Hola VPN Review: Free, Unlimited but not a VPN
What have I expected from Hola before preparing this review?
- Unique P2P VPN technology
- Almost unrestricted free version
- Wide choice of locations
- Fast speed
- No ads
Actually, I thought Hola VPN to be #1 nominee to be called the best free VPN.
How wrong I was! But one thing at a time.
Hola – VPN or fake?
We’ve already highlighted that the VPN value is in its facility to make all the applications on your device manage to connect to the Internet through the changed IP to bypass different restrictions. VPN tunnel is created from you to a VPN server, other computer or network and all the traffic passes through this tunnel.
Hola points out that it uses the so-called P2P (Peer-To-Peer) VPN. The servers aren’t used. Instead, the devices (where the app or plugin by Hola are set up) of the users like you are exploited.
Practically, an interconnected network which is called a VPN by Hola is created. It reminds the basic idea of torrents.
This technology got me interested, but I wasn’t sure whether it’s a true VPN. That’s why I decided to set up its software on different platforms and see what’s this.
Hola VPN for Windows
To begin with, I’ve downloaded Hola VPN on the official site and started the installation. The installer has reference to the Luminati service, which represents P2P network technology.
I’ve chosen a free version for the tests, as the vast majority of people who are interested in Hola VPN look for a free VPN namely.
I was a bit surprised when a browser driven by Chromium with the pre-installed plugin by Hola was set up instead of a fully-featured app.
Why is that bad? It means that Hola is not a VPN. Virtual Private Network uses the technology which is installed and configured without regard to other programs and applications. It’s required for the correct operation of PPTP, IPSec or OpenVPN protocols. Only a proxy doesn’t require the installed app.
It means Hola VPN is a proxy service but not a VPN.
A proxy doesn’t have the facilities a VPN has. Proxies cannot provide the anonymity and security a VPN does. It’s obvious that I can hide my IP only through an installed browser whereas all the rest apps aren’t protected.
It’s worth mentioning that Hola VPN presupposes that your gadget will be used by someone else without you knowing.
- Third-party traffic will pass through your PC or Mac. Hola doesn’t check if the users’ activity is lawful. Actually, if someone commits a crime through your IP, then you’ll be found instead of an adversary.
- Software by Hola uses the computational performance of your device. As Hola doesn’t specify the purpose of it, anything can be expected: from cryptocurrency mining to guessing passwords.
Here’s what Hola has published regarding this issue on its official website:
Hola VPN tests and unexpected findings
Well, I’ve kept on getting to know Hola. I’ve opened the dedicated service to check the IP address and tried to launch a Hola VPN plugin.
It took some time for Hola to connect to the Internet. First, an error message appeared.
I’ve managed to connect to the UK location soon. I thought the through-connection delay was related to the search of another device used as a proxy on the Hola network. Getting ahead of my skin, I’d like to say I was mistaken.
IP has really been changed. And the country answered the declared one. I’ve made the task more complex, and I’ve “gone over” the countries where the VPN use is tricky and the ones which I haven’t seen when testing other VPN services.
In truth, the list of accessible countries is off-the-wall. Almost all the countries are selectable.
Having chosen China, I’ve checked the IP through the whatismyip.com site and tried to go to youtube.com which is not available in China. The site was opened to my surprise. It shouldn’t be available for a Chinese user (my proxy). This is out of the question.
But the IP was identified correctly. Then I took a decision to change the service to check the IP into myip.com. Everything fell into place.
The location didn’t answer the declared one. Well, it happens even to the paid services. It could be a trite error in the base used by the service to check IPs. But YouTube couldn’t be opened in China!
It appears that they use IP changing technology without its actual use. What’s this in aid of? To simulate Hola's facility to work in different countries, for example. In fact, it’s quite strange to find an active Hola user in Aruba:
Aruba turned to be United Kingdom
When trying Armenia and many other countries, I experienced the same. Actually, all uncommon locations happened to be fake ones! They all had one thing in common – ISP Digital Ocean Inc.
Digital Ocean is not an internet provider but a website hosting provider (server lease)
It’s very strange taking into consideration the fact that Digital Ocean is not an internet service provider but a website hosting provider. While Hola declares it doesn’t use servers. Besides, I find it inconvenient:
Then I arrived at a decision to study the Terms and found a reference to the fact that Hola VPN does use servers:
I couldn’t give credibility to the sounding promises of this service and started to look more closely at the results detected by myip.com regarding the countries where there was no discrepancy in locations and everything seemed to be “tickety-boo” at first blush.
And for good reason. I analyzed all the ISPs I managed to detect and no one (!) of them was an internet provider. Hosting providers only!
TimeWeb – a Russian hoster
Nine Internet Solution is also a hoster
It’s the reflection of the fact that Hola uses servers for all locations whereas access to the computational capacity of our devices is used for unknown purposes. It’s so incredible that I had some doubts about the results.
But the simplest truth is the so-called Chinese proxies didn’t have any troubles with YouTube. I took the trouble to connect to this country once again. I coped with the task to open google.com and other blocked resources. Hola VPN cheats us.
Hola VPN and security
Herewith it states this information is private and cannot be shared with third parties. The leak is impossible either. But can we trust such words after all the tests carried out?
IP leaks test:
Many reviews I found on the Internet mention that Hola VPN has DNS leaks. But proxies don’t actually undergo DNS leaks. It’s related to the technique used by proxies. Don’t trust VPN reviews on the sites which point out it despite the fact they are on Google’s first page.
Proxy technology presupposes WebRTC and IPv6 leaks only, which were detected by me. DNS leak wasn’t observed.
But it’s cold comfort in view of the said above.
Besides, the use of the Hola plugin is extremely unhandy and unsafe mostly.
The matter is that the location should be chosen for every single tab. And it can be done only after the page is loaded (or after the attempt to load the page).
Consequently, you disclose intentions before visiting a site. In case you visit restricted resources that are blacklisted in view of censorship, you walk on thin ice. For instance, since August 2018 imprisonment for at least 2 years is imposed in Egypt for visiting the banned sites (The Guardian reports).
Hola VPN for Mac
All of the aforesaid is also related to Mac OS.
- There’s no app. Only plugin and plugin + Chromium browser are available
- There’s no facility to use VPN for other apps
- Individual proxy configuration for every tab
- It’s required to open the site before “VPN” is enabled
- Incorrect display of locations
- Servers instead of P2P connection with other clients
It’s worth remarking that it’s plus is the facility to use the service free of charge for an unlimited period.
You can download Hola for Mac on the official Hola site.
Hola VPN for Android and iOS
Things are better on mobile platforms. There are apps for Android and iOS. Besides, you can make use of a real VPN on iPhone and iOS, but you’ll have to enable and disable it manually through iOS settings. It is implemented in order for clients to make heavy use of the Hola browser. It’s available through the app.
Hola use on mobile devices is paid. They offer a 3-day free trial period, but there’s one thing you should know.
To start using the app, even its trial version, you are to subscribe. And if you don’t cancel it the day before the trial ends, you’ll be charged automatically. Practically, you have only 2 days of free use.
If you delete the app, the subscription won’t be canceled. It should be canceled through the Play Market or App Store.
Hola VPN for Netflix
Hola VPN doesn’t fit in with those who are looking for a free way to unblock Netflix. I’ve read about it on the Terms on the official website and made certain of it while testing the app:
In theory, it’s possible to watch Netflix only when using a paid app.
Paid version of Hola VPN Plus
What does Hola VPN offer for a price?
- claims your device won’t be used by other users (no peer)
- facility to use up to 10 devices;
- more available services. For instance, Netflix.
Is it enough to pay an average VPN price in the market? It’s up to you.
Getting started testing Hola VPN, I knew about the notoriety of this service. The Adios, Hola project has even been created. But it was 3-5 years ago and many changes have taken place since that time.
Nevertheless, despite I’m very fond of free VPNs, following the results of my study, I deleted software by Hola from all of my devices with peace of mind.
The facilities required for handling modern problems are offered by other secure classic free VPN services. While paid VPN giants are better suited to deal with more complicated and subtle issues.