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The risks of using Hola VPN to stream Netflix abroad

holaSo you’re using Hola VPN to watch American Netflix from your country? Because Netflix either isn’t available where you live, or it doesn’t offer anything that you actually want to watch? And Hola is free, secure and completely anonymous, right? Well, at least so they say on their website. Why would they lie to you? Besides, all your friends are using it too, so it must be good.

Well, we have some bad news for you in the next few paragraphs. When you’re done reading this, you probably can’t hit the ‘uninstall button’ fast enough!

The way a VPN usually works is that the provider has a server in the country that you want to appear to be in. Your traffic then gets routed through that server, fooling the websites that you’re on (Netflix for example) into thinking you’re really there. Servers cost money though (A LOT), so the makers of Hola found a sneakier way: They route your traffic through other users’ devices. So if you use Hola to watch American Netflix from Argentina, you are essentially using the bandwidth of someone that’s located in the US. Now, why is that a problem?

Hola-VPN

Because it also means that someone else can use yours! And that can cause several issues. First of all, they are using your internet connection, and that might drastically add to your monthly internet bill. Secondly, and more importantly, you have no control over what your bandwidth is being used for: It could be illegal activity, for all you know. And because the website (and possibly prosecutors) can only track this to your computer, you will be the one in trouble.

Hola also makes money by selling access to your computer to anyone who is willing to pay. They don’t care or check what this access is being used for. In May, someone used it for a large hack attack. If you were already a Hola user back then, your computer might have been involved.

If you were relying on their promise that you’d be anonymous when using Hola, we suggest you read through their privacy policy. It states that they track you, collect data about your browsing habits, collect your personal information and provide it to third parties (such as their “marketing partners”).

Last, but not least, it appears that Hola not only gives others access to your internet connection but also lets them execute programs on your computer. Now I invite you to take a second to think about how much harm someone with remote access to your computer can do. Installing a virus wouldn’t even be the worst possible outcome.

After this weakness had been revealed by researchers, Hola claimed to have fixed the issue. However, according to the researchers, they only fixed one way to get remote access, another still remains valid.

If you’re still reading this and haven’t uninstalled Hola yet, then I know what you’re thinking: I’m only one of the millions of people that use Hola, I’m sure none of this will actually happen to me. Okay, fair enough, we can’t tell you how likely it is that you’ll be affected. But who knows, maybe you already have been and just didn’t realize? Is the risk really worth it?

The alternative:

If you’ve decided that you’d rather not be exploited for your Internet connection, but at the same time you don’t want to give up on your ability to digitally cross borders either, here is our suggestion: Have a look at our list of recommended Smart DNS. A Smart DNS is very similar to a VPN, just faster and more ideal for streaming purposes. Getting one will only cost you a few dollars a month but in return there is none of that shady business going on (at least if you go with one of our carefully reviewed providers). That means no one else will have access to your laptop or Internet, but you still get to enjoy foreign content.

 


Olivia S Written by Olivia S


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