When did you realise that you could hack?
I got interested in hacking at 12, but it took a while before I figured out how to do it. My first hack was quite interesting. I defaced a magazine site and put my own profile, pictures and e-mail id on it. But then I thought I might get into trouble, so I sent a mail to the editor with the solution on how to prevent hacking the website. He got back to me with a job offer but when he learnt that I was 13, he asked me to wait till I turned 18. I learnt my lesson. I never did an illegal hack after that.
Is hacking cool because it allows entry into forbidden territory?
It is. It gives you the power to do something that most people can’t do, that too in the confines of your room. It gives a false sense of security.
What exactly is ‘ethical hacking’?
You need to have the same knowledge as cyber criminals, but you put that knowledge to positive use. You go to sites, find out their flaws and correct them. I coined the term when I wrote my first book, Ethical Hacking, at 15.
You have worked with the FBI too. Isn’t that a heady feeling?
I started working with them at 16, when a Pakistani group was planning to attack an Indian site. I traced the chat transcript and the site was saved. Then, this was like a game for me. But now I realise that there’s a lot of responsibility involved in what I do.
Why did you take up the show, What The Hack?
Last year, I won the MTV Youth Icon award and was introduced to the programming head of the channel. I asked him if they wanted to do a show on hacking. They agreed. There are lots of channels which air tech shows that review technology and gadgets. But this show stands out because we teach people cool things that they can do in the virtual world.
Give us some tips on how to become good hackers?
You have to know the programming well and also think like a criminal. You have to get into the criminal’s mind to become a security system expert.