VPN Review: HideMyAss!
"I don't have anything to hide, why should I care about online privacy?" Data privacy activists are confronted with this argument, and others like it, on a nearly daily basis. The somewhat apocryphal 'Hawthorne effect' contends that everyone behaves differently, even when they simply think that they are being observed, while abuses of privacy should never be trivialized. Even if you have "nothing to hide".
HideMyAss flips the skeptics' argument, asserting that it is normal to want to hide things and that it is the best service for doing so. With its crass name and cartoonish logo, the provider certainly draws quite a bit of attention to itself; our test shows whether this is justified, or just a load of horse sh...
What Is HideMyAss?
HideMyAss (HMA), founded in 2005, is a UK-based VPN service. Since 2016, HMA has been owned by Avast, a Czech security software developer perhaps best known for their anti-virus programs. HMA meshes well with the rest of Avast's portfolio: Through its huge server network, users can protect their privacy and establish secure connections.
Pros and Cons
Massive server infrastructure, especially in regions typically ignored by other providers
Random IP selection feature
Apps look a bit stale
No split tunneling in the desktop client
Not really well-suited for streaming
Installation and Features
After purchasing an HMA license, you can connect the desktop client to your account in one of two ways: Either through logging in with your user data, or entering the activation code that you received following purchase of the license. You only need to log in once, as thereafter, you will always be automatically logged in.
The service's applications are compatible with Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and Linux, as well as routers, gaming consoles, and smart TVs. Depending on your subscription, you'll be able to register and simultaneously use either 5 or 10 devices.
You can download the installation files for all supported operating systems directly from HMA's website.
The most recent version of HMA has a slightly more tidy interface. Whereas in the past, you could alternate between three different connection modes, now, there's only a single connection area, in which a VPN tunnel is created by clicking on the On/Off button. Below that, you can select your server's location, with "Lightning Fast Connection" set as default.
By default, you'll automatically be connected with the quickest available server, however, you can change this to a specific server.
Once a VPN connection has been created, the donkey changes into a different outfit. Below this, you'll also see your original IP address as well as the new IP address you're using. You can change this IP address by clicking on it, which comes in handy if you're confronted with download limits. In this way, you won't have to disconnect/reconnect to reset your IP address.
We hope that the service offers better protection than its mascot's disguises do.
You can open the server list by clicking on "Location". After that, you'll be able to sort these by region, suitability for streaming or P2P, or to mark favorites by clicking on the heart symbol next to a particular server. Should a country have multiple servers, you can select from these by clicking on the arrow to the right. Here, you'll also be shown if it's a real server or a virtual one.
Unfortunately, despite all of the detail, the server lists don't provide any information about their usage, which could result in poor upload and download speeds, or high pings.
Lots of categories are provided for filtering servers.
By clicking on the "More" tab in the upper right, a submenu will open in which you can find shortcuts to connection settings, the kill switch, data traffic statistics, and a speed test. The last of these allows you to select multiple servers and compare their download speed and ping to one another. After that, you can directly connect to one of the servers.
The speed test helps to find the faster server.
Settings can be accessed through the gear menu in the top left corner of the interface. Our favorite feature is random IP selection, which allows you to automatically change your IP address for a period of time, making tracking even more difficult. This is a handy function for added security that, unfortunately, isn't all that common among the other VPNs from our sample.
Apart from this, you can also look forward to all of the standard settings, such as auto-start and a kill switch. The latter has two modes: The classic version severs your connection as soon as the VPN encounters an issue, whereas the second mode allows you to choose which apps or programs should disconnect from the VPN in the event of a problem. Selecting this mode also creates a VPN connection whenever you open these apps, even if you haven't started HMA.
Changing VPN protocols isn't possible in the apps as these come automatically configured. You'll either have to do this manually outside of the app or download an older version of the desktop client. The desktop client also lacks split tunneling.
With HMA you can schedule automatic IP address changes.
In comparison to the sleeker clients offered by other VPN providers, HMA's efforts seem a bit stale, and on a 4K screen, washed-out. When it comes to looks, there are more visually appealing VPN clients out there.
The smartphone app for HMA is extremely familiar to its desktop client, most likely because the user interfaces are identical. Here too, you'll find the "Lightning Connect" features, as well as streaming servers and favorites. The only notable absence is the P2P category. Unfortunately, favorites you select in the desktop client aren't synchronized with the mobile app.
HMA's mascot also greets you on your smartphone.
Settings are also a bit sparser in the mobile app than in the desktop client, however, split tunneling is offered. This allows you to designate which apps use your VPN connection and which go through your regular connection.
HMA's user-friendly apps aren't particularly impressive, but they don't have any major deficits either, particularly with regards to features. Split tunnel routing, more protocol options, and real-time server data (apart from the speed test) would make it easier to select servers. Overall though, HMA still offers a good package.
Score: 4 / 5
HMA's features aren't breathtaking, however, its server infrastructure is. HMA stands way above its competitors, offering more than 1,080 VPN servers, in 280 locations, spread across 190 countries, easily surpassing those who claim to offer "wide-reaching" networks. HMA has servers in almost every corner of the globe, even though some of these are 'virtual servers' (and noted as such).
HideMyAss promises "the biggest VPN network in the world", and comes through!
HMA has even staked its claim in regions where other VPN providers have traditionally been less active, such as Central and South America, as well as Africa, and Asia.
Numerically speaking, in terms of servers, HMA lags behind its competitors, however, its geographic 'spread', and truly global coverage, more than compensate for this. In our mind, the geographic distribution of HMA's server network is second to none.
Score: 5 / 5
The speed of all VPNs which we tested was evaluated using a server in Europe with a 1 GB/s connection. We tested random HMA servers in the US and Germany at different times of the day to more accurately assess their performances. More information concerning our methodology can be found in our VPN speed test.
The table below shows the average results from the last 365 days, arranged in order of download and upload speed (descending):
When we performed our assessment, HMA clocked a download speed of 167.7 MB/s and an upload speed of 16.1 MB/s, securing a very respectable fifth place in our ranking. This was not far off from the best providers.
The diagram below shows HMA's average speeds over the past months.
Of course, there's a lot more to performance than just speed, and HMA started out decently here. While using the service for everyday needs, we experienced stable speeds, reliable connections, and no disruptions, such as more captchas than normal.
When we tested HMA for video streaming using its dedicated servers, we had problems accessing Netflix and Amazon Prime Video content from abroad. At the same time, we were able to watch foreign content on Disney+ and the BBC's iPlayer.
Heading to China? You might not want to take the eccentric donkey with you since we couldn't establish any connections during testing. Better options for this include NordVPN, ExpressVPN, or Windscribe.
Score: 4 / 5
Security and Privacy
Nearly all VPN providers promise not to create any logs of their users or their browsing behavior. In most cases, the providers simply have to be taken at their word, leading to scandal when this (far too often) turns out to have not been the case. In the past, HMA couldn't break its "no logs" promise, since it didn't make one to begin with.
Happily, this changed since we last evaluated the service. As of 2021, HMA describes itself as a "No-Log VPN", owing to its 2020 passing of an independent audit conducted by VerSprite.
Of course, being based in the UK remains problematic as that country has been charged by the European Court of Human Rights with engaging in illegal mass surveillance, and is part of the so-called Five Eyes intelligence-sharing agreement. In the worst case, HMA would be legally bound to submit saved information about users and their Internet behavior to British authorities, who, in turn, could share these findings with other governments party to the Five Eyes agreement. Since HMA became a "No-Logs" provider, this has become less of an issue.
When it comes to user security, we didn't find any weaknesses, as the provider passed our VPN leak tests (IPv6, DNS, and WebRTC) without issue. Connections are encrypted with AES 256, the industry-standard, while HMA relies on OpenVPN for its protocols. Unfortunately, WireGuard, the cutting edge in protocols, is not supported.
HMA passed all of EXPERTE.com's leak tests.
Some features, like random IP or the app kill switch also buttress the provider's security.
Although purists might scoff at HMA's earlier stance towards logs, its completion of an independent audit and accompanying "No-Logs" promise should be taken for what they are: big steps in the right direction. Major concerns should be dispelled, leaving users to feel safe entrusting their privacy to the provider.
Score: 4.3 / 5
Since VPN issues often need to be resolved quickly, live chat support (optimally 24/7) is a must for every VPN provider. HMA offers a live chat from 10 AM to 8 PM (UTC).
For less pressing matters, the standard contact form/support ticket is also available.
During testing, we were put in touch with a support staffer within around a minute of entering the live chat.
In the event that you prefer to resolve technical issues on your own, the informative support center offers guides, FAQs, and a forum.
Generally speaking, we felt well taken care of through the live chat, with all of our questions competently answered within a relatively short time. The only downside was that this service isn't available 24/7.
Score: 4.3 / 5
How much you pay for HMA depends on two factors: The length of your subscription (1, 12, or 24 months) and how many devices you would like to use simultaneously (5 or 10). Even though HMA is not one of the most affordable providers we looked at, you can still get a good deal with the 24-month plan.
|36 month||12 month||1 month|
|Base price per month||$2.99||$4.99||$10.99|
|Contract period (months)||24||12||1|
|Number of Devices||5||5||5|
|Number of servers||1,100||1,100||1,100|
|Number of countries||210||210||210|
|No server logs|
HMA subscriptions can be paid for by credit card or PayPal. Payment by BitCoin is not possible.
If uncertain, you can test HMA for for a week, but will need to input your payment information before starting your trial. The provider also offers a 30-day, money-back guarantee.
HideMyAss impresses in a number of ways: Its server infrastructure is unparalleled and covers the entire globe, showing that the glaring absence of other VPN providers from certain regions is not something that needs to, or should be, accepted. Some features which HMA offers, like the automatic IP address changer, set an example that the rest of the industry should follow.
In terms of quality, HMA also does a good job, being one of the fastest providers we looked at. This wasn't much different two years ago when we last reviewed the service, but since then, its major shortcoming, the lack of a "No-Logs" promise, has been rectified in the best way imaginable, namely, an independent security audit.
Time has not been so kind to HMA's app though, as it now looks a bit stale compared to those offered by its competitors. We're also still waiting for split tunneling in the desktop version. Compounding this, you won't want to take the donkey on your next trip to China or ask it for help in streaming some content from abroad. In all of these areas, more attractive offers are available.
HMA received satisfactory to good ratings in the reviews which we examined. Its price is the most often criticized aspect of its service, whereby, the majority of users seem to be very satisfied with HMA's performance.
If you're looking for a more modern app, we were impressed with ProtonVPN, even though their server network can't touch HMA's. On the plus side though, ProtonVPN offers a free plan without data limits.