oon after Microsoft India's online store was hacked last week, rumours swirled in Twitter that ethical hacker Ankit Fadia had been hired as a security consultant by the software giant. He denies these rumours, calling them baseless.
Fadia feels that the hacking of the Microsoft website allegedly by a China-based group is part of trend that is here to stay. "The hacking of the Microsoft, CIA and the BSF websites happened within days of each other. Such hacking incidents happen all the time. There is no use overreacting as the hacking attacks will continue," says Fadia, also a bestselling author blamed for extensive plagiarising.
The hacker group, calling itself the Evil Shadow Team, stole from the Microsoft website usernames and passwords that it admittedly found unencrypted. "No system in the world is secure. If the CIA cannot fully protect its website, how can ordinary Indian companies. The firms should, however, be more pro-active about their security."
Fadia recently released How to Unblock Everything on the Internet, a book that shows how to allow sites restricted at workplaces, colleges or countries. "The book has been written for users who are not tech savvy. The book is intended to be
easily understood and contains screenshots of 50 techniques for unblocking sites," he explains.
The author of over a dozen books has often been accused of plagiarism and making tall claims. A security professional, who uses the handle @FakeAnkitFadia on Twitter, told The Sunday Guardian, "The first book that Fadia 'wrote' at the age of 14, The Unofficial Guide to Ethical Hacking, was a little over 32% plagiarised from other security publications and websites."
The security professional also burns holes in Fadia's claims of being featured in The New York Times Best Sellers List. "I have not found any mention of him in the list going back 50 years, either in the fiction or the non-fiction category." He points out that Fadia's statement that his website on hacking was ranked the second best in the world by the FBI is untrue, because the investigative agency has no such system of ranking.
The security professional says that he has been attending Black Hat and Defcon, the largest hacker conferences in the world, for the past 10 years but claims to have never seen Fadia attending them.
Blogger Sandip Dev lists reasons for Fadia being famous, despite his tarnished image. "The masses see computer security as some sort of dark magic whereas it is a systematic process, a science. Hence, these people can be easily fooled by the likes of Fadia. The other aspect is obviously shoddy journalism. Papers print whatever catches the readers' attention. A child prodigy in computers does just that and our 'idol crazy' nation laps it up."
A Facebook page, called We Hate Ankit Fadia, contains some scathing attacks on the celebrity author. "A Hacker should be a tool. Tools do not make anyone a hacker," says a comment, in reference to Fadia's books that teach hacking. "He is nothing but just a person with very good luck," says another comment.
Mohit Agarwal, who is associated with the Facebook page, cites at least six instances, twice of them this year, when Fadia's own website was hacked. "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 re-branded as a certification bearing his own name," Agarwal says, referring to courses that Fadia runs in association with Reliance. "Just because he knows how to Google, he cannot be a hacker. He is a fake."