Hotspot Shield VPN Review – Is It Safe to Use in 2022?

Hotspot Shield Review – the popular VPN blistering with features yet ineffective at Netflix unblocking!

I like the fact that we have one thing in common – the same thirst for getting the best we can get! We heard about something, we instantly go online, Google it a little or maybe test it ourselves.

Since you’re here, we assume you’ve heard about Hotspot Shield VPN, too, and wondering if it’s worth considering. I was sitting at the coffee shop when my friend recommended downloading it. “It’s free,” he said. Now, someone who loves free stuff would instantly download it without giving a second thought, but it was me, blessed with an inert ability to not trust anyone’s suggestion unless I try it myself (I know, it’s rude but it is what it is…).

Hotspot Shield is one popular lad in the VPN industry. It has over 650 million users worldwide with multiple servers in over 80 countries. What’s more fascinating is that it ranked no.1 grossing app for productivity in the American App Store.

However, the service was associated with several controversies, issues, and privacy loopholes. But we can’t judge someone with their past, right?

I am going to review Hotspot Shield today, analyzing its security features, privacy policies, checking for DNS/IP Leak holes, streaming compatibilities, and speed. After all the analysis, I will conclude the Hotspot Shield review with my final verdict about whether it’s worth giving a shot. So, without further ado, let’s get into it.


Hotspot Shield Review – Quick Overview of its key features

Business Location California, United States
Number of servers 32000
Number of country locations 80+ countries
Encryption type AES-256-bit
Log policy Strict no-log policy
Kill Switch Available
Protocol Hydra VPN protocol
Customer Support Live Chat
Split Tunneling Yes
Money-back guarantee 45-day money-back guarantee
Free version Yes
Monthly Price Range $10.99/mo

Hotspot Shield VPN Review – Where is it located?

Hotspot Shield is headquartered in Redwood City, California. It started out as a small-scale VPN service in 2008 with only 1,800 servers in 80 countries. Now, the company has expanded to more regions with servers in South America, North America, Asia Pacific, Africa, and the Middle East.


That all sounds good, but what’s troubling is its headquarters location. See, the U.S is a founding member of the Five Eyes and other international surveillance agencies like Nine Eyes and 14 Eyes. Members of these alliances are legally obligated to obtain their citizen’s information from companies for criminal investigation. It means you don’t have any authority over your data. But you know what, your data is only YOURS and yours to keep and not to anyone, not even a government entity!

However, to clear the air regarding data logging, the company released transparency reports detailing how many requests they received for customer information, but they didn’t release any. We found solace in these yearly reports, but it didn’t last long since the company stopped releasing any since 2018.



Broader server coverage

P2P support

Can’t unblock Netflix

Call blocker and password manager included

Speed is slower than VPNs with WireGuard protocol

Good customer support

Strict data retention laws
Free option available

Complex manual set up

Hotspot Shield VPN Servers and Locations

Hotspot Shield supports a network of 3200+ servers in 85+ countries, with three servers in Canada alone. It’s quite massive and not far behind the 94 countries supported by ExpressVPN.


A widespread servers coverage gives you more options for spoofing location, and it also increases the likelihood of finding a server near your home. More servers also mean less congestion, resulting in better speed and performance.

Full points on the variety of locations severed by Hotspot Shield. It has servers across South America and Africa – two regions repeatedly ignored by VPN companies. The provider also has servers in countries with strict censorship laws, such as Vietnam, Russia, Turkey, and China.


If we compare Hotspot Shield with other VPNs, CyberGhost and NordVPN take the lead with 5600 and 5500 servers, respectively. Having a large server network doesn’t necessarily mean better performance, but it definitely offers more options to find something that works better.

Security, privacy, and logging – How Secure is Hotspot Shield?

The unsaid rule of a VPN service is to provide impenetrable security and guaranteed privacy. If your chosen VPN fails to do this one basic job, then it’s simply not qualified to call itself a VPN service. Here, we will test Hotspot Shield’s security features and analyze its privacy policies, and check for DNS/IP Leaks to find how secure it is:

Does Hotspot Shield VPN Log User Data?

Like most VPNs, Hotspot Shield also claims to have a “strict no logging” policy. It states on its websites,

“We don’t log any data that could be tied to you, shielding your identity and info from hackers and cyber predators.”

That seems fine but a bit vague. I put on my deerstalker hat to investigate Hotspot Shield’s privacy policies and found a couple of things that it keeps a record of, including:

  • Session durations
  • The amount of bandwidth used
  • BIlling and payment details
  • Identify verification details
  • Account details
  • Websites that users visit, but on an anonymized format, so the provider doesn’t know who visited what websites.
  • Devise hashes that Hotspot Shield uses to differentiate between users, especially for services that don’t require users to create an account.
  • Email of live chat information

Hotspot Shield also provides location details to advertisers’ partners, which they claimed to have collected from its Free Android app. So, if you’re using a free version of Hotspot Shield on your Android device, you should know that your location might have been compromised.

What’s more concerning is that Hotspot Shield was also associated with several controversies related to logging. In 2010, the service was widely known for its use by dissidents during Arab Spring protests. It was in hot waters again in 2016 when a group of students cited Hotspot Shield in a research assignment for using tracking cookies in their VPN service. One year later, in 2017, the Center for Democracy and Technology accused the service of conducting shady trade practices. In 2018, it was linked to another data leak. Phewww.., so many controversies to deal with.

Given the problematic past, many VPN reviewers have stopped recommending the service. The VPN got a fresh start in 2019 when it became part of the Pango family of products. Then, a year later, Hotspot Shield and Pango were acquired by Aura, a renowned cybersecurity agency.

Does VPN Hotspot Shield Have Split Tunneling?

No, it does not!

Hotspot Shield doesn’t offer split tunneling, a feature designed to lower your VPN bandwidth usage to improve speed and productivity. It splits your device’s traffic and sends it through two different tunnels: one to your regular network and the other to a VPN-encrypted tunnel.

Consider it as using VPN on some apps and other ones on your regular network. For example, you can stream HBO Max shows with a VPN and browse your local news articles simultaneously. It’s a pretty handy feature that we mostly look for in VPN services. It’s unfortunate that Hotspot Shield doesn’t have any!

Does Hotspot Shield Offer an Ad-Blocker?

No, Hotspot Shield does not have an adblocker. If you’re looking for this specific feature, you should instead go for Surfshark. It has the CleanWeb ad blocker, which efficiently removes ads, blocks malware, and kills tiny little trackers that infect your device all day.

While Hotspot Shield does not offer an ad-blocker to prevent ads, its in-built spam call blocker allows you to detect and block unwarranted video/audio calls. The feature is included in Hotspot Shield free package.


Hotspot Shield VPN Encryption Protocols

Hotspot Shield uses its own proprietary VPN protocol called Hydra. Just to make it clear, the company didn’t invent a new encryption protocol, as it would require a massive amount of scrutiny since an undiscovered vulnerability could lead to data leakage.

A company representative explained that Hydra uses the Open SSL library to encrypt the data and that the new protocol is simply ” an enhancement of the transport protocol.” The representative says that the protocol also creates multiple channels to transfer data for better reliability and speed.

According to Hotspot Shield representative, Hydra:

  • Uses less bandwidth when transferring data through encrypted tunnels.
  • Provides faster speed.
  • It is 2.4 times faster for long-distant connections than OpenVPN.

In case you don’t know, internet protocols regulate how data packets traverse across a network. You can think of it as different channels a letter or post travels to reach the recipient. It could travel by airplane or drive through cities to reach the destination.

Obviously, it can take days if the letter is transmitted by road, while it can reach much faster by airplane, but the risk of it getting snatched or lost would be higher. This is the kind of trade-off we often face between security and speed.

When we tested Hydra, it was indeed faster than OpenVPN. As far as security is concerned, Hydra did prevent our location from leaking out.

But is Hydra better than our top recommended protocol like WireGuard? We don’t think so. At best, it’s a good alternative to OpenVPN that offers the same speed and security. However, it’s new and proprietary, so it will take more scrutiny and public experimentation to earn our trust, but full points to Hotspot Shield for trying to innovate!

Hotspot Shield VPN DNS Leak Test and Protection

We tested Hotspot Shield for DNS leaks, and it has nailed it. No DNS leaks were found on Mac or Windows, and my fake Australian location remained intact throughout browsing. You can check the result below:


The test clearly indicates that I am from Australia, but I was nowhere near there when I conducted the test. That means that Hotspot Shield successfully shielded my IP address from DNS leaks.

DNS, also known as Domain Name Server, is the address you typed in to visit a website, like DNS servers take this address and place it in an alphabetic sequence. The downside of this feature is that it often reveals your location. So, that’s when a VPN comes in to hide your DNS requests through its private servers. Doing so ensures that your information remains encrypted and doesn’t leak outside the VPN tunnel.

Hotspot Shield VPN WebRTC Leak Test – Is Hotspot Shield safe for leaks?

Yes. We tested Hotspot Shield for WebRTC leaks, and it didn’t reveal our public IP address.


Running a WebRTC is essential if you use a VPN with Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Firefox, or Opera.

WebRTC, also known as Web Real-Time Communication, is a technology that allows web browsers to communicate without involving any intermediary. It speeds up the communication process and allows smooth streaming, video calling, and file transfer. It is a good thing, right? Then what’s the problem?

Well, there are some security concerns associated with WebRTC; for example, it needs our public IP address for communication. It’s the IP address assigned to us by our ISP to access the internet directly.

Now, when you connect to the VPN, your web browsers sometimes leak that information to the website you’re visiting. It is the main reason why you often face a YouTube TV proxy error while streaming YouTube TV from Canada. Therefore, make sure your chosen VPN is WebRTC-leak-protected. Thankfully, Hotspot Shield is!

Hotspot Shield VPN streaming capabilities – Does it work with Netflix?

No, it does not! I could hardly unblock the American Netflix library in Canada with Hotspot Shield. After trying it through multiple servers, I finally found a server that did get me to the American Netflix homepage, but it wasn’t long enough when I was instantly displayed with a proxy error saying, “Oh no… it looks like you’re using an unblocker proxy.”


This means Hotspot Shield is not the best Netflix VPN. However, it did unblock some other streaming sites such as BBC iPlayer, Disney Plus, and Prime Video.

Connecting to a VPN can help you bypass all sorts of website restrictions, from popular Canadian streaming sites abroad to government restrictions. Measuring a VPN’s ability to circumvent geo-restrictions is tough considering many factors involved, such as streamers’ servers, base internet connection, and so on. We tried to estimate its effectiveness by testing it with Apple tv+ , and accessing Disney Plus, Netflix and also Amazon Prime Video in Canada.

Unblocking-BBC iPlayer-with-Hotspot-Shield

The most interesting thing is that Hotspot Shield provides dedicated streaming servers, so you don’t have to waste time trying five different US servers to find which one works with ESPN Plus. To our surprise, none of its US servers could unblock Netflix – a major turn-off for a streaming enthusiast.

A VPN that couldn’t unblock the streaming behemoth “Netflix” doesn’t simply qualify to call itself the best streaming VPN – regardless of how fast it is. There were better results with our last two tests, though, as Hotspot Shield successfully got me into Prime Video, Disney Plus and BBC iPlayer from Canada.

Four out of five is a generally good score in a broader sense. If you’re not a fan of Netflix, you can go with Hotspot Shield for streaming other websites.

Hotspot Shield VPN Speed Tests

While Hotspot Shield claims to deliver the fastest internet connection, it has proven otherwise in our speed results.

It goes without saying that internet speed matters a lot! After all, what’s the purpose of a secure connection when we can hardly stream a video?

Keep in mind that many factors influence a VPN speed, such as your internet connection, time of day, location, provider, server distance, hardware, and more. We tested Hotspot Shield premium on my Windows and Mac devices while connected to a 100 Mbps connection. Here are what the results were:

Download Speed Tests


Without VPN

100 Mbps
With VPN

61.36 Mbps


Without VPN

100 Mbps
With VPN

42.24 Mbps

As you can see, Hotspot Shield Premium decreased my download speed by more than 50%. While VPNs do reduce your internet speed, leading VPNs such as ExpressVPN have a negligible speed reduction that you can hardly notice.

Upload Speed Tests


Without VPN

98.98 Mbps

With VPN

21.38 Mbps


Without VPN

98.18 Mbps
With VPN

27.68 Mbps

Next, we tested Hotspot Shield upload speed, which was worse than expected. In this case, the mac connection performed better than the Windows connection. However, the overall speed rate is still inconsiderate.

Ping Speed Tests


Without VPN

12 ms
With VPN

66 ms


Without VPN

10 ms
With VPN

64 ms


Finally, we compared ping, or latency, results. We found latency higher than any VPN service we tested. Do you know what higher latency indicates? Pathetic speed!

Hotspot Shield VPN apps (Android app, iOS App, Windows app, etc.)

Hotspot Shield VPN Router – Can I use Hotspot Shield on my router?

Yes, you can install Hotspot Shield on your Wi-Fi router. Setting up a VPN on your router allows you to use VPN on devices with no native support for VPN, such as Smart TVs, Roku, PS4, and other gaming consoles. It also helps make all the connected devices safe and secure.

Which routers are compatible with Hotspot Shield?

Hotspot Shield supports almost all popular routers, including:

  • GL-iNET
  • Netgear
  • Asus

For some routers, such as Linksys and Netgear, you might need to install particular open-source firmware – FreshTomato or DD-WRT – to make your router compatible with Hotspot Shield.

Hotspot Shield VPN Browser extensions – Is Hotspot Shield VPN Extension Safe?

Yes! Hotspot Shield has a secure VPN extension for web browsers. If you’re a frequent VPN user, you will feel right at home with Hotspot Shield Chrome and Firefox browser extensions. Although it doesn’t disclose which tunneling protocol it uses, the add-on as a whole gives you plenty of control over what want you to unblock (streaming sites) or block (ads or malware).


The most fascinating feature was the ability to choose particular websites that will always be safeguarded by the proxy, even if your VPN is not turned on. It also lets you add websites that you don’t want to use with proxy. However, the extension only allows access to 9 different locations and not the entire servers’ collection.

How to Install & Set Up Hotspot Shield VPN

Here’s how you can install Hotspot Shield free VPN on your device:

  1. Go to the Hotspot Shield website and click on “Get Hotspot Shield.”
  2. Once you click the button, the setup file will automatically start downloading on your browser.
  3. Double click on the setup file and open it.
  4. Click on the “Install” button and proceed.
  5. You’re all set to use Hotspot Shield VPN on your device.

Note: You need to download Hotspot Shield for the android app to get an ad-supported free package.

How much does Hotspot Shield VPN Cost?

Hotspot Shield costs $10.99/month, which is quite expensive if compared to the leading VPN providers. Our top recommended VPNs, Surfshark, NordVPN, and ExpressVPN, offer premium services at lower prices than Hotspot Shield.

The most affordable of them is Surfshark which is available at $2.30/month. However, Hotspot Shield has a free version, which none of these VPNs offer. Hotspot Shield’s free package includes access to one server (USA), a 500 MB data limit per day, and a connection speed limit of 2 Mbps. Not sure about other devices, but Hotspot Shield free VPN for PC is pretty great!

Please note that we don’t recommend the free version of Hotspot Shield since it has privacy issues and doesn’t really unblock Netflix. However, you can benefit from its 45-days risk-free trial that allows you to claim the full amount if it fails to meet your expectation. Check out all the details about Hotspot Shield premium and free Hotspot Shield package:

Pricing details Basic Premium Premium Family
Monthly plan cost $0 C$10.99 C$16.49
Yearly plan cost $0 $131.88 $197.88
Number of users per subscription 1 1 5
Number of devices per user 1 5 5
Total number of devices 1 5 25
Money-back guarantee 0 45 days 45 Days
Maximum connection speed 2 Mbps 1 Gbps 1 Gbps
Server locations 1 (USA.) 115+ 115+
Streaming access No Yes Yes
Bandwidth limit per day 500 MB Unlimited Unlimited

Reliability and Customer Support

Like most VPN providers, Hotspot Shield offers customer support, where users can find solutions and answers to their most frequent queries. Referring to its FAQ page is the first step to resolving the issue. If you fail to find the solution, the next step is to contact their customer support via live chat or email.

Hotspot-Shield-customer support

However, the live chat or email facility is only limited to paid subscribers. This means the free customers cannot reach the support unless they pay for the service.

In case the customer agent could not solve your query on the spot, they will open a ticket for you, and you will have to wait for an email.

I didn’t feel the need to contact their customer support, but I did reach out to them for inquiring about their additional services. The waiting time was shot, and I was responded almost immediately.

FAQs: Hotspot Shield Review

Hotspot Shield’s premium users can connect up to 5 devices simultaneously. The service is compatible with multiple devices, including Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux and Routers. If you’re using a free version, you have to upgrade to the premium package in order to link a new device to your account.

Yes, Hotspot Shield considers to be the best China VPN, routing your web traffic through secure servers, where it is then encrypted.

Yes, Hotspot Shield is a safe and secure VPN using top-notch security features like 256-bit encryption, Hydra VPN tunnel, and much more. We detected no DNS, IP, or WebRTC leaks when using the mobile or desktop application. However, the Hotspot Shield extension is not as secure as the full-fledged VPN app.

Yes, you can trust Hotspot Shield VPN for your online security and privacy. Although the provider was linked with numerous controversies, it took a new start and released yearly reports to be more transparent.

Alternatives to Hotspot Shield VPN

ExpressVPN is the VPN I will gladly choose over any VPN service. It has excellent speeds, robust security, impenetrable privacy, extraordinary unblocking capabilities, and more – what else do you want?

With around 3000+ servers in 90+ countries, its server coverage is far bigger than Hotspot Shield. This allows you to bypass geo-restrictions from wherever you are around. Our streaming test found ExpressVPN as one of the best streaming VPN services in Canada, allowing access to popular streaming sites such as HBO Max, Hulu, and even Netflix.

ExpressVPN leads the security department like a champ. With top-notch VPN protocols, 256-bit encryption, and a dedicated kill switch, your data remains protected throughout your browsing time. The subscription is available for $6.67/month that also comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Do you want to learn more about this amazing service? Check out our detailed ExpressVPN review here.

Final Verdict – Do I recommend Hotspot Shield VPN?

Yes, for security and no for streaming!

Since Hotspot Shield does not unblock Netflix, I would not recommend it to anyone who’s an avid streamer. However, it’s a pretty great security VPN with plenty of apps, some interesting features, and its own invented VPN protocol, “Hydra.” Although, it’s not a new creation rather an enhancement of the existing protocol. But still, kudos for bringing something out of the box.

Based on testing, Hotspot Shield is not the fastest VPN, as it’s widely assumed. In fact, it is the slowest one if you ask me. We also didn’t like its headquarters location, i.e., the US, which is subject to international surveillance alliance policies. But since everyone has their separate set of priorities, we can’t say much.

We will wrap up our Hotspot Shield review by giving it an overall rating of 2.5/5.