Hola VPN is the name of the newest addition of our VPN database, but that’s miles away from what this implies. Not only that this VPN service will become a permanent addition of our connection security solution collection, but it will be put through the same reviewing and testing process that every other VPN provider had to “endure” when we stumbled upon it.
We understand that this might seem like a long read, and it will be a long read (no reason to deny or try to hide it), but we’ll try to make your experience as pleasant as possible and also give you the means of making it shorter by appending this table of content, so that you can jump to the parts that interest you most without skipping a beat.
- Company information
- Israel Jurisdiction
- Terms of service analysis
- A quick introduction to Hola VPN
- Creating an account
- Downloading the app on your device
- Checking the installer for malware
- Installing the application
- Running Hola VPN on your computer
- Changing the settings
- List of servers
- Services unlocked
- TOR and torrenting support
- Customer support
- Security check-up results
- Speed test results
- Pricing plans
The company behind the Hola VPN project has been conveniently named Hola VPN Ltd. so that there’s little to no room for confusion. Well, this is a rather long story, but we’ll simplify it as much as we can by turning it into a checkpoint-style informative section.
- KRFTech, a software development company was founded by Ofer Vilenski and Derry Shribman;
- with the profits made from KRFTech, Jungo was started in an attempt to develop operating systems for home gateways;
- NDS (Cisco) has acquired Jungo for $107 million;
- Ofer Vilenski and Derry Shribman started focusing on “re-inventing HTTP” by constructing a P2P (peer-to-peer) overlay network in an attempt to accelerate content distribution by using peer-to-peer caching and make the effective bandwidth to target websites faster by using peer-to-peer routing;
- Hola was created by using $18 million from investors such as DFJ (Hotmail, Skype), Magma Venture Partners (Waze), Horizons Ventures (Mr. Li Ka-Shing’s fund) and others;
- Hola Networks Limited was launched in late 2012 and became viral in January 2013, when its users were relying on its services to keep their Internet connection private and anonymous by means of IP masking via P2P routing;
- under the name Luminati, Hola Networks started to sell access to its userbase as exit nodes, charging no more than $20 per GB of bandwidth that was actually coming from their VPN users;
- 8chan founder Fredrick Brennan emailed the company after its website was reportedly attacked by an exploited Hola network. This was later confirmed by Hola founder Ofer Vilenski.
- Hola modified their FAQ and made it very clear that Hola VPN users are acting as exit nodes for paid users of Luminati, Hola’s “sister service”;
- “Adios, Hola!”, an anti-Hola website was created by nine security researchers and was promoted across 8chan, stating that “Hola is harmful to the internet as a whole, and to its users in particular. You might know it as a free VPN or “unblocker”, but in reality, it operates like a poorly secured botnet – with serious consequences.”
- criticism that Hola received was partly because most of their customers had no idea they’re being used as exit nodes for premium Luminati users, their software was vulnerable, which made it easy for attackers to deliver malware to Hola users and also because the Hola browser was being used for DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks;
- after hearing the claims of Hola customers (and not only), Ofer Vilenski stated that they’ve decided to provide Hola’s customers with more details regarding how their service works and as a result, the software was updated. However, later audit reports have shown that although the software was updated, the vulnerabilities remained the same;
- Ofer Vilenski started Tesonet, a data mining business, which offered a similar “free VPN” service called NordVPN, which resulted in a patent infringement filed in 2018;
- some reports show that Hola has received a directive from Russian authorities asking them to join a registry (state-sponsored) of banned websites so that Russian Hola users wouldn’t be able to circumvent Russian state censorship;
Hola VPN Ltd. is based in Israel, so naturally, we’re going to offer you a bunch of insight about Israeli jurisdiction, so that you can understand more about how a company’s headquarters choice can have an impact on your privacy or not, accordingly.
First thing’s first, using a VPN in Israel is completely legal, so you don’t have to worry about that. Although the online environment is sought after the government in order to be maintained as free as possible, the ones that try to keep it free are the same ones that interfere with its freedom.
Hence, a set of laws that enable the government to fight crime in a more effective manner has been introduced and, as a result, certain websites have been restricted and/or blocked and hateful posts on social media have been blocked and/or deleted.
On a final note, you can rest assured knowing that Israel is not a member of the 5, 9, 14 Eyes Alliances, so it’s unlikely that your data will end up in another country’s government hands or on the desk of who-knows-which country’s intelligence agency. Moving on.
Terms of service analysis
It goes without saying that if you choose to use Hola VPN and all related services and/or browse the Hola website, you accept the terms and conditions and agree to be bound by them. That being said, let’s begin.
- We weren’t able to see a “last updated” section anywhere on the Terms of Service page on the Hola VPN website, so we’re going to advise you to check that page as often as possible;
- If any modification occurs on the said page and you don’t agree with it, you must stop using the service immediately. Otherwise, it will be seen as your acceptance and agreement with the modifications;
- Hola VPN offers its services generally free of charge, but you must understand that some of the features or functionalities may not be available outside of a “PLUS” version of the software;
- You are not allowed to use Hola VPN (or any other Hola) services if you’re under the age of 13 or if you’re not the approved administrator of the device on which you deploy the software or use the services;
- Hola VPN reserves its right at its sole discretion to modify, change, add or delete any terms and/or conditions and even whole portions of this document, even the availability of some of the features at any time;
- If you decide to purchase a PLUS subscription plan, you will be charged with the monthly fee that is current at the time of purchase;
- Your PLUS subscription plan will be automatically renewed each month unless you notify Hola that you want to terminate it or cancel your payment from the “My Account” page;
- Third-party payment processors may be used to process your payment, which means that you should understand the implications of such a situation before engaging into making a payment via these processors (e.g. being aware of their terms and conditions and accepting them);
- Hola grants you a personal, non-exclusive, non-assignable, non-transferable, non-sub-licensable, limited and revocable license to access and use their services as well as to install a copy of the service on the device of your choice;
- You are the only one who can use this license since account sharing is forbidden;
- You are not allowed to use Hola VPN for any commercial or non-personal purposes;
- If you use Hola VPN in any commercial way or use it as an individual but on behalf of a company or a corporate entity, it will be considered a breach of this agreement;
- You are not allowed to copy, modify or distribute the services as well as any portion of them;
- You are not allowed to rent, sell, assign, export, transfer or sublicense the software or the services;
- You are not allowed to modify, reverse engineer, translate or create derivative works of the service;
- You are not allowed to interfere with or impair the services in any way;
- You are not allowed to use the service in such a manner that would infringe any intellectual property rights, invade one’s privacy as well as track, store or transmit personal information about others;
- You are not allowed to violate any applicable laws such as copyright or trademark laws, as well as communication-related regulations;
- You are not allowed to use Hola VPN in such a way that the servers get overburdened or impaired as a direct consequence of your actions;
- You are not allowed to even attempt to gain unauthorized access to any part of the service or to information that you’re not supposed to know through means such as data mining or other similar ones;
- You are required to provide Hola with true, accurate, complete and current registration info which might include your username, a password, and an email address;
- You need to maintain and update the registration data promptly as well as any other piece of information that you might’ve provided Hola with;
- You are the only one who’s responsible with what goes on in your account, so make sure that nobody else can access your account or do anything that might put you in a difficult situation;
- If you suspect that your account has been breached or your registration data’s security has been compromised, you need to notify Hola immediately;
- You are not allowed to upload, post or distribute any content that violates any applicable law or any content of questionable content, such as materials that promote or depict racism, vulgarity, profanity, child pornography, bestiality, incest or obscenity;
- You are not allowed to impersonate others and/or misrepresent endorsements by or affiliation with any other person or entity;
- Hola VPN reserves the right to modify, alter, change the services and software as a whole or any portions of them and even completely cease providing the services in its sole discretion;
- Hola claims that using the services might improve the way you’re using the Internet mainly by re-routing some requests through other Hola users;
- By using the free version of the service, you understand and (most importantly) agree that other devices using the services will be re-routed through your device;
- You need to understand that using the free version of Hola VPN will make it so that other Hola devices may use both your network and your resources;
- Hola claims that it will make its best effort not to enable access to any of your devices’ resources unless they’re idle at the time and are not roaming or using battery power, as well as maintain your privacy and security at their highest levels;
- If resource sharing is not desired or allowed in your case, you can either stop using the free services altogether or purchase a PLUS account, which will enable you to use the network without contributing your resources to it;
- Using Hola Free VPN Proxy, Hola Fake GPS location and Hola Video Accelerator might turn your device into a peer on the Luminati network, which you may opt out of by becoming a PLUS user;
- Hola claims that its services are still in beta stage, which might make it possible for you to encounter bugs and/or limited functionality;
Well, we know that it was a long read, but trust us, the website version was even longer. Long story short pretty standard stuff has been crammed in this document, except for the part where using the free version of the Hola services might turn you into a peer for another Hola-branded service, Luminati. Moving on.
If you didn’t take our word for it and you’ve seen for yourself what a tedious experience is getting to go through all of these terms, conditions, agreements and such.
Mainly, this section will be holding two major sub-sections, one which will describe the type of information collected by Hola and another one which will let you know exactly what your data will be used for. That being said, let’s begin:
Types of information Hola collects
Your log data
- Browser type;
- The web pages you visit;
- The time you spend on those pages;
- Access times and dates;
Your personal information
- Your IP address;
- Your name;
- Your email address;
- Your screen name;
- Your payment and billing information;
- Any other information Hola might ask of you from time to time;
- If you choose to sign up through a third party (such as Gmail), every bit of personal information stored on your third party account will be linked to the Hola account;
- If you choose to register through social network platforms (Facebook, Google+), Hola will have access to basic information from your social account such as your full name, home address, birth date, email address, profile picture, personal description, friends list and more;
How Hola uses collected information
- To set up your account;
- To provide you with the service;
- To provide you with support regarding the service;
- To communicate with you for updates;
- To send you marketing offers;
- To communicate with you for concerns you might have;
- To conduct statistical and analytical research for site improvement;
Reasons why Hola might share your information with others
- Hola may share your data with trusted third-party service providers or partners – for providing you with the services, analytics, and storage;
- If necessary to comply with the law, regulation court order or subpoena;
- In order to detect, address or prevent fraud, security, technical issues or violations of their policies;
- To protect Hola’s rights, property, and safety of harm, and also their affiliates, users or the public;
See how there’s no mention of a zero-logging policy? Well, that’s not exactly encouraging, especially when we’re talking about a VPN service that’s been in the eye of the storm for a while because of data mining allegations.
A quick introduction to Hola VPN
First of all, as most of you might’ve noticed, Hola VPN is not exactly your average VPN service provider, especially since it’s using a totally different approach to the whole thing, one that you might expect from Tor.
For those of you who skipped everything in this article so far, Hola VPN offers their VPN services for free, just as long as you’re okay with the fact that your device’s resources might be used by other users, as your device gets turned into a relay/exit node.
Sure, you can bypass this inconvenience by simply purchasing a premium (PLUS) subscription, which reportedly gives you access to the same array of features minus the part where your device gets turned into a relay node for Hola’s sister service, “Luminati.”
If you’re able to get past that, reports show that Hola VPN is pretty effective when it comes to speed and efficiency in unblocking various resources that would otherwise be unavailable to you. The science behind this is that if you aren’t able to access some content from your current location, Hola will re-route your requests from a location that is capable of doing so.
While it sounds simple and begs the question “Why haven’t WE thought about that yet?”, the reality is that such a system needs to be thoroughly stress-tested, to avoid situations like the network becoming a botnet, or malware distribution to unsuspecting users.
Creating an account
- Navigate to the product’s landing page;
- Locate the “Sign Up” button at the top-right corner of the screen and click it;
- You can choose from signing up with a third-party (Google, Facebook) or using an email address instead;
- The obvious choice is using your email address, so type it in the corresponding field;
- Hit the newly-visible “Next” button;
- Choose your password by typing it in the dedicated field;
- Hit the “Sign up” button;
You’re done! You just created a Hola account that you can use with the Hola VPN service at your leisure. However, I’m sensing that you might not be comfortable with your device being used as an exit node by the rich guys so you might want to purchase a PLUS subscription. Wanna know how to do that, too? Follow me:
- As you did before, navigate to the product’s landing page;
- Notice the “PLUS” button at the top-center section of the page;
- Give it a hearty click, don’t be shy;
- Choose a plan from the corresponding section by clicking it;
- Create an account (email or third-party);
- Select a payment method by clicking it;
- Choose a password for your account;
- Complete the required details for the payment information;
What’s done is done! Not only have you created a Hola VPN account, but you’re now the proud owner of a PLUS membership, which will spare your device from becoming an exit node for Luminati users.
Downloading the app on your device
So you’re a Hola VPN member, right? Good. Oh, you’ve also purchased the PLUS subscription plan? Even better. Now, what’s the next step that could bring you closer to better privacy and security for your connection? That’s right, downloading the software to your computer. So how could one achieve that as effortlessly as possible? Like this:
- As before, navigate to the product’s landing page;
- Notice the top menu holding all of the device icons;
- Click the device you’re more interested to download the software solution on;
Most probably you’ll be taken to a new page with a brief description of the device you’re trying to download the app on – try seeing it as some sort of confirmation screen – and, if the device is right, the download might be already finished.
We’ve downloaded the Hola VPN app on our Windows computer and merely clicking on the Windows logo initiated the download process, which was done before we even noticed it. Some other devices (take Android for example) might first take you to their App Store page (Play Store) first, which in turn lets you download the app without a hassle. You’ll figure it out, the process is not exactly for rocket scientists.
Checking the installer for malware
We’ve done this and we’ve done that, but now it’s time to check the installer for any malware components that might be lurking underneath its layers. What, you thought we were just gonna risk the wellbeing of our devices just so we could enjoy the app as soon as possible? No way.
So what we did is after retrieving the installation executable on our computer, we’ve uploaded it to VirusTotal, which holds an impressive array of antivirus engines, all running synchronously, making sure that the detection rate is sky-high and that almost nothing can sneak from under their microscope.
As you can see from our results page and our screenshot below, Hola VPN got away with no records on its rap sheet on VirusTotal, as no malware was detected. However, the installer’s community score hits a low (-40) value and we suspect that it’s because of the way the service works (turning free users’ devices as relay nodes for another service).
Installing the application
Now that we’ve created an account, purchased a subscription plan (probably), downloaded the client and scanned it for malware components, we can move on to the next step, which is setting up the service on your computer. As mentioned before, we’ve downloaded the app to our Windows computer, so it goes without saying that we’re going to describe the installation process for the same device.
- Launch the Hola VPN installer executable;
- Choose from the three options that you have: (PLUS subscriber, subscribing to PLUS and FREE version);
- If you happen to own a PLUS subscription, click the “I have PLUS subscription” hyperlink;
- Sign in to the PLUS account you’ve just created;
- Once you provide the installer with the correct credentials, Hola VPN will start downloading in the background;
- After the downloading/installation process has been completed, you’ll be prompted with the app’s main screen;
That’s it! It’s a bit complicated since there are three different scenarios that you can choose from, but they’re not that counter-intuitive so that you won’t be able to accomplish setting up the service without our help. We’re just making sure that everything runs smooth. The version we’ve installed on our computer is 1.155.300.
Running Hola VPN on your computer
As I’ve already mentioned above in the installation part of this article, by the time the download/installation part is finished, Hola VPN will be already up and running, asking you to select a country to connect to.
That’s it, that’s all you have to do if you want to be efficient in your Hola VPN usage process. The app has a button you can use to disconnect from the country you’ve connected to and another button you can use to fix your connection in case it didn’t stick from the first try.
The main window also displays a brief description of your current situation, holding your current IP address, your ISP, the country you’re currently connected to and the status of your connection (i.e. whether you’re protected or not).
Changing the settings
One thing that we’ve forgotten (or did we) to mention in the section above, where we’ve offered you a description of the app’s main window, is that the main screen of Hola VPN also fashions a “Settings” button that you can use to, you’ve guessed, access the program’s configuration settings.
Clicking it might take a while to yield any effect (not a long while, just a few seconds), which makes the app feel more like a wrapper for an online web page, given that accessing the configuration settings doesn’t load the section instantly, but makes you wait for it to initiate. Kind of like how a web page works, right?
Well, moving past this minor annoyance, the parameters that you can adjust the range from enabling an automatically connection switch and toggling a kill switch to advanced security settings such as choosing your preferred integrity check method, your encryption method, your DH group, the ESP cipher transform, the AH transform and the PFS group.
Yes, most of it does sound like a bunch of mumbo jumbos, but if you’re not sure what you’re doing, it’s better if you leave the advanced settings alone, unless you’d like staying up late figuring out what’s going wrong with your connection. Kidding. But really, don’t mess with stuff you don’t understand.
Maybe the most annoying part is that navigating to the “Settings” menu and coming back to the home screen of the app will trigger a question from the app, asking you if the connection is fine and whether or not you’d like to attempt to fix it. Well, the app will try and fix it for you, you just have to hit a confirmation button.
List of servers
Well, remember how a while ago we told you about the things that make Hola VPN so special? No? We’re going to give you a quick reminder. Hola VPN relies on a peer-to-peer network to deliver their services so technically no underlying costs for running servers are involved since, you know, other users will act as “servers.”
However, based on the userbase, there is a list of countries that you can choose to connect to when running Hola VPN’s services, but it’s not available on the website. Since we had no way of seeing such a list online, we’ve just extracted the existing one from the Hola VPN application.
So, as you can see for yourself, there’s no accurate indicator that could tell us whether Hola VPN sports a wide server park or not, but we at least have the number of locations you can connect to, which is not to be ignored, but not great either.
Well, do we have some great news or what? Hola VPN can unblock a lot of entertainment services, and it’s all thanks to the same modus operandi (i.e. mode of operation) that brought their downfall, to begin with. Given that all your real traffic is re-routed through a real user’s device from a different location, chances that your connection will be detected as a VPN connection are close to zero.
Since there’s (technically) no VPN traffic involved, Netflix and other popular services such as Hulu, Spotify, BBC iPlayer, HBO GO and Amazon Prime Video won’t be able to pick up on your scent and stop you dead in your tracks.
That being said, Hola VPN is perfectly capable of unblocking some content that would’ve been otherwise oh-so-very-not-available to you.
TOR and torrenting support
We’re going to start with TOR, which works on the same principle as Hola VPN, more or less. If you’re using TOR just for the sake of accessing hidden services, you might want to consider using a VPN too, since it has been proven that more often than not, being on the TOR network makes you prone to be monitored.
However, in reality, things are totally different: using TOR in conjunction with any VPN might put you to risk, especially if you’re unfortunate enough to land on a malicious exit node, let alone the fact that your connection speed will dangle on a thread. So it’s really your choice if you want to risk it all just to see some hidden content on the TOR network. Our advice? Stay safe.
Torrenting, on the other hand, is perfectly fine with Hola VPN. There’s no exact mention of whether or not you can use torrent clients or engage in P2P file-sharing activities while you’re connected to Hola VPN, so we thought we’d give it a try. Long story short, it worked like a charm.
Sorry to disappoint you, but there’s no live chat option on the Hola VPN website, so you’ll have to manage by getting in touch with them via email, telephone or fax. We tried the email method and received a very formal, but otherwise prompt and helpful response to our inquiry.
Aside from the standard “get in touch” stuff that you can find on the website, there’s also a FAQ section that holds, obviously, some frequently asked questions along with detailed answers, so that if you have some pressing questions on your mind you could maybe check this section first.
Aside from the lack of live chat inconvenience, the customer support of the Hola VPN is pretty good.
Security check-up results
Well, since everything that went wrong (reportedly) with Hola VPN was strictly related to security, it goes without saying that we’re excited about our security tests’ results.
As we’ve done before, we’re going to perform a battery of security tests as described in this awesome article, all on the same server. The reason why we’re against server switching during our security tests is that we’re also checking for any inconsistency regarding servers’ locations. Are you ready? Because we are.
Well, what do you know? It would appear that Hola VPN has cleaned up its act since we’ve detected nothing wrong during our security tests. Long story short, no IP, DNS, WebRTC and/or Flash IP leaks have been detected during our tests, making Hola VPN perfectly capable of safekeeping your connection’s security.
Speed test results
Now we can breathe easy knowing that Hola VPN doesn’t leak critical data (although we’ve been expecting a totally different result, to be honest), but another pressing matter remains: how fast can its servers go?
So, in order to find out these things, we’re going to run some speed tests, as we’re always doing for each and every VPN that’s on our list. However, speed tests are different than security tests, since we’re going to perform them multiple times and on several, different servers.
That way, we’re also going to find out if the location has a role in how fast servers can be, and if it does, we want to see exactly how big of an impact does it have.
|Location||Internet Speed||Latency||Upload Speed||Downloaded||Uploaded|
|U.S.A.||9 Mbps||162 ms||4.4 s||8.8 Mbps||190 MB||30 MB|
|Germany||34 Mbps||0 ms||3.1 s||15 Mbps||210 MB||20 MB|
|Hong Kong||5.7 Mbps||292 ms||467 ms||5.2 Mbps||20 MB||20 MB|
|Australia||6.8 Mbps||831 ms||845 ms||6.3 Mbps||10 MB||20 MB|
Well, everything seemed to be smooth so far, but we’ve encountered a speed bump (pun intended), since the values these tests have yielded are downright disappointing. Even locations that were virtually next to us generated below average results, so we’re not exactly thrilled about saying this: Hola VPN is a slow VPN.
Now let’s talk about money. First thing that’s worth mentioning is that Hola VPN is generally a free service, so you don’t have to pay a dime for its services if you care about the financial aspect of the situation.
However, here at FindYourVPN we’re all about security, so we’re going to assume that you’re willing to spare some cash just so that your device doesn’t get turned into a relay node, so, just for the sake of it, we’re going to include the pricing options for the PLUS subscription plans.
|Plan type||Monthly Plan||Yearly Plan||Two-year plan||Three-year plan|
$83.88 billed every year
$95.75 billed every 2 years
$107.55 billed every 3 years
|Features||Protect your privacy
Browse from any country
Connect 10 devices at the same time
30-day money-back guarantee
To wrap things up, Hola VPN is starting to look more and more like a viable VPN service provider, even though it does have some pretty troubling issues lingering just inches above its head, but let’s start with the beginning.
Hola VPN is a VPN service, so we got that right. However, it’s not your average Joe when it comes to its modus operandi, mainly because instead of employing standard servers that you can connect to, it transforms its userbase into a VPN network, so that users connect to other users, making even you a potential relay node for other customers (if you don’t pay for the PLUS subscription plan, that is).
The troubling stuff arose from the same stuff that made them popular to begin with, because not short after their peer-to-peer VPN service was employed, exploiters saw it as an opportunity to commit crimes against other websites and/or persons.
Some reports indicated several problems with the VPN service itself, ranging from how it can’t unblock Netflix, to its inability to support P2P file-sharing operations such as torrenting, its lack of encryption options and its lack of a kill switch.
However, it seems that those reports were heavily outdated since none of the allegations described above are current: Hola VPN can unblock Netflix, works alright with torrent clients, has several encryption options and also packs a kill switch. The very cherry on top of these busted claims is the fact that none of our security tests have picked on anything wrong with Hola VPN.
Sure, their free service is kind of questionable if you were to consider that your device may be used as a relay node in a huge anonymization network and potentially become an instrument of unlawful behavior (even without your consent, that is), but that’s a known fact, that free VPNs have their own means of collecting revenue by either selling your data or doing other shady stuff.
However, it doesn’t automatically mean that if you’re a free Hola VPN user your device will become a zombie in a botnet operation, as Hola claims that only idle devices that are not running on battery mode can be used for resource sharing (you have to meet both of these conditions to be eligible).
Speed-wise we were a bit disappointed, since the whole point of routing and re-routing traffic through real, physical devices of other Hola VPN customers would mean a speed boost, but unfortunately, we received a greater-than-5x slowdown, and that was the best-case scenario.
Price-wise we were a bit surprised to find that the monthly fee is a bit high, but considering that the service is generally free, it shouldn’t shock you that the only way to remove yourself from the resource-sharing pool might be a bit pricey.
Do we recommend Hola VPN? Well, no, but not because of the allegations. Although they’re making huge progress towards becoming a reliable VPN service provider, they still log a lot of stuff, many personal details get collected and the peer-to-peer system they employ needs to be perfected to become viable.
+ Works with Netflix; (5)
+ Works with torrenting; (5)
+ Offers a great free service; (5)
+ Great security; (5)
– A lot of logging; (0)
– A lot of personal data collected; (0)
– Peer-to-peer system is still flawed; (0)
– Slow speed values during tests; (0)
– Price is a bit high; (2)
– Their free service lets you become a peer for paying customers; (0)
Hola VPN receives a 2.2/5 rating.