Jiten Jain belongs to a community which, he says, is under-utilised, misunderstood and, worse, viewed with suspicion in the country.
The 27-year-old, a certified ethical hacker who works as a cyber security analyst, says hacking is his hobby and he advises organisations and people in identifying and plugging loopholes in their cyber security.
He is also the co-founder of The Hackers Conference, a first of its kind event held in the Capital this July that brought companies, government agencies and hackers from across the country on one platform.
“The term ‘hacking’ has negative connotations for the common man and our security establishment. What people need to understand is that not every hacker is a shady person sitting in some dark corner. They are sharp geeks who have the ability to break into computers and networks through the backdoor. It is the purpose of a hacking effort that makes it ethical or unethical,” says Jatin, sitting in the living room of his house in Daryaganj, surrounded by half a dozen laptops.
Like most hackers, Jain says, he is a creature of the night, the time when he loves to practice his “art”.
What then are his tools of trade? “Hacking is not only about tools. It’s more about innovation and creativity. Hackers are interested in the latest gadget and software, and trying to find loopholes in their security,” he says.
Hackers, he points out, have to constantly upgrade their skills so that they are a step ahead of software developers. “A hacker should be able to create the keys of locks that are yet to be made.”
Websites and applications that are considered the toughest to “break into” are the often the favourite projects of hackers. Sometimes, though, they do it just for free phone recharges or movie tickets
“I love digging for information hidden from the ordinary man,” he says, adding, “A hacker must also have a lot of patience as a project could take between a day and a year to complete.”
Jain betrays hardly any sign of being eccentric, something most hackers are believed to be. “Hackers are rebellious and like to work under a veil of secrecy,” he says. The preferred work environment, according to Jain, is “more about the state of mind.” “I prefer to work in nights. They say when the world sleeps, it’s morning for hackers.”
Most of his relatives, he says, cannot get a hang of his profile as an ethical hacker. The country’s security establishment, too, has misgivings about hackers, he adds. He cites an incident that occurred just before The Hackers Conference to prove his point.
“When I went to a senior Delhi police officer with an invitation for the event, he reacted angrily and said, ‘How can hackers have a conference? Tomorrow even gangsters will want to have their conference’,” says Jain.
Organisations and people have never been at a greater risk of cyber crimes as they are today, he says. He may not be exaggerating.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), cases of hacking rose by 1,850% - from just two cases in the year 2010 to 39 in 2011. The sheer volume of such cases seems to make Delhi the most vulnerable to cyber attacks in the country.
Jain says people should guard against phising scams, keyloggers, malwares and botnets. Phishing scams are the “most common” these days, he adds.
They involve using fake websites and emails to con people into paying money or revealing passwords.
Keyloggers are used to capture key strokes, generally used in cyber cafes. Malwares and botnets are used to infect, spy and control computers. An Android spy tool can access confidential data in a cell phone running on the operating system.
People should strictly avoid online banking at cyber cafes, he says. This is because most cyber crimes involving keyloggers take place here.
“Hacking has now become a national security issue. Future wars will be fought in cyberspace. Hackers can bring down public utilities such as power grids, water plants and mass transport systems and communication networks by digital attacks. They can even steal sensitive information relating to national security,” says Jain, who loves travelling and reading books on war and intelligence.
He believes that the government should devise a mechanism to use the services of young hackers.
“A senior police officer admitted to me that most good hackers are young people outside the government, but they cannot be used because of the fear of sharing sensitive information,” he says, adding, “I hope there is a way out to bridge this trust deficit. In fact, this was the idea behind The Hackers Conference.”