No Such Thing as a Free VPN – the Hola Price

First of all I’d like to ask, would anyone mind coming round to fix my back fence – it got wrecked in high winds and needs replacing? I won’t pay you or anything, you’ll just do it because you like helping people, reward enough right? I’m not expecting to get inundated with offers, but you never know saves paying someone to do it.

It’s why I get frustrated with everyone always asking me if I know of  free proxies and vpns as if there are thousands of companies across the world who are happy to spend considerable time and money providing a service which you can use for free to watch porn or stream movies. I mean ….why would they do it? What’s in it for them? Please, people is this the way the world works, I think not.

There’s always a reason, these things cost money and if you want to see an example of the hidden costs of using something like the adware riddled monstrosity that is Hola then read on.

There are plenty of free services around, but none of them are really free. In lieu of using their servers you have to accept slow speeds, security risks and the fact that they are likely to try and make money out of you. The usual method is by filling your computer and browsing session with lots of adverts (which generate them income). It’s very annoying and personally I wouldn’t let it near any of my computers or devices, but you can at least argue it’s fairly straight forward. You use their connection for free and they make money by bombarding you with adverts – fair enough.

However using a proxy or VPN is more than that, you are in fact handing over your entire online world to these providers and they can do pretty much anything with it. Take for instance the free VPN mentioned – Hola, most of us just thought those adverts were the payback but it appears there’s much more. They are actually hijacking your internet connection and pimping it out for cash via a service called Luminati.

Your Price to Pay for the Free VPN

Luminati is a paid anonymity service which runs on the lines of TOR, that is it encrypts your connection then relays it through a network of exit nodes in order to hide your location. On it’s FAQ page, here’s the first two bullet points –

  • All countries – Luminati is the only network that provides you with IPs in ALL countries in the world! (except N. Korea)
  • Real anonymity – the Exit Nodes in the Luminati network are regular PCs, laptops and phones, and thus are not identified as proxies or as Tor network nodes

Which is all fine and dandy, until you learn that these ‘real pcs’ are ours. Well, that is the pcs of people who use Hola. You install Hola and you are potentially allowing your PC to be sold as an exit node, that is anybody can use your connection to route their traffic to keep themselves anonymous.

Can you imagine what’s being relayed through the connections of these hapless Hola users, your connection could be being used to relay all sorts of material.

That computer sitting in front of you could at this very minute be distributing porn around the planet, hacking in to government servers or perhaps participating in a DDOS attack on a company.

It’s kind of a big price to pay for a free VPN don’t you think.

So if you’ve made it down this far into the post, and you happen to be a Hola user I’d suggest removing that Hola plugin very quickly (I’d actually reformat my drive these things are notoriously difficult to remove!). Learn a lesson that stuff on the net, that costs people money to run/develop and support is never ever going to be free.

I’m still amazed by the sheer greed of some of these people – here’s a link to the cracking summary and a Hola Vulnerability checker and proof of concept code  if you want to read more.

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10 Responses

  1. pandora jewelry says:

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  2. gabriella says:

    This is so scary, can’t believe they’ve been allowing people to use your connection without permission!

    • says:

      Well technically, they have your permission buried deep in the terms and conditions that nobody ever reads. But that’s the reality of any free VPN/proxy service – they need to finance it somehow.

  3. ernie says:

    This is incredible, I’m amazed they’ve been allowed to get away with this !!! Thanks for the warning and the link to Adios Hola.

  4. Jim M says:

    This is very interesting, was always a bit suspicious about these ‘free’ services – I mean why would anyone provide for nothing!!!

  5. Jim says:

    Wow this is incredible – is this legal what Hola are doing?

    • says:

      Good question, they’re certainly on very thin ice. A lot would depend on the terms and conditions which of course nobody ever reads. I would suspect they are breaking quite a few European laws including the Computer Misuse Act in the UK. If it could be proved that a criminal act was taking place through one of Hola’s unaware exit nodes, I think they’d be in serious trouble.

    • Edward says:

      Is there no safe and free access to hide your address then so that I can watch British and American TV from Egypt?

      • says:

        It depends on how you define safe. There are certainly quite a few free options that insert advertising into your browser as a payment – if you’re happy with that. There is also the option of using TOR and specifying the location of your exit node – i.e. UK for BBC and US for Hulu, NBC etc. The problem as always with all these ‘free’ solutions is speed, they’re often slow just for ordinary browsing and streaming video can be very painful.

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