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Byte that

Computer whiz kid Ankit Fadia speaks about his believe-it-or-not story in an exclusive tete' a' tete' with Nikhil Taneja.

tech reviews Updated: Aug 26, 2008 14:03 IST
Nikhil Taneja

To some, it could all be just geek and Latin. Yet the ongoing achievements of 23-year-old computer whiz kid Ankit Fadia are a believe-it-or-not story. And hey, 21-year-old Yash Kadakia and 20-year-old Vineet Kumar haven’t stopped making huge cyber waves too, reports Nikhil Taneja.

This month, in the wake of the Gujarat bomb blasts, the Navi Mumbai police discovered a terror trail which led back to encrypted messages sent over the internet. The police turned to a 23-year-old computer expert from Navi Mumbai for
assistance. The whiz kid, in a matter of minutes, had the answers.

“I don’t know if I helped, but they were very happy with the job I had done,” says the self-effacing Ankit Fadia. That’s another accomplishment in Fadia’s career which has already spanned 11 years. He has published 16 books on cyber security and addressed more than 1000 groups in 25 countries. He has been felicitated at 50 national and international events. To cut to the chase, he’s a cyber security guru at an age when most have just graduated.

Mumbai’s Yash Kadakia, all of 21, and Ranchi’s Vineet Kumar, all of 20, are frontline achievers in the cyber sphere too. And all of them have certain elements in common. Their endeavours have been supported by their parents. they run their own companies, work 20 hours a day, train corporation executives more than twice their age, work in tandem with the nation’s top minds, set up security solutions for top-rung firms, and don’t talk about their finances.

Fadia could well be called the daddy of the cyber-security revolution. He started out at the age of 12, curious about knowing the passwords of others. “I guess the forbidden fruit is always attractive,” he smiles.“I was curious about things I wasn’t allowed to do.”

His first hack was at the age of 13 on the Chip India magazine website. “For two days, anyone who went to the website, saw my photo. On the third day, I sent Chip an email telling them their problems and how to fix them because I thought they would put me in jail otherwise,” Ankit rewinds. Instead, the magazine offered him a job. Fadia understood that he was “above average in computers”.

Flashback
A decade ago, Fadia set up two computers at home and used one to hack into the other. “Since there was no course on hacking, I started my own website on the subject and wrote tutorials on it,” Ankit narrates. In a flash, his website had 40,000 registered names and he received calls “from countries I hadn’t even heard of.”

The tutorials on hacking were compiled into a book, when he was 14: “I was too young to know what I was doing. When I spoke to the publishers, they asked me to send the manuscript over jokingly. When they had it reviewed legally and technically reviewed, they decided it wasn’t too bad.”

Ankit Fadia’s books were soon translated into several languages and outsourced to the U S. He was contacted by private agencies in the U S. He assisted one of them in decoding an Al Qaeda mail after the 9/11 attacks. Fadia was successful in that assignment. “I just got lucky,” says the self-putdown-artiste.

Today, Reliance Web World has partnered with him to start the first e-course on computer security, which is offered at 250 outlets in 100 cities across India — and has now moved to 10,000 locations in China. With him, business school IMT, Ghaziabad, launched its first PG Diploma course in cyber security.

And he is even writing a Bollywood script. Ask him about that and he responds, “Yes. I did meet some filmmakers at an award ceremony. They discussed the idea of a sci-fi script. I’m working on it now — it has always been one of my dreams.”

Future of India
Fadia’s other dreams? He hopes for an India free from cyber crime: “I am working with various police departments across the country. I am training investigation agencies as well as the Indian Navy. I am sure, very soon, our country will be among the top five nations in cyber security awareness.”

Throughout our interview at his neatly-appointed apartment in Navi Mumbai where he lives with his parents, he seemed to be chilled out but that turns out to be deceptive.

He says, “I am very restless. Every day I wake up, I think I haven’t achieved anything.. that keeps motivating me to do better. Even then, at the end of the day, I am never satisfied with what I do! I just want cyber crime to end completely.”

nikhil.taneja@hindustantimes.com