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What You Need To Know On Using VPN in the UAE

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Despite the fiery rumors in social media sites that the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPN) in the United Arab Emirates could get the users arrested and pay large amounts of fines, the Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (TRA) has said that there are no restrictions on the legal use of VPN.

A recent amendment has been made to UAE’s Cybercrime Law stating that “whoever uses a fraudulent computer network protocol address (IP address) by using a false address or a third-party address by another 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 Dh 500, 000 and not exceeding Dh 2 million, or either of these two penalties.”

This means that using virtual private networks is not prohibited as long as it is not used for fraudulent activities that breach the law. Clearly, the public has made a show of the amendment when the only changes are the increase on fines, from Dh 15,000 – Dh 500,000 to Dh 500,000 – 2, 000, 000. It does not ban the use of VPN, but it restricts the use of a third-party IP address to commit or conceal a crime.

How VPN Works, And Who Needs It

            The main purpose of a virtual private network is to create a secure connection over a public connection. The internet is extremely useful to the people, but it is also a haven for thieves, hackers, and scammers, which is why using a VPN service is just as important as having an internet connection. Think of a VPN as the added security to your internet connection.

A VPN works by creating a ‘VPN tunnel’ between your computer and the target website that you are using. The tunnel is encrypted so that all of the data exchanged between your computer and the website cannot be read by anyone who tries to intercept and decrypt it.

Using a VPN also masks your IP address and your location by assigning you its own IP address and a server in a totally different country. It makes you appear as if you are accessing the internet from another country, and if they try to trace your IP address, they will be routed to the VPN service’s IP.

Companies and businessmen rely on VPN services for their operations because virtual private networks also connect multiple computers to share resources with each other, even in remote distances. Employees can still work from home or in other places and access the company’s resources through their virtual private network. Without VPNs, business and financial transactions will not be secure anymore.

What Is and Isn’t Legal

UAE does not restrict the use of VPNs especially if it is for business purposes and the benefit of the economy, but they will be given penalty or punishment if they commit crimes using virtual private networks.

“Business users can be held accountable, like the use of any other technology if it has been misused,” the TRA said. “Any misuse of the licensed and organized services in the UAE will lead to legal accountability. It is worth mentioning that the laws are targeting those who misuse the services and not those activities that are consistent with UAE’s laws.” said Kelly Blyth, senior associate at Clyde & Co., to Gulf News.

Examples of offenses made through the use of virtual private network includes accessing and using gambling sites and services, and accessing, watching, and downloading obscene media and those which are not licensed for use in the UAE.

According to a report by Cleofe Maceda on Gulf News, IT experts also advise people to use virtual private networks carefully because you might breach international laws even if you are not violating those in the UAE. The security and freedom given by virtual private networks also needs to be exercised carefully so as not to avoid unintentionally making violations of the law in the attempt to follow one.

“Some sites that can’t be accessed here aren’t necessarily blocked by the government. The French TV channel for example is prohibited from broadcasting in this market by France. So effectively, when you access the channel using a VPN, you’re breaching the French law, not the UAE’s,” said a French expatriate working in the IT industry.

Pros and Cons of Using VPN

            Our privacy on the internet is a serious matter, and we should all be given the freedom to protect our identities and personal activities. Using a virtual private network is a good way to do this: it protects you from hackers, scammers, and thieves that are prowling the internet; it lets you work and share resources even when you are in a remote area; and it allows you to make transactions safely and securely.

On the other hand, virtual private networks can still be used for fraudulent activities, both big and small, and anyone who is not vigilant will fall prey into this. What’s worse is that a VPN will make it difficult to track the criminals. Which is why certain measures must be taken to make sure that technologies such as the VPN are used only for legal matters.

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