|Industry||Computer security software|
HMA was created in 2005 in Norfolk, England by Jack Cator. At the time, Cator was sixteen years-old. He created HMA in order to circumvent restrictions his school had on accessing games or music from their network. According to Cator, the first HMA service was created in just a few hours using open-source code. The first product was a free proxy website where users typed in a URL and it delivered the website in the user's browser.
Cator promoted the tool in online forums and it was featured on the front page of Digg. After attracting more than one thousand users, Cator incorporated ads. HMA did not take any venture capital funding. It generated about $1,000 - $2,000 per month while the founder went to college to pursue a degree in computer science. In 2009, Cator dropped out of college to focus on HMA and added a paid VPN service. Most early HMA employees were freelancers found on oDesk.com. In 2012, one of the freelancers set-up a competing business. HMA responded by hiring its contractors as full-time employees and establishing physical offices in London.
In 2013, HMA added software to anonymize internet traffic from mobile devices was first added in 2013. In 2014, the company introduced HideMyPhone! service, which allowed mobile phone users to make their calls appear to come from a different location.
By 2014, the service had 10 million users and 215,000 paying subscribers of its VPN service. It made £11 million in revenue that year. HMA had 100 staff and established international offices in Belgrade and Kyiv.
By 2015, HMA became one of the largest VPN providers. In May 2015, it was acquired by AVG Technologies for $40 million, and became part of Avast after its 2016 acquisition of AVG Technologies.
In 2019, it was reported that HMA received a directive from Russian authorities to join a state sponsored registry of banned websites, which would prevent Russian HMA users from circumventing Russian state censorship. HMA was reportedly given one month to comply, or face blocking by Russian authorities.
HMA hides the user's IP address and other identifying information by routing the user's internet traffic through a remote server. However, experts note that the company does log some connection data including the originating IP address, the duration of each VPN session, and the amount of bandwidth used.
According to Invisibler, HMA VPN appears to have cooperated with US authorities in handing over logs in a hacking case. This led to the arrest of a hacker in what is known as the “LulzSec fiasco”. However, since May 2020, HMA claims to be a "no log VPN", stating they no longer collect any usage logs.
In 2015, a review in Tom's Hardware said HMA was easy to use, had good customer service, and a large number of server locations to choose from, but criticized it for slowing internet speeds. In contrast, Digital Trends said HMA had strong speeds and good server selection, but wasn't fool-proof at ensuring anonymity, because it stored user activity logs (in 2020, HMA announced that it would no longer log user activity). In 2017, PC World noted that it was difficult to measure the effect a VPN service has on internet speed, because of variables like location, internet service speeds, and hardware.
A 2016 review in PC Magazine gave the HMA Android app 3 out of 5 stars. It praised HMA for its server selection and user interface, but criticized it for price, speed, and the lack of advanced features. In 2018, PC Magazine gave similar feedback on the HMA VPN service. PC World’s 2017 review also praised HMA's simple user interface, but criticized the lack of advanced features, saying the software was ideal for casual users that do not need advanced configuration options.
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