Hola VPN (review) hit the web in late 2012. It came from a corporation called Hola Networks Ltd., which is based in Israel.
They claim to have served 180 million users at that time through their VPN app.
What sets Hola apart from the competition is that it is primarily a free service. While most VPNs that support free browsing are paid services that venture into limited free use, Hola may be a free provider that also offers paid subscriptions.
However, this is not a typical VPN.
It is the world’s first peer-to-peer VPN, which means that instead of using a park of servers located around the world, Hola channels its signals through the connection of its users.
Odd. Is that a much better approach? Or a worse one?
Learn more during this Hola VPN review.
Hola VPN Overview
|OVERALL RANK:||#73 out of 78 VPNs|
|USABILITY:||Easy to install and use|
|LOG FILES:||Some Logging Policy|
|SUPPORT:||Contact Form, No Response|
|NETFLIX:||Blocks Netflix USA|
|ENCRYPTION/PROTOCOL:||No encryption; Peer to Peer Proxy Tunneling|
Hola VPN Pros
This is not going to be a positive review.
What you are dealing with here may be a troublesome and dangerous VPN service that has been caught red-handed exploiting its users’ web connections and opening them to dangerous scenarios.
That said … its speed was pretty good and it downloaded fast.
So let’s dive into the only positive things I can mention about this.
Fast Internet Speeds
Even the simplest VPNs in the world will slow down your overall performance a bit. That’s the tradeoff you create for anonymous web browsing.
But when it comes to faster VPNs, you would never know it.
A truly effective VPN absorbs a negligible amount of speed, slowing you down, but not to a clear degree.
We tested two of the Hola VPN connections.
We normally test every VPN server network, but as a community-based VPN, Hola doesn’t use servers. Instead, they redirect requests to other users’ web connections during a selected country.
So we tested two connections, one from outside the EU and one from the US.
Our EU test did well, with speeds barely missing a beat.
EU Speed Test
- Ping: 37 ms
- Download: 84.61 Mbps (12.7% Slower Than 97 Mbps Benchmark)
- Upload: 38.83 Mbps (38.7% Slower Than 53 Mbps Benchmark)
Our US test performed well on downloads but fell sharply below acceptable speed levels on uploads.
US Speed Test
- Ping: 183 ms
- Download: 32.47 Mbps (60% Slower Than 97 Mbps Benchmark)
- Upload 7.97 Mbps (85% Slower Than 53 Mbps Benchmark)
Out of the 78 VPNs we’ve reviewed, we rank Hola VPN 19th in terms of speed.
Easy to put on and use
Hola installed without issue as a Google Chrome browser add-on for a record amount of its time. it had taken less than a moment to download, install, power up, and get up and running.
Hola appears as a sink, showing you some of the most popular sites within the area you are connected to.
I decided to establish a connection within the UK so that I could watch the BBC.
It connected, but I found a problem. My entire system abruptly stopped and I froze for a few minutes while I waited for the BBC to load.
In time, the difficulty corrected itself and I was presented with a gentle stream of British television journalism.
Then I tried to join Canada.
It went directly online and I tried to access Netflix. It didn’t work, being a victim of Netflix’s VPN blocking system.
All in all, this was a harmless experience from installation to use.
It should also mean that I used to use their premium service, which meant that while I had been connecting my computer to others’ systems, it used to not be a neighborhood on their peer-to-peer network.
Hola VPN Cons
Now that we’ve got the 2 pros out of the way, it’s time to dive right into a bunch of bad stuff.
It is not getting pretty.
It’s not just that they log your information (they do), it’s not just that they sell access to your internet connection to paid users (they also do), it’s not even their lack of an encryption standard (we’ll get on that).
This is a corporation that has been caught without rights in a shady business. This is often a service that exposes you to online threats. It is often a corporation that takes advantage of your personal Internet bandwidth without paying anything and tells you that it is using a free service.
I can’t even be jovial about this. It’s that level of horror.
Record tons of data
Logging is usually the scariest thing a VPN company can do. However, when it comes to this product, it is the least of my worries.
Many free VPN companies log information. They usually struggle to cover this fact through technicalities. Once you can find a VPN that adheres to a strict no-logging policy, you acknowledge that you simply have a winner.
Right off the bat, we all know that they are logging everything about your internet activity. What browser are you using? What sites are you visiting? Which proportion of time did you spend there?
Immediately I am left with the question, what is the purpose of using this VPN? Everything they just admitted makes it completely useless.
But they are not finished.
They have your internet activity and now they have all your personal information, including the IP address you are trying to cover and your billing information.
Not only do they save your information, but they also share it. I don’t know who these “subsidiaries and affiliates” are, but they are getting a lot of data on me.
Located in Israel (Cooperative with Surveillance Alliances)
Hola is based in Israel, which exists outside of the 14 Eyes surveillance alliance.
Normally, that could be an honest thing. However, Israel cooperates with the alliance, even though it is not actually part of it.
This is an agreement between the US, France, Canada, the UK, Australia, Italy, New Zealand, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, and Spain. These countries collect their spy information, so if one knows something, so do others.
The Israeli government is not officially a member country, but if pressured for information, they will provide it.
Proxy tunnel, security risks, no encryption
Usually, this is where we bring up the security of a VPN. What protocols are they using to tunnel their signal? What encryption are they using to mask their activity?
Industry standards call for the use of the OpenVPN protocol and AES-256 encryption for a highly secure browsing experience.
But Hola is not a typical VPN.
Like I said before, it is a peer-to-peer VPN network. which means that instead of having servers all over the planet that you pay to take care of, Hola uses the bandwidth of its users.
If you are connecting to the UK, you are actually connecting to the idle system of a Hola user within the UK and assuming their IP address.
Hola claims that somehow this peer-to-peer network makes you more anonymous and more secure than military-grade encryption.
I don’t get mad.
So I’m connecting to other people’s computers, and people are connecting to me, and that is somehow better than encryption that modern supercomputers can’t break.
Have you also noticed the part where they admit that there are workarounds that criminals may want to access your information? How is that more secure than the world’s most powerful VPN tunnel protocols?
Hola, says nothing about what, if any, security they provide as they move their connection around the world. I did some research and found that they didn’t even use a VPN protocol. They are sending your information through a proxy connection. and all information is sent in clear text without any encryption.
They are deliberately vague about this, which makes them dangerous. It is unethical to inspire a false sense of security in the minds of your users.
DNS and WebRTC leaks detected
Leaks quickly unravel even the most powerful VPNs. Whether it’s a DNS leak going through your VPN tunnel or a WebRTC leak caused by API destruction of your anonymity, the superior result is equivalent.
Your original IP is discovered.
We typically run six tests on every VPN we review. We passed Hola through all six and failed in the middle.
- https://ipleak.net/ – Approved
- https://www.perfect-privacy.com/check-ip – Approved
- https://ipx.ac/run – Approved
- https://browserleaks.com/webrtc – Failed
- https://www.perfect-privacy.com/dns-leaktest/ – Failed
- https://dnsleak.com – Failed
We also run its installation files through virustotal.com to ensure that everything you are downloading from the Hola website is clean and does not harm your computer.
We checked 66 viruses using VirusTotal and found nothing, that’s an honest sign.
No server worked with Netflix
Netflix and VPNs are not friends.
Only once did they work together in a glorious way. VPNs gave you the freedom to unblock Netflix content from anywhere in the world.
Then everything changed when Netflix attacked proxies and VPNs.
By using advanced VPN blocking systems, they have effectively bypassed the vast majority of users.
That’s why the power of streaming Netflix content can be a pen within the limit of several of the most useful VPNs in the world.
Hola is not one of them.
We tested five of their connections and each of them was blocked by the streaming service.
Torrenting didn’t work
Hola does not have a language that expressly prohibits the use of torrents. That being said, we tried it and it didn’t work.
Torrenting can be a peer-to-peer service, very similar to Hola. And also like Hola, that connection to the community makes it dangerous.
This is why many users turn to VPNs to protect their private information from the invasive hands of hackers who infiltrate their system through torrent services.
If you’re trying to find a great VPN for torrenting, Hola, it’s not. But to help you in your search, we’ve compiled an inventory of the highest VPNs for torrenting.
Limited device support
I think it has become quite clear that I have even had a hard time trusting Hola so far.
That got worse once I took a look at your device’s support list.
When I first checked this list, I was impressed. It is a very comprehensive list of devices. You have browsers, computers, mobile devices, game systems, routers, smart content streaming devices, and televisions.
Each icon can be a link.
I clicked on the entire top row and saw that all the links were leading to one destination.
Then I tried clicking on the Xbox link.
Then I tried to click the Xbox link.
Hope for? If it’s not compatible with Xbox, why is it listed? I thought it had to be a bug so I tried clicking on the PlayStation link.
I went through the entire second row and they all had the exact same error message. They appear in a fun infographic that shows all these wonderful devices you can use Hola on, but only half of them actually work.
Their deceptive and insulting tactic aside, VPNs should be available on more than just computers and phones. More users are starting to use VPN to stream content from services like Kodi directly to their TVs.
That cannot be done with such limited compatibility.
No servers, no Kill Switch, history of misconduct
As stated above, Hola has no servers that you pay for and maintain for. By becoming a user of the free service, in essence, you become a server.
Anyone who wants to use the service but not allow others to enter their system must pay for the premium plan.
Your motto should be “All the benefits without any of the obvious safety risks.”
Adding to my growing concern about Hola’s safety is the lack of a built-in kill switch. A kill switch abruptly ends a VPN user’s session if their connection becomes unstable.
But I guess when a VPN doesn’t have encryption, you can hardly blame it for not having a kill switch.
One thing users don’t seem to understand until it’s too late is that by signing up for this free service, they also agree to become an exit node for Hola.
An exit node is a gateway from which traffic reaches the Internet. So if someone connecting to your system through Hola does something illegal, it looks like you did.
Also, Hola was caught three years ago using its free subscribers as a huge botnet and selling it to users of its paid Luminati service for more than $ 20 per GB.
In 2015, a Luminati user took advantage of this massive botnet made up of unwitting civilians to launch an attack against a website called 8chan.
Non-existent customer service
If you want to find customer support for Hola, good luck.
They hide the contact link at the bottom of their page as if they hope you will never find it.
I ignored the help email address and instead opted to click the “Contact Us” link, expecting a chatbot or contact form.
There was no such luck there either.
It’s just an email address, so I turned on my Gmail and submitted my question.
I decided I wanted to ask about VPN protocols and encryption levels as they were being very cautious about it on the site. I figured if the customer service department were at least honest about what they found, they might respect honesty.
There you go. Short, sweet, and open. I even asked them about torrents and TOR as an added opportunity to be impressed.
I’ve waited two days for a response and have received none. There was no acknowledgment that my email had been received at all.
Hola VPN Costs, Plans, & Payment Methods
Hola is hailed as a free service first and foremost. If you look on their site, it is everywhere.
You get the purpose.
That being said, there is a premium plan, which I talked about earlier. It is equivalent because the free plan, only that you do not allow other users to connect with your computer.
The premium plan will cost you $ 11.95 per month to month, a full year at $ 6.99 per month or $ 2.99 per month for the 3-year plan. All plans are accompanied by a 30-day money-back guarantee.
When it comes to payment options, it is Mastercard or PayPal. Anonymous payments are not accepted.
Do I Recommend Hola VPN?
Where do I begin?
They record everything you are doing, cooperate with surveillance alliances, there is no encryption. This is usually the smallest secure VPN I have ever seen.
To top it all, it opens you up to new threats. I know the corporate line is that getting your friend Nate off London bandwidth is somehow safer and more secure than using encryption software equivalent to the NSA’s, but I’m not going to believe that for a second.
You can’t watch Netflix, you can’t torrent, what is this for other than becoming an unconscious cog during a botnet that its Luminati users can exploit?
Their customer service was ridiculous and every word on their bright and colorful website feels misleading, as was evident from their list of devices.
The only way it could help anyone using this is if they spent $ 5 for a month of premium service; its functions are not worth it. And even then, whenever you wanted to try something incredibly simple like unblocking YouTube content only available in another country.
If you’re doing something that involves even a hint of privacy, look elsewhere.
Avoid Hola VPN at the lowest cost. It is not secure enough for public Wi-Fi networks or to protect your data.
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