Mohammed Alsuwaidi, Managing Partner

Cyber blackmailing is the threat of disclosing certain information about a person, or doing something to harm a threatened person if the threatened person does not respond to certain requests. This information is usually embarrassing or socially destructive.

A common form of blackmail is threatening the victim to share private pictures or videos or expose classified information unless a big amount of money is paid.  Blackmailing can also be used to disclose confidential information about a company or workplace. Blackmail occurs by luring victims by e-mail or Social Media which are used by people of all ages.

The victims are usually seduced by e-mail or social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and others, because of the platforms widespread reach in all segments of society.

As a matter of fact, many people are making mistakes which leads them to be blackmailed by choosing weak passwords, which enables the blackmailer to access to their data easily. Some people open any links sent to them without ensuring that it is safe to open the link, and some do not use programs which protect personal data. Hence, everyone should not publish any of their personal data to the public, should not open suspicious links and should not trust strangers on social networks. People should also avoid being into video conversations and other forms of recorded conversation that may contain offensive content or with content susceptible to manipulation in order to preclude blackmail. Also, requests to transfer payments, disclose confidential information or other things that cause damages to the victim must be avoided.

The UAE legislators have included the crime of cyber blackmailing within the crimes of information technology, as stated in Article (16) of Federal Decree Law No. (5) of 2012 which stipulates that “Shall be punished by imprisonment for a period of two years at most and a fine not less than one hundred fifty thousand dirhams and not in excess of five hundred thousand dirhams or either of these two penalties whoever uses a computer network or information technology means to extort or threaten another person to force him to engage in or prevent him from engaging in a certain act. The punishment shall be imprisonment up to ten years if the subject of threat is to commit a felony or engage in matters against honor or morals”.

The result of the crime occurs once the perpetrator extorted or threatened the victim to force him or prevent him from doing something, since the threat by itself   is considered illegal and as long as there is fear, panic, or psychological effect due to the extortion made by the blackmailer.

Article (41) of the Federal Law No. (5) of 2012 on Combating Cybercrime stipulates that, without prejudice to the right of bona fide, shall be ordered, in all instances, the confiscation of devices, programs or means used in the committing of any of the crimes specified in this Decree-Law or the money earned thereof, or deletion of the information and statements or destroy them as to the closure of the domain or site in which any of these crimes is committed whether permanent closure or for a specified period as determined by court.

It is essential to note that the text of article 42 of the above-mentioned law was replaced by article 1 of Federal Decree Law No. 2 dated on 24/07/2018 and is now as follows: with consideration to the provision of the second paragraph of Article (121) Penal Law, “The court may decide deportation of a foreigner who is condemned in any of the crimes specified in this Decree-Law upon execution of the punishment adjudged”.

When people are subjected to cyber blackmailing, they must report to the competent authorities, and keep the text messages, voice messages or visual data as an evidence. Unfortunately, some people hesitate to inform the competent authorities, which allows the blackmailer to exploit the weakness of these people.  We advise to avoid transferring any money, arguing with the blackmailer, or threatening to report to the police. Any person should not hesitate to report on extortion immediately.

Cybercrime victims in UAE can report on eCrime (www.ecrime.ae) complaints about cyber blackmailing, technical breaches, financial fraud and other cyber-crime and social media.

People can also report any crime or suspicion that occurs through social media sites, threatens the security of society, public morals or public order through their smartphones through the application (My Safe Society) launched by the Federal  Public Prosecution in June 2018.

Through the application, the user can explain the illegal act, and attach as evidence any photo, video or voice clip and then send it to the Public Prosecution.

Furthermore, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has allocated a channel for reporting of electronic threats and e-safety incidents through its National Emergency Response Team (aeCERT) for more information call 8001.

You can report about cybercrime at the nearest police station in your area and call 999 for help.

In conclusion, it is possible to prevent falling into the trap for these crimes by taking all the necessary precautions on dealing with the means of modern technology in electronic correspondence, and how to ideally use social media to avoid a breach of privacy and confidentiality of personal data. We recommend protecting mobile devices with strong passwords and removing photos and personal data, especially as these devices may be lost or stolen, which makes their owners easy target to blackmailers.