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Warning: You should be using a VPN service to protect your privacy, but not this one

Updated 8 years ago
Published Jun 1st, 2015 11:20AM EDT
Hola VPN Service Botnet Threat
Image: Hola

Hola is a free VPN service that has millions of users around the world, but you should stop using it right away if you’re one of them. An increasing number of reports suggest the service has actually used its customers to create a massive botnet.

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Several Reddit users have already expressed concern related to the way Hola works, with a report from CNET further detailing the service’s alleged wrongdoings.

Hola has apparently been selling its users’ bandwidth for a variety of reasons, including malware and spam distribution, opening their devices to third-parties that could easily access those connections without a user’s knowledge.

The service, available on Android as an app and on desktop as a browser plugin, lets users disguise their true IP addresses and keep their traffic private. VPNs also let people access services that wouldn’t normally be available in their region, such as Netflix, Hulu, or other streaming sites.

However, people looking at the way Hola works have discovered that the service, which has more than 47 million users, “operates like a poorly secured botnet” that can secretly offer a third-party access to your Internet connection.

“Hola is a ‘peer-to-peer’ VPN,” a group of researchers wrote on the Adios Hola website. This may sound nice, but what it actually means is that other people browse the web through your internet connection.

“To a website, it seems like it’s you browsing the site…imagine that somebody uploaded child pornography through your connection, for example,” a user wrote on Reddit. “To everybody else, it seems as if it was your computer that did it, and you can’t really prove otherwise.”

If you are a Hola customer, you should stop using it right away. Uninstall the Windows and Mac browser plugins, as well as the Android app – one Reddit user warned that Hola may still work in the background even after the app has been uninstalled – and use a different VPN service to protect your privacy.

More details about the way Hola works, according to the Adios Hola site, are available at the source link below.

UPDATE: Hola’s CEO has posted a response to the allegations.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he closely follows the events in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises. Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.