Millions of people around the globe use Hola Better Internet to connect to websites that aren’t available in their home countries. That might change, thanks to new evidence revealing a huge hole in the security of the popular service. For those who are unaware, Hola is a VPN, which people can use to temporarily change their IP addresses. So, if I were in Europe, I could use a VPN like Hola to make it appear as though I were connecting to the internet in the United States.
The problem with Hola is this: since it is a free service, the company must use a peer-to-peer system to reduce costs. This means that when you use Hola, you are essentially using someone else’s IP address and connection. For example, if you are using Hola to acquire a German IP address, you are literally being routed through an actual German person’s internet connection. This is all well and good, unless your own IP address gets used for some nefarious purpose.
Hola cannot control what its users do, so if someone using Hola in another country acquires your IP address/connection and does something illegal, the consequences may fall on you (at least initially). For that alone, I suggest removing Hola from your browser immediately.
Second, and perhaps even worse, Hola sells user’s bandwidth through a company named Luminati (which they own). This means that someone with malicious intent can buy and utilize the bandwidth of Hola users however they see fit, which actually did happen recently when one person launched an assault on a popular anonymous message board, disrupting its service. Having to deal with Hola’s peer-to-peer system is one thing, but having your bandwidth sold to the highest bidder is perhaps the more egregious offense, especially since Hola users have no idea what their connections will be used for.
While it could be said that Hola is just trying to find a way to fund its “free” service, I don’t think that you should give them the benefit of the doubt. They were dishonest, doubly so given the fact that they didn’t even inform users in their FAQ about their intention to sell bandwidth until recently. For now, look for alternatives. Going with a VPN that you have to pay for is better than possibly having your internet connection commandeered by some questionable third party.
Featured photo credit: Computer Hack/ Global Panorama via flic.kr