Hola is more than just the Spanish word for hello, it’s also an Israeli-based VPN-like browser extension that, in 2018, will turn ten years old. For those who don’t know, Hola had a peaceful seven years of activity, and became the number one choice of many users to circumvent geographically blocked content without paying a dime.
But everything changed in 2015, when Hola suffered some heavy criticism after it was discovered by a group of internet security experts – cleverly called Adios, Hola – that it was acting as a poorly secured botnet, and was logging and selling users’ data.
This muddied the waters around the always-controversial topic of free VPN services, which led many to doubt other similar services too. But what is the current state of Hola, three years after this controversy?
Is Hola VPN Safe to Use?
Unfortunately, not much has changed since this sad event and, although we advised to be careful with Hola back in the day, this time we’ll go ahead and provide a more definitive answer to this question with a big fat ‘no’.
To begin with, Hola’s website was flagged as untrustworthy by our antivirus, which is incredibly embarrassing for a service that’s supposed to increase security. Aside from that, the VPN is still up and running, advertising its huge number of downloads and the features that it offers, almost as if ignoring all the backlash it was victim to a couple years ago. And most of all, it’s still free, so the chances are high that nothing has changed in the modus operandi of the business either.
Let’s not forget that Hola works in a different way to regular VPNs: rather than securely routing your traffic through dedicated VPN servers placed in another country, it instead routes everything through the connection of a random fellow user. This works exquisitely to ensure a different IP address when trying to access blocked websites, but fails in the most important aspect: security.
Not only could someone end up using your IP address to do something illegal – such as torrenting, which was actually one of the most common uses for Hola back in the day – but it also allows the remote execution of malicious code onto your computer. It’s not surprising, then, that Hola’s popularity is still very negative among Reddit users, who completely discourage using it.
It’s impossible to talk about Hola without re-mentioning the trick behind free software. Since we’ve dedicated a guide to just this we won’t go into much detail here, but there’s essentially a notion that everyone should be aware of: if you’re not paying, you’re not the customer but the product. This applies to everything, VPNs included.
These services can’t be maintained out of thin air, they all cost money and that money usually comes from subscriptions. If there are no subscriptions, then the money must come from other sources, often through targeted advertising and by selling your data logs to the highest bidder. Multiply this by the millions of people who download free VPNs and voila!
It should be noted that this is different from the free trial versions that many companies provide. This is called the freemium model and, in most cases, it can be trusted.
Does Hola VPN Unblock Netflix?
Unblocking Netflix and other similar streaming services is one of the biggest reasons that people turn to VPN software – and the reason that such services are trying to fight these VPN solutions, but that’s another story.
In this regard, Hola is no different than any other unblocking service, and so the answer is yes, it does. However, for the most common user who doesn’t know or care about Hola’s previous issues, as long as the restricted sign disappears then everything is fine… and all the better if the tool is free, right?
That’s the epitome of Hola’s success and why it still has so many daily five stars ratings and positive reviews across Google Chrome’s web store. If you’re one of these carefree people, then there’s nothing stopping you from using Hola, but bear in mind that your data is being gathered and sold, your IP address can be used for wrongdoings, and you can even be infected with malware.
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