Cyber Crime Laws in UAE
Internet is no doubt one of the greatest creations and have a profound effect on all aspects of modern living. However, the internet also makes businesses and individuals vulnerable to cybercriminals. Cybercrime rates are on the rise worldwide. Most cybercrimes are related to financial and reputation damage, loss of privacy and breaches of intellectual property. The UAE has the most highly internet-connected population in the entire Middle East, with 85% of the population online.
No doubt, the United Arab Emirates has emerged as one of the major targets for cybercriminals due to the high level of economic activities, tourism, technological advancements, and availability of the oil and gas industry. To tackle this cyber threat, the UAE government in 2012 introduced The UAE Cybercrime Law no. 5. It is one of the most comprehensive cyber law in the entire Middle East and includes a wide range of violations. The law aims not just to combating cybercrimes but also to prevent them from happening. This article will put some light on some of the features of the UAE Cybercrime Law no. 5 and the steps taken by the government to ensure the security of business and individuals.
What are the UAE cyber laws?
The UAE Cybercrime law protects the privacy of information published online. The law aims at criminalizing persons who try to gain unlawful access to the systems (website, electronic information, computer network, etc.) and indulge in causing harm to the system. The definition further expands and criminalizes violations like eavesdropping, transmitting or disclosing information/communication without consent, even when it is authentic.
Below are some of the notable provisions of the law:
- Access to the system: Criminalizes person or group who gain/try to gain unlawful access to the electronic system. This also includes the person who tries to indulge in violation by causing harm to the system.
- Medical data: Violation of Medical records of a person or an organization are also covered under this law. Any person who obtains, amends, damages or discloses medical records (reports, diagnosis, treatment, etc.), shall be punished.
- Financial electronic records: Financial records related to online banking, credit card numbers, other electronic payment methods are covered under article 12 of Cybercrime law.
- Electronic communication: Disrupting or spamming electronic communication such as emails, phone messages, etc.
- Invasion of privacy: Recording of any audio or video conversation and distributing it without consent is a major criminal offense in the UAE. This further includes chats, photographs, video calls, etc.
- Social Media: Using inappropriate language on social media platforms is also considered illegal under this law. This law further prohibits a person from using social media for commercial activities without a license, threatening, defaming, or impersonating.
- Contempt of religion: Inappropriate use of language or display of any holy symbols, characters, figures, and rituals of Islam or any other religion.
- Collecting donation without a license: The law prohibits any person from creating or running a donation campaign via a website, or social media platforms without obtaining a proper license.
- Crimes of sedition, espionage, harming national unity: Creating or running an electronic site or social media page to publish, any program or idea which would promote disorder, hate, racism, cause damage to national security and unity.
- Narcotics and money laundering: Promoting and/or selling narcotics and psychotropic drugs via the electronic site or social media is prohibited under this law.
- Intellectual property rights: Trying to steal, misuse or cause harm to copyrights, and other intellectual property and trade secrets are prohibited under this law.
Strategies taken by the UAE government to fight cyber threats
- In 2017, The Dubai Cyber Security Strategy was launched to strengthen Dubai’s position as the world leader in innovation, safety and security. Dubai Cyber Security Strategy includes:
- Cyber Smart Society: Achieving awareness, skills, and capabilities to manage cyber security risks for Dubai’s public and private sectors, and individuals.
- Innovation: Promoting research and development for cybersecurity, and establishing free, fair and secure cyberspace in Dubai.
- Cyber Security: Putting controls in place to protect confidentiality, integrity, and availability, as well as data privacy for Dubai.
- Cyber Resilience: Arranging to ensure continuity of IT systems and their availability in the cyberspace.
- National and International Collaboration: Establishing national and international collaboration to manage cyber risks.
- e-Crime platform to report incidents of online fraud: It is a self-service e-crime portal which allows people to report cybercrimes such as cyber extortion, online hacking, internet fraud, and online identity theft. The e-crime has helped many victims to come out to report the crime who otherwise would shy away because of the fear of embarrassment, hesitation etc. Any cybercrime which goes unreported gives the culprit more courage to repeat the crime.
- TRAs initiative to make the UAE more cyber resilient: The UAE Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) rolled out its first cybersecurity strategy in 2019 to create a safe environment for emerging technologies and the nation’s digital infrastructure. 60 new initiatives will be executed in different sectors in the next 3 years.
According to Advocate Abdulkarim Bin Eid of Bin Eid Advocates and Legal Consultants, most of the cybercrimes committed in UAE are related to financial & reputation damage, loss of privacy & breaches of intellectual property. Advocate Bin Eid further adds Emiri Decree Number 2/2018 has given more power to judges for the interpretation of the cybercrime and now judges can take the decision to impose deportation or not. Offenders committing cybercrime incidents which are categorised minor in nature may not necessarily face imprisonment and deportation anymore, which wasn’t the case earlier.
Monitoring and electronic probation for the first time offenders are considered to be the right steps towards the direction of developing an advanced legal framework against cybercrime in the UAE.