Tech News

Hola is Basically a Botnet, Congress Redirected to Nude Photos, & More… [Tech News Digest]

Justin Pot 29-05-2015

Also: Google offers unlimited photo storage, how you can pretend to be a destructive cat, and YouTube celebrates its 10th anniversary.

Hola Is Using Your Bandwidth to Create a Mercenary Botnet

Remember Hola? It’s a simple browser extension most tech blogs have recommended for watching geoblocked content – and apparently it’s been selling bandwidth to the highest bidder. I myself mentioned it’s an easy way to access region-blocked content Hola Unblocker - Easily Access Region-Blocked Content Access sites like Hulu, CBS, iTV and Pandora regardless of which country you're in. Even better, there's no need to change your DNS settings or set up a VPN. Hola Unblocker is an Android app,... Read More back in 2013 – most tech sites pointed it out.

It’s always been known that the free version of Hola routes traffic through other users. This means that if you’re an American Hola user, there’s a good chance that a German or British user is using your connection to watch American sites like Hulu.


What wasn’t widely known is that Hola was also actually selling the idle bandwidth of free users, via a separate brand called Luminate. 8chan founder Fredrick Brennan is claiming Hola users’ computers were used to attack his controversial image board.

“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.” Fredrick Brennan, founder of Chan

The board implemented a site-wide captcha in response to the DDoS. As TorrentFreak reports, Hola founder Ofer Vilenski doesn’t deny his service was involved, and also says the account behind the attack has been cut off from the Luminati service. Still, we’re certain many Hola users would be surprised to learn their bandwidth is being sold off. Some might not care, some

It’s been said many times: if you’re not paying for something you’re not the customer but the product being sold. This logic especially applies to VPNs, so make sure you do your research The Best VPN Services We've compiled a list of what we consider to be the best Virtual Private Network (VPN) service providers, grouped by premium, free, and torrent-friendly. Read More before routing all of your web traffic through a given service.

Websites Re-Direct Congress to Nude Photos

No, really: to protest state surveillance of individuals What Is PRISM? Everything You Need to Know The National Security Agency in the US has access to whatever data you're storing with US service providers like Google Microsoft, Yahoo, and Facebook. They're also likely monitoring most of the traffic flowing across the... Read More , thousands of websites are re-directing anyone browing the web from a Congressional IP address to This site includes photos of citizens who “feel naked” because of NSA and other state surveillance.


Why? The site explains:

You have presented Americans with the false dichotomy of reauthorizing the PATRIOT Act or passing the USA Freedom Act. The real answer is to end all authorities used to conduct mass surveillance. Until you do, thousands of web sites have blocked your access, and more are joining every day.

If you work on Capitol Hill and are reading this article, there are workarounds to such blocks, but I highly recommend you not use Hola.

Google’s New Unlimited Photo Storage

google-photosSpeaking of photos: Google spun the photo sharing service from Google+ into its own service: Google Photos. Users can head to right now to see all photos tied to their Google account, all in one place, without having to acknowledge that Google+ ever existed.

To quote Google’s announcement:

Google Photos gives you a single, private place to keep a lifetime of memories, and access them from any device. They’re automatically backed up and synced, so you can have peace of mind that your photos are safe, available across all your devices.

The most exciting point: unlimited storage (though individual photos will be capped at 16 MP). Give it a shot.

Pretend To Be a Cat; Destroy Everything

Cats are the best, but man: they love knocking things over. It’s frustrating to watch, sure, but also looks like a lot of fun to participate in. If you’ve ever thought this you’re a psychopath, forbidden to visit my home. You’re also the target audience for Catlateral Damage. Let this not-at-all cheesy trailer explain:

The cat simulator, which raised $62,000 on Kickstarter, is out now for nine of your human dollars. If you’d prefer something free, and 8-bit, though, check out the autobiographical My Garbage Cat Wakes Me Up At 3AM Every Day by Will Herring. Extra points if you can destroy the laptop without knocking over the lamp.

YouTube Celebrates 10 Years

Say what you will about YouTube – and people have – but it’s inspired an impressive array of creativity over the last 10 years. Entire artfroms, and countless communities, have arisen on the video sharing platform. Many of the best are pointed out in this video.

How many videos do you recognize? Point out your favorites in the comments below. I could personally have done without the Rickroll, but reasonable people can disagree.

Your Thoughts On Today’s Tech News

Are you surprised by how Hola is monetizing its users? Is denying Congress access to certain web pages a good strategy for activists? Do you plan to use Google’s new photo service? Are you secretly a cat, only pretending to be a human online, who doesn’t understand the appeal of a cat simulator? What’s your favorite YouTube community? I’m around to talk about all this and more, and you should also feel free to let us know which tech news stories we should cover next.

Related topics: Botnet, Computer Privacy, Politics, VPN, YouTube.

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  1. James Van Damme
    June 2, 2015 at 12:52 am

    Google is starting to creep me out. Hopefully the NSA isn't backing up my data for me any more because I run Linux, so I'll keep my pictures somewhere besides Google and do my own face recognition.

    • Justin Pot
      June 2, 2015 at 7:36 pm

      Linux can't save you from the NSA, James, awesome as Linux is. Sorry.

    • James Van Damme
      June 2, 2015 at 8:23 pm

      I wonder if they think I'm a terrorist or movie-stealer because I run torrents.

  2. George Neill
    June 1, 2015 at 11:41 pm

    I'm actually very concerned about the text withing the Google Terms of Service relative to this photo storage. It appears to say I still own the content and then says they have global rights to "worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content." Not at all sure how to read this legalese! Your Content in our Services Some of our Services allow you to upload, submit, store, send or receive content. You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours. When you upload, submit, store, send or receive content to or through our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This license continues even if you stop using our Services (for example, for a business listing you have added to Google Maps). Some Services may offer you ways to access and remove content that has been provided to that Service. Also, in some of our Services, there are terms or settings that narrow the scope of our use of the content submitted in those Services. Make sure you have the necessary rights to grant us this license for any content that you submit to our Services.

    • George Neill
      June 1, 2015 at 11:43 pm

      Well, I tried to format that with a few blank lines, that the makeuseof editor stripped out before posting. The text beginning with 'Your Content in our Services' is straight from the Google Terms of Service agreement.

  3. nicole.b
    May 29, 2015 at 7:07 pm

    Disclaimer: I work for a SmartDNS company called UnoTelly. As someone that uses the Internet, I value companies that keep my information secure. As an employee of a DNS service, I am proud to say that UnoTelly charges customers to provide a quality, secure service. We value our users and would never sell their data.

  4. Tom Willoughby
    May 29, 2015 at 12:17 pm

    You missed the "And finally" again Justin :P So, Google killed Picassa in order to integrate it into an all-in-one Google Plus, and now it's killing Google Plus photos in order to spin it off into a stand-alone service? That sure is an efficient way to do things, or not.

    • Justin Pot
      May 29, 2015 at 2:03 pm

      Even weirder: Picasa still exists in some form: to have been rebranded to match Google Photos, though (I might be wrong about that).

    • likefun butnot
      May 29, 2015 at 6:15 pm

      I never consented to join Google+, so I've had and still have a Picasa web albums account. It never stopped working. I'm not sure if it will change to Photos now. So far it hasn't. I still appear to have two spaces for storing image content on Google now.