Unethical activities land one in trouble right? Wrong! Not if you are Ankit Fadia, India’s first and youngest ethical hacker. At the age of 13, he hacked the website of his favourite magazine CHIP and instead of being handed over to the cops, he was offered a job by the editor of the magazine.
“I was 13 then and I defaced the website and put up my photo on it. Later, I was worried about the consequences so I called up the editor and confessed to him. He took it well and offered me a job in his organisation. When I told him my age he said I could join them when I turn 18,” says Ankit.
It all started when he got a computer at the age of 10 and developed an interest in hacking and related issues. You can’t really penalise the boy if he is using his skill for a good cause. After the September 11 attacks, the U.S Government found some encrypted mails. The mails apparently had only pictures and no text accompanying them. “The pictures followed the steganography pattern where in photographs with embedded messages are used. I gave a few suggestions on decoding them. It was exciting as I was only 16 then. They usually never give any feedback as it is classified information but since I received a few projects even after that I feel I have been of use at some level,” smiles the 24-year-old.
Back home, he has also assisted Indian authorities when a Pakistani hacker group had defaced an Indian Government website. “I submitted a report for which I received threats,” he adds. In August 2008, Fadia was consulted by the Navi Mumbai Police Department to trace the terror email sent just before the Gujarat serial blasts. The baby-faced mastermind also feels that if there is another World War it will be through the Internet. “If a country’s network is attacked it won’t be able to function,” he adds.
Ankit is also an independent computer security and digital intelligence consultant. He conducts a course titled ‘Ankit Fadia Certified Ethical Hacker.’ But what if the students misuse what they learn through the programme? Smiling he explains, “We follow a lot of procedures and comply with the guidelines set by the Ministry of IT. And we don’t teach students the final two steps.”
Ankit has also made his television debut with ‘What The Hack?,’ aired every Saturday on MTV at 8.20 p.m. The show tells the viewers interesting things they can do with their computers and answers queries. Apart from this, Ankit is working on a dating show with a technology twist and a programme based on real and horrifying cyber crimes, a fiction novel and a movie script.
So which is the toughest database to crack? “Nothing is impossible. Even CID and FBI accounts are hacked once a month. But bank websites are difficult to crack simply because they have teams monitoring them 24/7.”