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Free VPN Hola has been selling its user’s bandwidth for use in botnets
A common item in the cord cutters toolbox is the Virtual Private Network or VPN.
The accusations have come from Fredrick Brennan, founder of the website 8chan. 8chan is an online imageboard based off of the legendary 4chan, where users can posts messages on a dozens of different message boards anonymously. According to Brennan, the computers of Hola users were used, without their knowledge, in DDoS attacks against his website.
Brennan claims that the way Hola is set up is what enabled the attack and warns all users to stay away from the free program. “When a user installs Hola, he becomes a VPN endpoint, and other users of the Hola network may exit through his internet connection and take on his IP,” Brennan told users on his website.
He goes on to say that not only does Hola highjack your bandwidth, it also sells the access to your bandwidth.
“Hola has gotten greedy,” says Brennan. “They recently (late 2014) realized that they basically have a 9 million IP strong botnet on their hands, and they began selling access to this botnet (right now, for HTTP requests only) at https://luminati.io.”
If you would like to read more about Brennan’s accusations, click here.
For the most part, Hola has not denied the accusations made against them; and their general reaction has been ‘you get what you pay for.’ Hola founder Ofer Vilenski spoke with Torrent Freak about the issue.
“We have always made it clear that Hola is built for the user and with the user in mind,” said Vilenski. “We’ve explained the technical aspects of it in our FAQ and have always advertised in our FAQ the ability to pay for non-commercial use.”
To this end, Vilenski is technically not lying. The Hola buried within the Hola FAQ is an explanation of how Hola is free; but the FAQ has been recently updated so it’s difficult to confirm how upfront they have really been. Regardless, the public perception is that there has been a huge breach of trust on behalf of Hola; and when it comes to online privacy, appearances matter.
Read the Terms
If a company has a terms of service agreement with a provision buried within the text that sells the user’s soul to said company, would that not also be a breach of trust? Consumers should be able to expect a reasonable amount of transparency from companies; they shouldn’t have to read through thousands of pages to make sure they’re not getting screwed.
Do not use Hola…ever. While there is a premium version, I would avoid giving money to a company that already plays fast and loose with its users security. Let this be a lesson to everyone out there using free apps or online services: If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.