Why Using the Hola VPN Service Is a Bad Idea
Hola is a freemium VPN service that claims to help Internet users bypass censorship, speed up their browsing and remain anonymous while using the Internet. To many, this would seem like quite a useful service. There are numerous Internet users that would like to access content that is blocked in their country and the service allows them to do just that. However, the way that Hola operates has recently come under a lot of controversy.
Rather than operating like a traditional VPN that simply tunnels traffic through servers operated by the VPN service, Hola works on a peer-to-peer basis. When you use Hola’s service, you browse the web through another Hola user’s Internet connection. If you use the free version of their service, you also let other users browse the web through yours. Now anyone that is even slightly tech savvy can easily see how this could lead to serious problems.
If another user did something nefarious, such as hacking a website, making terrorist threats, sending out spam or sharing child pornography, it will look like these activities came from your computer. This is due to the fact that websites will see your IP address when a Hola user is using your connection. If something like that was to happen, you might at best have your Internet service suspended by your provider and at worst have authorities breaking down your door. Another problem is that the activities of other users on the Hola service will make use of your bandwidth. This isn’t really something you would want if you have a slower Internet connection or a cap on how much data you can transfer in a month.
Hola runs a sister service called Luminati that resells the bandwidth of those using its free VPN app to business users at prices of up to $20 per GB. This service was reportedly used to launch denial of service attacks on 8chan, a popular image board. Hola’s founder, Ofer Vilenski, has stated that the company has a screening process for Luminati customers that want to use their service. However, it appears that this screening isn’t too strict, as anyone can sign up for a free trial. A chat with Luminati’s sales team that was posted online shows a rep saying that “they don’t have a way to enforce their terms against illicit use of their service”
The controversy surrounding Hola has been reported by many media outlets, which has led to the app being removed from the Chrome Web Store. Many have compared the service to a botnet and warned people not to use it.
There are many free and paid VPN services out there which let you access content that is restricted to certain geographic regions and browse the web in relative anonymity. Those who have Hola installed on their PC or mobile device should seriously think about uninstalling it due to the possible consequences of using it. With so many better alternatives, including free ones, Hola just isn’t worth it.
Author: James Reddick
Posted: Feb 12, 2015