In the 2000s Ankit Fadia is the one who made his name as a computer whiz-kid. In many ways, he was a symbol of post-liberalisation India – a super smart ‘90s kid who had made it big using middle-class India’s gold mine: information technology. Fadia is the author of 16 books on hacking and technology travels the country giving lectures to impressionable young college students and has even stared in his own MTV show.
Which is all very good – other than the small problem that some of his claims seem to have been enhanced?
Whispers that Fadia had exaggerated his record had done the rounds for some time, till an article by Charles Assisi in Forbes openly questioned his record. It directly denied some of his claims, such as the Fadia’s affirmation that he had hacked the website of a popular Indian technology magazine called Chip in 1997. In Fadia’s version, consumed by guilt, he wrote to the editor of Chip and made a clean breast of his hack. So awe-struck was this editor, that rather than coming down on Fadia, he offered him a job with Chip when he turned 18.
When Assisi heard this tale, he got a bit of a shock since, as it so happened, he had been the editor of Chip when this Indian IT version of George Washington’s cherry tree fable was supposed to have taken place – and he hadn’t done anything of the sort. Assisi said that Chip’s website had never been hacked.
More amazement was to follow: Fadia claimed to have been contacted at the age of 15 by American intelligence agencies to decode an email from Al Qaida. He was unable to produce any proof to show that this had happened but journalists ran his version of the story, without so much as a check.
Security Charlatan of the Year ‘award’
Other hackers seemed to take Fadia’s claims rather personally. As a result, they have hacked Fadia’s own website many times. His assertions even managed to a minor India-Pakistan fracas, as a Pakistani hacker group, “Anti India Crew” hacked a government website and pasted on it text depreciating Fadia and his claims of being a hacker.
More humiliation was to be heaped on Fadia yet. In 2012, DEF CON, one of the world’s largest annual hacker conventions, held every year in Las Vegas mocked Fadia with the Security Charlatan of the Year “award”.
This is not the first time that Ankit Fadia’s website has been hacked. In January this year, his official website got hit by a hacker group that identified itself as Team Grey Hat. The hackers seem to have got access to the files on his server. A pastebin dump had been setup that shows screenshots of the files.
The pastebin dump also mentions the database details, including the username and password used. The Hacker News claims that the site was also hacked by Himanshu Sharma, a hacker well known in the hacking circles since he was 17.
Ankit Fadia has performed on several TV shows as a host offering technology and security advice to his viewers. He has also authored books on Internet security and ethical hacking. He’s also known to offer talks and speak in seminars on security related topics. There have also been reports that books written by Ankit Fadia contain plagiarised content.
The existing hackers have sent a link on Fadia’s defaced website that entitle that the ethical hacker is a charlatan and has plagiarised content for his books. The link posted alleges, “Fadia has spent his entire career talking about hacking and security, but has not performed penetration testing, has not secured networks, and only offered pedestrian hacking training as a certification bearing his own name.”
Ankit Fadia got his first book published when he was fifteen years old, which made him the youngest author to have a book published by publishers MacMillan India. He has also funded the Singapore Management University’s ‘Ankit Fadia Study Award’, which has a $1,000 cash prize, along with a certificate. The award is awarded annually to “an outstanding student” in the Information Security and Trust Course under the Bachelor of Science (Information System Management) degree.
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The highlight of Narendra Modi’s recent trip to the United States was his visit to Silicon Valley, where he played the role of the representative of a digital superpower to perfection. In detail, even in his government, Modi is seen to be a skilled in using technology, using social media and holograms to power his popularity.
How then did Modi’s government make the controversial decision to appoint self-proclaimed ethical hacker Ankit Fadia as the brand ambassador of its flagship e-governance programme, Digital India?
Sure enough, the Centre’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology issued a statement on Tuesday morning, clarifying that no brand ambassadors have been appointed.