UAE: VPN downloads rise in 2021; Dh2 million fine for misuse

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Photo: Alamy
Photo: Alamy

Dubai - Around 3.9 million VPN applications were downloaded in the UAE in the first half of 2021.


Waheed Abbas

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Published: Wed 18 Aug 2021, 10:13 AM

Last updated: Wed 18 Aug 2021, 7:30 PM

Demand for virtual private networks (VPNs) continues to grow in the UAE and the latest figures suggest that VPN application downloads in 2021 will exceed last year’s figures.

Data from the US-based Atlas VPN showed that the UAE is still one of the top VPN adopters worldwide in the first half of 2021.

Around 3.9 million VPN applications were downloaded in the UAE in the first half of 2021, maintaining its status as one of the top downloaders of these applications.

Gulf countries continue to dominate the percentage of the population using VPN. Qatar ranks in the pole position, with 44.47 per cent of the population deploying VPN.

The UAE is second at 39.91 per cent, followed by Singapore at 29.59 per cent. In India, 25.27 per cent of the population used VPNs in the first half of 2021, followed by Oman with a share of 24.79 per cent.

In 2020, the UAE topped the list in terms of VPN downloads globally. As much as 61.61 per cent of the population downloaded VPNs, which amounted to over six million downloads.

“The VPN penetration rate in the UAE stands at nearly 40 per cent. If the trend continues, the rate should be at the highest point in the country’s history by the end of 2021 and VPN instals will reach around eight million this year, representing an increase of nearly two million over 2020,” Atlas said.

As the usage of VPN grows in the UAE, residents should be aware of the risks involved in using these applications.

The usage of VPN in the UAE is not illegal if it’s used as per the guidelines of the UAE government. VPN can be used by companies, institutions and banks for internal purposes. But the misuse of the application can result in a heavy penalty as well as imprisonment for the violators.

Article 9 of the UAE Cyber Law states that whoever uses a fraudulent computer network protocol address by using a false address or a third-party address by any other means to commit a crime or prevent its discovery shall be punished by temporary imprisonment and a fine not less than Dh500,000 and not in excess of Dh2 million or either of these two penalties.


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Data acquired by Finbold projected that the number of VPN downloads globally will hit 1.05 billion in 2021. The projection represents a growth of 70.45 per cent from the 616 million downloads recorded in the first half of 2021.

Interestingly, the downloads in the first six months of 2021 are more than double the 2020 figure of 277 million.

Currently, Madagascar ranks lowest, with just 0.42 per cent of the population using VPN, while Japan accounts for a share of 0.85 per cent, and South Africa has a share of 1.43 per cent.

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