Last update: 12.12.2018
When you think you’ve entered paradise, but instead the trees are plastic, the fruit is poisonous and you’re actually in hell. Read our Hola VPN review now to redeem your privacy and freedom – by avoiding this VPN at all costs!
Let our Hola VPN review introduce you to the virtual manifestation of parasitism. This may be one of the most dangerous services out there. Hola VPN is primarily free, or it used to be. No wonder it’s managed to lure over 175 million users into its sticky cobweb 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. But, as always, we’ll do our best to be impartial and objective.
This is the first community-powered virtual private network (VPN). Users create and contribute to the whole web of peers by becoming a node. They 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 unsuspecting users.
You can use this shady P2P network to browse the web without censorship and to watch videos with less buffering. But the price you may pay for this free service is the opposite of what VPNs stand for. Your online security, privacy, and anonymity are thrown out the window once you join this network.
If you don’t want to become a peer and share your bandwidth and IP with strangers, you can choose to subscribe for the business version 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. Are you ready to be shocked?
Security and privacy: Is Hola VPN safe to use?
Holy whack-a-moley! We are speechless – well, sort of. We haven’t seen anything like this before. Instead of “Hola, ¿cómo estás?” it’s 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 review with some interesting news. In 2015, Hola was accused of a series of DDoS attacks using its free users’ hardware capacity. Already doesn’t sound like a legitimate service already, right? But we’re far from the end of the list of issues.
In the summer of 2018, MyEtherWallet (MEW), a popular cryptocurrency service, was under attack via hacked Hola VPN extensions. Cyber criminals 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 an Hola VPN browser extension while accessing your MyEtherWallet account during this attack, your cryptocurrency could have been stolen. Please read our full report on the MyEtherWallet attack here.
So, is Hola VPN safe to use? You must be joking.
The must-know basis
Before you draw your conclusions without finishing our Hola VPN review, let us explain why we’re so shocked.
This proxy service is provided by a company called Hola Networks Ltd. You may assume (wrongly) that it’s based in Mexico or another Spanish-speaking country. However, interestingly, it’s operating 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. Let’s rephrase this last bit for a more dramatic effect: anyone can pose as you online.
Does it sound like the kind of online security and privacy you’d expect from a serious and legit VPN service? And, it gets worse, of course.
This is one of the rare VPNs that don’t claim to have a no-logs policy.
What?! Yep, that’s right – they don’t even bother having a no-logs policy – 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?
Security features – or the lack thereof
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 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 Luminati service, which is the business VPN solution.
We also experienced annoying connection drops, and WebRTC and DNS leaks, which can lead to identifying 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 175 million bots scammed into a nefarious scheme.
You may think at this point that our Hola VPN review can’t have a happy ending anymore. And, you may be right too. But, we still have some more to share with you. Hang in there, brave reader.
We could go all soft on Hola and make you feel good about contributing to a community-powered network. You may believe that you can be a part of something big and amazing – helping the world become a better place blah blah blah. But we aren’t here to sing you lullabies. We’re here to help you find the best VPN for your needs.
A possible botnet scam isn’t a group we would suggest joining.
By becoming a peer, you’re practically tricked into becoming a parasite yourself. Or, do you think you’d be any different when using other users’ bandwidth to stream geo-restricted videos and so on? However, 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 unexpectedly good speeds thanks to the giant network. However, your connection may drop quite frequently, which is rather annoying.
Before testing the Hola VPN speeds, we measured these baseline speeds on our test laptop:
Then, as usual, we tried to connect to different locations around the world. The Hola VPN app was rather clunky, which made it a bit more time-consuming to run the speed tests. We also had to repeat the tests multiple times since we didn’t believe our eyes. But, without further ado, here we go.
United States #1
United States #2
United States #3
First off, since you may connect to a different peer every time you refresh your location, we can’t talk about consistent speeds. If you look at the 3 rounds of USA server tests, you’ll see what we mean. Second, these speeds are almost unbelievable. But, if we believe Hola VPN that these results come through remote servers, we must admit they are impressive. Of course, there’s no encryption and protection whatsoever.
Our Hola VPN review team found this app rather cumbersome and annoying to use. So even if this performance is seemingly way better than that of other competitors, there’s no consistency in connections. Due to constant drops, your experience can be ruined in no time.
On the whole, we don’t recommend this VPN for even free use. Unless, of course, you want to help out the company to get filthy rich by renting your bandwidth to paying users. Sounds about fair, right?
Despite all the above, our Hola VPN review has concluded that the speeds could be enough to stream geo-blocked TV shows in 4K quality. But you may not be able to unblock Netflix and other media streaming services without purchasing the Plus version.
And, we really wouldn’t recommend that.
How to download and install it
Basically, Hola VPN is a proxy browser extension that you can install for Windows, Mac OS, Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and other popular platforms. This app is also available, for example, for Android and iOS. You can easily download and install it. A few clicks, and you’re done. There’s really nothing to add here.
If you select a platform icon from the top menu, you may redirect to a purchase page (Windows and Hola VPN Plus) or a respective download page. You can also choose a platform further down the home page. If you select your client there, it will download in seconds. Well, unless it’s one that needs subscription.
As a third option: you can press the FREE – Start button on the home page. If you’ve created an account with your email and password, you’ll see this screen after you’ve logged in:
In case you have no account or haven’t logged in, you can only install the browser extension this way by clicking Next.
In general, we can say that this official website is all about promoting Hola VPN Plus, which is the paid version. It’s not really clear though how it is any better or why anyone would pay for it. But, if you watch where you click, you can still download and install the free app.
How to use Hola VPN
Please, don’t! This would be our first thought. But we’ll try to be fair – LOL.
Initially, it may strike you as an easy-to-use VPN app. But then, it’s more like WTF – excuse our French.
First of all, this is not even real VPN software. More like a proxy extension. So when you install the desktop version, what you get is a Chromium browser with the Hola VPN, Hola Video Accelerator, and Hola Ad blocker extensions installed.
Normally, you’d click on the little VPN icon on the browser toolbar to display the app window, and switch it on or choose a location. Well, Hola VPN is the odd one out.
Instead of presenting you with an optimal location or the list of servers, you find thumbnails of most popular websites at your location. Better yet, these sites are selected by a third party and not Hola.
The yellow plus signs in the app mean that you can only access those items if you buy an Hola VPN Plus plan.
If you click on the More by Hola link, a webpage opens with all these suggested sites. When you select a site, your Hola VPN will automatically assign a location to it.
At the bottom, you see a few other promoted apps by Hola. Basically, this whole app is a big promotion for the paid Plus version.
When writing this Hola VPN review, we discovered that you can only use this service if you directly browse via the extension or its own Chromium browser. Seemingly, it works totally inconsistently: we had to reconnect to locations or restart the app multiple times.
How to change location
Strangely enough, the apps won’t offer you the opportunity to change location – not up front for sure. It took us some time to understand how Hola VPN operates. It used to be easier to get it to display the country selection screen. But something must have changed.
We could only force the app to let us choose a location when we manually entered a URL in the address bar. Then, this screen came up:
Don’t even try to click on a location that has the yellow plus sign. As we’ve mentioned, it’ll just reroute you to a purchase page. When you click on an available flag (location), the VPN tries to connect. If you’re lucky, you’ll see this screen:
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.
When testing the Hola VPN apps, we experienced crashes, long waits, unsuccessful connections, unexpected location changes and connections drops. Another strange phenomena was choosing Afghanistan and appearing to be in London, England instead.
Our Hola VPN review guys also found that viewing recently visited websites triggers the app and it changes your location automatically to the one you previously used with that site. Of course, for some time you’ll just curse Hola for this behavior until you check out the Settings menu. That is another WOW moment.
The Hola VPN menu
If you click the 3-bar icon in the top left corner of the app window, a menu appears with these options:
These are all obvious options. However, we found the Settings menu rather weird. In fact, clicking this option will open an Hola page in your browser. This page has two tabs: VPN and About. On the VPN tab, there are no customizing options or anything – but a single list of Recently visited sites.
These sites have a flag assigned to them. This is the flag of the location you chose last time to access the individual websites. Here, you can either switch off the location for a website or remove it from the list. If you do so, the Hola VPN app won’t change your location automatically next time you visit a site.
In summary, we’ve concluded that this VPN service was one of the worst ones we’d seen, right alongside VPN Gate. With the constant connection drops and your having to access websites before the VPN can be turned on at all, well, there’s no privacy and security. Zero!
You should also consider the fact that this service would only “protect” your browsing – theoretically. But what about other apps that use an internet connection? No way, Jose!
Hola VPN for Netflix
It’s possible that you may get lucky and stream videos in decent quality from media centers like YouTube. But you can forget about using the free Hola VPN for Netflix.
Of course, it’s capable of faking your location through peers residing at your chosen location. However, when you’re using the free VPN and try to load the Netflix site, this is what you’ll find:
It’s not that your speed is that bad. It’s more about pushing you to buy the Hola VPN Plus version. The parasite strikes again and again. You simply won’t be able to load any decent streaming center without seeing the Plus promotion.
You should know from our Hola VPN review that this shady botnet-like service is the worst choice if online privacy is important to you. For the best level of anonymity, choose a decent VPN for Netflix.
Hola VPN for torrenting
Well, if you want to pay a hefty fine for possible copyright infringement, go ahead, be our guest and install this risky VPN. But consider this first. What if another user connects to your IP and downloads pirated material posing as you? Let this thought sink in a bit.
If you’re just a tiny bit concerned about your online security and privacy, 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 numerical 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 175 million users globally. It’s most likely that only paying users get any kind of support.
It’s basically almost impossible to get a response for your email, and there isn’t any other way for you to contact the help desk. 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 to be one of the worst we’ve encountered.
Apps and extensions
Hola is a strange and rather controversial service, which isn’t 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’ll find the following impressive range of clients:
However, when you click, for example, the router or PlayStation links, you’ll redirect to the Hola VPN Plus purchase page.
Although these clients are quite easy to use at first sight, they may be clunky and can 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.
First impression: too high for a free VPN.
Well, this used to be primarily a free VPN service. But now, it seems more like a platform to exploit and promote a paid service. Freedom of internet use, online privacy, security, and anonymity seem faded and meaningless expressions when you use Hola VPN.
Would you want to pay for such a shady service?
Let’s recap some facts we’ve already mentioned in this Hola VPN review. To use this VPN service for free, you have to agree to become a peer. This means you’ll be an integral part of the P2P network of the Hola VPN global empire.
If you don’t like this idea, you can always choose the Luminati service. We have no clue yet why the Hola VPN Plus version would be any better than the free. Nevertheless, here are their pricing plans:
Let’s not forget about the “special deal,” the seemingly limited time offer either:
You can pay by credit card, such as Visa, Amex, Maestro, and MasterCard, plus PayPal. It doesn’t really matter that there’s no chance to pay with Bitcoin or other anonymous methods. Those who’d 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, you have to visit the Luminati website. Strangely enough, this option has been hidden from the Hola VPN website. There’s one link though at the bottom of the page, Residential Proxy Service. That’s the cover name for Luminati. This other service possibly uses the networking capacity of the 175 million Hola users. And, it makes lots of money out of it too.
If you want to know our objective opinion, we wouldn’t support such business conduct, let alone the zero level privacy Hola VPN offers.
Hola VPN by Reddit
Our Hola VPN review team has never seen such Reddit search results ever. It seems like 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 mention as 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 1,000+ 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, for example, via WebRTC leaks.
From a cybersecurity standpoint, we can state that this service is possibly the worst choice for you. Metaphorically, we could say that Hola VPN is like a bed of roses, but all the flowers are dead and you just have the hard brown stalks and a whole lot of thorns.
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 impressively good speeds for most of your needs.
But again, this comes at the price of your privacy. 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, which is to not use Hola VPN.
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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