Hola VPN Review: Unsafe and Sells Your Bandwidth – Is This the Worst VPN?
Hola VPN Ltd is based in Israel and considered as a security threat rather than a protection. It does everything that a VPN shouldn't. Read full Hola VPN review
Price Currency: $
Operating System: Windows
Application Category: Utility
Hola claims to be a free VPN service, while also admitting it’s a peer-to-peer network.
Is it free? And is it trustworthy? We looked into exactly what the Hola service is, how it’s free, and how it works, so you have all the facts before you download it.
Pros & Cons
- Offers a free plan
- Supported on most popular platforms
- Free plan lets others connect to your IP address
- No encryption
- Admits to logging user data
Hola VPN Overview
|Countries:||Claims “the entire world” |
|Servers & Locations:||No servers |
|Customer Support:||Request form via its website |
|Log policy:||No – admits to logging |
|Supported Platforms:||Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Chrome, Edge, Opera, Huawei, Samsung, FireTV, Apple TV |
|Routers Supported:||Keenetic Ultra|
|Simultaneous Connections:||1 (free plan), 10 (premium plan), or 20 (ultra plan) |
|P2P File Sharing (Torrenting):||No|
|Country of Registration:||Israel|
|Free Trial or Money-Back Guarantee?||Offers a free plan|
Why is Hola VPN Free?
Hola VPN does not use a traditional server network to run, so you don’t have a list of servers to pick from. Instead, it routes your traffic through the IP addresses of other users signed up for its free plan. Due to this, you can connect to any country that has an active user who isn’t currently using their IP address.
If you sign up to be a free Hola user, you become part of this network. This means somebody can connect from your IP address when you’re not using it. It also means somebody could use your IP address to carry out illegal activity and you’d never know it.
This is how Hola can offer a free service – it has no VPN server bills to pay.
After you’ve chosen a country to connect to, you’ll be assigned one at random. At this time, it’s not possible to select the city you want to connect from.
There is one key benefit of not having a fixed network: it makes it much harder for sites to determine if you’re using a VPN. When you make it harder for them to detect, you will not be blocked.
Platforms and Devices
Hola is available on:
- Apple TV
- Fire TV
Browser extensions are available for:
- Microsoft Edge
Ease of Use
Hola is available as a browser extension or as an app, and it has download links for all supported devices on its website. All you need to do is download and install it on your device, then it’s simply one click to connect to the Hola network in your preferred country.
Hola’s website claims it is “simple and intuitive” and that “even as a new user, you will quickly understand how to use Hola.”
Streaming and Torrenting
VPNs are used to unblock streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and many more. You can’t use the free Hola version for this. When you try to, you’ll be given an error message saying you have to sign up for its premium subscription to access the sites using Hola’s fast streaming servers.
The only way you can access streaming sites is if you pay for Hola’s premium service.
Even if Hola supported torrenting, it might be best to avoid it due to the intrusive logging policy and the concerns about overreaching. Instead, torrent users are advised to check out our best VPN articles and comparisons.
Hola has very few features, other than being free.
- It offers no encryption or secure encryption protocols.
- It has no type of advanced privacy features like the standard VPN service kill switch.
- It has a logging policy, giving it the power to monitor everything you do on the internet.
- There have been a plethora of problems regarding user bandwidth being sold and then used for illegal purposes.
- There is practically no customer support.
Reliability and Speed
In terms of reliability and speed, you could think that Hola offers quick service for local connections because it’s a proxy extension that has no added security benefits.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
During testing, Hola speed tests were not great:
Plans and Pricing
Hola VPN has three plans available:
- Basic (which is free)
Both the Premium and Ultra plans have a subscription fee, whereas the Basic free version gets you low speeds, one connected device, and limited usage time.
The Hola Premium subscription plan priced from $7.49 a month gets you fast speeds, up to 10 simultaneously connected devices, and 24/7 connectivity. The Hola Ultra subscription plan priced from $19.99 a month includes ultra-fast speeds, up to 20 simultaneously connected devices, and 24/7 connectivity.
You can request a refund within the first 14 days of purchase if you haven’t used your Hola plan at all.
Security and Encryption
Since Hola doesn’t work as a traditional VPN, it offers no actual security features. It has no VPN protocol and no type of encryption. It’s just a peer-to-peer network that spoofs the IP address – nothing more.
How does Hola work?
Hola routes your web traffic through another participant’s device, which means you appear to connect through that IP address. This way, Hola doesn’t require any servers, as its users create the network of IP addresses.
However, it does mean a stranger can use your IP address and do whatever they want while connected through it.
In 2015, a cyber attack revealed Hola had been selling its free users’ bandwidth to its paid subscribers for $20 a gigabyte, under the Luminati name (which, in 2021, rebranded as Bright Data). As a result, it was these free users’ computers that had been harnessed and used in the cyber attack.
At the time, Hola’s founder confirmed that the bandwidth of its free users was sold commercially, but that this was always the agreement when users signed up for the free service – it’s what covered the costs to ensure the service remained free.
Hola made this fact clearer in the FAQs of its website and says if you don’t wish your bandwidth to be used, you should upgrade to its premium service.
- Personal information: IP address, name, email address, screen name, payment, billing information, or other information Hola “may ask from time to time, but only information which will be required for the onboarding process and services provisioning.”
- Installed applications on mobile devices: names of applications installed on the user’s device that the user selects to be unblocked by Hola.
- Log data: “Log data may include the following information – IP address, operating system, browser type, web pages you visit, time spent on those pages, access times, and dates.”
Hola makes it clear that everything you do while using its service can be linked back to you since it collects the originating IP address, your name, screen name, and email address whenever you’re connected. As most people want a VPN for privacy and anonymity, it somewhat defies the point of using a VPN.
Hola’s website has a “submit a request” contact form on its website if you need help. There is also an email address you could try, but Hola says this is just for general questions or feedback.
The website does have a Help Center, which includes set-up guides and troubleshooting for each compatible platform, plus a range of FAQs on topics such as billing and payments.
Although advertised as a VPN, Hola is a peer-to-peer network that acts like a proxy to spoof IP addresses. When you download the software, you agree that your device can be used as a node in this network, allowing others to connect through your IP address.
Hola offers no privacy or encryption features at all and logs your data and usage. On top of that, Hola’s founder confirmed that it sells its free users’ bandwidth, and history has already shown that this can be used for illegal activity.
If you need a reliable VPN, take a look at some of the best providers we recommend in 2023.
Who owns Hola VPN?
Hola VPN was founded by Derry Shribman and Ofer Vilenski with the aim of making the Internet better through advanced routing technologies. It is registered as Hola Limited in Israel. It has various investors including top tier investors including DFJ (Silicon Valley), Trilogy (Seattle), Magma (Israel), Horizons Ventures (Hong Kong), and Orange (France).
What is Hola VPN’s peer-to-peer network?
Hola VPN is a peer-to-peer proxy service that uses peer-to-peer caching to access blocked content. This means Hola VPN routes user’s traffic through other users IP addresses in the Hola network in accessible regions to bypass geo-restricted websites. Also, other users (peers) on the network use your IP address to access different content.
How does Hola VPN compare to ExpressVPN?
First, Hola VPN depends on its peer-to-peer network to bypass geo-restricted content while ExpressVPN has several servers in 94 countries that enable access to geo-blocked websites. Secondly, ExpressVPN uses advanced security features with different protocols compared to Hola VPN. Finally, Hola VPN has a free version for its users whereas ExpressVPN only offers paid packages to users.
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