Hoxx VPN is a free browser extension that claims to help you get around geo- and government blocked websites like Google, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter as well as protect your computer or device when you connect to a public network. Learn more about Hoxx vpn review below.
It is an incredibly light VPN that operates more closely to a proxy than a true VPN. Hoxx offers only the most basic features like privacy protection and IP address selection, but as you’ll see, its security features just go so far in protecting your complete privacy.
Have you used Hoxx or are you looking for a free VPN? You need to read this review before you commit to this product.
Who Is Hoxx?
The VPN comes from a small company called Hoxx, which is owned by VPN1 LLC and based in Florida in the United States. It began operating in 2014, and since then, one million clients have come onboard since its inception. But many of those may be free subscribers, and it’s unclear who pays for the product.
If you view Hoxx’s Google Chrome stats, you’ll see that nearly 561,500 users installed the VPN and it has a stellar rating with 17,618 reviews.
Beyond that, we know relatively little about Hoxx. Because it operates as a browser extension, it doesn’t maintain an extensive web presence. There are a few user reviews, but they are written by people who state in their Hoxx VPN review that they want a free product and aren’t particularly worried about security.
Hoxx isn’t a feature-heavy VPN, and the developers don’t go out of their way to explain even the most essential elements included in the software. As we mentioned in the introduction to our Hoxx VPN review, we believe it’s better to understand the VPN as something closer to a proxy service.
It makes two familiar promises. First, it promises anonymity by allowing you to relocate to one of Hoxx’s servers. Second, you can use it to access the web in a secure environment, including sites otherwise blocked in your country.
Some of the features we liked include:
However, there aren’t any real features that are worth discussing. Hoxx’s premium version doesn’t even offer a real kill switch, which would protect you if your connection drops.
Instead, it’s better to spend time discussing the serious issues that appear with Hoxx VPN. If you want a VPN because you have an interest in privacy, then you absolutely must read the next section.
Note: Hoxx may call itself a VPN, but its Chrome store says “Hoxx VPN Proxy,” so it is essential to unpack what that means.
A Note on Proxies
Your best bet is to approach a proxy service with a grain of salt. We don’t say that because we prefer VPNs personally but because experts say so.
Proxies route traffic through alternative computer networks, and those networks are typically only pseudo-anonymous.
Additionally, the only safe way to use a free proxy server is when it allows HTTPs, and you only visit HTTPS sites. Again, this is problematic because 21 percent of non-shady proxies refers to the only proxies that enable HTTPS. The problem isn’t that proxies don’t use HTTPS—they ban it.
If you aren’t using HTTPS, the proxy service can analyze your traffic data and even steal your login data.
Now, Hoxx VPN is NOT a proxy by its standard definition. However, it is similar to a proxy, and it notes this in its product name, and you should treat it as such.
Forget encryption or VPN protocols. Those items don’t matter if the company employing them can’t be trusted to keep you safe.
Unfortunately, you can’t guarantee your privacy or safety when you use Hoxx VPN.
First, the VPN operates out of the United States. If you are an American who likes to buy local, stick to food, cars, and almost any offline service. Don’t buy an American VPN.
The problem with using a VPN based in the United States is that the United States is not only one of the world’s largest surveillance states, but it shares what it finds. Your privacy is not guaranteed.
Hoxx may protect you from the prying eyes of advertisers, but it logs your data—and that’s a deal breaker for privacy seekers.
The issue that appears over-and-over again appears to be with Hoxx’s ethos. It repeatedly says in its FAQs that it wants to provide cover for people who want privacy and security for legitimate purposes. However, it specifically targets those it considers to have ‘illegitimate intentions.’
To combat the users who allegedly use its service for illegal activities, it saves proxy logs.
Additionally, because Hoxx’s parent company operates out of the United States and it logs your data, it can feasibly hand over data to legal authorities. Hoxx is honest about its willingness to work with law enforcement and judicial authorities.
That’s a massive amount of information that’s easy for Hoxx to merely hand over to any authority that asks for it.
In our opinion, collecting this much data flies in the face of the purpose of a VPN. Privacy isn’t about hiding your activity from petty advertisers or lurking law enforcement. It is a commitment to the belief that the only one who has the right to know what you do online is you.
Image via: flickr
Even if you do use a VPN simply to get around geo-restricted websites, you open yourself up to scrutiny if the government blocked the site. If you were an activist attempting to get on YouTube in Turkey or Facebook in China, then the relevant governments could request your activity straight from Hoxx.
What’s more, Hoxx reserves the right to store your data even if you cancel your account and uninstall the browser extension.
Hoxx Only Uses Basic Security
Image via: Flickr
If you’re not worried about government surveillance and your primary concern is using public networks and steering clear from advertisers, then you’ll still want to know what basic security protocols the VPN uses.
Hoxx says its VPN service benefits from 4096-bit end-to-end encryption, but if you don’t subscribe, you receive only 1024-bit encryption.
Here’s the thing about 1024-bit encryption: it’s ancient. The only reason you should ever use 1024-bit encryption is if it’s free, and you should never pay for it. NIST only recommended the use of 1024-bit encryption until 2010. The minimum encryption you should be using is 2048-bit, which Hoxx doesn’t offer with its free program.
In essence, you need to pay to get access to encryption that’s still meaningful in 2019.
A company that values privacy and security should be using at least 4096-bit encryption—and so should you. If you share or store any financial information on your computer, then you are best suited to that level of protection.
Hoxx also uses two VPN protocols: ShadowSocks and HTTP tunneling.
Shadowsocks biggest benefits are its simplicity and its ability to disguise traffic. It came to the fore when Chinese developers and hackers needed to find a way around the Chinese government’s targeted attacks on VPN usage.
In essence, Shadowsocks is a proxying protocol. Before you connect to the wider internet, you connect to a second computer, which is your proxy server. When your proxy, all the traffic routes through the proxy server, which could be anywhere. It’s what allows you to connect to sites that might be blocked in your country, like if you want to access Facebook in China.
Alternative protocols stepped up to surpass proxies, which is where Shadowsocks shines. Shadowsocks creates encrypted connections between your computer and the proxy server using SOCKS5. Shadowsocks looks different from a typical VPN because it is de-centralized in comparison.
The second protocol is HTTP tunneling. HTTP tunneling bypasses firewalls and network restrictions to directly link two locations. Like Shadowsocks, it is a relatively simple solution that’s great for transportation. However, while HTTP tunneling gets you around the internet, you want a VPN tunnel for added security. VPN tunnels keep intruders out of your computer using full encryption and use tunnels like SSL, TCP Crypt, or IPSec.
The Bottom Line on Security
If anonymity or security is your goal, the free version of Hoxx isn’t suitable for you. We wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.
The issues with Hoxx VPN abound, and if you are at all security conscious, you won’t even use it to protect your passwords during a 10-minute connection at a coffee shop.
Could solid performance from a VPN redeem its major privacy flaws?
Maybe for some, but Hoxx VPN doesn’t offer superior speeds either.
Some tests show that the speeds are particularly good when you connect to a North American server from a North American-based connection. You could even get speeds on part with your original non-VPN speeds. However, you can expect significant drops when you connect to a European server from North America—expect it to be half of your baseline speed.
Reviews of performance from users in its web store suggest that it doesn’t get in the way of download speeds or surfing. However, many of these reviews reflect a delight in finding something free and freely admit their concern with privacy is minimal at best.
Hoxx offers 674 servers in 32 countries, but it does not provide details on server locations. It also says that Premium subscribers have access to more servers, so it’s not clear how many of those 674 servers a free user can access.
Screenshots suggest that you can connect to servers in:
Can I Watch Netflix?
Hoxx is primarily for clients who want to work around geo-restrictions placed on internet content. In this case, you should be able to use the tool to watch Netflix, Hulu, or any other streaming service.
Tests and user reviews that Hoxx is good for getting into Facebook, but Netflix is unavailable. Hoxx also does not market itself as a way to access Netflix, which suggests it is aware that sites like Netflix won’t work.
It is also worth noting that you cannot torrent when using Hoxx. Hoxx explicitly states that torrenting (and any access to Tor) is not allowed when using its products.
You can use the most basic form of Hoxx free—forever.
The free plan comes with 1024-bit end-to-end encryption, a static IP address, and no bandwidth restrictions. Free customers also receive unlimited server switches.
Hoxx also offers a paid Premium account that it prices “from $1.99.” The premium account comes with superior encryption (4096-bit end-to-end encryption) and better support through email or chat. Premium subscribers also have access to distinct premium servers and more server locations. Although, Hoxx doesn’t disclose where its servers are in either case.
If you are a privacy nerd, then you need to know right now that Hoxx does not offer guest checkout, and you must create an account to use Hoxx. Additionally, paying anonymously via Bitcoin or cash doesn’t appear to be an option, which means someone will hold identifiable information about you.
Hoxx says customers pay the payment partner and that it does not store your personal information
Hoxx’s money-back guarantee is also confusing. It says that all paying customers have a “14-day money-back guarantee for all purchases over 3 and more months.” It seems that if you purchase a one-month plan, then you forfeit your right to a refund. However, if you buy a three-month subscription, then you can request money back within fourteen days after your purchase.
Customer support is an essential part of VPN use because the team behind the software help you make the most of its features.
If you run into issues with Hoxx, your best bet for help is to become a developer and fix it yourself. The only option for support is email, and even though it claims to offer 24/7 support, we don’t recommend waiting by the phone.
Should You Try Hoxx VPN? The Bottom Line
We encourage all internet users to be wary of free VPNs—particularly browser extensions—and companies like Hoxx VPN are a big part of the reason why we give out this advice.
When a reasonable person thinks of a VPN, they think of a service committed to security and safety with added features like accessing sites they otherwise can’t reach.
Hoxx—and other free VPNs—defies those expectations. Hoxx VPN logs and stores all kinds of data from your browsing history to the speed at which you traveled when you access the page. It then happily turns it over to any government bodies that ask, and because Hoxx operates out of the United States they (1) will ask and (2) will share what they get with the other Five Eyes participants.
Yes, Hoxx is free. But the free version isn’t even worth the low cost because the encryption went out of style in 2010. The paid encryption level suits, but you still tackle the issue of logging, which defies the purpose of a VPN for privacy and security reasons.
The key takeaway from our Hoxx VPN review is that Hoxx is less of a VPN and more of a proxy service. And those two terms are not synonymous. More importantly, proxies are largely services that you want to avoid at all costs because although there’s no evidence of Hoxx using data nefariously, many free proxies do just that.
Should you use Hoxx? Probably not. If you are serious about using a VPN, use a well-reviewed product (they can be affordable too!) with real privacy features—even if it does cost you a few dollars per month.