HideMyAss (HMA) VPN Review – Why It Is NOT Recommended
Pros of HideMyAss
- User-friendly apps with strong encryption
- Large server network
- Live chat support
- Works with Netflix
- Now a “no-log VPN”
Cons of HideMyAss
- No monthly subscription plans
- Mediocre speeds
- Troubling history of data sharing
- UK jurisdiction (bad for privacy)
- Buggy kill switch (with IP leaks)
Additional review findings
- HideMyAss company history and acquisition by AVG / Avast
- HMA’s use of virtual server locations
- Is HMA a good VPN for torrenting? (No)
HideMyAss VPN Pros
1. User-friendly apps with strong encryptionHMA offers user-friendly VPN apps for all major devices and operating systems. Due to the popularity of Windows, I thoroughly tested the HMA Windows VPN client for this review. In the image above, you can see that the HMA Windows VPN client shows you the connection status, server location, and your new IP address (as well as your original IP). The Windows client also comes with a number of customization options and features. You can configure how you want the VPN to startup on your device and how the kill switch should work to block non-VPN traffic. Unfortunately, I found problems with the kill switch (more on this below in the “cons” section).
HMA VPN encryptionHMA uses the industry-standard AES 256-bit encryption, which is implemented through OpenVPN on Windows and Android devices and via IPSec/IKEv2 on Mac OS and iOS:
HMA uses only the highest encryption standard: 256-bit AES. On Windows and Android, we implement it with the OpenVPN protocol in Galois Counter Mode (AES-256-GCM), with 4096-bit RSA keys for handshakes, authenticated with SHA256. On Mac and iOS, we implement it with IKEv2/IPsec, built atop Apple’s own stack, to ensure the best compatibility.While IPSec/IKEv2 is indeed a secure VPN protocol, the industry standard is OpenVPN. As such, it would be good to see the OpenVPN protocol supported on Mac OS as well. With iOS, the operating system is somewhat restricted to IKEv2. Another emerging VPN protocol is WireGuard, which promises faster speeds and upgraded security. HMA does not support WireGuard at this time. If you are a Mac OS user and you want to utilize the OpenVPN protocol (recommended) then check out my guide on the best VPNs for Mac OS for other alternatives.
2. Large server networkHide My Ass claims to have “the biggest VPN network” with “1000+ VPN servers in 290+ locations covering 190+ countries.” If you look at their server map and location list, you find some very strange places. For example, HMA claims to have servers in North Korea: I can tell you with 100% certainty that HMA does not have physical servers in North Korea. Instead, they are using virtual server locations, and we’ll explain this more below. Putting the virtual server issue aside, HMA still has a pretty big server network. This may be beneficial for some users who want or need IP addresses in remote locations – such as North Korea… There are also some other VPNs with large server networks around the world, particularly NordVPN and IPVanish.
3. Live chat supportLike many other VPN providers, HideMyAss provides live chat support. Their support staff appears to be located in the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, HMA does not offer 24/7 support: Their support hours are 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM UK time, seven days a week. However, I tried support on a Saturday morning around 8:30 AM UK time and there was nobody available. So perhaps HMA support is hit or miss.
4. Works with Netflix (but very limited)Another benefit of HideMyAss is that it works with Netflix on specific US servers. I saw complaints about HideMyAss not working with Netflix, but the support staff recommends using specific servers in New York. I tested out American Netflix from my location in Europe and found everything to work without problems. To access Netflix with HideMyAss, I connected to the New York server and streamed videos as normal. On a negative note, HideMyAss VPN does not offer support for other regions outside of the United States. Unblocking with Netflix appears to be hit or miss with US servers, as reported by various HMA users. Due to this limitation, HMA is probably not the best Netflix VPN at this time. Some other VPNs, such as NordVPN and Surfshark, support a wide variety of Netflix libraries around the world. HMA, however, seems to only work with US Netflix at the time of this review.
5. Now a “no-log VPN”Earlier this year, HMA VPN officially transitioned to being a no logs VPN service. Before this change, HideMyAss was infamous for logging user data and providing it to authorities, which we’ll cover below in the cons section. Here was the previous logging policy of HMA VPN:
Cons of HMA VPNNow let’s look at the not-so-good aspects of HMA VPN.
1. No monthly subscription plansOne strange thing with HideMyAss is that they have removed any option to pay on a month-to-month basis. Instead, HMA VPN only provides you with a one or three-year subscription plan. Here’s what their pricing page looks like. This may be frustrating for users who don’t want to commit to a long-term plan. Fortunately, all plans come with a 30 day money-back guarantee. This gives you plenty of time to test out the VPN and cancel your subscription if it doesn’t work well – similar to a free trial VPN service. They are also offering a 7 day free trial option. I asked one of their chat representatives why they removed the monthly plan, which I remember seeing on their website before. He explained it was in response to customer requests. He also explained they offer a hidden link for those still wanting the monthly subscription (you can ask support about this). On the topic of price, HMA is in the middle of the road. I wouldn’t classify it as a cheap VPN, even with the three year plan at $4.29 per month. The one-year plan is also not too cheap, at $6.99 per month.
2. HMA VPN slow speedsAnother problem I observed when testing out HMA for this review was slow speeds. My baseline speed for testing is 160 Mbps (without a VPN). I ran all tests using a wired ethernet connection. First, I tested nearby servers around the EU. These should have provided speeds close to my baseline speed. Germany server: 58 Mbps Using a nearby server in Germany, HMA could only provide about 58 Mbps. This is certainly not good given my (close) proximity to the test server. Next, I tested a server in Switzerland. Again, I was expecting speeds close to my baseline speed, but it was slower. Switzerland server: 57 Mbps I also tested a server in the United Kingdom. UK server: 51 Mbps The UK server was the slowest one I tested in Europe. Next I tested servers in the US and Canada, which also were not great in terms of performance. New York server: 34 Mbps Next up was a server in Miami, Florida. Lastly, I tested a server in Chicago. Overall these are not good results. I did not get anywhere close to my baseline speed with any of these tests. With longer distances between me and the VPN server, you can expect slower performance. However, 34 Mbps on a 160 Mbps line with less than 100 MS latency is certainly not good. As a comparison, I could regularly get around 140 Mbps with ExpressVPN servers in the US (see the ExpressVPN review). HMA servers I tested in Toronto, Canada were also similar to US speeds (around 40 Mbps). If you want a consistently fast VPN, I’d recommend checking out NordVPN or ExpressVPN.
3. Troubling history of data sharingNo review of HideMyAss would be complete without discussing the case where HideMyAss handed over data logs for a court case. According to Invisibler,
It appears that the FBI traced a hack into Sony back to an IP address owned by HMA and promptly got a UK court oder, demanding logs from HMA an incident HMA dubbed the “LulzSec Fiasco” in a post on their blog on September 23rd, 2011.The 25 year old HideMyAss user received a one year prison term, one year home detention, 1,000 hours of community service, and was also ordered to pay $605,663 to Sony Pictures. This isn’t the first time a VPN has shared data about one of its users. IPVanish shared data with the FBI concerting a criminal complaint. While nobody here advocates illegal activity, this case shows that HMA can and will share customer data with third parties. This point is less of an issue today, however, now that HMA is a no-logs VPN.
4. UK jurisdiction (bad for privacy)Hide My Ass is a UK VPN service and must abide by all UK laws and regulations. Despite being owned by Avast, which is a cybersecurity company in the Czech Republic, HMA VPN continues to operate under UK jurisdiction. This is an important consideration. The UK is a member of the 5 Eyes surveillance alliance, which facilitates the collection and sharing of mass surveillance data with other countries. Aside from this formal agreement, US companies can use the UK court system to obtain customer data, such as with the LulzSec case above. Generally speaking, I would not recommend VPNs that operate under UK jurisdiction due to privacy concerns. However, this really depends on your threat model and reasons for using a VPN.
5. Buggy kill switch (with IP leaks)For this HMA review, I ran some basic VPN tests to identify any major leaks or problems. Before testing, I ensured all leak protection settings were enabled: Next, I ran the VPN through some tests with the website ipleak.net. These tests included switching servers and simulating network interruptions to test if the kill switch was effectively blocking traffic. In some instances, I noticed that the kill switch was not working properly, resulting in an IP address leak (IPv4). Below you can see that my real IPv4 address was leaking out of the VPN tunnel, despite having a connection to an HMA server in France. I’m not certain what exactly was the root cause of the IP address leaks and this may have been an isolated issue with the specific version I was testing. Of course, you can also run these VPN tests to verify if everything is working correctly.
Additional review findingsBelow are a few items that do not really fit into the ‘pros’ or ‘cons’ category.
Our website www.hidemyass.com and services are operated by Privax Limited, which is a limited company registered in England under company registration number 07207304, with our registered office at 110 High Holborn, London, WC1V 6JS, United Kingdom.Finally, their End User License Agreement specifies that the United States will be used for arbitration if there is a dispute. This seems strange, since the company is operating from London.
HideMyAss uses virtual server locationsAnother interesting aspect with HMA VPN is how much the company uses virtual server locations. In a nutshell, a virtual server location is when the IP address of a server appears to be in a country where it is not physically located. For example, HMA might have a “Dubai” server that is actually located in Europe. The IP address will be registered to Dubai, but the actual server will be located somewhere else. The use of virtual server locations is not necessarily bad. Other VPNs offer this to provide more locations around the world, such as with PureVPN. HMA describes this as a “brand-new feature” on their website:
We provide virtual locations for many countries, e.g. Canada, Portugal, Indonesia, Malaysia etc.This article is dated September 2021, and this is a bit misleading because HMA has been doing this for years. Additionally, we’ve found that HMA is not entirely honest about its use of virtual server locations. In fact, many locations that aren’t labeled as virtual are indeed virtual.
Is HMA a good VPN for torrenting?Historically, HMA VPN was a very bad choice for torrenting. This was because it collected logs and IP addresses of its users, which it could potentially share with third parties. HMA VPN would also pass on DMCA complaints directly to the user, which was easy to do since they kept logs. However, today, HMA VPN does not keep logs and they also offer P2P serves for torrenting. But there are still a few drawbacks. First, HMA has slow speeds, which will get in the way of quickly downloading/torrenting large files. The second problem is that HMA only supports torrenting on these five servers:Prague, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, London, and New York. If you want a good VPN for torrenting, there are other options to consider.
HMA review conclusionOverall, HMA VPN is a decent VPN provider, but it doesn’t compare to some of the other big names in the industry. While HMA has made progress in some areas, such as with the no-logs audit, there are still other areas to improve, such as speeds and security (leak protection). If you need a basic VPN and you don’t mind the higher prices, bad jurisdiction, and the other drawbacks we discuss, then you can give it a try. After all, they do offer a full 30 day money-back guarantee on all plans. Unless you are determined to get HMA VPN, there are some other great VPNs worth considering.
Alternatives to HMA VPNClick the VPN name below to read our full review – or grab the discount for the best savings. All three of these VPNs have a 30 day money-back guarantee.
- ExpressVPN [49% discount + 3 Months Free]
- NordVPN [68% discount]
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