Hotspot Shield

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Hotspot Shield
Original author(s) AnchorFree, Inc
Developer(s) AnchorFree, Inc
Initial release 2005
Stable release
6.4.4 (February 15, 2017)[1]
Development status Active
Operating system Microsoft Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Windows Phone[2]
Size 14.1 MB[3]
Available in English, German, French, Russian, Arabic, Persian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Turkish
Type VPN
License Freeware (ad-supported) and elite (paid) version available[4]

Hotspot Shield is a software application developed by AnchorFree, Inc. that allows the user to connect to a virtual private network (VPN).[5][6] It is used for securing Internet connections, often in unsecured networks.[5] Hotspot Shield was used to bypass government censorship during the Arab Spring protests in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya.[7][8]


Hotspot Shield was developed by AnchorFree, a company in silicon valley.[5][9] The software was released in April 2008 for Windows and macOS operating systems, and was expanded to include support for iOS and Android in 2011 and 2012, respectively.[10]

Hotspot Shield establishes a virtual private network connection. The software usually protects information from being accessed or tracked by third parties.[7] AnchorFree operates Hotspot Shield with a freemium business model: the main features of the software are free, but users have to pay to get additional features, which include the elimination of advertisements, antivirus protection and the ability to choose which country from several wherein the VPN is located.


Hotspot Shield encrypts data sent to the VPN to (normally) prevent successful eavesdropping.[6] Hotspot Shield also allows users to (usually) hide their IP address.[11] VPN's cannot make any user completely anonymous on the Internet, but they can greatly increase privacy and security.[12] Users can bypass censorship using Hotspot Shield by connecting to a VPN server located outside his/her country.[13]

International use[edit]

Hotspot Shield has been used to bypass Internet censorship in countries with strict Internet censorship programs.[8][14]

During the Arab Spring protests in 2010, protesters used Hotspot Shield to access social networking tools to communicate and upload videos.[8][11] Hotspot Shield was also widely used during the Egyptian protests and revolution in 2011, when the Mubarak regime cracked down heavily on access to social media sites.[15]

In 2012, Hotspot Shield usage increased among Mac users in the United States and Europe, as 500,000 Mac users were infected by the Flashback virus. Hotspot Shield was used as a protection against the virus.[16]

In 2013, usage of Hotspot Shield increased in Turkey, in response to the suspected efforts of the Turkish government to censor social media and citizen access to international websites.[17][18]

In 2014, usage of Hotspot Shield increased in Hong Kong after the outbreak of the 2014 Hong Kong protests.[19]

In 2017, Hotspot Shield hit 500 million installs.[20]

Critical reception[edit]

Hotspot Shield has generally received positive reviews by industry publications and websites.[21][22][23] PC Magazine rated the software "excellent" and praised its status indicator, traffic encryption, connection speed at times and payment flexibility - but criticized the software's ad platform, website code injection, slowdown of overall response time and browser setting modifications.[24] Best VPN lauded Hotspot Shield's value and speed, but was less enthusiastic about its features, reliability and tech support. Their review said "While Hotspot Shield does its job effectively, it probably won’t appeal to technical users...".[25]

Awards and recognition[edit]

In 2013, Hotspot Shield (and AnchorFree) was awarded the Appy Award for Best Online Security/Privacy Application, as well as Softonic's 2013 Best Apps of Mobile World Congress.[26] AnchorFree was also named among the 15 most important security startups of 2013.[27]


  1. ^ Hotspot Shield version history
  2. ^ Hotspot Shield Free VPN
  3. ^ Hotspot Shield
  4. ^ Hotspot Shield Elite
  5. ^ a b c "Company Overview of AnchorFree, Inc.". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved 25 June 2013. 
  6. ^ a b Empson, Rip. "With Its Hotspot Shield Hitting 60M Downloads, AnchorFree Lands A Whopping $52M From Goldman Sachs". TechCrunch. Retrieved 25 June 2013. 
  7. ^ a b Levin, Dan (16 January 2010). "Software Makers See a Market in Censorship". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 June 2013. 
  8. ^ a b c Greene, Rachel. "Arab Spring and Emerging Technology". CNN iReport. Retrieved 25 June 2013. 
  9. ^ "About AnchorFree". AnchorFree. Retrieved 25 June 2013. 
  10. ^ "News & Events". AnchorFree. Retrieved 25 June 2013. 
  11. ^ a b Messieh, Nancy. "Hotspot Shield: A quiet hero for Internet privacy and security around the world". TNW. Retrieved 25 June 2013. 
  12. ^ "I am Anonymous When I Use a VPN". Golden Frog. Retrieved 2015-02-24. 
  13. ^ Colao, J.J. "How To Thwart Hackers And Dictators With One Free Download". Forbes. Retrieved 25 June 2013. 
  14. ^ "Hotspot Shield Free VPN Experiences 1000% Growth Surge in the Wake of Recent Turkish Unrest". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 25 June 2013. 
  15. ^ Koehn, Josh. "AnchorFree Opens Doors to Revolution". Retrieved 25 June 2013. 
  16. ^ "Mac virus a ‘wake-up call’, says CEO". CNME. Retrieved 25 June 2013. 
  17. ^ Ballim, Evren; Sandle, Paul (6 June 2013). "Turks skip suspected censorship with Internet lifelines". Reuters. Retrieved 25 June 2013. 
  18. ^ Acohido, Byron (5 June 2013). "Turkey citizens use VPN to air grievances". USA Today. Retrieved 25 June 2013. 
  19. ^ "Hong Kong Protests Beating the Media Crackdown". Forbes. Retrieved 26 October 2014. 
  20. ^ AnchorFree’s Hotspot Shield App Hits 500M Installs,, retrieved 2017-04-26 
  21. ^ "The best free VPN services of 2015 for UK users: access blocked sites and surf the web anonymously". PC Advisor. Retrieved 2015-02-24. 
  22. ^ "Hotspot Shield Offers VPN Servers in Multiple Countries, Perfect for Watching Blocked Content Overseas". Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  23. ^ "Hotspot Shield Elite". Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  24. ^ "Hotspot Shield Elite". PC Magazine. Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  25. ^ "Hotspot Shield Review". Best VPN. Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  26. ^ Thornton, James. "The best apps of Mobile World Congress 2013". Softonic. Retrieved 25 June 2013. 
  27. ^ Bort, Julie. "The 15 Most Important Security Startups of 2013". Business Insider. Retrieved 25 June 2013.