Hotspot Shield 3.09 - Free download and software reviews - CNET Download.com

Hotspot Shield

CNET Editors' review

Hotspot Shield - Maintain and protect your privacy - Download Video Previews

The bottom line: The Internet connection protector Hotspot Shield encrypts your traffic to protect you from all kinds of spying while your computer communicates with the rest of the world. It's a must-have utility for anybody who uses public Wi-Fi networks.

Review:
The Internet connection protector Hotspot Shield encrypts your traffic to protect you from all kinds of spying while your computer communicates with the rest of the world. It's a must-have utility for anybody who uses public Wi-Fi networks, but it's also an excellent tool for ensuring on any network connection that you can access sites and data according to your tastes, and nobody else's. Hotspot Shield's Virtual Private Network services are used by more than 10 million people at the time this review was written, according to the software publisher AnchorFree, making it the largest VPN in the world.

The browser-independent Hotspot Shield establishes an encrypted connection to the Hotspot Shield servers, and turns all HTTP traffic to the safer HTTPS. By rerouting Web traffic and providing you with a new IP address hosted by AnchorFree, the company is able to ensure that your data isn't plucked out of the open by man-in-the-middle attacks or wireless network spoofing.

Recent changes include automatic detection of Wi-Fi connections nearby, the ability to work on corporate networks, and no longer requiring administrative privileges to install.

In our tests, we noticed that sometimes the program would actually resolve pages faster than when connected without it. This occurs, most likely, because of the geographic location of the company's servers. During a day of hands-on testing on the notoriously pokey CNET public Wi-Fi network, we noticed that Hotspot Shield Elite was remarkably fast. There were no connection lags despite the rerouting, and the program admirably handled high-definition streaming videos from sites such as Vimeo, YouTube, and CNET TV. We'd recommend the program for improving the Wi-Fi speeds alone, nevermind the additional security benefits.

The free version of Hotspot Shield does come at a cost. The installation opts you into a toolbar, which redirects your default search and home page, and a desktop icon. Also, whenever you activate Hotspot Shield, it will open a new tab to AnchorFree.com and begin autoplaying a video. That's seriously annoying, even in a free product that offers such a valuable service. Still, the toolbars and redirects are optional.

Once installed, it appears as a red icon that turns to green when activated in both your system tray and in your browser. Clicking will toggle it on or off. Choosing the Properties option opens a window that tells you that you're connected. Hit the Details link to learn more about your connection, including the VPN IP address, amount of data sent in and out, and how long you've been connected. The data transfer rate makes for a useful, quick-and-dirty gauge for people with data caps.

Hotspot Shield's paid upgrade is called Elite, which runs ad-free and on faster servers. Elite costs $0.50 per 24-hour session, with a minimum $10 deposit, or $5 per month, or $29.99 per year. Payment options include credit card, PayPal, prepaid cash cards or mobile phone payments via premium SMS. Along with built-in site malware protection, Hotspot Shield Elite comes with tech support, preferential bandwidth priority (read: faster Internet speeds) and serves you no additional ads from AnchorFree.

The company has created multiple ways to circumvent download blockers in countries with strict censorship, too. If you can't access a Web page with the download, you can send an e-mail to win@anchorfree.com for the Windows version or mac@anchorfree.com for the Mac version, and the small installer file will be sent directly to you.

Note that although the Windows version number and the Mac version number don't match, AnchorFree says the features are the same.

Even with the installation shenanigans, we highly recommend Hotspot Shield for anybody concerned with privacy. In today's world, that ought to be anybody connecting a computer to the Internet.

Hotspot Shield - Maintain and protect your privacy - Download Video Previews:

Publisher's Description

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All User Reviews
  • All versions:

    2.9 stars

    out of 619 votes

    • 5 star: 182
    • 4 star: 100
    • 3 star: 60
    • 2 star: 54
    • 1 star: 223
  • Current version:

    3.4 stars

    out of 14 votes

    • 5 star: 7
    • 4 star: 1
    • 3 star: 1
    • 2 star: 1
    • 1 star: 4
  • My rating:

    0 stars

    Write review

Results 1-10 of 14

  • 5.0 stars

    "Gets better every version"

    September 5, 2013  |   By xbabettex

    Version: Hotspot Shield 3.09

    Pros

    I've been using Hotspot Shield for 2 years and it keeps improving with every new version. I feel 10x safe when I combine it with my anti-virus software. On top of that, it's free...so why not use it?

    Cons

    At times, it could be slow connection. I'm guessing it's because so many people use it around the world.

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  • 5.0 stars

    "Works well for Netflix"

    September 5, 2013  |   By luckystar5897

    Version: Hotspot Shield 3.09

    Pros

    -Allows me to access certain websites due to my IP address
    -I feel safe & secure when checking online banking because I know all the information is routed through their secure servers

    Cons

    Was a bit confusing to set up the account, but after I figured out it works perfectly fine everytime

    Summary

    Must have app for privacy and security

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  • 4.0 stars

    "Good product, but does slow down your internet speed"

    September 5, 2013  |   By pwalton72

    Version: Hotspot Shield 3.09

    Pros

    Does what it says on the tin. All good.

    Cons

    Slows down your internet connection

    Summary

    I was downloading a file. With protection on, speeds were barely hitting 20kbps. When I switched it off, it jumped to 1.5Mbps download speeds.

    Also with protection on, I ran http://www.speedtest.net/ . I was getting 7Mbps download max speed. With protection off, 20Mbps.

    All over WIFI connection on home router.

    Hope this helps.

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  • 5.0 stars

    "It does its job by protecting my privacy."

    September 4, 2013  |   By Techgirl21

    Version: Hotspot Shield 3.09

    Pros

    I use it to hide my IP address and secures my internet communications when I'm using public WiFi to access the Internet.

    It works like it says.

    Cons

    It slows down my Internet a little bit.

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  • 5.0 stars

    "Safe secure access of the internet"

    September 4, 2013  |   By c_ster

    Version: Hotspot Shield 3.09

    Pros

    Allows me to safely and privately access the internet - any time, anywhere

    Cons

    none, works every time

    Summary

    Must-have product

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  • 1.0 stars

    "Barely works, support non-existent"

    September 3, 2013  |   By richlane

    Version: Hotspot Shield 3.09

    Pros

    Apparently encrypts your browser traffic to and from the Anchor Free server. Online services think you are at a different IP, anyway.

    Cons

    * Doesn't encrypt all applications. Skype, for example, shows up on a different network connection than HSS. This means if you use Skype to send a file to somebody, then that action is totally in the open. Not clear at all if HSS encrypts Quicken online updates, and there's no way to verify that it does.

    * Support nonexistent, really. If you ask a question, you always get the same 15-line email that asks for a lot of detail about your system but gives you no answers. If you ask again, they don't answer at all. The one time I got an answer was when I asked if HSS would encrypt Quicken online traffic, and that answer was, "You can always get a refund within a week." (Thanks a lot!)

    * Fails to connect to a number of financial institutions.

    * Markedly slowed down all my browsing. Caused my older notebook to thrash constantly.

    * Even the Elite version sends you ads, changes your browser home page, installs add-ins, and generally messes you up.

    Summary

    I've uninstalled this program now that I'm home from my long vacation. It's preposterously bad.

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  • 5.0 stars

    "Great for security AND unblocking popular sites abroad"

    September 3, 2013  |   By dstupakov87

    Version: Hotspot Shield 3.09

    Pros

    I use this app on multiple devices when I travel. It's on my iPhone, iPad, Mac, and PC.

    For some weird reason, Yelp blocks my IP address and doesn't allow me to view this site. With Hotspot Shield, I can get around this.

    When I travel, I use it for joining wifi networks I don't trust so that all my traffic is encrypted. Also works great for accessing FB, Twitter in China.

    Cons

    * Sometimes triggers FB and Google security verification (it does change your IP address after-all...)
    * Browser toolbar if you don't uncheck the box during installation

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  • 5.0 stars

    "Works Great"

    September 3, 2013  |   By winner_kid

    Version: Hotspot Shield 3.09

    Pros

    - Gives me a feeling of security while browsing the Web.
    - Gave me the ability to use the same subscription on my iPhone and iPad once I subscribed to their Elite service.

    Cons

    I am not a big fan of seeing ads but I easily got rid of those by subscribing to their Elite service.

    Summary

    I would recommend Hotspot Shield to any Internet user to stay secure online.

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  • 5.0 stars

    "Good for travel"

    September 3, 2013  |   By coastboy23

    Version: Hotspot Shield 3.09

    Pros

    Protects you in Wifi hotspots when you are away from home
    Easy to set up and use
    Notifies you when accessing via new, unknown WiFi

    Cons

    Some advertising if you don't buy paid version. Maybe some slight slow down in download speeds common to other VPNs

    Summary

    If you spend anytime away from home using internet in public places, you would be dumb not to protect yourself with a VPN. this one is free and works great.

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  • 1.0 stars

    "Messes Up Email Clients, can't get rid of it"

    August 26, 2013  |   By Desertfox1941

    Version: Hotspot Shield 3.09

    Pros

    Bocks your IP

    Cons

    Messes up functionality of my Mac web client. Tried to fix per their instructions. Still can't end photos from iPhoto or emails from Mac Mail.

    Tried to delete the program. Once I trashed it, NONE of my browsers worked. I couldn't connect to any websites and got a message that I was offline, yet SKYPE was connected. Reinstalled it and low and behold I could connect to the internet with my browsers again.

    Summary

    I dislike this product because of the hassle it has put me through. I will figure out how to get rid of it and find another means because I dont' like that someone else's program can just shut down parts of my Macs functionality and there is no easy method to get it working again except to put this crap software back in. Thought it was a good idea, now I am regretting downloading it and installing it.

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Results 1-10 of 14

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