Popular Proxy Service And Chrome Extension Hola Was Selling User’s Bandwidth For Botnets

Hola

Every now and then we come across some videos online which are not accessible everywhere around the world. Due to licensing restrictions, most of the videos are limited to a particular region. There are many proxy services which unlocks these media content to users anywhere in the world. Hola is a one such proxy service which allows you to access websites blocked or censored in your country, company or school. This service is very popular among general public and in fact their Chrome extension alone had over 7 million downloads till date.

Recently, it was revealed that Hola was using user’s bandwidth as their business model. They were selling it for botnets which performs DDOS attacks on several websites. They were selling users’ “idle resources” via their own Luminati brand, allowing anyone to buy traffic in bulk and redirect it to a target site as a denial-of-service attack.

The Verge explained how Hola works as below,

Hola is able to act as a botnet for the same reason that its service is free: it doesn’t provide its own bandwidth or servers, but simply redirects that of its users’. Most virtual private networks (VPNs) have their own servers spread around the world, channeling a users’ internet connection through these so that it appears to be coming from a different country. This allows a user in France, for example, to watch geoblocked TV shows from the US. Hola, however, operates as a peer-to-peer VPN, routing users’ connections through each other’s devices like a giant telephone exchange. Hola makes money by selling idle bandwidth from its free users under the Luminati brand. Users who don’t want to contribute their bandwidth have to pay $5 a month explains the site’s FAQ.

While their business model seems to be reasonable, I don’t know whether users will be happy to hear that their bandwidth is being used for some illegal purposes most of the time. What do you think?

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