"Goodbye hello!”…reminds me of an old Beatles song, but the website hola.org is something much more insidious than anything we knew when we used to go round singing “I don’t know why you say goodbye, I say hello”.
A friend recommended it as a useful site that would enable me to watch programmes on the BBC iPlayer, which is generally not available outside the UK, as well as any other websites that are generally blocked in the land where I live—Thailand.
Being a sucker for anything that makes life a bit easier or more fun, I downloaded it and for a couple of weeks enjoyed my new-found freedom—watching the final of Wimbledon tennis and a few insightful documentaries—but then the trouble began.
Suddenly my computer began to operate VERY SLOWLY, as if someone had tied a rope round its ankles, and each time I tried to do a Google search, I was asked to copy a captcha (what a wonderful word—an acronym for ‘completely automated public Turing test to tell computers and humans apart’!) to prove I wasn’t a robot. Clearly, Google could sniff some funny business going on behind the screen of my Mac.
I’ve since learned that hola.org operates a ‘botnet’—a combination of the words ‘robot’ and ‘network’—which apparently is “a zombie army, or a number of internet-connected computers that, although their owners are unaware of it, have been set up to forward transmissions (including spam or viruses) to other computers on the internet”.
So it’s adios hola for me. I should have known when I saw that strange icon with the smiley emoticon face grinning through a wall of flame, with devil’s horns perched on top, that the website’s inventors (Ofer Vilenski and Derry Shribman) were simply taking the piss (and making a lot of money by selling users’ bandwidth!) when they launched their ‘unblocker’. And while you’ll find lots of people raving about the site online, if you’re thinking of downloading it, I suggest that first you visit adios-hola.org. Hello goodbye!
is a British writer and photographer based in Chiang Mai, Thailand.