Using the Internet is a right, or a privilege, that many people take for granted. Many apps, social networks, and search engines collect user data and have proceeded to centralize the Internet over time, without much notice by the masses.
The tracking of user’s IP address and location information is now just a part of the online tapestry. Many go through this form of surveillance unwittingly, but a decent number choose to use Virtual Private Networks (VPN’s) which work to protect the online privacy of users in a less and less private world.
Today, we’ll take a look at Hide My Ass!, one of the long-time VPN leaders.
What do I have to hide?
Without laboring the point made above, if you are online the chances are that some company or third-party is tracking your online usage. In Western culture, a laissez-faire attitude is pervasive with regards to protecting this privacy and people are often either apathetic or ignorant. Though it’s the norm to live behind locked doors and shaded windows, for many, what they do online is a different matter. Besides online privacy, there are many good reasons to use a VPN.
Hide My Ass!, or HMA, offers one of the largest VPN networks available online with almost 1000 servers, 125k IP address and 190 countries to choose from. Full disclosure, I have used them as my VPN for three years and their large, versatile network is the main reason I continue to use them. This is not a press release or advertisement, this is a user review.
This massive network has a few advantages. One, you should get a good online service regardless of your location. You can live behind The Great Firewall of China and not be limited as to what your government says you can access online. If there is content not available in your region, pick a desired server and location and you will have instant access to it. If you want to watch a sporting event in another part of the world, your access may be limited by region or by a site’s own firewall, such as ESPN may use, so a good VPN can help you navigate these blockades easily.
You have an simple UI that allows the automatic re-setting of your IP address at any interval you desire. If you want your IP address to change every 6 hours or every ten minutes, this is easily done in Settings. This amount of adjustability is good and bad, as I learned trying use my BTC to make a purchase on Overstock.com.
Their shopping cart seems to ignore your entered address, but works off of their tracking of your IP address, making purchases more difficult. This underlines the reasons to have the service to begin with, but you may need to set the service to your mailing address to use certain sites which will track you. My disappointment with Overstock had me using Target to get the same item by fiat instead of their Bitcoin-friendly service. Tracking me online is gonna cost you.
Another benefit are the variations in server strength from place to place. If you are in Argentina, you won’t have the world’s fastest servers, which in my experience are clustered around Florida, primarily in Miami. So if you are not in Miami or Orlando, your download speeds for YouTube and streaming videos could be better, and a VPN like Hide My Ass! gives you that access to the world’s best-performing servers.
If you use YouTube a lot, as I do, you will notice a huge difference in the download times of HD videos based solely upon the server you use. Your local server will not be very swift versus the fastest server’s in HMA’s extensive network, provided you live outside of The Sunshine State.
Online security and privacy
Many believe that nations like the United States and Great Britain also have the greatest amount of online surveillance by government agents. Edward Snowden did reveal information to this effect three years ago. If you are among them, HMA can offer you fast servers outside of these countries so that your online use might now be fed quickly and easily into your nearest ‘fusion center’ for evaluation by unknown persons, without your knowledge or consent.
You can run a Ping, Express or Full Test on all of the hundreds of servers in their network to find which servers will be the quickest. I’d recommend doing an Express test twice a month, once in the daytime and once at night, to get a feel for which servers work best in the world at different times of day. These tests do that in a few hours, but won’t hurt your online browsing.
Experienced, proficient hackers work public WiFi networks like McDonald’s and Starbucks restaurants more and more for access to user information. Many cities like New York are starting to create large-scale WiFi public areas as a convenience, but your online security can be compromised if you don’t protect yourself. HMA would be a wise move for those who commonly use such open-access areas, as the service will work on any online device you have, anywhere.
The privacy these sites provide is really the service they’re selling you. Like Bitcoin or online banking which are encrypted, HMA also encrypts your data, and allows you access to their servers and IP addresses. This takes your personal information out of the online equation, but allows you unfettered access to any site in any location, based on your needs, not your physical location.
Think of HMA as a company which lets you rent access to their 125k IP addresses worldwide for a monthly fee, which is a reasonable $4.99-9.99 USD a month, depending on the length of contract. And yes, they are a Bitcoin-accepting merchant, if you go beyond the basic month-to-month membership, so using them may be that much more attractive.
I have tried other programs but HMA has proved to me to be the industry standard. If you want improved web surfing, online privacy and true global access to the web’s latest information, I’d strongly suggest you look at the Hide My Ass! VPN service and the impressive value they provide. Anyone who draws their shades at night should appreciate the protection HMA offers to your online identity and information.