UAE Cybersecurity Chief warns residents against VPN misuse

The Head of Cybersecurity at the UAE Government, Muhammad Al Kuwaiti, has stated that residents in the UAE are allowed to use virtual private networks (VPNs), but the real concern lies in their misuse.

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In an interview during the GRC Summit, Al Kuwaiti emphasized that the government has no issue with people utilizing VPNs, but their use for illicit activities is a significant problem.

According to Atlas VPN's most recent Global VPN Adoption Index, the United Arab Emirates saw the most VPN application downloads in 2023 more than four years beyond the 6.09 million downloads that were registered during the pandemic year of 2020. Decree Law No. 34 of 2021, which outlines strict regulations, does, however, regulate VPN use in the UAE in order to combat misinformation and cybercrimes. The usage of VPNs, including for illicit purposes or to hide IP addresses in order to get access to blocked websites, mobile applications, or gaming apps, is regarded by the law as a serious infraction.

People who live here in violation of these rules risk imprisonment and fines of up to Dh2 million. VPNs are frequently used in the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf nations for audio-video calls made using well-known applications like Facetime, WhatsApp, Skype, Discord, IMO, and dating apps, according to a report by Nord Security.

The data shows that 6.1 million VPN apps were downloaded by UAE citizens in the previous year, a 1.83 million increase over the year before. The VPN penetration rate, which is determined by dividing VPN downloads by the population of the nation, shows how common VPN use is.

Muhammad Al-Kuwaiti also highlighted the escalating risks in the cybersecurity domain, with artificial intelligence (AI) contributing to the complexity. He mentioned instances of ransomware attacks utilizing AI to craft phishing emails and create and verify codes for infiltration. Despite the increasing risks, Al Kuwaiti stated that the UAE is actively leveraging AI to detect and proactively respond to threats, aligning with the centennial goal of becoming an AI nation by 2071.

He emphasized the UAE's commitment to formulating flexible and conducive policies for businesses to thrive in the rapidly evolving global landscape, ensuring the safety and security of the nation's infrastructure through collaboration with partners.

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