Hide My Ass! (HMA!) is a UK-based company that uses the slogan “More VPN for your money.” This provider has seen its fair share of controversy with regards to user privacy, but has made changes in the hopes of winning back the loyalty of its subscribers.
So has HMA redeemed itself and it is worth your money? Perhaps more importantly, can it compete with favorites like ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and CyberGhost?
In my 2020 HideMyAss review, I thoroughly tested the latest HMA desktop and mobile apps to find out the answers to the following questions:
- Is HMA fast?
- Can HMA access geo-restricted services and sites like Netflix US, Amazon Prime Video, and BBC iPlayer?
- Does HideMyAss protect user privacy?
- Will HMA work in China?
- Does HMA offer good value for money?
I discuss my findings on these and other topics in this review.
I’ve been using HideMyAss to stream, download, and browse, and generally keep my internet activities secure and private. Note that while HMA does offer a free proxy unblocker, this review is based on the paid VPN service.
You can read the full review below to discover the highs and lows of this VPN, but here’s a quick summary of my experience.
HideMyAss can handle unblocking several streaming sites and pegs decent speeds. It no longer keeps logs, has strong security features, and offers a ton of location options. Overall, it’s most suitable for those looking to browse and stream securely, but could be an option for torrenters too. It’s not suitable for use in China.
HMA VPN key data
|OVERALL RANK: #18 of 45 VPNs|
|Average Speed*:||40 Mbps|
|Video Streaming Support:||4K, HD video conferencing|
|Other Streaming Services:||BBC iPlayer|
|Encryption Type:||256-bit AES|
|Log Policy:||No logs|
|Protocols:||OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP, IPSec|
|Value for Money||
|Lowest Monthly Cost:||$3.99|
|Money Back Guarantee:||30 days|
How does HideMyAss compare to other popular VPNs?
Wondering how HideMyAss compares to top-rated providers? Here’s a side-by-side comparison of HMA against two popular competitors: ExpressVPN and NordVPN (you can see a full breakdown of these two in our comparison post):
|Hide My Ass VPN||ExpressVPN||NordVPN|
|Average Speed||40 Mbps||135 Mbps||115 Mbps|
|Encryption typeType of encryption e.g. 256 AES||256-bit AES||256-bit AES||256-bit AES|
|Kill Switch||desktop only|
|Records identifying logs|
|Unblocks Netflix US|
|Unblocks Amazon Prime|
|Unblocks BBC iPlayer|
|Lowest cost per month||$3.99 per month||$6.67 per month||$3.30 per month|
|Money back guarantee||30 days||30 days||30 days|
HMA VPN pros and cons
Here are the main highlights and drawbacks I discovered while testing out the HideMyAss apps:
- Unblocks Netflix US and UK and BBC iPlayer
- Fast enough speeds for streaming
- Uses strong encryption
- Allows P2P
- User-friendly apps for major operating systems
- Offers live-chat support (but not 24/7)
- Has an updated no logs policy
- Includes a 30-day money-back guarantee
- Past privacy issues
- Minimum term is one year
- Some slow servers
- Doesn’t work in China
Speed: Is HideMyAss fast?
HideMyAss scored a little below the middle of the pack in my speed tests with an average download rate of 40 Mbps. Even so, I was able to stream 4K video with no quality or buffering issues and hold HD video conferencing calls.
HMA has a relatively small network of around 1,000 servers, but it does cover more than 190 countries. Note that some of these are virtual servers, although the number of virtual compared to physical isn’t disclosed.
We tested servers in North America, Europe, and Hong Kong at various times of day. Here are the average speeds for HMA for each location:
- North America: 72 Mbps
- Europe: 41 Mbps
- Asia: 6 Mbps
As you can see, HMA’s average speed was greatly impacted by its servers in Asia, which were very slow. As long as I wasn’t using a server in Asia, I had enough bandwidth to stream 4K video and live stream video in high quality.
Using North American and European servers, I didn’t see any lag or buffering while streaming, there was no noticeable slowdown while browsing, and I was able to play online games with no issues.
It’s important to note that these tests aren’t definitive and can only serve as a general indication of the performance you might see. The inherent volatility of the internet adds a significant factor of randomness. What’s more, you’ll likely see longer wait times with a slow connection, and perhaps smaller or larger discrepancies.
Apps: What devices work with HMA VPN?
A single HMA subscription allows me to connect up to five devices at any given time. Apps are available for the following:
- Windows 7 and up
- MacOS 10.5 and later
- iOS 9 and higher
- Android 5.0 and newer
Web browser extensions are provided for Chrome and Firefox. Note, however, that these are proxies rather than VPNs and only secure your browser traffic, not other applications on your device.
HMA’s newly designed apps have a modern, fun aesthetic and are very easy to use. Once you sign up for your account, you’ll be given a license key. You can use this or your credentials (username and password) to log into any app.
In the desktop app, the server list is arranged by region or you can select the Lightning Connect option which will connect you to the fastest server for your location.
You can also view a list of streaming or P2P servers, add a server to your favorites list, or use the search function to find your optimal server.
In the Settings screen, you can set the app to launch on startup and hide once it’s started.
I’ll go into more details about these below, but other options include a kill switch, IP shuffle, automatic wifi protection, and protocol selection.
HMA has streamlined its product so the mobile apps look very similar to the desktop versions, albeit with fewer features.
In the Connection Rules section, you can enable automatic wifi protection. The Personal Privacy section just has one option: Share usage data with third parties for analytics, which is your consent to “allow app and device usage data to be shared with third parties for analytics.” Bear in mind that this is enabled by default so it might be one of the first things you want to turn off.
Overall, the mobile apps are sleek and intuitive, but some users may miss additional features such as a kill switch and the option to switch protocols.
HMA can be manually configured with Linux and some routers. Pre-configured routers are available as an alternative.
Streaming, Netflix, and Kodi
Does HideMyAss unblock Netflix?
Yes, I used HMA to unblock Netflix US, UK, and Germany. To access these, you’ll need to use the dedicated streaming servers, otherwise you’ll likely see an error message. The UK streaming server option also enabled me to access BBC iPlayer content.
I wasn’t able to unblock Amazon Prime Video or Disney +.
So if you’re mainly looking to access the most popular Netflix libraries, this service is suitable, but don’t expect it to help you unblock a wide range of streaming sites.
Are you a Kodi user? HideMyAss doesn’t work well with Kodi so you’ll need to look elsewhere for a compatible VPN.
Does HideMyAss allow torrenting?
HideMyAss allows P2P filesharing and apps include a list of several servers that are suitable for the purpose.
HMA comes with unlimited bandwidth, fast speeds on nearby servers, and a couple of other features that torrenters will appreciate:
- Kill switch (in desktop apps): This kills the internet connection should the VPN drop unexpectedly, preventing data leaks. You can set the kill switch to only work on specific apps, for example, your torrenting application.
- Automatic protection for select apps: The app-specific kill switch also incorporates a feature that ensures the VPN is always on when you start certain applications.
- IP shuffle: An IP shuffle feature periodically changes your IP address, adding a layer of privacy.
One issue I’ve had with HMA in the past was its logging policy, but improvements have been made in this area (see below section for more details). Note, however, that the free HMA unblocker proxy does still maintain logs.
Security, privacy, and logging
Hide My Ass! is based in the UK, which means it’s subject to data retention laws. The UK is also a Five Eyes (and Fourteen Eyes) country, which means it is part of an alliance that allows monitoring by external governments.
Thankfully for many VPNs, data retention laws in their home country aren’t really an issue. This is because they operate with a real no-logs policy whereby they don’t keep any traffic or connection logs. Even if they do keep connection logs, they can’t be tied to an individual user.
Up until fairly recently, HMA stored identifying information such as a user’s real IP address and the IP address of the server they connected to, along with timestamps. This information could be used to trace a user’s online activity. This policy was made infamous when it was revealed HMA handed over logs in a 2011 FBI case.
The data collection was particularly troubling given that earlier this year, there were reports that Avast (HMA’s parent company since 2016) had been selling user browsing data (which reportedly could be de-anonymized) to third parties, through a subsidiary called Jumpshot. The Jumpshot data collection has now stopped, but it’s unclear whether it ever included information collected from VPN customers.
On the security front, HideMyAss does a solid job of keeping my traffic safe. I discussed the kill switch and IP address shuffling in the torrenting section above, but here are the other main security features to be aware of:
- Strong encryption: HMA uses 256-bit AES encryption, which is considered military-grade. This is in conjunction with 4096-bit RSA keys and perfect forward secrecy.
- Protocol options: HideMyAss uses the OpenVPN protocol over UDP by default, but you can switch to TCP within the desktop client. However, this is only recommended if UDP is blocked or throttled. TCP is more stable, but UDP is typically faster. PPTP, L2TP, IPSec are also available, depending on which app you’re using.
- Automatic wifi protection: When automatic wifi protection is enabled, the VPN will connect automatically each time you connect to a wifi network. This feature can be customized in the Network Security section of the desktop client or the Connection Rules tab of the mobile app settings.
- Private DNS servers: HideMyAss uses private DNS servers (owned by Avast). This is usually better from a privacy standpoint than using public servers such as those operated by Google. But the advantages are questionable in this case given the recent reports regarding Avast’s data collection program.
- Leak protection: HMA claims to offer protection against DNS and WebRTC leaks and we observed no leaks in our tests. IPv6 leak protection is not built in — although we didn’t observe leaks, you may want to disable IPv6 to be safe.
Does HMA VPN work in China?
HideMyAss does not work reliably in China.
It used to, but more recent HMA responses in support forums have indicated that the service will no longer work for some users. You could try your luck, but if you need a reliable China VPN, you’d best look elsewhere.
Is HideMyAss customer service any good?
If you need any help while setting up or using the service, HMA has a couple of options to choose from. Clicking the Help tab on the website, you’ll find a Getting Started section and a Knowledge Base. These each house articles related to setting up, troubleshooting, and general questions. There’s some crossover so you may want to explore both before seeking other options.
In addition, you’ll find a Community button leading to a forum. This is divided into different topics; some appear to be out of date, while others are recently active. Below that, there are some general FAQs.
If you don’t find what you’re looking for, or you just want a quick response, you can use the live chat option. This is available 9 AM – 10:30 PM GMT +01:00 and email support is offered during the same hours. Support is in-house versus being outsourced which is a plus from a privacy standpoint.
For the most part, representatives are prompt and knowledgeable. In case they can’t answer your query, you’ll be handed over to someone who can.
HMA VPN pricing
One of my complaints about HMA in the past was its high price. The last time I reviewed the service, the lowest monthly cost was $6.99 on an annual plan. While the yearly price hasn’t changed, there is now the option to go for a longer term of three years at a reduced cost of $3.99 per month. This is a more competitive price, though not the cheapest out there.
One downside now is that there isn’t a month-to-month payment option, so the minimum term you can sign up for is one year. This isn’t good news for anyone who just needs a VPN for a short period of time. That said, you can test the service with a free seven-day trial and there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee. It’s worth noting that HideMyAss uses all third-party payment processors and there have been reports of difficulty in getting refunds.
Payment options include major credit cards and PayPal. Unfortunately for more privacy-conscious users, bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies aren’t accepted.
Do I recommend HMA VPN?
Wondering about other options? ExpressVPN is an excellent user-friendly alternative that boasts a large server network, top-notch security, and stellar unblocking abilities. It even works reliably in China. Plans range from monthly to annual and come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
If you’re on a budget, NordVPN is another great option. It has a huge server network and can unblock a ton of streaming sites. Prices are lower than most top-rated competitors, but you still get military-grade encryption and lots of security extras. NordVPN works in China too.