The world today is too dependent on technology; we cannot even imagine our lives without the internet anymore. While the benefits brought about by the digitalized world are many, it has also paved the way for commission of several illegal activities. As such, there is dire need of stringent laws to regulate cybercrime, and more severe penalties for those misusing the cyberspace. The UAE government recently revised its laws on cybercrime, and has come out with a much more comprehensive and efficient regulation – Federal Decree-Law No. 34 of 2021 Concerning the Fight against Rumours and Cybercrime.
The UAE Cybercrime law attempts to incorporate the different types of cyber attacks and threats that are taking place in the modern world. Cyber-attack, as defined under Article 1 of the Law, means and includes every intentional and planned targeting of infrastructure, networks, information systems, or information technology methods. Such targeting essentially undermines their capability, and is done either for personal purposes, interception, interruption, penetration or leakage, or for exposing the data or information to risk, disrupting operations or any other similar purposes.
The major crimes covered by the UAE Cybercrime Law include:
- Hacking, or compromising information systems
- Breach of personal or government data
- Forgery of electronic documents
- Supporting terrorist groups or activities online
- Publishing content against the interests of the country
- Spreading fake news or rumors
- Promoting or supplying firearms and explosives online
- Publishing pornographic materials, including child pornography
- Cyber fraud
- Cyber begging
- Spreading hatred or contempt towards religious beliefs
The penalties for each offence range from heavy monetary fines to prolonged jail times, as well as other relevant measures that may seem fit to be taken. The Cybercrime Law is extremely strict when it comes to breach of government data, or information that is confidential, or related to banking, healthcare, media, or a scientific entity, and therefore, the penalties are more severe. For example, the offence of breach of personal data, under Article 6 of the Law, entails a punishment of detention of at least 6 months, and/or a fine between 20,000 dirhams to 100,000 dirhams. Whereas, breaching governmental data, under Article 7, would result in provisional imprisonment of at least 7 years, plus a fine, which may go as high as 3 million dirhams. Similarly, the punishment for compromising information systems under Article 4 of the Law is detention and/or a fine between 500,000 dirhams to 3 million dirhams, but where such information system was related to a banking, media, healthcare or scientific entity, the penalty is provisional imprisonment, along with the fine.
Where fake or incorrect data is published on a platform, the authorities responsible for cyber security and related affairs in the country can pass orders for correction or removal of such data, or for blocking access to the users to such data, as per Article 1 of the UAE Cybercrime Law.
In addition to the prescribed penalties for each offence, the UAE Cybercrime Law also mandates, under Article 56, that the hardware, software, or any means of communication used in the commission of the offences under this Law, and any funds generated from the commission thereof, will be confiscated, and the information will be deleted. Other criminal measures include (Article 59):
- Placing the offender under electronic surveillance, or depriving him from the use of information network, or his rehabilitation
- Shutting down the website in question
- Blocking the website in question
The Cybercrime Law also punishes misdemeanours, as per Article 57, with half of the prescribed punishment for the complete offence.
What can I do if I have been a victim of a cyber-attack?
The UAE government has introduced certain online platforms that can be accessed by the public to report a cybercrime, or even suspicious activities. One can also approach the police if it is believed that one has been a victim of a cyber-attack under the UAE Cybercrime Law.
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