The online community was shocked this week when news hit about the immensely popular Hola Better Internet unblocker add on. Hola boasts 7 million users on Google Chrome alone and over 46 million total users. It is a free and generally useful tool, especially for expats like myself. It allows its users to access geo-blocked content like Hulu and Netflix. Installation takes only a few seconds and you can browse the internet disguising your IP address as one from any number of countries. A quick search of free VPN services is likely to bring up a range of websites suggesting Hola Better Internet.
How Does Hola Better Internet Work
Let’s say you have Hola installed on your computer through Firefox or Chrome. When your computer is not being used Hola uses its bandwith for other users. For example, I’m in Thailand now, if I turn on Hola to watch Netflix, I choose to watch through a U.S. IP. So Hola connects me through another users IP address somewhere in the U.S. that is not currently being used. Really no harm, no foul. I personally wouldn’t mind this happening to my computer, everyone helps out a little for a free service.
But the plot thickens.
Hola has begun selling this free bandwith that they have access to through their premium Luminati service. So now, it’s not just free users using other free users bandwith. It’s Hola selling your free bandwith for a handsome profit. The Hola founder, Ofer Vilenski, claims that this has fact has never been hidden and is posted in the TOS and in their FAQ (well it is now, if it was up before the news broke is up for debate). Hola users have always been able to opt out of the computer sharing by paying $5 per month.
Hola Botnet Attack
These revelations came to light on the website 8chan. 8chan (also called Infinitechan or ∞chan) is a message board created by Fredrick Brennan in 2013 as an exercise in free speech. In January of 2015 it was in the top 10,000 most visited websites. A few days ago, it was attacked by a hacker using the Luminati service. In a public message Fredrick Brennan states…
“An attacker used the Luminati network to send thousands of legitimate-looking POST requests to 8chan’s post.php in 30 seconds, representing a 100x spike over peak traffic and crashing PHP-FPM.”
So, what this hacker did was use the 9 million plus exit nodes that exists on Hola to generate the bogus posts. Chances are, that if your computer was idle it was used in the attack. When approached by TorrentFreak, Ofer Vilenski, did not deny any of 8chan’s accusations. Since the attack, Hola said that they have changed their policies to prevent hackers from using its resources in similar attacks.
There are other choices. We have compiled a list of 4 add-ons to increase your privacy here at LiquidVPN. And having a VPN service on hand will enable you to access blocked content on the web without the chance your resources being used in an attack.
feature image courtesy of lifehacker.com