Can you even imagine where the world would be today had the internet never been invented? How would we share all of our photos and videos of cute animals? How would we consume all of the dank memes that we love so much? What would we do had memes never been created at all? How on earth would we get all of the unnecessary stuff that we love delivered to our doors within 24 hours of ordering them? It seems unbearable to imagine!
But in all seriousness, the internet truly has changed our lives for the better. We have reached new heights of convenience, interconnectivity, and information gathering. If you are a bit on the older side (as I am), you probably remember what it was like to learn new things prior to the internet. You had to either be in a classroom, in possession of an encyclopedia, or at the library conducting research.
Other than that, it was nothing but word of mouth. Today, we have nearly all of the world’s recorded history, facts, and figures in our pockets. In a matter of seconds, we can become momentary geniuses. A quick Google search on our phones and we can know the answer to any question we may have. It is truly an incredible time to be alive. I mean, since I’ve started writing this review, I have had 5 books and my groceries delivered to my front door. If that’s not progress, I don’t know what is.
However, the internet isn’t all fun and games. For all of the things that make the internet a miraculous resource that has undeniably changed our lives for the better, it has also resulted in much darker, more insidious possibilities too. The internet is ripe with danger and malice. Especially if you do not have a secure and private connection to it. For every glorious advent of modern times that comes with the internet, there is a shadow.
And the first shadow that comes to mind is that of hackers. Unless your internet connection is private and secured, any and all of your personal information can be accessed by anyone tech-savvy and amoral enough to look for it. We’re talking addresses, personal photos, videos, credit card numbers, etc. – anything that is transmitted over a public or insecure internet connection is fair game for those who want badly enough to exploit it.
It is not merely the rote hacker looking to bypass vulnerable security flaws in public wifi connections either. Even your own Internet Service Provider (ISP) can track all of your online activity – in fact, many are doing so right now as you read this. Unfortunately, the very companies that provide us with the internet in the first place are some of the most devious in accessing and sharing our private information. Many ISPs, for instance, mine and sell our data to third-party corporations. The age of information is also the death of privacy.
Oftentimes, we are not even safe from our own governments. In fact, federal and state agencies can be some of the most egregious when it comes to spying on its citizens, as well as censoring what sites can and cannot be accessed. The overwhelming majority of countries in the ‘free world’ have been documented monitoring civilian activity. And, of course, nearly every known repressive regime does the same while also banning and censoring hundreds of thousands of sites. In other words, George Orwell’s concept of Big Brother is alive and well in the 21st century.
You might be thinking that a hack can’t happen to you. Well, if you find that you even occasionally use a public wifi connection at, say, a coffee shop, airport, hotel or the like, this makes you especially vulnerable. Public internet is extremely insecure, and this is, indeed, where many online attacks are likely to occur.
There is a glimmer of hope, however. Whether you are a concerned citizen who wishes to shake off the government or an ISP’s monitoring of your data, just a regular person who is concerned for their online safety, or a citizen under a despotic government – a good Virtual Private Network (VPN) can be a potential solution to all of these concerns. With so many VPNs to choose from, though, at so many different price points, it can be hard to figure out which one is the best for you. So, today, we’ll look at one of the highest-rated VPNs on the market: HMA VPN.
HMA VPN, in a moment of what was probably a smart PR overhaul, eventually changed their name, turning it into a somewhat cryptic initialism of the original: Hide My Ass! Their logo, however, of a donkey dressed up to look like a private investigator (complete with fedora, trench coat, and sunglasses) has survived the company’s rebranding efforts.
In 2005, HMA was created by Jack Cator of Norfolk, England. Often lauded as a bit of a tech prodigy, Cator was only 16 when he created his VPN service. True to 16-year-olds’ primary concerns, he developed HMA in order to bypass restrictions that his school had on accessing and downloading music and games over their network.
Cator has been cited stating that the first HMA server was created in a matter of just a few hours using open-sourced code. The first iteration of HMA was more like a proxy than a proper VPN, however, and existed as a free site that users could access via a URL; from there, the site privately routed the user to their desired website in-browser.
By 2014, HMA had acquired 10 million users and 215,000 paying subscribers. Cator’s VPN caught the attention of AVG Technologies, who purchased the company outright for $40 million. Today, it is one of the most widely used VPN services in the world.
HMA has one of the most intuitive and user-friendly interfaces of any VPN service I have ever seen. It really doesn’t get any simpler than this. Simply click “on” and, thanks to HMA’s lightning connect feature, the program automatically detects the strongest private network on the server in your area. You can, of course, also choose to select a specific network from a list by searching your location, but you will likely never strictly need to do so. Just hit the “on” button and enjoy endless private browsing.
As far as content is concerned, there is not much to HMA beyond the server selecting function and the lightning connect button. Both the program and app itself are extremely lightweight and, thus, will not slow down your browsing and streaming experience too much. That being said, there are some content concerns to be aware of regarding what kinds of things you tend to do online.
You can, for instance, access Netflix with no trouble on HMA (as advertised). In my tests, however, streaming speeds and qualities were pretty hit or miss. This is one of the big issues with many VPNs – their impact on buffering and streaming speeds. Unfortunately, HMA does not appear able to reliably deliver a top-notch viewing experience when it comes to streaming from your favorite services.
Desktop and Mobile Experience
HMA VPN is available on all of the big-name devices. Users of Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android can enjoy HMA in the program and app form. And, as I touched on earlier, no matter what device you are using, HMA guarantees an equally easy and user-friendly experience. If you run Linux, Ubuntu, or something similar, however, you might want to look elsewhere.
Pricing and Plans
I am happy to report that, unlike many VPNs out there, HMA offers a 7-day free trial period. So, feel free to give it a try without necessarily committing to a years-long payment plan. Once you have given HMA a week, you can choose from the following payment plans:
-12 months at $6.99/month
-36 months at $4.29/month
So, HMA VPN is not necessarily the best deal on the market … but it is also not unaffordable by any means.