At age 13, Ankit Fadia reportedly hacked the web site of the reputed tech magazine, CHIP. Two years later he wrote a bestseller on ethical hacking.
Then India’s ‘youngest ethical hacker’ became a media celebrity, the last word on security issues. The next few years were formative for the teen genius. He hacked, worked with several intelligence organisations and campaigned for cyber security. After 9/11 he helped Americans decrypt al-Qaeda, then protected the country from Kashmiri separatists, engaged Pak hackers, besides accomplishing countless other similar feats.
There was a stray opinion that somebody should verify these claims, which none did. The intelligence agencies he collaborated with were obviously hard to contact. But many national newspapers reported his hacking of the CHIP, without checking with the magazine’s editors, who were perhaps more accessible.
In the meanwhile, brand Fadia prospered, He was now a jet-setter, a corporate guru, fashion model, seminar speaker, writer, hacker, security certification provider – whatever the truth in his hacking, there is no denying that the guy managed to build a cottage industry on the sheer strength of media clippings.
Then it started unravelling, one cut at a time. Fadia’s personal web site got hacked so many times, people lost count. Many experts who had a chance to quiz him came out amused. The bestseller was heavily inspired. The murmurs recently amplified into an audible pitch. Forbes India executive editor Charles Assisi wrote an open letter to Fadia rubbishing all his claims, point by point. Assisi knows, he is one of India’s best known tech journalists and a former editor of CHIP. He checked with his predecessor and successors at CHIP. It turned out that none – except Fadia – had any recollection of the hacking job.
It took one well-written article to grind whatever was left of Fadia’s reputation into fine dust. Fadia took note, quickly returned to Twitter after a two-year-break, seeking redemption. He seemed to have accepted that the damage was done, the days of ethical hacking were over. Instinctively, he moved on to the next career opportunity he was skilled at: stand-up comedy. He announced that he could not react to the article earlier as he was busy with a secret government project! To the confused followers he said he was game to hear, the Ankit Fadia jokes, which are rising like the Rajanikanth feats on the web. His followers responded: Just used Ctrl Alt Del to restart my PC, or as Ankit Fadia calls it, hacking; Ankit Fadia can hack the human genome and DNA; Ankit Fadia can poke himself on Facebook. Fadia enjoyed these jokes and retweeted each one of them. As a follower summed up: The way Ankit Fadia is handling the heat is commendable. Hacker or not, it takes intellect & smartness to create a brand.
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(Contributed by Sujay G)