Travellers caught using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and the broader United Arab Emirates could face fines of up to A$725,000 or even jail time under hardened laws introduced this month.
Popular with business travellers, VPNs allow secure remote access to corporate networks back home, but can also be used by anybody to side-step local internet filtering laws and to access sites and content which would otherwise be blocked.
With the UAE barring a raft of online services including the voice and video calling features of Skype, Viber, FaceTime and Snapchat, VPNs were traditionally a great way to communicate with loved ones back home without being stung by global roaming fees or needing to buy a local UAE SIM card.
Once configured, connecting to a VPN proves as simple as flicking a switch on many devices, after which you’re free to use the Internet as though you in another country:
While the maximum fine stands at A$725,000 (AED2,000,000), even the minimum punishment of A$181,000 (AED500,000) if caught breaking the local laws will prove unaffordable to most – so you’ll want to rethink hitting that VPN switch while in the UAE.
We can’t imagine every single VPN session resulting in such hefty penalties, but realise that you’re more likely to be caught on certain networks than others.
Those include hotel wireless networks where you can only surf by providing your name and room number to log in, along with mobile data services where traffic is easily linked to your local or roaming SIM card.
Qantas, Virgin Australia, Emirates and Etihad Airways use the UAE as a springboard between Australia and Europe, with Sydney-Dubai representing Qantas’ flagship QF1 service and continuing through to London Heathrow.
Also read: Hands On: Norton WiFi Privacy VPN app
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