Hoxx VPN Review – What Sets It Apart From Its Competitors

VPN Signage with man in the side
Source: Pixabay.com

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.

Pros

  • Competitively priced
  • Virus protection
  • Browser extension
  • Unlimited bandwidth

Cons

  • No Netflix overseas
  • Not fast
  • User logging retained
  • No iOS support

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.

Features

vpn personal data streaming

Image by Stefan Coders from Pixabay

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:

  • Unlimited connections
  • Useful number of servers (674 servers across 32 countries)

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

vpn for home security

Image by Stefan Coders from Pixabay

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.

One of the big issues found among free proxies similar to Hoxx VPN is that too many actively modify users’ content. About 25 percent of proxies surveyed modified JavaScript, which is not only terrible from a privacy perspective but generally speaking.

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.

Security

a person holding a phone with vpn verbunden flashed on the screen

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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.

Many legitimate VPNs do not track any of their user’s activity and thus cannot hand over any data to any agency that requests it. At the same time, Hoxx earns points because at least the company is honest about its practices. Other VPNs claim they offer privacy and engage in the same exercises, but they bury their data logging deep in their privacy policy. They certainly don’t share it in their FAQs.

If Hoxx collects proxy logs, then what is at risk? If you read the company’s privacy policy, you’ll see that they log the following information from all users:

  • Log information (browser type, language, pages viewed, access times, IP address before navigating to Hoxx.com)
  • Device information (hardware model, operating system/version, phone number, mobile network information, unique device identifier, and  International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI)
  • Location information (the speed at which you are traveling, location-based filters)

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.

Word VPN on keyboard

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

A person is operating the laptop while flashed on the screen is the hoxx vpn

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.

Performance

Server Locations

Can I Watch Netflix?

Netflix flashed on the phone screen with the other apps

Image by Alexander Bahena from Pixabay

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.

Pricing

Customer Support

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.

Featured Image by Stefan Coders from Pixabay

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