Hotspot shield protects from web privacy

Simply browsing the web can open you up to a ton of malware or privacy risks. And let’s not even get started on the dangers of public Wi-Fi.

With 60 million downloads and more than 100 million monthly user sessions, AnchorFree’s Hotspot Shield has emerged as one of the easiest ways to protect yourself from dangers online. Today the company is announcing that it has raised a whopping $52 million third round led by Goldman Sachs.

“We’ve created the world’s most popular free VPN [virtual private network],” AnchorFree CEO David Gorodyansky said in an interview with VentureBeat. “We’ve created a VPN for the masses.”

Hotspot Shield works by routing your web traffic through its own secure datacenters. That makes your web browsing private (even AnchorFree can’t track your IP address when using the service), encrypted, and it also strips out and blocks malware sites. It’s like a condom for all those dirty public wireless networks we log into (because seriously, you don’t know where those routers’ DNS entries have been.)

With the availability of easy hacking tools like Firesheep, Hotspot Shield seems like an increasingly essential program for the average web surfer. It can also help citizens in places like China gain access to sites that their countries censor.

Gorodyansky tells me the company has three main goals with the funding: to hire many more people (especially engineers), build more data centers throughout the world, and open up its platforms so third parties can run their apps on AnchorFree’s servers. Hotspot Shield currently has more than 10 million monthly active users (who log in around 10 times a month), and Gorodyansky has set a goal of reaching 100 million active users, driving 1 billion secure sessions, as soon as possible.

The company has been profitable since 2009, Gorodyansky says, and its revenues have grown 100 percent just about every year since then. AnchorFree didn’t really need this massive infusion of funding to survive, but now the company can expand quickly to cement itself as the best way to secure your web browsing.

AnchorFree offers an ad-supported free version of Hotspot Shield, as well a premium version with added security for $30. The company currently scans over 2 billion pageviews a month, and it protects against more than 3.5 million malware threats. It look less than six months for the Hotspot Shield iOS app to reach 1 million users, and I’m told an Android app isn’t too far away.

Gorodyansky launched the company at 23, straight out of college in 2005, with his friend Eugene Malobrodsky (CTO). Mountain View, Calif.-based AnchorFree now has 35 employees, and with today’s funding it has raised a total of $63 million. Goldman Sachs will join AnchorFree’s existing investors and advisors, including Esther Dyson, former MCI CEO Bert Roberts, and former Huffington Post president Greg Coleman.

Photo via Shutterstock