HideMyAss Review 2015
HideMyAss are an all round decent provider mainly suitable for those new to the VPN world and those who wish to protect their privacy, access TV and geo-restricted content with minimal fuss and set-up.
- Great for beginners.
- Windows, Mac, Android, iOS & Linux software.
- Many countries to connect to.
- Top speeds unachievable.
- Android app doesn't work with Virgin Media ISP.
- Windows software visually looks dated.
HideMyAss are one of the most well known VPN providers in the world. Even if you’ve only just started to look into getting a VPN it is hard to avoid the name HideMyAss and with a name as catchy as that it is no wonder.
However, is HideMyAss actually any good? Just because they’re big doesn’t necessarily mean they are good but would they have got so big if they weren’t good? We find out in our latest HideMyAss review so read on to find out…
HideMyAss have a very simplified package selection. Rather than having various packages containing different features they offer 1 set package that varies in price.
Like many VPN providers the longer service length you choose to sign up for the bigger the saving. The first thing to consider is how long you’ll be wanting to use the service because there are some big savings to be had.
- A 1-month package costs US$11.52 per month.
- A 6-month package costs US$49.99 equivalent to US$8.33 per month.
- A 12-month package costs US$78.66 equivalent to US$6.55 per month.
If you do intend to keep the service then considering the yearly package may be worth while as you can save around 43% of the cost of paying monthly.
When I reviewed HideMyAss back at the start of 2014 the prices were exactly the same so even though they have expanded their network theoretically giving you more for your money they haven’t increased the prices to pay for that – great news!
The price is standard worldwide so the pesky EU VAT rules won’t cost you more and anyone else elsewhere in the world will also pay the same price.
HideMyAss are certainly a service targeted towards the masses or average user. Basically the kind of internet user who is concerned about their privacy or wants to access some geo-restricted content but doesn’t necessarily care about the way in which the technology works. HideMyAss actually receive a lot of stick from certain corners of the internet and while they may not appeal to the technical mastermind they do play a vital role in introducing privacy to the mass in an easy to digest manner.
Custom Software & Apps
Since my last review HideMyAss have finally added an Android app to their list of custom software meaning they now offer a full suite of software for all major devices. PC, Mac, Android and iOS all have software or apps available which allows easy connection to a VPN server of your choice and removes the need for any set-up. Custom software/apps are an excellent choice for the beginner and also a time saver for those who want to protect their privacy quickly.
Surprisingly even though HideMyAss are often seen as the average users VPN service they are one of the few who offer a Linux client so those who opt for a less conventional operating system are even covered with software.
HideMyAss allow connection via PPTP, L2TP/IPSec & OpenVPN. Their windows software only allows connection via OpenVPN and PPTP so to make use of L2TP you need to set this up manually with a separate password being available from your user control panel on their website.
A recent introduction is their vanity server name of hma.rocks and by appending the two character country code to the front you can easily remember all server names, eg; uk.hma.rocks, us.hma.rocks etc.
Android app looks good.
It is great to see an Android app finally appear for the HideMyAss service and I was eager to see it in action, however my eagerness was soon thwarted by a very annoying issue which reared its head last time I reviewed HMA. Unfortunately HMA use port 53 for UDP connections which just so happens to be the DNS port. The router I use supplied by one of the biggest UK ISPs has issues with port 53 and any VPN connection using that port causes the router to reboot.
Now while this is partly the routers fault you would think with HideMyAss being UK company and my ISP being one of the largest in the UK (Virgin Media) that they would have offered an alternative port. Unfortunately not and as the Android app only works on port 53 it meant not being able to use it. After enquiring with their live support I was told that it doesn’t work with Virgin Media and is unlikely to be fixed soon.
As their desktop client has a similar issue using default settings and was present over a year ago you would think HideMyAss would have made allowances, sadly not.
HideMyAss started off life as a proxy service many years ago and one of the functions of their service is to allow you to virtually reside in any location you wish. Last time I reviewed HideMyAss they had 64 country locations available, this has now expanded to a jaw-dropping 181 country locations. Quite obviously HideMyAss do not have servers in each location and are using server clusters in certain locations but for those who want to appear as if they’re in a certain location this is a staggering amount.
I know of no other provider who allows you to virtually reside in such a huge amount of locations. Appearing as if you’re from Christmas Island or even Cuba is pretty cool, right?
Sadly a virtual Cuban cigar wasn’t available.
Although it is pretty neat to be able to virtually reside in nearly every country worldwide (HideMyAss offer 181 countries of a possible 196) and that alone will have its purposes I would like to understand where the actual servers themselves are. For those travelling or in countries less mainstream in the VPN world choosing a server close by can offer an obvious speed advantage, without knowing the exact locations of these servers there is a speed issue and also a policy issue.
Certain users may pick locations based on local laws and assume that the server is located in the country itself when in reality it may not be. Due to this HideMyAss is filling more the role of a proxy service and is better suited to unlocking content or fooling people into thinking you’re in that location for “sh*ts and giggles” rather than those staunchly requiring a server in a specific country.
With the VPN market being so vast this isn’t actually a bad thing as what they do, they do well.
For new users the service is extremely easy to sign up to and start making use of. The website has become very minimalistic over the past year which removes any confusion. HideMyAss appear to be streamlining their apps and software into a colourful and easy to use package. While the Windows software works and is very good it also looks like it could do with a facelift as compared to their new Android app it is starting to look rather dated.
One feature I was impressed with and rolls over from my last review is the server balancing available on their software. If you attempt to connect to a server that is being heavily utilised then you have the option to use the next less congested server which should, in theory, distribute the usage out evenly across their servers.
Load balancing keeps servers optimised
Those wanting to use OpenVPN directly will need to visit live support, I could find no obvious link to download configuration files but was provided with them after requesting them at live support – why they aren’t available directly on the website within easy reach is rather odd.
Using the service to unlock content such as BBC iPlayer, Sky Go and Netflix was a joy and combined with using their server load balancing gave a very good playback in high quality. On iPlayer alone I was able to view HD streams without buffering so for those interested in unlocking content the service with its vast array of connection locations will open up nearly all online streaming services worldwide.
The HideMyAss windows software does not suffer from DNS leaks and although HideMyAss don’t supply their own DNS servers they do push requests through OpenDNS so your ISP can not log the names of websites you visit. Their Windows software does allow you to bind certain programs which acts as a VPN Killswitch should the connection fail.
I used HideMyAss regularly for around 2 weeks for everyday web surfing and also for streaming content from sites that are geo-restricted. In general I found browsing to be trouble free and even when connecting to VPN servers as far away as Cuba I was still able to browse with a relatively good speed making using servers at distance entirely possible on the service.
Streaming from sites such as BBC iPlayer caused no problem even when accessing HD streams. Some other providers I have tested have suffered from buffering especially on HD streams from BBC iPlayer but while testing no such issue appeared with HideMyAss. The service is definitely a good choice for this who are outside their home country and want to access TV services from home. The fact they have a mammoth selection of servers it could possibly make HideMyAss the content king of VPN providers.
To test the speed of HideMyAss we followed our standard testing procedure and downloaded a 10gb test file with a download manager. To achieve maximum speeds we opened as many concurrent connections as was allowed. Downloading was carried out from within the United Kingdom using the HideMyAss custom Windows software with the OpenVPN protocol.
The speed achieved via the same process without VPN connection was 160.82 mbps.
The servers tested in order were Manchester – UK, Amsterdam – Netherlands, Romania, Switzerland, New York – USA & Toronto – Canada.
- Manchester, UK – 16.54mbps
- Amsterdam, Netherlands – 16.37mbps
- Romania – 5.09mbps
- Switzerland – 156.99mbps
- New York, USA – 2.77mbps
- Toronto, Canada – 3.70mbps
Generally the overall speeds achieved in comparison to other providers was quite poor. While the service is certainly good enough to stream content from abroad and access geo-restricted services for those who heavily download the speeds would not be suitable. HideMyAss offer more locations than nearly any other VPN provider and the service definitely has its uses if you want to appear in another country. Browsing via any of these locations will be fine however if you wish to download large files at the maximum speed of your ISP then you may wish to look elsewhere.
The Encryption & Policies:
HideMyAss offer three possible connection protocols that include PPTP, L2TP/IPSec and OpenVPN.
Since my last review of HideMyAss I am pleased to report that they have increased the size of their RSA key from 1024 bit to 2048 bit.
OpenVPN uses BF-CBC with a 128 bit key which is the same as when previously tested last year. There are no options within the Windows software to alter encryption.
PPTP is using MPPE protocol for encryption, with RSA RC4 algorithm and 128 bit keys.
L2TP is using IPSec for encryption with 256 bit key for encryption, 3DES/AES algorithm.
For a commercial VPN provider there is nothing that surprising and the following details are stored when making use of their service :-
- A time stamp when you connect and disconnect to our VPN service;
- The amount data transmitted (upload and download) during your session;
- The IP address used by you to connect to our VPN; and
- The IP address of the individual VPN server used by you.
This information does not allow HideMyAss to see or know what you are accessing on the internet.
HideMyAss are a UK registered company and so governed by UK law. Should HideMyAss be required to log further details by law then they will of course do so although they state they won’t voluntarily hand over any information without a legal requirement. So HideMyAss is pretty much safe to use apart from those who are planning on breaking the law and after all a VPN service shouldn’t be a safe haven for criminals anyway.
Support is available via Live Chat, Email and Telephone.
Live Chat is available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week and is by far the fastest way to get queries resolved. I used Live Chat late on a Saturday evening and even got answers to my questions at that ungodly hour.
HideMyAss are unique in that they offer telephone support and while only open between 9am – 5pm UK time it is a free call number for those located in the UK and is a sure fire way of getting in touch with a real human, something many companies even outside the VPN market often overlook.
Email support obviously a little slower than something direct like a telephone call or live chat but if you have a non-urgent query it is an ideal way to get in touch. My test email took 2 and a half hours to be responded too which is rather good.
There are a lot of great features of HideMyAss let down in one or two areas. The overall functionality of the service is excellent and the fact they offer a full range of software and apps for all major systems including Linux is an obvious bonus.
Prices for HideMyAss are comparable to other providers and the features available match many other providers. Prices are especially good when taking a 12 month package and fall at the lower side of the scale over the whole industry.
The service itself is geared towards newcomers to the VPN industry and those who don’t wish to delve into the inner workings. I would consider HideMyAss the everyday man or women’s VPN service, great for the general public but probably not one for the security expert.
Their range of software is easy to use although sometimes lacking in terms of being suitable for a range of set-ups. As an example their Android software wasn’t compatible with my ISP even though it is one of the largest in the UK. It is areas such as these where I would expect a large company like HideMyAss to take more consideration.
One area in which HideMyAss excel is their vast range of country locations to connect to. This is the biggest selection by far of any VPN provider and although not physical servers in every location it does allow users to assume the identity of a country in a mass of locations, for those wanting to hide their ass then the service is definitely very capable.
Speeds overall were unfortunately quite poor in comparison to other providers. While not the fastest, HideMyAss is suitable for streaming content such as iPlayer, Hulu, Netflix etc and their service is reliable enough for everyday general browsing and internet use. Those who download heavily and require top speeds may want to look elsewhere.
Overall a decent service let down by the lack of top speeds. For those who are new to the VPN market, who just want to stream content, browse the web and disguise their location they are ideal. Those who a little more technically minded or who require blisteringly fast speeds would be wise to consider another provider.