Hola VPN hit the internet in late 2012. It came from a company called Hola Networks Ltd., which is based out of Israel.
They claim to have served 180 million users in that time through their VPN app.
What differentiates Hola from the competition is that it is primarily a free service. While most VPNs that support free browsing are paid services dabbling into limited free use, Hola is a free provider that also offers paid subscriptions.
This isn’t a typical VPN, though.
It’s the world’s first peer-to-peer VPN, meaning that instead of using a park of servers located around the world, Hola tunnels its signals through the connection of its users.
Odd. Is that a better approach? Or a worse one?
Find out more in this Hola VPN review.
Hola VPN Overview
|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’re dealing with here is a problematic and dangerous VPN service that has been caught red-handed exploiting the internet connections of its users and opening them up to dangerous scenarios.
That being said… its speed was pretty good and it downloaded fast.
So let’s dive into the only positive things I can manage to say about this.
1. Fast Internet Speeds
Even the best VPNs in the world will sap some speed off your overall performance. That’s the trade-off you make for anonymous web browsing.
But when it comes to fastest VPNs, you’d never know it.
A truly effective VPN siphons off a negligible amount of speed, slowing you down, but not to a noticeable degree.
We tested two of Hola VPN’s connections.
Normally we test each VPN server network, but as a community-based VPN, Hola does not use servers. Instead, they redirect requests to the internet connections of other users in a selected country.
So, we tested two connections, one out of the EU and one from the US.
Our EU test fared well, with speeds hardly 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 sharply plummeted below acceptable speed levels on the upload.
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 at number 19 in terms of speed.
2. Easy to Install and Use
Hola was seamlessly installed as a Google Chrome browser add-on in a record amount of time. It was under a minute in all for it to download, install, turn on, and start working.
Hola pops in as a drop down, showing you some of the most popular sites in the area that you’re connected to.
I decided to try out a connection in the UK so that I could watch the BBC.
It connected, but I hit a snag. My entire system ground to a screeching halt and I was frozen for about a minute as I waited for the BBC to load up.
Eventually, the issue corrected itself and I was treated to a steady stream of British broadcast journalism.
Then I tried to connect to Canada.
It connected right away and I tried to access Netflix. It did not work, falling victim to Netflix’s VPN blocking system.
All in all, this was a harmless experience from installation to usage.
I should also point out that I was using their premium service, which meant that while it was connecting my computer to the systems of others, I was not a part of their peer-to-peer network.
Hola VPN Cons
Now that we’ve got the two pros out of the way, it’s time to dive headfirst into a whole lot of bad.
It’s not going to be 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 do that, too), it’s not even their lack of any kind of encryption standard (we’ll get into that).
This is a company that has been caught dead-to-rights engaging in some shady business. This is a service which opens you up to online threats. This is a company that is profiting off of your personal internet bandwidth while paying nothing and telling you that you’re using a free service.
I can’t even be jovial about this. It’s that level of horrifying.
1. Logs A Lot of Information
Logging is usually the most terrifying thing a VPN company can do. When it comes to this product though, it’s the least of my concerns.
A lot of free VPN companies log information. Usually, they try to hide this fact through technicalities. When you can find a VPN that sticks to a strict no logging policy, you know that you have a winner.
Right off the bat, we know that they’re logging everything about your internet activity. What browser are you using? What web pages are you visiting? How much time did you spend there?
Immediately I’m left asking the question, what’s the point of using this VPN? Everything they just admitted to renders it completely useless.
But they’re not done.
They’ve got your internet activity, and now they’ve got all of your personal information, including the IP address you’re trying to hide, and your billing information.
Not only are they keeping your information, they’re sharing it. I don’t know who these “subsidiaries and affiliated companies are,” but they’re getting an awful lot of information about me.
2. Located in Israel (Cooperative with Surveillance Alliances)
Hola is based out of Israel, which exists outside of the 14 Eyes surveillance alliance.
Ordinarily, that would be a good thing. However, Israel is cooperative with the alliance, despite not actually being a part of it.
This is an agreement between the United States, France, Canada, the UK, Australia, Italy, New Zealand, Germany, The Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, and Spain. These countries pool their espionage information together, so if one knows something, so do the others.
The Israeli government is not officially a member country, but if pressed for information, they will give it up.
3. Proxy Tunneling, Security Risks, No Encryption
Ordinarily, this is where we talk about the security of a VPN. What protocols are they using to tunnel your signal? What encryption are they using to mask your activity?
But Hola is not a typical VPN.
As I said before, it’s a peer-to-peer VPN network. That means instead of having servers throughout the world that they pay to maintain, Hola uses the bandwidth of their users.
If you’re connecting to the UK, you’re actually connecting to the idle system of a Hola user in the UK and assuming their IP address.
Hola claims that somehow this peer-to-peer networking is making you more anonymous and more secure than military grade encryption.
I don’t buy it.
So, I’m connecting to other people’s computers, and other people are connecting to me, and that’s somehow better than an encryption that can’t be broken by modern supercomputers.
Did you also notice the part where they admit that there are workarounds criminals can take to gain access to your information? How is that more secure than the world’s most powerful VPN tunneling protocols?
Hola is tight-lipped about what, if any security they offer while moving your connection around the world. I did some digging and discovered that they’re not even using a VPN protocol. They’re sending your information via proxy connection. And all information is sent in clear text with no encryption whatsoever.
They’re purposely vague about this, which makes them dangerous. Inspiring a false sense of security in the minds of their users is unethical.
3. DNS and WebRTC Leaks Detected
Leaks quickly unravel even the strongest VPNs. Whether it’s a DNS leak plowing through your VPN tunnel or WebRTC leaks caused by API’s destroying your anonymity, the end result is the same.
Your original IP is uncovered.
We typically run six tests on every VPN that we review. We ran Hola through all six and it failed half of them.
- https://ipleak.net/ – Passed
- https://www.perfect-privacy.com/check-ip – Passed
- https://ipx.ac/run – Passed
- https://browserleaks.com/webrtc – Failed
- https://www.perfect-privacy.com/dns-leaktest/ – Failed
- https://dnsleak.com – Failed
We also ran their installation files through virustotal.com to make sure that everything you’re downloading off of the Hola website is clean and won’t damage your computer.
We checked for 66 viruses using VirusTotal and found nothing – that’s a good sign.
4. No Servers Worked With Netflix
Netflix and VPNs are not friends.
At one time they worked gloriously together. VPNs gave you the freedom to unlock Netflix content from anywhere on the planet.
Then, everything changed when Netflix attacked proxies and VPNs.
Utilizing advanced VPN blocking systems, they’ve effectively shut out the vast majority of users.
That’s why the ability to play Netflix content is a feather in the cap of some of the world’s most useful VPNs.
Hola is not one of them.
We tested five of its connections, and all five were blocked by the streaming service.
5. Torrenting Did Not Work
Hola has no language that expressly forbids the use of torrenting. That being said, we tried and it didn’t work.
Torrenting is a peer-to-peer service, much like Hola. And also like Hola, that community connection makes it dangerous.
That’s why many users turn to VPNs to protect their private information from the invasive hands of hackers who weasel into their system through torrenting services.
If you’re looking for a great VPN for torrenting, Hola is not it. But to help in your search we’ve compiled a list of the top VPNs for torrenting.
6. Limited Device Support
I think it has been fairly clear that I have had a hard time trusting Hola up to this point.
That was worsened when I took a look at their device support list.
When I first looked at this list, I was impressed. It’s a very thorough list of devices. You’ve got browsers, computers, mobile devices, gaming systems, routers, content streaming smart devices, and televisions.
Each icon is a link.
I clicked through that whole top row and saw that each link led to a destination.
Then I tried to click the Xbox link.
Wait, what? If you don’t support Xbox then why was it listed? I figured it had to be a mistake so I tried to click on the PlayStation link.
I went through that entire second row, and all of them had the exact same error message. They’re listed in a fun infographic showcasing all of these wonderful devices that you can use Hola on, but only half of them actually work.
Their deceptive and insulting tactic aside, VPNs need to be available on more than just computers and phones. More users are starting to use VPNs to stream content from services like Kodi directly to their televisions.
That can’t be done with such limited compatibility.
7. No Servers, No Kill Switch, History of Misconduct
As stated before, Hola does not have servers that they pay for and maintain. By becoming a user of the free service you, in essence, become a server.
Anyone who wants to use the service but not allow others into their system must pay for the premium plan.
Its tagline should be “All the Benefits With None of the Glaring Security Risks.”
Adding to my growing unease with the safety of Hola is its lack of a built-in kill switch. A kill switch abruptly ends a VPN user’s session if their connection destabilizes.
But I guess when a VPN doesn’t have encryption, you can hardly fault them for not having a kill switch.
One thing that users don’t seem to comprehend until it’s too late is that by signing up for this free service, they’re also agreeing to become exit nodes for Hola.
An exit node is a gateway from which traffic hits the internet. So, if someone connecting to your system through Hola does something illegal, it looks like you did it.
Also, Hola got caught three years ago using its free subscribers as an enormous botnet and selling it to users of their paid Luminati service for upwards of $20 per GB.
In 2015, a Luminati user took advantage of this massive botnet comprised of unwitting civilians to launch an attack against a website called 8chan.
8. Non-Existent Customer Support
If you want to find customer support for Hola, good luck.
They hide the contact link at the very bottom of their page as if hoping you’d never find it.
I ignored the help email address, opting instead to click on the “contact us” link, hoping for a chatbot or contact form.
No such luck there either.
It’s just an email address, so I fired up my gmail and sent in my question.
I decided I wanted to ask about VPN protocols and encryption levels, since they were being so cagey about that on the site. I figured that if the customer service department would at least be truthful about what I had found, I could respect the honesty.
There you have it. Short, sweet, and open-ended. I even asked about torrenting and TOR as an added opportunity for them to impress me.
It has been two days and I have received absolutely no response. Not even an acknowledgment that my email was received.
Hola VPN Costs, Plans, & Payment Methods
Hola is hailed as a free service, first and foremost. If you look on their site it’s everywhere.
You get the point.
That being said, there is a premium plan, which I mentioned before. It’s the same as the free plan, only you don’t allow other users to connect with your equipment.
The premium plan will run you $11.95 per month on a month to month basis, a full year at $6.99 per month, or $2.99 per month for the 3-year plan. All plans come with a 30-day money back guarantee.
As far as payment options go, it’s either credit card or PayPal. No anonymous payments are accepted.
Do I Recommend Hola VPN
Where do I even begin?
They log everything you do, they cooperate with surveillance alliances, there’s no encryption. This is the least secure VPN I’ve ever seen.
To top it all off, it opens you up to new threats. I know the company line is that leeching off your buddy Nate from London’s bandwidth is somehow safer and more secure than utilizing the same encryption software as the NSA, but I’m not going to believe that for a second.
You can’t watch Netflix, you can’t torrent, what purpose does this serve other than to make you an unknowing cog in a botnet that their Luminati users can exploit?
Their customer service was laughable and every word on their bright and colorful website feels misleading, as was evident by their device list.
The only way I could ever support anyone using this would be if they plopped down $5 for a month of premium service – their features aren’t worth it. And even then, only if you wanted to do something incredibly simple like unblock YouTube content only available in another country.
If you’re doing anything that involves even a shred of privacy, look elsewhere.
Avoid Hola VPN at all costs. It’s not secure enough for public Wi-Fi nor your data protection.
We rank them at 68 out of the 78 VPNs that we’ve reviewed.
Add your own Hola VPN review
7 user reviews for Hola VPN
Question about Hola
I'm a complete novice to VPN's and when I was told I needed one to access some sites my Internet Provider has blocked, I was recommended Hola!
I've been using it casually over the last year and only to gain access to the blocked sites. For a bit it worked fine but recently it keeps trying to get me to go to premium and the sites I could access are now blocked. I decided to remove it and look for another VPN but just happened to see your review.
Should I be worried about what Hola have accessed if I have deleted Hola's extension from Firefox and deleted the application from my MacBook?
I didn't Install It... Thank God!!!
I did not install Hola. However, I did sign up for a free account and have been trying to get my account cancelled. Thank you for this article. I will definitely not be using Hola! VPN service. They do not seem legit. I cannot stand sites that allow you sign up for an account but REFUSE to allow you to cancel your account. That pretty much speaks volumes.
I noticed that Hola is 68th out of the 74 VPNs you reviewed and found it strange. I don't think anyone can get lower that them. Can you include something about the latest news regarding Hola so that your readers can see how sketchy they are? Or do you think that's nothing to worry about?
It has many pluses as a content access tool
The review is useful but one-sided. Hola's approach is not for those who value privacy or care about a miniscule use of bandwidth as exit nodes. But it has major pluses for someone who cares about content blocks and such: (1) Free, unlike any other VPN that actually works. (2) Universal, can emulate a specific town in a small country if necessary (no luck with traditional VPN if no server there). (3) Harder to detect as a VPN; unlike having dedicated VPN servers that can be identified as such, you masquerade as another random user with all their attributes. Try accessing ESPN3 (geoblocked + specific ISP) with a regular VPN.
I see they are now starting to require a premium subscription to access some valuable sites like the BBC, which limits their value depending on how many such sites they do this for. My rating is from before they implemented this change.
I thought I smelled a fish
Hola is no longer free.
I can't use the BBC iPlayer no more because it's says you need "fast, streaming servers" to browse the site, and it forces to upgrade to Hola Plus. I removed the extension from Google Chrome after logging into netflix, and once again, it tries to coerce me into upgrading to Hola Plus. After 6 years of being a free VPN alternative, Hola, is DEAD.
Barely scratched the surface
You haven't even touched the elephant in the room regarding Hola. Every user acts as an exit node for their business (luminati) which is where the money comes from. Hola is just a unicorn so they can grab as many users as they can while luminati sells access to the internet of hola users with many of them being unaware of that. Not to mention that you can get hacked pretty fast running hola. Read the internet.