A police official in the United Arab Emirates has said that the use of VPNs is punishable under the law as it alters your Internet connection.
“Tampering with the Internet network is a crime,” said Saeed Al Hajri, director of the cyber crime division, Dubai Police, in a report from Emirates 24/7. Al Hajri had expressed concerns over criminals using VPN services to mask their online identities to avoid detection.
The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority has stated that VPN use has always been outlawed by Law Number 9 but the police would now take a firmer stance in enforcing it.
The latest report says that it is unlikely that a suo moto (court order) would be initiated against someone for using a VPN but rather it would be an additional charge for someone caught in illegal activity and had been using a VPN.
“Manipulating the network is a crime by itself under UAE law. We have a special article just for this. We don’t look at the case from just one angle, we are waiting for the criminal to fail on just one fault,” said Al Hajri.
VPNs have been used by a number of users in the UAE owing to different levels of censorship, particularly with VoIP and messaging services like Skype and Viber.
Regulators also recently confirmed that they have been monitoring the nation’s social media users for abuse.
We have contacted the UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority for further comment and will update this story when we hear back.