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The July print edition of PCWorld carried an (otherwise great) article “How to Stay Safe on Public Wi-Fi” (pp 94) that recommended Hotspot Shield VPN software. Unfortunately the magazine neglected to tell its readers that Hotspot Shield has some serious issues and Sunbelt’s VIPRE detects it as adware. We can’t really tell if the magazine is ignoring the issue or just didn’t notice.

Hotspot Shield “Software License and Terms of Service” states:

“9.1 Advertisements.  AnchorFree may deliver third-party advertisements (‘Advertisements’) within the content of any web page accessed. Advertisements may be injected into the top of the page, inserted directly into the page content, or even displayed to overlay the page.”

Some VIPRE users asked us recently about Hotspot Shield and we outlined the problem in the Sunbelt Blog. The company responded and we carried its comments as well. Our conclusion (written by Sunbelt Spyware Research Manager Eric Howes:

“The key test or question in this case is a simple one. AnchorFree promotes Hotspot Shield as means for ‘protecting your privacy, security, and anonymity on the web.’ What would users think if they knew that the very first thing AnchorFree does after users start a ‘private browsing session’ is hand them over to invasive advertising networks? I think they would be appalled.”

VIPRE detects it as Adware.Win32.HotspotShield.

Sunbelt Blog pieces about Hotspot Shield:

“What part of “no adware” don’t you understand?”

“AnchorFree Responds on Hotspot Shield, our response”

Tom Kelchner