AnchorFree to Bundle Mobile and Desktop Security Tools

Photograph by Joseph Eid/AFP via Getty Images

AnchorFree's services are popular in countries such as Syria where governments may censor online content.

Silicon Valley startup AnchorFree makes computer-security software that has been downloaded more than 100 million times, often by people in China and the Middle East looking to circumvent Internet censorship. But as personal computing increasingly goes mobile, the company is rethinking how to package its services.

Starting next month, AnchorFree will let users buy a single subscription to access its Hotspot Shield Elite services for their computers, smartphones and tablets, said Chief Executive Officer David Gorodyansky. The Mountain View, California-based company will continue to offer the free ad-supported applications for PCs and Android devices, he said in an interview yesterday.

AnchorFree will charge $30 a year for the multi-platform bundle, which is the same price as the current computer-only plan. For those forgoing computers altogether, the company will continue to offer the separate $12 a year plan for the iPhone and iPad or $20 a year for Android. The iOS app offers a 7-day free trial before requiring users to pay.

With the joint subscription to AnchorFree’s Hotspot Shield Elite, users will receive a special code to download the apps from Apple’s App Store or Google’s Play market after buying the program for PCs or Macs. The mobile apps have been downloaded 4 million times in the last year.

AnchorFree is releasing the new bundle after more than doubling revenue and traffic this year, according to Gorodyansky. While he declined to disclose sales, Gorodyansky said the company was profitable before it raised $52 million in a funding round led by Goldman Sachs in May.

Unlike antivirus software from vendors such as Symantec and Intel’s McAfee, which protect devices from malware by screening websites and programs, AnchorFree’s Hotspot Shield encrypts every page a user visits to create what is known as a virtual private network. The number of pages viewed by customers while using the software jumped to 5 billion in November from 1.8 billion in January, according to Gorodyansky.

“We’re becoming a mainstream app that people turn on to protect their entire Web use,” he said. “We provide security, privacy and freedom.”

The prospect for online freedom has struck a chord with dissidents living in information-constrained nations. AnchorFree’s data centers, located in the U.S., Asia and Europe, experienced a 10-fold increase in Egyptian users — to 1 million — during last year’s Arab Spring Revolution, Gorodyansky said. People there were able to use the software on their computers to access Facebook and Twitter, even while those services were blocked.

Most of those protests took place before AnchorFree had mobile apps. Perhaps the next revolution will be mobilized.

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