UAE VPN users could face prison and up to AED2m fine
A new law has been passed making it illegal for UAE residents to use a Virtual Private Network
The UAE President Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan has passed a new law covering IT crimes, making it illegal for residents to use a Virtual Private Network in the UAE.
The original law stated that anyone using a VPN or proxy server in the region would be fined between AED150,000 and AED500,000, however now the law states such an offence could lead to imprisonment and/or fines between AED500,000 and AED2m.
Federal Law No. 12/2016 combatting information technology crimes, Article 1, clearly states that; "Whoever uses a fraudulent computer network protocol address (IP address) by using a false address or a third-party address by any other means for the purpose of committing a crime or preventing its discovery, shall be punished by temporary imprisonment and a fine of no less than Dhs500,000 and not exceeding Dhs2 million, or either of these two penalties."
A VPN enables users to connect to private networks all over the world to access blocked Internet content, such as inappropriate content and VoIP services, and whilst the law clearly states that it is illegal to use a VPN or proxy server, it is unclear how authorities are able to detect who is using one as their packet are encrypted.
UAE telecom providers, Etisalat and Du, are the only companies that have been granted licences by the UAE government to offer commercial VoIP services, but they are relatively expensive. Skype was also outlawed, but that ban was lifted in April after Microsoft and business leaders complained that the blockade was discouraging businesses from coming to the country.