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HotSpot Shield strengthens VPN with anti-malware wall


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HotSpot Shield maker AnchorFree has built an extra wall of protection into its popular virtual private network software, available today. The update adds a malware site guard to the VPN client without requiring you to download a new version of the program because the changes have all been made on the server, not on your computer.


With the anti-malware site guard in place, HotSpot Shield will throw up a warning like the one you see in the screenshot above. Available on Windows, Mac, and iOS, the new anti-malware site protection is based off a database of more than 3 million malicious sites. Between the three operating systems, AnchorFree says that HotSpot Shield has more than 10 million active monthly users. Since the site guard is implemented on the server-side, it will be available in the coming HotSpot Shield Android app, too.

For people who use the free, ad-supported version of HotSpot Shield, the new guard will block malware sites. If you upgrade to the ad-free and bandwidth-prioritized Elite version, you will also receive protection against three additional types of passive Web threats. These include otherwise safe sites that have been infected by third-party malware, phishing sites, and sites that promulgate spam.

AnchorFree CEO David Gorodyansky said during a phone call on Tuesday that the update makes HotSpot Shield a complete secure browsing solution. "There was no issue for us in integrating the secure browsing with the VPN."

When I tested it, the updated Elite version worked well. There was no lag time where the malicious site appeared to resolve before being blocked. And in fact, the way the new protections work is to prevent that site from even loading in the first place. Instead, what you're shown below the warning is a screenshot of the site.

There are two options in the upper right corner of a blocked page. The first takes you to a little-known search engine called Search-Results.com, that appears to have a referral deal with Anchor Free. While that makes sense from a business perspective, a link to the browser's default search engine would've been more polite. Search-results.com is also known for paying companies that install proprietary toolbars to have them change your default search engine. That's not happening here, thankfully.

Below that is a link to go to the real site, though for obvious safety reasons AnchorFree doesn't recommend you click on it. I perceived no lag in loading either known malicious sites or known safe ones.

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