Hola exposed – what’s the big deal?
The Hola extension has been around for quite a few years now – and lots of people, myself included, have used it to access a geo-restricted website from time to time. It’s free and easy to use, which is why it enjoys widespread popularity, but recently, reports have surfaced about the Hola unblocker’s dark side.
You see, VPN Hola is, at its core, a peer-to-peer networking service that routes your traffic to a different part of the world so you are able to access, say, the US library of Netflix from within the UK.
However, this is being done by directing your traffic through other people’s internet connections, and in a similar way, other people are using your internet connection to access restricted websites.
Now you may be doing this for relatively innocent purposes such as accessing restricted TV streaming services, but other on the Hola Chrome network may be using your computer as an endpoint to access illegal websites that sell porn or to conduct blackmail, or hack into government systems.
And if their activities get traced, they will get traced to your computer, which means you’ll be the one who ends up with legal consequences.
To make matters worse, Hola has also shown signs of corporate greed by selling access to the P2P network formed by their users (i.e. you and other using Hola) computers to third parties. Effectively, they’ve got a botnet – a network hackers use to conduct large-scale breaches – and they’re profiting from it, with zero investment except for the Hola client itself!
This is why security experts are advising users to uninstall Hola from their systems ASAP, lest their computer become an endpoint for some serious illegal activity.
What are some good Hola alternatives?
Hola is a free VPN software, and with free VPN apps, there is almost always a catch – if you’re serious about your privacy online, you’ll need to invest in a paid VPN service. These services don’t have to rely on shady practices to earn a profit so they can continue their operation because you’re paying them to anonymize your traffic.
One of the best VPN for unblocking geo-blocked websites is ExpressVPN – utilizing industry standard OpenVPN encryption, offering swift connection speeds and parallel connection support – it is a major step up from Hola in terms of everything (including privacy, of course).
While it may be a bit more effort to set up on your device initially – the added security is worth it, besides, the service has detailed support pages to help you install it on just about any internet-enabled platform.
If you find a paid VPN to be too pricey, and you’re only looking to access restricted television sites without any concern for encryption – you may also consider a smart DNS service:
What is a Smart DNS Proxy?
A Smart DNS Proxy works by routing part of your device’s web traffic (i.e. the one communicating with the geo-restricted website) through a different part of the world (i.e. where it is not restricted), by way of custom DNS values. Normally, you supply these values into your device’s internet settings manually, but it’s a pretty straightforward procedure.
Besides being cheap, Smart DNS services have the advantage of working on devices where VPNs won’t – all they require is that the device is able to use custom DNS values – which is the case with most devices today (including Smart TVs and consoles).
Keep in mind, though, that unlike VPNs, your traffic is not encrypted, so your activities are still at risk of being surveilled by third parties.