydra. Nobody else uses proprietary protocols for important things like VPNs any more. I wonder what the heck AnchorFree is doing here.

There are plugins for popular browsers like Chrome or Firefox. You can set up your system to automatically connect through the VPN when you are on unsafe WiFi. That sounds really handy. AnchorFree boasts 500M downloads of their product. Strangely enough, I hear that many people actually get speed improvement when going through the VPN. Weird.

AnchorFree claims it does not do logging of your network traffic. But they have a highly suspicious Terms of Service contract that implies otherwise. More like they will not hold onto your info after your session ends. Or they will not store uniquely identifying information about you. That is at best sketchy.

One downside to the AnchorFree plan is their service. You cannot get real time support. You got to submit a ticket, and they will get back to you at some time in the future. Might be an hour. Might be a day. People have classified Hotspot Shield as a no frills or entry level service. So you pretty much get what you pay for. Being the frugal person that I am, might just need to stick with the free plan.