Countries across the world have been tackling the risks of increasing reliance on emerging technologies, and as the regional hub for futuristic methods and solutions, the UAE is no exception.
This week, the Gulf nation's Telecom Regulatory Authority (TRA) launched a comprehensive UAE National Cybersecurity Strategy, which aims "to establish a safe and resilient cyber infrastructure in the country," according to Gulf News.
As part of the strategy, the TRA will bring forth sweeping changes to cybersecurity laws and regulations in the country to combat the growing threat of cybercrimes.
Back in February, American software company Symantec Corporation found that the UAE has witnessed a drastic rise in cybercrime activity during the past year. The report released by the company noted that email malware attacks in the nation have doubled more than the global average, while phishing levels remained alarmingly high.
Plus, according to a security insights report by cybersecurity specialist Norton, the Emirates witnessed a financial loss amounting to 3.86 billion dirhams ($1.05 billion) due to cybercriminal activities in 2017, The National reported.
After consulting with over 50 global publications and studying cybersecurity systems of 10 leading countries, the TRA rolled out its National Cybersecurity Strategy, which seeks to boost the security of its cyber infrastructure through as many as 60 initiatives that will be implemented over the next three years.
Among the key pillars of the strategy is the framing of cybersecurity laws and regulations. "We will need new laws to address new cybercrimes. The TRA is also examining existing provisions of data protection and privacy laws," said Mohammad Al Zarouni, Director of Policies and Programmes Department at TRA, as quoted by Gulf News.
In light of the rising attention to the matter, it has become increasingly crucial to take note of the UAE's existing cybersecurity laws and regulations. The laws prohibit a number of cyber activities, such as extortion through online means, credit card theft and fraud, hacking, phishing, etc.
TRA has notably set guidelines for website owners and internet users, prohibiting the latter from displaying any content "that offends against, is objectionable to, or is contrary to the public interest, public morality, public order, public and national security, Islam morality or is otherwise prohibited by any applicable UAE law, regulation, procedure, order or requirement."
Access to websites and webpages that contain prohibited content is blocked by internet service providers in the UAE.
Here are some topics listed under prohibited online content:
Pornography, nudity, and vice
The TRA bans online pornography and nudity content, in addition to all internet content that promotes "aggression to public manners or involves corrupting youth or calling for embracing or promoting destructive principles, such as homosexuality."
A ban is also imposed on content "that motivates and supports or promotes practice of vice, adultery, prostitution or illegal and unethical relations and the internet content related to human trafficking crimes or those including prostitution advertisements."
As per Federal Decree-Law no. (5) of 2012 on Combating Cybercrimes, producing, publishing, sending, or sharing pornographic material online is punishable by imprisonment and a fine ranging between 250,000 dirhams ($68,000) and 500,000 dirhams ($136,000), or either one of the two penalties.
Discrimination, racism, and contempt of religion
The UAE prohibits internet users and publishers from offending, defaming, insulting, or ridiculing any religion and from provoking hate speech.
Its laws particularly stipulate provisions that prohibit content that insults Islamic principles, or promotes apostasy, leaving Islam, or committing sinful acts. Offenders face a prison sentence reaching up to seven years, along with a fine of up to one million dirhams ($272,245).
Offenses against the UAE and public order
Publishing information, news, statements, or rumors "with intent to make sarcasm or damage the reputation, prestige or stature of the State or any of its institutions or its president, vice-president, any of the rulers of the Emirates, their crown princes, or the deputy rulers of the Emirates, the State flag, the national peace, its logo, national anthem or any of its symbols" is punishable by temporary imprisonment and a fine of up to one million dirhams ($272,245).
Bypassing blocked content
This category includes internet content that helps users gain access to prohibited content, including the proxy servers and Virtual Private Networks Services (VPNs).
Illegal communication services
Promoting or allowing access to illegal communication services is criminalized in the country.
This category includes internet content that promotes gambling and similar activities, such as bets and lottery, and those related to electronic gambling activities.
Infringement of intellectual property rights
Website owners and internet users are prohibited from offering content (movies, photos, books, video games, etc.) that infringe upon the rights of intellectual property.
Insult, slander, and defamation
Internet content that includes materials of insult, slander, or defamation is strictly prohibited. Perpetrators face imprisonment as well as a fine ranging between 250,000 dirhams ($68,000) and 500,000 dirhams ($136,000).
Additionally, invasion of privacy is listed among the prohibited topics, whereby websites and users are banned from exposing news, photos, or comments "related to the private or family life even if it is true if publishing the same shall harm the concerned person in publication."
Disclosing secrets "that may harm a person's reputation, wealth or trade name" is also illegal.
More topics under prohibited content:
- Impersonation, fraud, and phishing
- Supporting criminal acts and skills
- Medical and pharmaceutical practices in violation of the laws
- Viruses and malicious programs
- Promotion of or trading in prohibited commodities and services
- Prohibited top-level domains
- Illegal activities
- All internet content blocked upon order from judicial authorities or in accordance with the law