Hola Browser for Android VPN Beta is FREE for Now

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I live outside of the US and love using VPN to mask my actual location, but not for safer browsing but for region coded content found on the Internet.

I have in the past written about VPNs for use in many situations, least of all for posting to Facebook while in China. But for us who live outside of where the content is region coded, then it becomes a censorship problem. Web censorship is real. Everywhere you go, there is some form of censorship where URLs are blocked for political or religious reasons. But for some of us, we just want to enjoy free content which has been region restricted. For example, YouPorn.com is blocked in many countries and if you happen to love watching free internet porn, you have come to the right place. Hola will satisfy all your desires….for free!

P2P VPN is here…at a Cost

All things free isn’t what it is believed to be, so here’s the stuff Hola won”t tell you. Hola VPN doesn’t make use of a secure connection but a mix of P2P/CDN. Think of it like TOR, the secure network used by Edward Snowden, every computer becomes an exit node, so if you are a user based in China, Hola lets you access Facebook via someone’s exit node in the USA where Facebook isn’t blocked.

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Browsing YouPorn from Singapore? You gotta have Hola!

Hola relies on YOUR data download and upload bandwidth when you use their VPN to serve other users. So if you happen to have a paltry bandwidth limit on your mobile and keep Hola running all day long, you will exhaust your data limit in a day or two. This can happen if more people choose to browse from the country where you reside. Inside the mobile app, you have a long list of country to choose from, and from it, pick a country you wish to browse from. Hola also operates a CDN, content distribution network, which caches popular content for user to download and stream.

Hola is a free Android app that you can download right now and I suspect that the app is still in Beta. But don’t let that deter you as it works pretty much like a web browser with VPN access. The VPN service is unlimited and is automatically switched on when you launch the app. Hola is still adding more content sources and sorting out the bugs within the app. Even their latest update was very buggy (Feb 18).

How Hola Aims to Change Your Browsing Habits

The P2P network protocol used by Hola is pretty vague at the moment. By opening your own Internet connection to others, you are letting dudes like the NSA come through your browser and into your computer or mobile device. Data leeching can happen since you can’t tell if they are real users or data mining bots. The only security control is to bypass this is to sign up for their premium plan where Hola is prevented from using your computer or mobile as an exit node. Hola could change the way you browse the Internet in China but Chinese URL blockers will eventually find a way around it once they determine the exact DNS Hola operates from. For now, it is a free for all for everyone.

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However if you are hoping to browse for content from the US, well you are in luck. Hola works perfectly. With it, you can pretend to surf from the US or for that matter Australia, Britain or Iran for that matter….the choice are up to you but if you are looking for content, just stick to the old time favs.

Hola integrates several streaming services with its own app, such as Pandora, Hulu and Netflix. For Netflix, you need a paid account to get access but you can fib your way to a free one month trial by signing up (with a credit card). I didn’t need to test Facebook or for that matter Google Plus since those are not banned from where I was. But it would be of interest to those who are heading to China.

There is a desktop plug in for PCs, created for Firefox and Chrome and the moment you install it, you will notice some slowdown when you browse using Hola. It could be using your connection as an exit node. To avoid people piggy backing on your bandwidth, you can sign up for Hola premium.

On Android, Hola app pretty much uses a default USA setting for streaming media so you have to change it to the UK if you happen to use it to access BBC content.

For now, Hola for me is the place to go to for all my TV shows on Hulu. My only regret is that I don’t have a Hulu Plus membership to get to all the episodes I want to watch.

Hola for iOS is NOT Free

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Please don’t ask me why but you only get a 7 day trial after which you have to pay as long as you are a Apple user. iOS has never had it this good as users are generally considered richer than their Android cousins thus Apple iPhone users have to pay to get access after seven days. This is the premium sign up. So you don’t get people hogging your bandwidth. It is the perfect solution for iPhone users who love using their phones all the time.

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VPN: Do you really need it?

InternetAccessVPN_thumbVirtual Private Network or VPNs have been around for ages. During the dawn of the Internet, VPNs were the only way to access the Internet for countries that didn’t have such a service. You paid a subscription and dialed in to a local number to get Internet access.

These days, it is much simpler. You can subscribe to a VPN and use the given IP address to log in.

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Why VPN?

Since the Snowden affair, some parties are getting very anxious that maybe some of their emails have been compromised, these bunch of folks include lawyers, politicians, arms dealers, bankers, stock traders, drug dealers, money launderers, pedophiles  and pretty much everyone else in the world who have something to hide.

If you happen to fall into one of the said categories, please read on. For everyone else, you can skip this post and wait for the next.

Not all VPN will Protect You

A VPN may help you get around unnoticed but I am sure the NSA has a back door to accessing your stuff even if you tried to hide it. That’s because FISA can subpoena an Internet host to surrender any emails or messages as long as the server is located on US soil. VPN services based out of the US need not obey this court order so you’d be better off with a Malaysian VPN.

VPN on Mobile

Of late, there is interest on how secure your communications is with the outside world on a mobile device. 8

Personally, I think that VPNs are good only for corporate use. It is a savvy way to monitor the online presence of staff members to ensure they are using a secure channel to communicate with the world. This is relatively easy to set up, and even if you don’t belong to the shader side of world economy, you could still use a VPN by subscribing to a service.

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VPNs are available for iOS and Android via the settings tab so be sure to look out for them.

VPNs for other Naughty Things

Yea, I am aware that some of you are browsing location specific content from the US or UK. That said, you need a VPN or Proxy Server to give the impression that you are from the same locality.

There are a few ways of doing this which I will narrow down to two.

  • Use a Proxy Server Setting that Spoofs any location login
  • Use a VPN to spoof a location Login

It works for the Google Playstore but you have to remove your SIM card as that is tracked by Google. You cannot buy apps from the specific country store unless you have authorized payment for that country.

To spoof your IP location just to watch movies, well it’s easier. I have done this successfully with TunnelBear VPN, which is really neat to use.

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Say you have Hulu or Google Play on your device and you need to spoof the IP from legit location. You can fire up Tunnelbear to give you a fake login location in the US or UK and stream your media to your Android device.

Tunnelbear is free for the first 500MB and gives you a further 500MB if you tweet about them. Beyond that, you need to get a subscription. Hotspot Shield is another service you could try. So far, I have not had the time to test them all but I can assure you they work as I have streamed TV programs from the US through Hulu on desktop. The mobile version shouldn’t be any more complicated. You will need to pay to subscribe to the service after the trial runs out.

How Secure is Secure?

There are four different VPN platforms, the most popular for mobile use is Open Connect, which offers point to point protection of data. You need to connect to a compatible network to secure any communication channel. There are three other VPN platforms to choose from so knock yourself out if you don’t think Open Connect is for you.

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If you want secure, look for the encryption level. 256-bit is the best foot forward.

Encryption Technology  Summary (Geek Porn)

With the NSA prowling the Net for juicy bits of data, people have been asking how does the NSA beat the encryption technology used today. Well, apparently they know it takes far too much computation power so they decided to use a back door by forcing ISPs to surrender their data instead. For trivia, here’s what I found out.

A 128-bit key cypher would require 3.4 x1038 operations to reliably break.
In 2011 the fastest supercomputer in the word (the Fujitsu K computer located in Kobe, Japan) was capable of an Rmax peak speed of 10.51 petaflops. Based on this figure, it would take Fujitsu K 1.02 x 1018 (around 1 billion) years to crack a 128-bit AES key by force.
In 2013 the most powerful supercomputer in the world is the NUDT Tianhe-2 in Guangzhou, China. Almost 3 times as fast as the Fujitsu K at 33.86 petaflops, it would ‘only’ take it around a third of a billion years to crack a 128-bit AES key. That’s still a long time, and is the figure for breaking just one key.
A 256-bit key would require 2128 times more computational power to break than a 128-bit one as 265-bits is roughly equal to the number of atoms in the universe!

VPN for Facebook in China

This is bound to crop up. Facebook is banned so you want to find out which service to use while in China to post? Unfortunately, Tunnelbear and Hotspot Shield is blocked in China, so no point trying.

The Chinese authorities are constantly looking for new VPNs to block and the free ones are the first on their list. There are two VPN services that offer this service but at no time would there be a guarantee that it won’t be blocked by the time you read this. So I am not giving any links here for good measure.

It would be easier if Facebook sold to China and that would solve the problem for good. Right now subscriptions to VPNs cost between US$10 to US$20 a month. Now if you are willing to pay that much just to access Facebook in China then you have a very serious social media addiction. I’d save that money for some social  therapy instead of having to ante up on a VPN.

Let’s Try Tor!

No, it’s not about summoning an old Norse God with a Sledgehammer to unblock an IP but rather rout your data to secure Tor channels that exist in China. Tor uses a bridging system to connect data to the outside world and for the system to work, you need to root your device. There are several Tor apps on the Playstore but you need to root your Android device for it to work.

tor_in_chinaTor is very slow. It bounces data all over to confuse the ‘enemy’ and if you are ever thinking of streaming TV shows and movies illegally, you better forget it. Edward Snowden uses this all the time to get around data detection by the NSA. So if you happen to wear the same shoes, well this could be an option for you.