The usage of virtual private networks (VPNs) has grown in the UAE and Gulf region to access restricted content such as dating, gambling and adult websites and to download audio-video calling apps.
According to the latest Nord Security data, demand for VPNs in Gulf regions grew by approximately 30 per cent in the first quarter this year as compared to the same period last year. While demand for VPNs in the UAE grew by 36 per cent, reflecting more and more internet users are tapping banned content.
"The demand for VPNs in the Gulf region is increasing every year. The more content restrictions appear, the greater the demand for the VPN service," Nord Security said, adding that "many people use VPN to access blocked content."
It said usage of VPN is common among the Gulf residents to make audio-video calls through popular apps such as WhatsApp, Skype, Facetime, Discord, IMO as well as dating apps.
In terms of content, VPNs are also used to access restricted content such as dating, gambling, pornography, drugs, and VoIP websites among others, said Nord Security.
Is it illegal to use VPN in UAE?
According to Ashish Mehta, managing partner, Ashish Mehta & Associates, the usage of VPN in the UAE is not illegal if it's used as per the guidelines of the UAE government and the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA).
The TDRA mentioned in a statement on August 1, 2016, that VPNs may be used by companies, institutions and banks for internal purposes.
However, using VPNs for illegal means or to commit a crime is a serious offence under the UAE Decree Law No (34) of 2021 concerning combating rumours and cybercrimes.
Also, using a VPN by hiding the IP address to get access to websites/calling applications /gaming applications which are blocked by the UAE government is illegal.
Under Article 10 of the UAE Cyber Law, Mehta said people misusing VPNs could face imprisonment and a fine between Dh500,000 to Dh2 million.
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