Today, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) of the United Arab Emirates reminded users of the internet that tampering with the internet network is indeed a crime and against the TRA policies.
What this means is that using something as common as a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is indeed a punishable crime, as the TRA considers it tampering with the Internet. Although UAE’s TRA has maintained over the years that the use of VPNs was against its policies, it is now brought back to light. “Tampering with the Internet network is a crime,” said Saeed Al Hajri, Director at the Cyber Crime division of Dubai Police. According to him, the use of VPNs coincides with illegal activities on the internet. This includes blackmailing and other related internet crimes that the UAE police battle frequently.
Many people, however, do not use VPNs to commit any crimes. Many use it to simply access services that are not available in their country. For example, services such as Netflix, Pandora, Hulu, and many others, including some VoIP services, are not accessible from just any country.
According to Al Hajri, they often observe users of VPNs for many years before making a move. He also says that they often commit other crimes and the use of a VPN is just an additional charge. “We even dig up complaints that are three to four years old,” he said. He did not make it clear as to what these crimes typically are.
What’s the lesson here? Although it will be a bit difficult for the TRA to identify the use of VPNs, it is likely a good idea to avoid using it, although if you are only visiting UAE for a short period of time, it’s extremely unlikely you will be targeted by the authorities. The chances are close to none. However, if you’re planning on staying longer, it might be a good idea to take the safe route and live without your favorite shows or music while staying there.