Is Hotspot Shield’s Free Version Good Enough? Venezuelans Are Putting It To The Test
Government control over the internet is dangerous. Any attempt to restrict access to information, limit communication, or impose strict controls on messaging channels is a violation of fundamental freedoms. The internet belongs to everyone; it does not fall under the purview of any government or watchdog authority.
A worrying trend is taking root around the world. Authoritarian regimes in China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, and Venezuela et al are putting a stranglehold on the internet. These repressive practices are already taking a heavy toll on society.
The Venezuelan case study is particularly interesting. Incumbent president, Nicolas Maduro is dealing with a crisis of epic proportions. The country is teetering on the brink of collapse and he’s desperate to maintain power.
Today, millions of Venezuelans are struggling without regular access to electricity. This has resulted in mass demonstrations across the country. President Maduro's palace in Caracas is not immune to his countrymen's displeasure. The month of March was beset by multiple major power outages, resulting in a 30-day plan to regulate electrical output in Venezuela.
Mismanagement, corruption, and a lack of investment in the electrical framework has resulted in a near-complete breakdown across the nation. Maduro blames the West, while his opposition blames the government for neglecting maintenance, repairs, and upgrades on the electrical network. While the political shenanigans continue in Venezuela, the reality remains bleak for its citizens.
Why Is The Situation In Venezuelan So Dire?
After the death of Hugo Chavez in 2013, the wheels have come off the Venezuelan economy. From an oil-rich juggernaut to a poverty-stricken laggard, Venezuela is struggling to provide basic services, law and order, education, and food for its people.
Centralized power, the silencing of dissent, and extreme intimidation characterize the current political climate. Like a true autocracy, the military rules with an iron fist and remains loyal to the executive branch.
The elections in May 2018 resulted in Maduro winning another six-year term, amid widespread vote rigging and tampering allegations. To quell the unrest, President Maduro has followed in the footsteps of other tyrannical leaders by imposing strict punitive measures on his political opponents, limiting access to basic services in the country, and imposing veritable martial law on the land.
Western countries including the US and Canada, multiple South American countries, and various European nations decried the election results. In response, Maduro cut ties with several of these countries and expelled US embassy personnel from the country. The US and at least four dozen other countries in the UN recognize the opposition leader Juan Guaido as the de facto president of Venezuela.
The people have lost their voice. They are isolated and in the dark. When the power grid goes off-line, so too do all communication channels with the outside world. This is precisely what President Nicolas Maduro wants.
Why Shut Down The Internet?
By shutting down the internet, and policing the activities of the population, maneuvers spearheaded by states like China and Russia, Maduro is hoping to quell dissent and enforce his iron will on the people.
Meanwhile, the IMF estimates that inflation will reach 10 million % this year, unemployment will skyrocket, violence will spiral out of control, and a humanitarian crisis will unfold.
Such is the severity of the Venezuelan crisis that an estimated 3 million people have left since 2014. Once again, the US is pitted against Russia in a proxy Cold War scenario, with tough talk on both sides. But it’s the Venezuelan people who are struggling with limited access to the internet, telecommunications, and basic services.
The daily blackouts in Venezuela are a growing problem for everyone. Stories have sporadically filtered through the net, detailing the dire situation among Venezuelan freelancers. Without access to uninterrupted internet connections, people are losing their jobs left, right and center. According to one journalist, "Only in the highest rooftops of my street I can listen to news or communicate with my co-workers." The blackouts hit countless households hard and virtually eliminated the livelihoods of millions of people.
The internet crisis is not a manufactured crisis for political expediency; it is real and it is impacting many lives in the country. Since electrical infrastructures are needed to power internet connections, the blackouts are hurting people in a real way.
The new regime’s electric energy minister, Igor Gavidia stated that the electric crisis could last for a year, or longer. Internet speeds in Venezuela average 0.8 Mbps, hardly enough to relay multimedia audio-visual content and run basic online services.
Ways to navigate the Venezuelan Internet blackouts
When people have limited or no access to transportation, water, electricity, food, or employment opportunities, things quickly spiral out of control. Take information dissemination out of the picture and it's easy to see how people are becoming disillusioned.
Social media soundbites have become part and parcel of the cultural zeitgeist of our time. In Venezuela, social media connectivity is a luxury afforded to few people. Widespread power outages for prolonged periods of time have ripped people from the internet and left them in the dark.
Hospitals patients are dying, jobs are being shed at a breakneck rate, and economic opportunities are drying up fast. The government is trying to temper discord by preventing this news from leaking to the outside world.
Venezuelans are running scared, fearful that government may indict them for dissent. Whenever electricity comes back on, there's always a risk that the government is watching what you're doing. To guard against these malicious activities, people are turning to virtual private networks to mask their online communications.
Hotspot Shield is a popular VPN service which has gained the trust of Venezuelans during this ongoing crisis. Unfortunately, the premium version of this VPN software or any other VPN software remains unaffordable in the country.
Police and military personnel earn approximately $6 per month, with mass unemployment characterizing the rest of the economy. To this end, Hotspot Shield has gained a mass following thanks to a free version of its VPN software.
Is The Free Version Of Hotspot Shield Any Good?
The only way to cloak online communications in Venezuela is to use a free VPN service and Hotspot Shield is one of the best.
The current instability in Venezuela needs to be reported to the outside world. People need to share the reality of their situation with friends, family, and the global community. Online security has become increasingly important in Venezuela.
Here are some of the benefits of using Hotspot Shield:
- Rapid connectivity
- User-friendly interface
- P2P support across servers
- Compatible with Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android
There are no bandwidth limits, meaning that it's easy to download, stream and browse as much as possible up to 500 MB per day. The premium version of this VPN is expensive compared to others, but the quality of the service is paramount.
With regards to privacy considerations, Hotspot Shield uses in-house Catapult Hydra Technology. It is based on TLS 1.2 with 128-bit AES data encryption technology. It also boasts 2048-bit RSA certificates for enhanced secrecy.
Hotspot Shield features a kill switch to disconnect the connection if there is an interruption in online connectivity. With a no-logging policy in place, Hotspot Shield does not collect any personal information that can identify your IP address or your online activity.
Limited Connectivity Requires A Novel Approach
Venezuela’s situation is unique in that there are security requirements to consider. The VPN provider must serve the basic purpose of cloaking the user’s IP address to prevent government agencies and other third parties from infiltrating communications.
Hotspot Shield is the preferred VPN provider in countries where government shutdowns of electrical frameworks impact online connectivity. Much the same occurred in Zimbabwe, where the government imposed a blanket ban on the internet at the worst possible time in the country. This type of behavior is common with repressive regimes, and it also happened in Syria during the 2011 uprisings.
The only objectives of politicians are re-election and the preservation of power. When governments have too much power as in the case of Venezuela, things will invariably take an ugly turn. Whether it's a total internet shutdown, or a ban on social media, government control over the internet is wrong.
Certain sites may be blocked or banned, making it impossible to access them without using a VPN service like Hotspot Shield. For these reasons, people in Venezuela are sidestepping government regulations and accessing social media services to communicate with friends and family abroad, air their grievances, and continue to tell the truth.
For more information on Hotspot Shieldread our expert and user-generated reviews right here at VPNPros.
We welcome your feedback at VPNPros. Are you currently communicating with friends, family or business colleagues in Venezuela? How are the blackouts affecting your online communications?