HideMyAss!

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HMA VPN
Subsidiary
IndustryComputer security software
Founded2005
FounderJack Cator
HeadquartersUnited Kingdom
Area served
Global
ProductsVPN software
ParentAvast
Websitehmavpn.com

HMA VPN (formerly HideMyAss!) is a virtual private network (VPN) provider founded in 2005 in the United Kingdom. It has been a subsidiary of the Czech cybersecurity company Avast since 2016.

History[edit]

HMA was created in 2005 in Norfolk, England by Jack Cator.[1][2] At the time, Cator was sixteen years-old.[3] He created HMA in order to circumvent restrictions his school had on accessing games or music from their network.[3] According to Cator, the first HMA service was created in just a few hours using open-source code.[3][2] The first product was a free website where users typed in a URL and it delivered the website in the user's browser.[4]

Cator promoted the tool in online forums[3] and it was featured on the front page of Digg.[2][5] After attracting more than one thousand users, Cator incorporated ads.[2] HMA did not take any venture capital funding.[3][2] It generated about $1,000 - $2,000 per month while the founder went to college to pursue a degree in computer science.[2] In 2009, Cator dropped out of college to focus on HMA and added a paid VPN service.[3][2][1] Most early HMA employees were freelancers found on oDesk.com.[2] In 2012, one of the freelancers set-up a competing business.[3] HMA responded by hiring its contractors as full-time employees and establishing physical offices in London.[3][5]

In 2012, the United Kingdom's government sent HMA a court order demanding it provide information about Cody Andrew Kretsinger's use of HMA's service to hack Sony as a member of the LulzSec hacking group.[4][6][7] HMA provided the information to authorities.[6] HMA said it was a violation of the company's terms of use to use its software for illegal activities.[8]

In 2013, HMA added software to anonymize internet traffic from mobile devices was first added in 2013.[9] In 2014, the company introduced HideMyPhone! service, which allowed mobile phone users to make their calls appear to come from a different location.[5]

By 2014, the service had 10 million users and 215,000 paying subscribers of its VPN service.[5] It made £11 million in revenue that year.[2] HMA had 100 staff and established international offices in Belgrade and Kiev.[5][3]

By 2015, HMA became one of the largest VPN providers.[10][3] In May 2015, it was acquired by AVG Technologies for $40 million,[11] and became part of Avast after its 2016 acquisition of AVG Technologies.[12]

In 2017, a security vulnerability was discovered that allowed hackers with access to a user's laptop to obtain elevated privileges on the device.[13][14]

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.[15]

Software[edit]

HMA provides digital software and services intended to help users remain anonymous online and encrypt their online traffic.[14] Its software is used to access websites that may be blocked in the user's country, to anonymize information that could otherwise be used by hackers, and to do something unscrupulous without being identified.[3] HMA's privacy policy and terms of use prohibit using it for illegal activity.[16]

HMA hides the user's IP address and other identifying information by routing the user's internet traffic through a remote server.[14][17] 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.[10][18][19]

As of May 2018, the company had 830 servers in 280 locations across the globe and provided over 3000 IP addresses.[19]

Reception[edit]

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.[20] In contrast, Digital Trends said HMA had strong speeds and good server selection, but wasn't full-proof at ensuring anonymity, because it stored user activity logs.[10] 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.[21]

A 2016 review in PC Magazine gave the HMA Android app 3 out of 5 stars.[22] It praised HMA for its server selection and user interface, but criticized it for price, speed, and the lack of advanced features.[22] In 2018, PC Magazine gave similar feedback on the HMA VPN service.[17] 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.[21]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "The entrepreneurial character". Entrepreneurship and Small Business (4th ed.). Palgrave Macmillan Limited. 2016. p. 65. ISBN 978-1-137-43035-9 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Cadwalladr, Carole (March 15, 2015). "HideMyAss! Your secret's safe with Jack". The Guardian. Retrieved May 20, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Shadbolt, Peter (May 18, 2015). "How misbehaving at school made one man a multimillionaire". BBC News. Retrieved October 21, 2018.
  4. ^ a b Leyden, John. "HideMyAss defends role in LulzSec hack arrest". The Register. Retrieved October 21, 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d e Williams, Hattie (November 16, 2014). "How I Made It: Jack Cator, founder of Hide My Ass!". The Sunday Times. Retrieved May 20, 2018.(subscription required)
  6. ^ a b Stryker, Cole (2012). Hacking the Future: Privacy, Identity and Anonymity on the Web. Gerald Duckworth & Company. p. 80. ISBN 978-0-7156-4454-6. Retrieved May 19, 2018 – via Google Books.
  7. ^ Reißmann, Ole (September 26, 2011). "Anonymisierdienst hilft bei der Nutzeridentifizierung" [Anonymizing service helps with user identification]. Spiegel Online (in German). Retrieved May 20, 2018.
  8. ^ Blessenohl, Holger (September 26, 2011). "VPN-Dienst bestätigt Weitergabe von Verbindungsdaten ans FBI" [Hide My Ass - VPN service confirms forwarding of connection data to the FBI]. GIGA (in German). Retrieved May 19, 2018.
  9. ^ Woods, Ben (October 10, 2013). "HideMyAss Now Has Its Own Dedicated Free to Download iOS App". The Next Web. Retrieved May 19, 2018.
  10. ^ a b c Stobing, Chris (January 23, 2015). "Three VPN competitors go head-to-head". Digital Trends. Retrieved May 20, 2018.
  11. ^ Osborne, Charlie (May 6, 2015). "AVG acquires desktop, mobile VPN firm Privax". ZDNet. Retrieved June 21, 2018.
  12. ^ Neal, Dave (July 7, 2016). "Avast Software buys AVG Technologies for $1.3bn". The Inquirer. Retrieved October 21, 2018.
  13. ^ Osborne, Charlie (May 2, 2017). "HideMyAss! privilege escalation flaws exposed". ZDNet. Retrieved May 20, 2018.
  14. ^ a b c Groom, Frank M.; Groom, Kevin; Jones, Stephan S. (2016). Network and Data Security for Non-Engineers. CRC Press. p. 106. ISBN 9781315350219 – via Google Books.
  15. ^ Reuters (2019-03-29). "Russia Threatens to Block Popular VPN Services to Prevent Website Access". The Moscow Times. Retrieved 2019-04-02.
  16. ^ Martin, Adam (September 23, 2011). "LulzSec Hacker Exposed by the Service He Thought Would Hide Him". The Atlantic. Retrieved June 21, 2018.
  17. ^ a b "Hide My Ass VPN". PC Magazine. May 1, 2018. Retrieved May 20, 2018.
  18. ^ Gilderson, Kelly (October 18, 2018). "Top 15 VPN Companies Log Policies – Are They Safe?". privacyaustralia.net. Retrieved October 21, 2018.
  19. ^ a b Gewirtz, David (May 15, 2018). "Best mobile VPN services for 2018". CNET. Retrieved October 21, 2018.
  20. ^ Winkle, William Van (May 25, 2015). "Hide My Ass! VPN Service Review". Tom's Hardware. Retrieved May 20, 2018.
  21. ^ a b Paul, Ian (February 3, 2017). "HMA Pro VPN review: An easy-to-use tool for securing your online privacy". PC World. Retrieved May 20, 2018.
  22. ^ a b Eddy, Max (August 31, 2016). "Hide My Ass VPN (for Android)". PC Magazine. Retrieved May 20, 2018.

External links[edit]