Ankit Fadia. A 16-year-old that goes to school like any other normal kid. He loves to sing and listen to contemporary music. He goes to the movies and likes Bruce Willis to Julia Roberts. Oh, and he loves to look at the night sky.
The average kid, right?
The same Ankit Fadia - Computer tutorial writer, web designer, hacker extraordinaire. He tackles assembly language and has just released another book: The Unofficial Guide to Ethical Hacking. A book being published by Macmillan and already sought-after by thousands.
Truly amazing credentials for such an age. He's India's youngest author by the way.
[The title calls him the "world's youngest author", which is not true. Jason Gaes wrote a book "My Book for Kids With Cansur" when he was 8. This is one of many examples of younger authors. Even in India, Fadia's title may not be true as Ashish Jain apparently wrote a book titled "England Tours India", released in 1984 at the age of 10.]
Q. What would you say are the main qualities you possess that have inspired you to write this book and altogether have helped in bringing you success?
A. High power of perception, Determination, Curiosity & hunger for knowledge, god's grace, adrenalin rush that I experienced each time I learnt something new and a bit of hard work.
Q. Now that you've become very popular, do you detect any difference from the way your family and close friends usually treated you? How do you feel to be well known in public; what are your school and community's attitude towards you?
A. No. No. I am still the same Ankit for both my family and close friends. I still get scolded and screamed at by my Mom and Dad. I still fight a lot with my sister. I still am teased and made fun of by my closest friends. ;-) However, the attitude of strangers towards me has certainly changed. It is definitely a very very good feeling when wherever you go, everybody knows you. The success that my book and website has brought to me has certainly made me very happy and satisfied. This unprecedented popularity has also infused a fear in my heart, as to what will happen if all this goes away. People have started respecting me more now. To recapitulate, I really feel great about it all and thank God and my stars for bringing me till here.
Q. Your attributes such as a high IQ, your well-developed writing skills, do these run in your family?
A. Yes, certainly. My uncle, Mr. Vijay Fadia, lives in the US and is an author who has written over a 100 books on varied topics like Medicine and other issues. So, maybe I inherited some of his skills.
[OpenLibrary, Library Thing and Google searches show the total may be closer to 15.]
Q. People may describe you as being precocious, but how would you describe yourself in a few words?
A. Sensitive, Very very Ambitious, Fun loving, Crazy, Stubborn. I am very passionate about everything I do.
Q. Related to the last question, is there anything you want people to know about Ankit Fadia? Not just as a hacker/author, but a real insight into the kind of person you are?
A. I am dreamer. I dream a lot about my future and about things that I would like to do or achieve. I am way too much ambitious and do not like to wait to implement something that comes into my mind. I am also very passionate about everything I take up, especially about my dreams. I either give it my all or not go into something at all. I am quite sensitive and easily hurt, but do not easily lose my temper. One of the numerous bad habits that I have is that I do not easily change my opinion once formed and am sometimes stubborn about getting my own way. Some of the philosophical sayings that I try and inculcate into my outlook towards life are: 'Give to others as much as you can', 'Each day when you get up, think what you can do to make a difference' and 'Life is too short to hate and fight, spread love and warmth to truly enjoy it.'
Q. Okay let's get a little summary of your past. The Ankit Fadia growing up, his first computer and where did this whole hobby of hacking originated?
A. When I was 12, my parents bought me a computer. The first year, I wasted on playing games. Then, when I was 13 I developed a sudden interest in Hacking and was generally fascinated by hackers and their techniques. At the age of 14, I started Hacking Truths (http://hackingtruths.box.sk) and around the time when I was between my 14th and 15th year in this planet, I wrote my first book.
Q. You've written short tutorials such as 'Ping, Un-pinged', 'Routing Principles Torn Apart', 'Netstat Made Easy' and 'Port Scanning Unscanned'. Is this the same Ankit Fadia that we expect in the upcoming book? The same style and technique of writing to expect, or did you take a much different approach?
A. When I first set out on writing: 'The Unofficial Guide to Ethical Hacking' (which is being published by Macmillan India Ltd.) I kept aside the conventional boring writing style, but instead adopted a humorous and easy to understand style, which makes the learning process both an enjoyable and fun experience. The motto of my tutorials and my book is: 'To not hold back any information'. Both in the above-mentioned tutorials also in my book, I try to be as comprehensive and detailed as possible and at the same time keep in mind the varied cognitive abilities of the various readers. Thus, as far as the comprehensiveness of my book goes, it would be as much as the above tutorials, maybe even more. However, the basic difference between my tutorials and my book is that I have tried to make my book both easy to understand and humorous, so that even those who have nothing to do without computer technology can learn hacking and find it interesting.
Q. 600 pages. WOW! Reports say you wrote the book during summer holidays. How long did this take you compared to the average tutorial?
A. 628 pages to be precise. Yes, I wrote this book during my summer holidays last year and it took me 15 days flat to write the entire book. This is certainly much faster than the time it takes for me to bring out new tutorials on my website, however, I was able to achieve this because during that time, I was really focussed on the job in hand and my determination was quite high too.
[600 pages in 15 days explains the heavy plagiarism. Further, many chapters of the book had previously been written for his web site.
Q. During that period of constantly tapping the keyboard day and night, did you feel this colossal project was taking away your precious holidays that kids usually spend with friends and loved ones, relaxing and having a good time? Was there any point in time you wanted to call it quits?
A. Hacking and writing about hacking was definitely my first passion. Completing my first book was a dream that was very close to my heart. I tried to remain focussed and was very determined to come out with my book, so whatever came, at no point did I think about quitting. The good thing about my book and my website is that, they are things that just got added to my daily routine. They did not remove any of the other activities that I performed. Even while I was writing the book, I still played with my friends; I still freaked out; I still went to parties; I still listened to music (my second passion). So, my interest in hacking and the book never ever denied me other things. They never replaced my hobbies or things that I loved doing. I am really glad that somehow I was able to complete this book, without sacrificing on the time that I spent with my friends and stuff that I did.
Q. How did you go about getting giants like Macmillan to even consider you works?
A. When I had the entire manuscript ready with me, I simply dialed their number and told them that I was a 14 year old and I have written a 628-paged book on Hacking. Their Editor sounded extremely apprehensive about my project, and me but nonetheless he fixed up a meeting with me the following day. I then submitted the synopsis and the manuscript to Macmillan India ltd. They then got my book reviewed from a number of reviewers and only after they were sure about the technical aspects about the book, that they signed the contract with me. Interestingly, Macmillan was the first and the only publisher that I ever approached. I have been very lucky that way, to be honoured with a tag of being a Macmillan Author.
Q. When you found out that Macmillan would not only accept the book but it might just be a smash, can you describe how you felt and what was the atmosphere like amongst your loved ones?
A. It was like a dream come true. I was certainly very happy about the whole thing and had my fingers crossed and was hoping that this book makes history. My family, my close friends, both were very very happy. However, I did not want to count my chickens, before they hatched and still prefer to wait for 6 months, when I can get the actual figures about how the book did in the market, before I start celebrating.
Q. Critiques have said some of your tutorials contain factual mistakes and overlooked issues into real hacking. What is your response to this?
A. Yes, many of the Perl tutorials and Hacking tutorials that I have posted on the web, do contain certain tiny mistakes. However, most of them have been put on purpose, while others are mistakes on my own part. However, before I gave the book: 'The Unofficial Guide to Ethical Hacking', to Macmillan India Ltd. I went through the book umpteen numbers of time and made sure that no such errors existed. About the other concern, I would like to assure my critiques that real hacking issues have been mentioned in my book. Also, I would like to add that Hacking is not about getting into a system, exploiting it, getting root, deleting files etc. Rather, hacking is about knowledge. Hacking is about knowing how networks, programs, software and technologies work. Hacking is about unravelling the mysteries of the wired world and about understanding how everything works.
[With his motto of "don't hold back info", why would Fadia inject intentional errors into a book designed to teach? This is fluff, designed to cover the glaring mistakes he made.]
Q. What do you hope the reader to understand and appreciate from this book?
A. To answer this question, I would like to quote the back cover of my book:
People all over the world are fascinated by 'Hacking' and 'How Hackers work'? but have no real concrete READING resource to BUILD THEIR KNOWLEDGE base upon. In this book we finally have the ultimate resource, which explores all aspects of computer security, without holding anything back. Ankit Fadia has meticulously dealt with the nuances of the 'hacker' and the 'cracker' along with tips on how to recognize the real culprits and not fall into their traps unknowingly. Reading through this book is a unique learning experience which is a must read to survive in this wired age. It throws light on unexplored horizons of computer security and gives an in depth description of undocumented aspects of networking and hacking. It gives advanced concepts in an easy to understand language and is a must read and should definitely be a part of the armory of each and every person using the computer in an age, where hacking has become a major concern.
[The reading resource to learn hacking had been around for over 20 years before he published his book. The fact that he copied over 130 pages from public sources confirms it.]
Q. Especially in the last couple of months, there has been a steady rise in cyber crimes as a result of the growing audacity of hackers/crackers. Sites by the thousands being defaced. Sensitive information like credit card & social security numbers easily acquired and outpoured over the net. Claims that Echelon exists. Where do you stand? What are your views of online privacy invasion with relation to 'ethical hacking'?
A. Hackers and Crackers are two distinct terms, which somewhere down the line got intermingled or got mixed. Hackers are the good guys who use their knowledge and experience for positive gains. On the other hand, crackers are the bad guys who misuse their knowledge and indulge in computer criminal activities. I definitely would like to believe that I stand in the former category; my aim would vouch for that. (Next question.) The reason for the huge increase in computer crime is due to ignorance on part of the victims and unless and until we educate everybody about hacking techniques, we will lose the war against crackers. Crackers already have the knowledge and information required to create havoc, it is now up to us to get these secrets and knowledge to even the common netizens, so that they too can combat crackers. We have to fight evil with evil. Just like in the medicine field, whenever there is a new virus, we inject weak forms of that particular virus into our bodies, to protect our bodies against that particular virus, even in hacking, we need to follow the same policy. Fight fire with fire.
Q. What are you immediate goals and upcoming projects?
A. I have 2 more sequels planned, which will follow my first book. They too speak about hacking but deal with more advanced topics and adopt a completely different style of explaining things. I also have a thriller or fiction planned, which will come a bit later. My goal is to create a new wave of ethical hackers, which changes the way people look at computer security worldwide. And to make 'Hacking Truths' a household name and in this process educate absolutely everyone connected to the Internet about hacking techniques and how to combat crackers.
Q. Ankit Fadia, in your closing remarks, is there anything else (probably not mentioned in the book) that you want to say to your fans and well-wishers? Any advice or inspirational words?
A. Give your everything or give your fullest into whatever you do, that is only way to live.