Hola VPN Review 2019 – A Dangerous “Free” VPN to Avoid!
Launched in 2017 and founded by Ofer Vilenski and Derry Shribman, Hola VPN is a familiar name among freebies. It uses a freemium model, which means they have free (no ads) and paid plans available. However, if I were completely unbiased, both of them deliver poor performance.
The product has been part of many controversies, as part of their strategy of utilizing resources of users as exit nodes for Hola’s paid sister service, Luminati. There is also proof of the VPN acting as a botnet and its other product Hola Browser, linked to DDoS Attacks!
Are you deciding to subscribe to the provider? If so, I would advise you to stop right there, and read this in-depth Hola VPN Review 2019 for a clearer picture!
Hola VPN has its headquarters in Israel, which although is not an FVEY Alliance member can still be considered a strong ally. The country is one of the closest partners with the US Government and intelligence agencies like the National Security Agency (NSA).
Of course, the claim of them being an official “observer” is still debatable, considering the documents from Edward Snowden did not have many details about the country. However, Wikipedia still mentions Israel as an official observer to FVEY and NSA shares raw surveillance directly.
If that were not enough, there have been many instances of identifying shady companies with ties to Israel. Some even claim that Israeli authorities yield wider surveillance powers in comparison to US authorities. I really would not like trusting a service based in such a country!
If I talk about logging specifically, it is important to remind that Hola VPN revamped their page, only after facing severe criticism surrounding the “botnet” rumors.
It was following this event, the provider decided to be “clearer” about their operations, and for the most part I am glad that they are trying to be transparent.
However, as i expected years ago and after reviewing hundreds of providers in the marketplace, Hola VPN too, records your information.
Log data recorded by the VPN includes the browser type you are using, the web pages you visit, along with information like time spent and access times and dates.
“We do not rent or sell any Personal Information. We may disclose Personal Information to other trusted third party service providers or partners for the purposes of providing you with the Services, storage, and analytics. We may also transfer or disclose Personal Information to our subsidiaries, affiliated companies.”
Now, Hola VPN does state that they do not sell/share any personal information, but I do not believe that considering most free VPNs sell your data to 3rd parties.
Not to mention, they contradict their own statement in the same paragraph, first stating they do not share personal information, but then inform they do disclose it to subsidiaries and affiliated companies.
Utilizing User Resources as Exit Nodes
It came as quite a shock in the VPN industry when Hola managed to amass a huge following of 46 million users worldwide since 2014.
Over time, they developed a database of 9 million IP strong botnet on their hands, which sells access for HTTP requests at https://luminati.io.
Typically, when you install Hola, you will become a VPN endpoint. Other users on the network may be able to exit through your internet connection and take your IP.
This is how Hola manages to sell a “free service”. It does not pay for bandwidth but uses and sells it from users opting to install and run their apps.
Things further get complicated, when news comes to light about the 8chan website, receiving legitimate-looking POST requests to the post.php in 30 seconds from over 9,761,015 exit nodes of the Luminati botnet, which board operator Fredrick Brennan shared info about.
IP/WebRTC/DNS Leak Issues
To get a better idea about the reliability of Hola proxy (despite the many allegations and controversies), I decided to perform VPN tests relating to leak issues.
This process took me an entire day, where I checked almost every single server of Hola proxy, from six different VPN testing tools on the internet:
- https://ipx.ac/run – Failed
- https://ipleak.net/ – Passed
- https://dnsleak.com – Failed
- https://browserleaks.com/webrtc – Failed
- https://www.perfect-privacy.com/dns-leaktest/ – Passed
- https://www.perfect-privacy.com/check-ip – Passed
Out of the tests conducted on these six tools, the provider did not display any leak issues on Perfect Privacy and Browser Leaks but did fail the tests on IPX, Browser Leaks and DNS leaks.
The results you see below are from the test conducted on the United Kingdom server. The VPN did, unfortunately, leak my original IPv4 public and private IP address.
This is why I have censored the information with a red highlight, to protect my own identity. One thing is for sure though, Hola proxy is not a safe choice at all!
IPLeak usually gives very accurate results when assessing a VPN and its connection. According to the tool, your IPv4 address and DNS is secure.
However, the DNS test did reveal plus 55 servers and encountered 8 errors during the process, so again I would not trust a provider with such a reputation!
For the testing on DNSLeak, I am connected on the same UK server as with all analysis. This tool gave me the most relevant and accurate results of my connection.
It displayed my exact IPv4 public and private address, along with the accurate country and city details, hence why I have blurred the results.
Browser Leaks is the third tool from the list which displays a leakage of WebRTC and DNS. My IPv4 public and private addresses were clearly visible with Hola VPN.
This reiterates that the provider is unsafe and does not offer you protection from surveillance. It sucks in keeping your identity hidden and I would not trust it!
I used two tools from Perfect Privacy to verify whether my connection is secure or not. One is the Check IP tool and the other is a DNS Leak Test tool.
As you can see, the results show that Hola VPN keeps your identity hidden, but I guess that is the fault of the tools, as three different services did show leakage issues.
App File Check
Where an anti-virus owned company like AVG and its Secure Line VPN product can come with the GrayWare/Win32.Presenoker virus, Hola VPNs apps are free from all trojans and malware.
The test was performed on the virustotal.com website, where you can upload a file and have it analyzed across multiple antivirus services to check for any red signs.
To trust a VPN provider, you need to learn more about their history, owners, headquarters, the board of directors, etc. Such information is not available easily from any service.
This is why I decided to create a Transparent VPNs guide, where you can see me share responses from different providers after asking them INVASIVE questions on email.
- Founders: Ofer Vilenski and Derry Shribman
- Team Members: Limor Kidron (VP HR), (Ron KolCTO), and (Arik GiladGM)
- Investors: DFJ (Silicon Valley), Trilogy (Seattle), Magma (Israel), Horizons Ventures (Hong Kong), and Orange (France).
The VPN does not offer “Warrant Canaries” and neither has it been audited by anyone yet, but I will try getting a more detailed response from Hola VPN about it soon.
I have already provided details on how Hola VPN’s free version operates and utilizes user resources for bandwidth and exit nodes to avoid spending any money.
However, the provider does also offer a premium package. Although the service is still pretty much the same, it is still good for testing the provider.
Typically, you have 4 different subscription choices: Monthly, Bi-Annual, Annual, and 2-Years plan. The monthly pricing starts at $11.95.
If you want to leverage discounts, you can opt for subscriptions with larger durations. For instance, the 6-months package reduces monthly pricing to $9.00.
If you opt for the annual, you pay $6.99/mo. – saving you a remarkable 41% on the original pricing, which is billed $83.88 every year.
For the best value, I would advise users to go for the 2-year plan. It costs $3.99 per month, totaling to $95.75 for two years, giving you a massive 66% discount!
Money Back Guarantee
Hola VPN offers a free application and a refund guarantee, covering both bases for their customers. You can test the service out whenever you want to.
The money back guarantee lasts for 30 days. However, it is imperative to know that Hola VPN does kind of fool its customers where pricing is concerned.
This is the first I am ever seeing of such a system in the industry! “The Hola service is provided for each platform individually. Thus, if you registered on two platforms there will be two payments.”
This is a text taken from its Billing FAQ section, where the provider addresses concerns to an account being charged twice. Quite a clever strategy to fool your customers, Hola!
After installing the Hola VPN app on my Android and Windows platform, I noticed that there is no exact number available. From what I counted though, you do have 220+ servers for connection.
The speed of these servers was “okayish” but the security was insanely poor. Like I showed above, Hola VPN does not manage to encrypt and secure a connection properly, leaking your information!
Virtual Locations Testing
To give users a better idea about Hola Unblocker, I conducted a test on their servers. This was to judge whether the providers’ servers are based in the location advertised or not.
I connected to a server in the United Kingdom, which gave me the IP address: 126.96.36.199. I pasted this address into the CA App Synthetic Monitor ping test.
The tool pings the server to over 90 locations around the world. As you can see, the round-trip-time is quite high for other locations, but in United Kingdom – London, the ms is as low as 2.419 ms.
The tracert tool from CA Technologies’ App Synthetic Monitor, further verify these findings, displaying a rtt of 4.709 ms. This means, the server is indeed located in London.
For a complete picture, I also copied and pasted the IP address I got from the server (188.8.131.52) and the endpoint address (184.108.40.206) into the Hurricane Electric BGP Toolkit:
I tested Hola VPNs performance by conducting a speed test on multiple servers. For this process, I used the infamous Speedtest by Ookla for Hola’s UK, US, France, and Australian locations.
All tests were conducted on a 50Mbps connection. On Australia, I hardly received 5.51Mbps download and 6.65Mbps upload. For France, the results were not much different.
I received 7.54Mbps download and 4.11Mbps upload. For US, I got the highest 17.4Mbps download and 4.76Mbps upload and for UK 13.7Mbps Download and 4.28Mbps upload.
This gives Hola VPN an average speed of 10Mbps download and 4Mbps upload on your 50Mbps connection, which is incredibly poor to say the least.
Torrenting & Obfuscation
Sadly, the provider does not offer a StealthVPN a.k.a. obfuscation feature. I still had a representative of mine test the service in China (as part of our 80+ provider’s analysis), but it did not work.
The VPN did not function in other locations like Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Egypt either, where VPN bans are imminent and quite difficult to bypass.
With regards to P2P/Torrenting, I conducted a test on IPLeak.net, which requested downloading a magnet link and then assessing the background behind the network.
Hola VPN was unsuccessful in cloaking my original IP address. This can prove detrimental to torrenters, as they will have to pay hefty DMCA fines, due to downloading copyright infringement content!
Streaming/Unblocking – Hola Netflix
VPNs are valuable tools for entertainment-geeks and cord-cutters, who want to access the geo-restricted content on VoDs like Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, and Hulu.
As such, it is only reasonable to expect that Hola VPN unblocks such streaming platforms, but unfortunately the results I got were disappointing.
I visited https://www.netflix.com and immediately got a notification from Hola VPN to shift my location to either the United States or any other country.
I click “United States” since it has the most titles in movies and TV shows and Hola VPN told me to sign in to my Netflix account. I did and then connected to the United States to stream.
As you can see, this is the error I received from Netflix, which states that their system found me to be using an unblocker or proxy. Hola is quite unreliable for streamers!
Hola Android Application
After downloading/installing the “Unlimited Free VPN – Hola”, you will be welcomed with a menu that asks you to “subscribe, don’t share resources” or click on “Next”.
If you opt for the former, you will have to buy a subscription. Bear in mind that Hola’s plans are managed differently on varied devices.
This means, if you already have a subscription on Windows, the same account will not work on your Android. You will have to indulge in another transaction.
If you opt for the latter, you will have to agree to sharing your resources, after which you will gain access to the “Hola Unblocker”, which acts more like a proxy browser than VPN.
All my installed apps are laid out neatly in the menu. I can select the one where I want to shift my location and then choose a server to my liking.
As another option, you can simply click on the country flag on the top left corner, select a server and then search for anything to receive relevant results on that location.
In my opinion, the app is good for unblocking, but I did face a lot of issues when using a VPN server on different apps. The protection was not that convincing and I did encounter connectivity problems.
Hola Windows Application
The Hola Windows application available for download directly on the website was quite similar to its Android counterpart. You typically do not get a VPN, VPN, but a customized Chrome Browser!
Yes, I am not kidding you. Hola VPN has simply optimized the Chrome browser to include a range of its extensions including the Video Accelerator, Ad-Blocker, and Proxy/VPN.
Without an app that cloaks your entire network and not just the browser connection, Hola does not seem like a convincing option for leveraging anonymity online.
You might have a lot of locations available, but that is just about it. The app is more of a proxy than an actual VPN service and does not offer good encryption to keep your identity hidden.
Hola VPN Chrome/Mozilla Extension
This free VPN for Chrome is the same as the Windows application. The desktop version just adds other services to the browser, which includes the Hola Google Chrome extension.
As such, the overall design and appearance is completely identical. You can turn the “proxy” on whenever you want and shift your location using 226 different servers.
However, do remember that this Hola extension is the same caught selling users’ bandwidth for the cost of covering its free service. So, should you really be placing your trust in it?
I do not think so! A better choice for privacy-conscious users is to go for reliable names in the industry like NordVPN, ExpressVPN, Surfshark, and PureVPN with safe browser extensions!
In terms of support, Hola free VPN does not offer 24/7 live chat. They do have an email help[@]hola.org, where you can get in touch with their technical staff for VPN related issues.
The last option you have for receiving assistance is visiting the FAQ section, which is loaded with relevant queries that should provide enough help.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
When it comes to using Holavpn, users may have plenty of concerns/questions running through their mind. In light of this, I have listed some of the most common queries we get from our users in one location. Refer to the FAQs below for troubleshooting:
Is Hola VPN safe to use?
As mentioned earlier, Hola acts more like a proxy rather than a VPN application. It does not utilize encryption for cloaking your traffic, so it does not hide your internet activity.
As such, your online identity will be compromised regardless of which platform you use Hola VPN on. It is better to go for prominent names in the marketplace with a secure reputation.
What does Hola VPN do?
Following the freemium model of offerings, Hola has both free and paid plans. The app itself has been linked to a lot of suspicious activity, like utilizing user devices as exit notes for saving bandwidth.
There has even been controversy about the VPN selling your information to third-parties. The provider may be in the VPN industry, but is actually one reason why most people turn away from privacy tools!
Is Hola.org safe?
The website itself is completely safe to visit. It uses the HTTPS protocol for incoming/outgoing traffic, ensuring that your data is secure, but this is limited to the website only.
Hola Free VPNs Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android applications are pretty much useless if it is privacy and anonymity you are craving!
What Does Hola Mean?
Hola itself is a Spanish phrase which refers to “Hello”, but there is no history about why this provider chooses to use the name “Hola VPN” for their service.
I have emailed the provider for more information about how the company came into formation, how they landed on the name, etc. I am still waiting on the response!
Would I recommend Hola VPN?
NEVER EVER IN MY LIFE! Located in a country that is a close ally to FVEY, recording session/activity information, inability to unblock Netflix, WebRTC/DNS/IP leak issues, scamming users by selling private data, using them as exit nodes…
The service failed every aspect of my reviewing process. In simple words, it is a proxy service marketed as a VPN, which does not offer privacy/security of any kind. Users should stay away from this free VPN swindle. Do not fall for its deceiving marketing strategies!