Skype blocked in UAE: VPNs to the rescue (again?)
VPNs have been the best friends of many people and businesses - but could also be the opposite.
Dubai - However, we have some simple tidbits on why you should use them at your own risk
On December 31, users of the beloved Skype were bludgeoned with the news that it has been blocked in the UAE.
Not exactly good news especially for expats, who rely on the app to connect with their loved ones back in their home countries.
Well, this really isn't a surprise, given that, technically, services using voice-over Internet protocol (VoIP) are disallowed in the country. As we previously reported, the UAE's Telecommunications Regulatory Authority has stated that there has been no change in its stance with regards to VoIP, referring to its regulatory policy on the service. It falls at No. 14 on its list of prohibited Internet content.
For a while now, etisalat and du have offered Botim and CMe, VoIP apps that are approved and up-and-running in the UAE - but for a monthly fee, either Dh50 for a single device or Dh100 for the entire family; you can check out etisalat's plans here and du's here.
Now, if you really don't want to spend extra cash for these services, then you may want to consider using a virtual private network (VPN) - the go-to tech for people who wish to access blocked content in the territory they're currently in.
To refresh you, a VPN allows you to connect to a server that's not located where you are - in this case, here in the UAE - which could be somewhere in, say, the US or Europe, whose networks have no restrictions (or have some of it). Meaning, it's not affected by whatever rules the UAE has put in place.
There are a lot of VPN apps you can download from iTunes and Google Play, and most of them are secure.
But, of course, since we're talking about cyberspace, you really can't be sure; Sven Taylor of Restore Privacy lists seven 'hidden dangers and risks' of VPN, including embedded malware, hidden tracking, third-party access to your data, stolen bandwidth, browser hijacking, traffic leaks and fraud.
Sounds really risky. But a reputed paid VPN service is your best alternative if you really want to access stuff that you can't where you are.
VPNs have been the best friends of many people and businesses, and why not?
For example, if you work for Google or Facebook and are based in China - where those two companies are blocked - you can use a VPN to connect to your company's sites and systems from there. Voila, business as usual.
Good news, however: users in the UAE can technically use VPNs as long as they're the legal ones - and you won't use it for anything against the law.
There's a silver lining, however: if you read the TRA's policy carefully, a VoIP service will be allowed in the UAE if it meets certain criteria and conditions.
Which means we may have just to wait for Skype to become legal in the UAE. At the moment, Skype says on its website that there is 'very little it can do about this situation'.
Well, at least paying Dh50 or Dh100 month guarantees safety - and legality.