The VPN Conundrum

August 2, 2016

In this part of the world, using a VPN may be a necessity, but it comes at a risk.

VPN has been the topic of discussion for some at the moment, especially with new rules that made headline all over the world. But first off, let’s get the technical details sorted out first shall we? A VPN (Virtual Private Network), is a type of network that enables you to mask your IP address making it look like you are part of another network different from where you are now.

Most businesses use this as a way to safely transmit messages and other documents and for individual users; it can help safeguard your computer for various vulnerabilities that are already present on your network. Think of it as another layer of protection you can add on your device – whether that is a smartphone, tablet or a computer.

VPNs are also used by some as a form of workaround in bypassing websites that are normally blocked in the country where they are staying. In the UAE for example, websites that are in conflict with the country’s moral and religious beliefs are blocked by default. Others use VPN to use various services like VOIP, which is disabled and blocked in the country as well. Some even use VPN to fool services like Netflix so that it can offer more content that is generally not available in the region. To Netflix’s defense, each country has their own laws in distributing content, so I can’t really blame them if the UAE movie and TV selection pales in comparison to the US one.

That being said, there are some individuals who use VPNs for various illegal activities – and these are the ones being targeted by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA). Foreign news agencies earlier reported that users caught using VPN could face a fine of almost a 2 million AED fine – while this is true, other news outlets concluded that the anyone could be liable once caught using a VPN.

The TRA then released a statement saying it is still fully “committed to the safety and the smooth flow of economic activities for UAE-based companies and institutions,” citing that as long as VPNs are used legally and responsibly then there is no need to worry. Same goes for private individual users – as long as you know that what you’re doing is not illegal then there is no cause for concern.

“The leadership of the UAE in the field of internet applications and IT in general, is on the contrary to what has been circulated by some media regarding the use of VPNs. It is known that the UAE is keen to embody the directions of the UAE Government’s wise leadership regarding smart transformation, including the smart government, smart cities, Big Data, and IoT, in addition to promoting investment, competitiveness and focus on building a knowledge-based economy and society,” said in a press release by H.E. Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori, Director General of TRA.

The UAE has stated streamlining various criminal activities that are done online, which protects each and every citizen and resident in the country. The passing of the Cybercrime Law is just the start, and as technology progresses, these laws will also be updated.

So you can breathe a little easy if you are one of the regular VPN users in the country. As long as what you’re doing is legal, then you’re fine – and if not, then prepare to face the consequences.

by Victor Philip Ortiz
Tech Enthusiast and Movie Buff. When he’s not busy playing with the latest games, Victor usually spends his time collecting Blu-rays and building his own movie library. As the Online Editor for T3 Middle East, he develops and writes content for which includes reviews, features, and videos in addition to managing its social media and web content.