Chrome is one of the best browsers on the market these days partially due to its extensions capability. But sometimes those conveniences can have a dark side, such as the Hola Chrome extension being used as a Botnet. Hola is a browser VPN service which allows users to stream content that might not be available in their country by using an IP from whatever country they like. There are other more nefarious uses for VPN services but we won’t outline those here. The Hola Chrome extension appeared to be selling their users bandwidth without the knowledge of the user.
But it is also selling access to users’ bandwidth for a profit, via the service Luminati, Hola discloses on a little-read FAQ page. Luminati lets users buy access to the Hola network for a fee, for instance if users need a secure way to route commercial traffic anonymously. This revenue keeps Hola free for users. But in the wrong hands this same function can transform its networked users into an unwitting botnet.
With no indication on the homepage, it’s doubtful that many users realise that Hola is selling their bandwidth. A Reddit thread discussing the subject is filled users expressing their surprise and asking how to uninstall it (and in a strawpoll of people I know who use Hola, none were aware of this). “Even if they had said it all along in their FAQ,” wrote one commenter on news site Hacker News, “it’s still infuriatingly disingenuous for someone to act as if anyone ever browses to Hola’s site and reads their FAQ either before or after installing the Hola malware extension. No ordinary person will ever do this.”
So if you’re using Hola you might want to either stop using it or check into it further. At the time of this writing it appears Hola has been pulled from the ChromeStore but if you have it installed it should still work. What do you think of Hola selling user bandwidth? Let us know in the comments below or on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.