Last update: 07.24.2018
When you think you enter paradise, but, instead, the snake will be your guide in hell to keep up the illusion.
Let us introduce you with this Hola VPN review to the virtual manifestation of parasitism. This may be one of the most dangerous services out there, and it is primarily free, too. No wonder how it managed to lure over 150 million users into its tempting trap and put a magic spell over them.
It’ll be very difficult to come up with anything positive in this Hola VPN review due to the very nature of this dodgy service, to be frank. But, as always, we will do our best to be impartial and objective.
This is the first community-powered virtual private network (VPN), where users create and contribute to the whole web of peers by becoming a node and sacrifice their bandwidth and internet connection in exchange for using other people’s.
There’s only one gigantic problem with this scheme: This is exactly how botnets are created and used to scam and spy on unexpecting users.
While you can actually use this shady P2P network to browse the web without censorship and to watch videos with less buffering, the price you have to pay for this free service is the opposite of what VPNs stand for: Your online security, privacy, and anonymity.
If you don’t want to become a peer and share your bandwidth with others, let alone letting total strangers use your IP address as an exit node for god knows what kind of online activities, you can choose to subscribe for the Hola Premium VPN or the rather pricey business plan called Luminati.
Just to learn from other users’ mistake and see what kinds of risks such a network may hold, we advise you to read our full Hola VPN review.
Security & Privacy: Is Hola VPN safe to use?
Holy whack-a-moley! We are speechless; well, sort of. Please excuse our “French,” but we haven’t seen anything like this before. Instead of “Hola, ¿cómo estás?” it is more like “OMG! Stay away!” So, let’s find out whether we find Hola VPN safe to use, shall we?
Let’s start this Hola VPN preview with some interesting news. In 2015, Hola was accused of a series of DDoS attacks using its free users’ hardware capacity. Doesn’t sound like a legitimate service already, does it? But we are far from the end of the list.
As a matter of fact, the breaking news just hit the web about MyEtherWallet (MEW), a popular cryptocurrency service, being under attack via hacked Hola VPN extensions (07.10.2018). Cyber criminals seem to have hacked and used the Hola VPN browser extensions as a gateway to steal cryptocurrency for as long as 5 hours.
In other words, if you were using one of the Hola VPN browser extensions while accessing your MyEtherWallet account during this malicious attack, chances are your cryptocurrency is gone thanks to Hola. Please read our full report on the MyEtherWallet attack here.
So, is Hola VPN safe to use? Are you serious?
Before you draw your conclusions too quickly without finishing our Hola VPN review, let us explain why we are so shocked.
Let’s start at the beginning. This proxy service is provided by a company called Hola Networks Ltd. You may assume (wrongly) that it is based in Mexico; however, interestingly, it is operated from Israel. Surprised?
Joining this parasitic P2P network means that other free and premium users can use your (idle) bandwidth and use your IP address as an exit node, too, i.e., anyone can pose as you online. Does it sound like the kind of online security and privacy you would expect from a serious and legit VPN service?
And, it gets worse, of course.
This is certainly one of the rare VPNs that doesn’t claim to have a no logs policy. What?! Yes, but that’s not all. Hang on in there.
“We may disclose Personal Information to other trusted third party service providers or partners for the purposes of providing you with the Services, storage, and analytics. We may also transfer or disclose Personal Information to our subsidiaries, affiliated companies.”
Let’s spice it up a little. This company also collects and retains personal information like your IP address, your name and email address, payment and billing information, and so on. Before we forget, this provider is also ready to disclose all this information when forced by law.
Now, if you have read everything we’ve written above in this Hola VPN review, do you think that it’s safe to use it?
Well, of course, if you simply want to appear to be located somewhere else in the world and browse geo-restricted content, you may still be safe. Unless… but wait for a second, you won’t like this.
You are simply not protected at all if you use this VPN for free.
This VPN service doesn’t have any well-protected and safe-to-use servers since it uses Peer-to-Peer Proxy Tunneling without encryption. Okay, let’s repeat the last two words for greater emphasis: WITHOUT ENCRYPTION. In other words, your traffic is not encoded. This may get a bit better, though, if you purchase the Premium VPN, which comes with SSL encryption.
Let’s add to this equation that we experienced serious WebRTC and DNS leaks, which both can result in identifying you and your physical location. Oh, and, there’s no kill switch, either. Oopsie!
Does it feel like this is the exact opposite of a VPN service? We certainly believe so. In fact, on second thought, it’s more like a botnet with 150+ million bots scammed into this scheme.
You may think at this point that our Hola VPN review cannot have a happy ending anymore. And, you may be right, too. But, we still have some more to share with you.
Speed: Parasites unite!
Well, we could go all soft on Hola and make you feel good about yourself that it allows you to contribute to a community-powered network and you can be a part of something big and amazing (helping the world become a better place, blah blah blah), but we are not here for singing lullabies. We are here to help you find the best VPN for your needs. A possible botnet scam is not what we would suggest joining.
By becoming a peer, you are practically tricked into becoming a parasite yourself by using other users’ bandwidth for streaming videos, geo-restricted TV shows, and so on. At the same time, you also become an exploited user. Hola VPN is supposed to use your internet connection only when it’s idle, so it shouldn’t affect your internet speed.
In general, you can experience relatively good speeds thanks to the giant network; however, your connection may drop from time to time, which is rather annoying.
On the whole, we don’t recommend this VPN for even free use unless you want to help out a company to get filthy rich by renting your bandwidth and others’ to premium and business users. Sounds about fair, right?
Despite all the above, we have to end this section of our Hola VPN review with a conclusion that the speeds could be enough for you to stream geo-blocked TV shows or even 4K videos, but you may not be able to unblock Netflix and other media streaming services, either.
How to download and install it
Basically, Hola VPN is a proxy browser extension that you can install for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari (Mac OS) as well. This app is also available for Android and iOS. You can very easily download and install it. A few clicks and you are done. There’s really nothing to add here.
How to use Hola VPN
At first, it may strike you as an easy-to-use browser extension and mobile app. You just need to click once to connect to another location or choose from a list of countries where you wish to be virtually located.
However, when we tested the Hola VPN browser extensions, we experienced crashes, long waits, unsuccessful connections, and strange phenomena like choosing Afghanistan and appearing to be in London, England.
When writing this Hola VPN review, we’ve discovered that you can only use this service if you directly browse via the extension or its own Chromium browser; at least, for us, it worked totally inconsistently, and we had to reconnect to locations or restart the app multiple times.
We found it annoying that when you move your mouse over Browsing From, an address bar appears, where you can enter a URL to visit via Hola. There is no indication that this will happen, so, if you never mouse over there, you may never find out about this option.
Once you are connected to a server, your app pop-up screen may change to a “most popular sites in your location” type of screen. It seems rather inconsistent when you see this screen and how you can go back to change the server, sorry, the location.
Below, in the app screen, you may also find advertising, including other Hola products like the Adblocker. At the bottom, there is a More by Hola link and section as well with the available product links: Android app, iOS app, Accelerator, Adblocker.
If you click the 3-Bar icon in the top left corner of the app window, a menu appears with these options:
- Sign In button: to sign in if you have an account
- English: default language, which you can change and choose from dozens of languages
- Settings: web-based settings page with the list of the websites you have visited while using Hola
- Try Hola Premium VPN
After you choose a new server location, the app asks you: “Did it work?” And, you can answer this question by clicking either the Oh, yes! or No, fix it button. This again is rather inconsistent because a lot of times it doesn’t work even if you want to fix your connection.
Since Hola VPN didn’t use to support google.com, you couldn’t use it to run web searches on the most popular (and probably the most surveilling) search engine. However, surprisingly, it recommended using premium VPN services like NordVPN and HideMyAss.
However, tables have turned somehow and now you are offered to purchase the Hola Premium VPN version if you want to access google.com from the United States, for example. The Premium version would cost you $5 per month for a monthly plan and $3.75 per month for an annual plan.
You can rate the performance of the service from within the app, and if you choose to give the lowest, 1-star rating, you’ll be redirected to a best domains page on the Hola website, where you’ll see a list of 26 recommended VPN services.
Hola VPN for Netflix
While it is possible that you may get lucky and can stream videos in decent quality from certain media streaming services like BBC iPlayer or Comedy Central, you can forget about using Hola VPN for Netflix.
Although it is capable of faking your location through peers residing at your chosen location, from this Hola VPN review you should know already that this shady botnet-like service is just the worst possible choice if your anonymity and online privacy are of importance to you.
Hola VPN for Torrenting
No way, no thanks! Well, if you want to pay a hefty fine for possible copyright infringement for downloading or uploading pirated material (in case this is why you would use such a service), go ahead, be our guest and install this risky VPN right now.
However, if you are just a tiny bit concerned about your online security and privacy, and have read our review carefully, you know exactly how unsafe it is to use Hola VPN for torrenting or for anything else, for that matter. Period.
Let us show you our list of the best VPN for torrenting to make your decision easier.
Live chat support
If we had to assign values to these three words, live chat support, with regard to Hola VPN, well, zero would be the best estimate to be the sum total. In English: There is no live chat support at all and even “support” is very questionable.
Free users can forget about getting any help, live or email alike.
Imagine a support team for serving over 150+ million users globally. It is most likely that only premium and business, i.e., paying users, get any kind of support.
It is basically almost impossible to get a response to your email, and there is not any other way for you to contact the helpdesk. So, good luck with that. Naturally, you can also use the FAQ, which is available on the site.
Our Hola VPN review has found this support one of the worst we have encountered.
Apps and extensions
Hola is a strange and rather controversial service, which is not even a real VPN. It only offers proxy browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari as well as Android and iOS apps. At least, these are the platforms for free users.
If you check out the website, though, you will find the following impressive range of clients:
However, when you click, for example, the router or PlayStation links, you’ll be redirected to the Hola Premium VPN purchase page.
Although these clients are quite easy to use, they may be clunky and freeze up at times. Anyway, one of the main reasons we’re writing this Hola VPN review is to advise you not to join this questionable and unsafe network.
Pricing: Too high for a free VPN
Well, this is primarily a free VPN service and you may not even think that there is actually a price to pay. How about your freedom, online privacy, anonymity? Would you risk these for a free shady service?
Let’s recap some facts we have already mentioned in this Hola VPN review. To use this VPN service for free, you have to agree to become a peer, i.e., an integral part of the P2P network, and to be used by other users of the Hola VPN global empire.
If you don’t like this idea, you can always choose the Premium version. This would cost you $5 per month for a monthly plan and $3.75 per month for an annual plan. While these may seem like reasonable prices, please consider again and again what you are signing up for.
You can play by Credit Cards, such as Visa, Amex, Maestro, and MasterCard, plus PayPal. It doesn’t really matter that there’s no chance to pay with Bitcoin since those who would go for that option are most likely laughing their heads off right now at the thought of anyone wanting to pay for Hola VPN at all.
If you want to become a business user to have access to over 33 million IP addresses and the largest proxy network in the world, you can pay a minimum monthly commitment of $500 for starters for the so-called Luminati plan.
Hola VPN by Reddit
Another one of those “Wow!” moments. Our Hola VPN review team has never seen such Reddit search results ever. If we had to express it in a percentage, we would say that 99.9% of all the threads and comments on reddit.com are warning messages to stop using Hola VPN immediately.
Wonder what the Reddit users give for the number one reason for that?
“The company behind Hola is turning your computer into a node on a botnet.”
So, once again, why would that be an issue?
“[…] imagine that somebody uploaded child pornography through your connection, for example. To everybody else, it seems as if it was your computer that did it, and you can’t really prove otherwise.”
How many people can be incriminated falsely and innocently by abusing the power that comes with such a network?
Think about that, but don’t you worry for a moment because we have several real premium VPN services for you to read about, including our top 5 best VPN choices.
Conclusion of Hola VPN review: Meet the most dangerous VPN
First, we need to admit that we haven’t yet seen, tested, and reviewed all 400+ VPN services on the market. Still, we consider Hola VPN the gold medalist in the competition for the most dangerous VPN in the world – so far.
This award is mainly due to its potentials to be used by cybercriminals to build botnets and misuse unsuspecting users’ IP address and internet connection for criminal activities. But, you also can’t use it safely since it leaks DNS as well as your true IP address via WebRTC leaks.
From a cybersecurity standpoint, we can state that this service is possibly the worst choice for you.
Despite our devotion to online security and privacy, you may find this service appealing and use it freely to stream videos and access geographically censored or restricted content. We also must acknowledge that this P2P network has relatively good and usable speeds for most of your needs.
But again, this comes with the price of your privacy since Hola VPN logs all kinds of personally identifiable information and may share it with third parties, including the authorities. Period.
Hopefully, our Hola VPN review helps you make the right choice.
How about learning from other VPN users?
Do you have any related questions or tips? Have you ever tried to use Hola VPN or any other VPN apps before? Maybe you have written your own Hola VPN review? What are your impressions?
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