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UAE Cyber Crime: 11 Online Activities That Could Land You In Prison

Cybercrime cases are often seen in the news, and being unaware of the internet crimes that shouldn’t be done are landing people in jail or having them pay huge fines. The UAE’s Cybercrime Law or the Federal Decree Law Number 5 of 2012 was issued by the President of the UAE, His Highness Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan against the growing cybercrime in the UAE. It is comprised of various violations and penalties, and it is indeed essential for everyone to have an awareness regarding this, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly for the prison terms and fines are heavy. The penalties include an imprisonment and/or fines that range from AED 50,000 to AED 3,000,000, which depends on the severity of the unlawful act. Since the cyber crime cases in the UAE are on the rise and could affect anyone from an individual to an entire nation, these fines make sense and would even lessen the people who are continually doing these unlawful acts.

Recently, it’s been all over the news about a cybercrime case of three men and a woman who have been arrested for publishing an indecent video that damage the public morals. Although the suspects claimed that they did it to make young women aware of not going out with men they just meet online, the video showed an unrelated man and woman discussing inside a car and this specific matter is not acceptable in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) so they were still guilty of the offense.

What is Cyber Crime Law?

We often get across cybercrime cases or internet crimes in the UAE whenever we read the news that is usually followed by cybercrime criminal investigation to make light on why the situations were regarded as unlawful. For an instance, the above-mentioned misdemeanor falls under the UAE’s Cybercrime Law or Federal Decree Law Number 5 of 2012 since the video has been published on the use of the internet. In the Article 1 of the aforementioned law, it is stated that the offense is “Every deliberate expression against any person or entity deemed by an ordinary person as insulting or afflicts the dignity or honor of that person or entity.” The New Cyber Crime Law, which repeals the Old Cyber Crime Law or the Federal Law Number 2 of 2006, brings 51 Articles with it that comprise almost all the crimes in the Penal Code and other UAE laws; if done over the internet that damages the credibility of a person or the norms of the State, that is every Emirate of the UAE, the person will be heavily fined and/or imprisoned.

Illegal Acts and Subsequent Fines

Above is just an example of what one shouldn’t do or even attempt to unless they wish to suffer penalties and jail time. A summary of the above-mentioned law is listed below, grouped together in accordance with the category that they fall into. Please read on to have an awareness regarding the harm or internet crimes that you might be doing now, but unaware of it, that is considered as cybercrime cases and are punishable by law.

i). Illegal Access to Websites, Computer Networks, or any IT means

Great fines of AED 100,000–AED 1,000,000 and/or imprisonment are waiting for those people who are illegally accessing (without authorization) networks, websites, or any IT means that results to “deletion, omission, destruction, disclosure, deterioration, alteration, copying, publication or re-publishing” of data or confidential information especially when they are personal during or because of one’s work. It shall be an aggravating factor of the crime if the aforementioned data or confidential information are government-owned or “relating to a financial, commercial or economical facility.” If the person should illegally access a website for the purpose of changing its designs, deleting, destroying, or modifying it, or occupying its address, imprisonment and/or a fine not less than AED 100,000 will meet him (Articles 2–5).

If the confidential information that the person has taken hold of during or because of his work has been disclosed by him, then there will be a jail time of a period of 6 months and/or a fine of AED 500,000–AED 1,000,000 (Article 22).
Codes and passwords that are illegally acquired that would enable a person to obtain data or information shall be punishable with imprisonment and/or a fine of AED 200,000–AED 500,000. The same penalty shall be given to people who design, buy, sell, etc. any computer program or IT means or even just promote the same thing for the intention of committing or encouraging people to do the crimes stated in this Decree-Law (Article 14).

ii). Illegal Use of Media Services Through a Network or any IT Means

The illegal use of communication services, audio, or video broadcasting channels will also be punished with imprisonment and/or not less than AED 250,000 (Article 34).

Also, Read  Avoid Spreading False News to Avoid a Fine of AED 1,000,000

iii). Hindering Access to Website, Network, or IT Means

A person whom “hinders or obstructs access to the computer network or to a website or an electronic information system” shall face an imprisonment and/or a fine of AED 100,000–AED 300,000 (Article 8). And those who illegally and intentionally receive or obstruct information shall suffer a jail term and/or a penalty of AED 150,000–AED 150,000. If the information that’s been illegally acquired shall have penalties of an imprisonment for a period of at least a year (Article 15).

iv). Illegal Running of Softwares

The person responsible for deliberately running a software in a network or any IT means that resulted to it stopping to function, be impaired, resulting in crashing, deletion, omission, destruction or alteration of the network or any IT means shall be punished with imprisonment for a period of five years and/or a fine of AED 500,000–AED 1,000,000. It is still unlawful even if the results listed above are not met. Whereas the flooding of emails with messages with the intention for it to “stop functioning, inactivate it or destroy its contents,” will still be punishable with an imprisonment and/or a fine (Article 10).

v). Forgery and Unlawful Acts Concerning Funds/Money

Forgery of any government-owned electronic documents or the likes is punishable with temporary imprisonment and a fine of AED 150,000–AED 700,000. In events that the forged documents are of those that belong to an authority other than the Competent Authorities (Federal or local authorities concerned in the electronic security affairs in the State), which is stated in Article 1 of this law, there will be both imprisonment and/or a fine of AED 100,000–AED 300,000. Those people who use the forged documents and are aware that those are indeed forged will be punished with the same penalty for the same crime (Article 6).

Anyone who is found guilty of illegally accessing credit or debit cards or bank accounts numbers shall be penalized with an imprisonment and/or fine. The imprisonment of a period of six months and/or a fine of AED 100,000–AED 300,000 will be charged to anyone who has the intention to use the above-mentioned data or numbers to have control of others’ funds in order to gain benefits from their provided services. This is even more punishable if results are met, penalties reaching for a period of at least a year of jail term and a fine of AED 200,000–AED 1,000,000. When these aforementioned credits or electronic card numbers or bank account numbers owned by others are published or republished, the previous penalty applies to this (Article 12).

In the case of debit and credit cards, a jail time and/or a fine of AED 500,000–AED 2,000,000 will be met by the person who is convicted of forging, counterfeiting, or reproducing a credit or debit card or the likes. The same penalty shall be charged to the person (1) who facilitates the above-mentioned crime by manufacturing or designing any computer program or IT means, (2) illegally uses a debit or credit card with the objective to have others’ funds or properties or take advantage of services offered by third parties, and (3) agrees to deal with the forged cards while being aware of it (Article 13).

Furthermore, in Article 37, the following can be punished with a seven-year imprisonment and a penalty of AED 500,000–AED 2,000,000: a.) Transferring, transporting, or depositing unlawfully of funds with the purpose of covering up the source of the said funds

a.) Transferring, transporting, or depositing unlawfully of funds with the purpose of covering up the source of the said funds
b.) Hiding the nature, origin, movement, related rights, or ownership of the illegal funds
c.) Attaining, possessing, or using funds with an unlawful origin and having knowledge of it

The same punishment above shall apply to people who use a computer network or any IT means in establishing, managing, or running a website or publishing information in order to facilitate or encourage doing the crimes stated above.

Acquiring a false name or personation to take over a personal property, signatures, etc. regardless if it’s done for personal use or for others shall be punishable with a jail time of a period of one year and a penalty of AED 250,000–AED 1,000,000 (Article 11).

vi). False Network Address

An imprisonment and a fine of not less than AED 150,000 shall be given to people who use unlawful computer network protocol address or a third-party address with the intention of preventing the discovery of a crime or performing a crime (Article 9).

vii). Threats and Inappropriate Content

A period of two years of jail time and/or a fine of AED 250,000–AED 500,000 shall be charged to people who are caught in using a computer network or any IT means in extorting or intimidating someone to participate in or hinder a specific deed. Imprisonment will rise to ten years in the events that the aforementioned threat is related to performing a felony or other things that are against honor or morals. Those who publish, republish, etc. pornographic materials or gambling activities and anything that is harmful to the public morals shall be punished with a jail term and a fine of AED 250,000–AED 500,000. For people who produce, send, save for exploitation, distribution the inappropriate content mentioned above shall be penalized with the preceding penalty. In cases that the pornographic material has juvenile/s who are under 18 years old or if it is made to entice juvenile/s, the person directly responsible for the crime shall suffer an imprisonment of at least a year and a fine of AED 50,000–AED 150,000 (Article 16).

Purposely acquiring pornographic materials that have juvenile/s involved in them shall face a jail time of a period of at least six months and a fine of AED 150,000–AED 1,000,000 (Article 18).
Someone who seduces, aids, or abets another person to be involved in prostitution or obscenity shall be fined AED 250,000–AED 1,000,000 and/or imprisonment. If the victim is under 18 years of age, the person responsible shall face a jail term of at least five years and a fine not excessing AED 1,000,000 (Article 19).

viii). Defamation

Those who insult or accuse anyone regarding a matter that will subject the person to retribution or be despised by the public shall be penalized with a jail term and/or a fine not less than AED 250,000. This will be aggravated if the slander is done against a public official or servant during or because of his work.
People will be penalized if they invade others’ privacy by doing the following:
a) Eavesdropping, interception, recording, transferring, transmitting or disclosure of conversations or communications, or audio or visual materials;
b) Photographing others or creating, transferring, disclosing, copying or saving electronic photos; and,
c) Publishing news, electronic photos or photographs, scenes, comments, statements or information even if true. (Article 21)

The penalty shall be an imprisonment of at least six months and a fine of not less than AED 150,000

According to Article 24, anyone who is caught establishing, running a website that shows that it is promoting any programs or ideas that would stimulate riot, hatred, racism, etc. or even damage the public order and morals will suffer a temporary imprisonment and a fine not less than AED 500,000.

A temporary imprisonment and a fine not exceeding AED 1,000,000 are waiting for people who decide to manage or run a website or encourage acts or publish anything from news to any pictures that can put the national security and affect adversely the State’s public order (Article 28).
Those who, according to Article 29, publish information, rumors on a website with the purpose to create sarcasm or harm the State and everything and everyone in it from the President, crown princes to the country’s symbol shall be punished with a temporary imprisonment and a fine not exceeding AED 1,000,000.
In Article 30, it is illegal to establish or run a website with the intention to cause a rebellion against the State; the person shall be penalized with life imprisonment. The same penalty will be suffered by the person who even just encourage others in doing those preceding stated actions.
Encouragement of going against the laws and the regulations of State through publishing information shall be punishable with imprisonment and/or a fine of AED 200,000–1,000,000 (Article 31).
Incorrect or misleading information published online that can harm the interests of the State or damage its stature shall be punishable by temporary imprisonment (Article 38).
The responsible for intentionally saving or publishing inappropriate/unlawful content shall be fined and/or imprisoned. The failure to adhere to the written notice of authorities by removing or blocking access to the specific content within the period stated in the notice shall be punished with the preceding penalties (Article 39).
Imprisonment and/or a fine of AED 250,000–AED 1,000,000 is for those who do the following crimes using a computer network or any IT means:
a) Insult to any of the Islamic sanctities or rituals
b) Insult to any of the sanctities or rituals of other religions where these sanctities and rituals are inviolable pursuant to the provisions of Islamic Sharia
c) Insult to any of the recognized celestial religions
d) Condoning, provoking or promoting sin
Insulting the Divinity (Allah, God), messengers, and prophets and showing opposition to the Islam religion, teachings, rituals, principles, a foundation is illegal acts. Preaching or promoting a religion that does the preceding actions is illegal and the penalties for this is an imprisonment of up to seven years.

ix). Terrorism

Anyone who deals with trading or advertising online of firearms that are not permitted by the law by publishing information or running a website shall be penalized with a jail term of a period of one year and a fine of AED 500,000–AED 1,000,000.
People who recruit people for a terrorist group or illegal group and spread ideas through a website or any IT means or publishing manufacturing techniques of explosives or anything used in terrorist acts (Article 26).

x). Medical-Related Unlawful Acts

Unauthorized obtaining, disclosing, etc. of data of an electronic document that are medical-related examinations, diagnosis, treatments, records, etc. shall be punishable with temporary imprisonment (Article 7).
Running a website, publishing information, or the likes with the intention to do trafficking in humans or their organs as well as illegally dealing with them shall face penalties of temporary imprisonment and a fine of AED 500,000–AED 1,000,000 (Article 23).

xi). Unlicensed Events

Unauthorized collection of donations, organizing or promoting unofficial protests, prohibited trafficking of antiques or archaeological artifacts, and trafficking or promoting forbidden narcotics or psychotropic substances can be punished with an imprisonment and/or a fine of AED 200,000–AED 1,000,000 (Articles 27, 32, 33, and 36).

Also, Read Common Crimes and Its Rate in the Dubai


These provisions may be a lot to take in but being familiar with the unlawful acts that can land you in jail is worth doing, especially if these cybercrime cases are some of the things that some of us are sort of guilty of doing often times in the UAE. The information regarding these internet crimes is for the general awareness of everyone because ignorance of the law excuses no one. Since this is one of the important things to be aware of, There are many law firms in Dubai, HHS Lawyers in Dubai with its range of leading criminal lawyers in Dubai is always available when you have questions regarding UAE’s Cybercrime Law and any other concerns that you have regarding any law.

Hassan Humaid Al Suwaidi., LL.B. is a Senior Partner in HHS Lawyers. He has 20 years of experience dealing with high-value and complex cases. Frequently featured in local and international legal directories and commended for his ability to attain favorable outcomes for clients, Hassan has been involved in some of the largest legal settlements. A major part of his work is providing expert legal advice on UAE legislation and acting for individuals and businesses during disputes and litigation.