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‘Abuse of VPNs is the problem,’ warns UAE’s head of cybersecurity

Residents of the UAE who break the law and abuse VPNs risk jail time and fines ranging from Dh500,000 to Dh2 million

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are legal for UAE citizens to use, but abuse of them “is the problem,” according to the nation’s cybersecurity head.

On the fringes of the G[P]RC Summit, Muhammad Al Kuwaiti, Head of Cybersecurity at the UAE Government, told Khaleej Times, “We have no problem with people using VPNs, but using it for bad things is the problem.”

According to the most recent version of Atlas VPN’s Global VPN Adoption Index, the United Arab Emirates had the greatest VPN application downloads in 2023 out of the previous four years, surpassing the 6.09 million downloads during the epidemic year in 2020.

According to the UAE Decree Law No. (34) of 2021 in fighting false information and cybercrimes, using a VPN for illicit purposes, to commit a crime, or to conceal one’s IP address to access websites, calling apps, or gaming apps that the UAE government restricts, is a serious offence.

Residents of the United Arab Emirates who break the law and abuse VPNs risk jail time and fines ranging from Dh500,000 to Dh2 million.

According to Nord Security, citizens of the UAE and other Gulf countries frequently use VPNs to make audio-video conversations using well-known programmes like Facetime, WhatsApp, Skype, Discord, IMO, and dating apps.

Some 6.1 million VPN apps were downloaded by UAE citizens in 2023, a 1.83 million increase over 2022.

The VPN penetration rate was computed by dividing the total number of VPN downloads by the population of each country. Sensor Tower and AppTweak services were used to retrieve the VPN download statistics from Google Play and the Apple App Store. Included in the download data are the 45 largest VPN providers.

As per the March 2023 report of the Atlas VPN research, UAE has the highest VPN download rate in the world, as a proportion of the population, with a total of 4.27 million downloads made in the Gulf nation, the equivalent of 43% of the total population.

Phishing Emails And AI

Al Kuwaiti further went on to say that the complexity of cybersecurity issues has increased due to artificial intelligence (AI). He said, “We had a lot of ransomware that used AI to create and verify their codes to infiltrate, or craft their phishing emails.”

Additionally, he emphasised how artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming more and more important in protecting against cyberattacks.

The UAE’s centennial target of 2071, he continued, is to become an AI nation.

“Everyone takes on risk, and the cybersecurity industry is no exception. We make sure that danger doesn’t affect the foundations of our economy. AI is used by us to proactively identify and address various dangers. We express our gratitude to our partners for keeping the infrastructure secure and safe,” the senior official added further.

According to Al Kuwaiti, the UAE has a reputation for enacting appropriate and adaptable laws that support companies’ growth and success in this fast-paced environment.

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