Beating the System… One VPN at a Time

At the enviable age of 16, Jack Cator founded Hide My Ass!, a virtual private network (VPN) service that has grown by leaps and bounds since its beginnings as a simple proxy tool.

The unlikely result of a high-school attempt by Cator to try and bypass his school’s block on its computer network, the company (now operating under Privax Limited) stands as the largest VPN provider in the world.


Frustrated not only by his school’s heavy-handed restrictions on accessing the Internet, but also by existing VPN services loaded with advertisements, Cator reportedly spent a single afternoon creating Hide My Ass! He then quickly began to promote the service online and, to his surprise, it went viral—amassing hundreds of thousands of users within its first month. Much of this exposure is credited to affiliate marketing, something that Cator most likely had some insight on as an effective promotional strategy.

After several years of continued success it should come as no surprise that Cator decided to drop out of college to work on his business full time, hiring more staff and eventually setting up headquarters in London (along with a spattering of offices in other cities throughout Europe).

Now, after years of continual refinement and expansion, Cator recently decided to sell his company for £40 million (US$62.4 million) to AVG, the well-known provider of antivirus software.

Cator credits the success of his company not only to the increasing demand for VPN services but also to its name.

“People are amused by it—once you hear it, you can’t possibly forget it,” says Cator.

However, not one to throw in the towel and sit back and ride on the success of this catchy name, Cator has stayed on as CEO of the company, which is still expanding its server penetration around the globe.

Those living (or just traveling) in China might be interested to know that Hide My Ass! has servers in three locations on mainland China—Shenzhen, Chengdu, and Renqiu. This is in addition to six servers in Hong Kong.

It is always a good idea to have another VPN option in mind if you want to stay ahead of the censorship tactics used by the Great Firewall. In January of 2015, several major VPN services—Golden Frog, StrongVPN, and Astrill—reported sudden blockages. Minus the occasional temporary outage, most of these have since been restored.

But who knows what 2016 might bring?

China capped off this year with some laughable double standards as it hosted the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen. Foreign journalists in attendance were given codes that allowed access to normally blocked websites, while their Chinese counterparts were not even told of these “perks.”

As well, to start off the new year right, China will apparently impose restrictions on streaming music offered on a variety of platforms.