Is it safe to use in 2021?
Hola VPN is a very unfriendly privacy service. In fact, we rarely see logging policies as intrusive as Hola.
Here’s what Hola VPN stores when you use its service:
- The sites you visit
- Time spent on those sites
- Your real IP address
- Contact timestamps
- Your browser type
- Your name, email address, screen name, payment and billing information
If you choose to sign up for the VPN through a social network account, Hola has access to more information including: your home address, birthday, profile picture, friends list, personal bio, and any publicly available information on your account.
Hola tries to reassure its users that it does not “rent or sell any personal information”, but that does not mean that it does not share it with third parties:
“We may disclose personal information to other trusted third party service providers or partners for the purposes of providing you with services, storage, and analytics. We may also transfer or disclose personal information to our affiliates and subsidiaries.”
Even worse, Hola will keep all of this information “for as long as necessary”.
In short, Hola’s privacy and registration policy is unsatisfactory. This is Not A service that you want to entrust all your personal data to.
Who owns Hola VPN?
Hola VPN was founded by Ofer Vilenski and Derry Shribman under the name Hola Networks Limited, and is headquartered in Israel.
The product was launched in 2012, and gained momentum in January 2013 when it went from 80 downloads per day to 40,000 downloads overnight.
Hola Networks Limited provides a free VPN to the consumer, as well as a premium subscription and shared service called Luminati.
Luminati uses users’ free bandwidth, which is charged per gigabyte, without compensating the free user. This practice has drawn criticism among cybersecurity professionals.
Fortunately, this is now clearly announced when you download the app, as you can see in the screenshot below.
How does Hola VPN actually work
Hola VPN is a peer-to-peer overlay network that uses peer-to-peer caching and routing for fast access to blocked content.
This means that Hola VPN users throw their real IP address into a set of IP addresses for other users to use as they like.
When you use Hola VPN, your internet traffic is routed through other peers (called nodes), but it is unencrypted.
While some subscribers may use Hola VPN as a tool to unblock websites, there is no way to prevent others from using your IP address to access illegal content.
Free users also share their “passive resources” (WiFi and cellular data) with the network, which means that Hola VPN does not incur basic operating costs.
Hola VPN defines “idle” as “a device is not using battery but connected to electricity; no mouse or keyboard activity has been detected; and the device is connected to the Internet.”
Despite its “goal to make the internet better,” selling user bandwidth isn’t the only controversy that Hola VPN has been embroiled in so far.
In May 2015, Frederic Brennan, founder of 8chan, claimed that his site had been subjected to a DDoS attack by users exploiting the Hola network, which was later confirmed by Vilensky.
A website called Adios states, Hola! , created by nine security researchers, says Hola is “harmful to the Internet as a whole, and to its users in particular” and describes them as “poorly secured bots” with “serious consequences”.
Researchers at Adios, Hola! It discovered several vulnerabilities in Hola VPN’s architecture, one of which reportedly allowed anyone to run programs on your computer.
According to the website, Hola has fixed some vulnerabilities, but others remain.
Hola VPN is also vulnerable to IP address leaks and has made data scraping easier, according to cybersecurity firm Trend Micro.
Hola VPN Specialization
Hola VPN is located in Israel, which is not an official member of the Intelligence Sharing Alliance (Five Eyes or 14 Eyes), but cooperates with it.