7.4.6 / 14 May 2018
|Operating system||Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Windows Phone|
|Available in||English, German, French, Russian, Arabic, Persian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Turkish|
Hotspot Shield is a virtual private network (VPN) utility developed by AnchorFree, Inc. VPNs are used for securing Internet connections, often in unsecured networks. Hotspot Shield was used to bypass government censorship during the Arab Spring protests in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya.
Hotspot Shield was developed by AnchorFree, a company in Silicon Valley. 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.
Hotspot Shield establishes a virtual private network connection. The software usually protects information from being accessed or tracked by third parties. 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. Hotspot Shield also allows users to (usually) hide their IP address. VPNs cannot make any user completely anonymous on the Internet, but they can greatly increase privacy and security. Users can bypass censorship using Hotspot Shield by connecting to a VPN server located outside his/her country.
During the Arab Spring protests in 2010, protesters used Hotspot Shield to access social networking tools to communicate and upload videos. 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.
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.
In 2017, Hotspot Shield hit 500 million installs.
Hotspot Shield has generally received positive reviews by industry publications and websites. 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. In 2013, the app was included on Softonic's Best Apps of Mobile World Congress. In 2013, Hotspot Shield (and AnchorFree) was awarded the Appy Award for Best Online Security/Privacy Application.
In August 2017, the Center for Democracy and Technology issued an open complaint to the Federal Trade Commission which they state "concerns undisclosed and unclear data sharing and traffic redirection occurring in Hotspot Shield Free VPN that should be considered unfair and deceptive trade practices under Section 5 of the FTC Act." CDT "partnered with researchers at Carnegie Mellon University to analyze the app and the service and found 'undisclosed data sharing practices' with advertising networks."
In February 2018, a security researcher discovered an information disclosure bug in the app that results in a leak of user data, such as in which country the user is located, and the user's Wi-Fi network name, if connected.
- Release 7.4.6 for Windows Platform
- Hotspot Shield Free VPN
- Hotspot Shield
- Hotspot Shield Elite
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- Whittaker, Zack (2018-02-06). "A flaw in Hotspot Shield can expose VPN users, locations". ZDNet. Archived from the original on 2018-02-07.
The virtual private network says it provides a way to browse the web "anonymously and privately," but a security researcher has released code that could identify users' names and locations.