Ankit Fadia Running Scared, Avoids Journalist Confrontation

Thu Jan 6 01:31:20 CST 2011


Note: Time frames and quoted conversation is to the best of my recollection, and may not be exact.

Thanks to Ankit Fadia's web site and @jason_andress on Twitter, I learned that Fadia was speaking in Denver again. January 5th, from 5:30 to 8:30 at TAG restaurant in downtown Denver, he was speaking to the Entrepreneurs' Organization. Due to my proximity to this venue (1.5 miles), I figured I would drop by and ask him questions about his plagiarism and claims to the media.

I started by giving him fair warning that I was going to do it a day in advance. I followed up giving him warning 3 hours before his speaking engagement, and once again as I was walking out the door. As you can see from the tweets, there were no threats (physical or otherwise), just the promise of asking questions related to his unethical activity.


I arrived early so that I could enjoy a quick meal before asking him questions. I sat at the bar and had edamame and their 'angry volcano roll', both very good. When finished, I went to the bathroom, located in the basement outside the private dining area where Fadia spoke. Coming out of the elevator, I saw a Denver police officer standing near the entrance to the room. After using the restroom, I commented "Odd place for you to be stationed isn't it?" He replied "Oh yeah, they are having a private party.." as if that explained his presence. I had asked the question because I already had a strong suspicion why he was present.

Waiting for the elevator in the basement, an EO member waited with me. I asked him "How did you like the talk?" He replied "It scared the shit out of me!" We chatted briefly in the elevator and up top about security. He said he felt confident his network was safe and said they had people paid to take care of it. I politely reminded him that one of the best things he could do was ensure 'user awareness'. He went off into the restaurant, I went outside.

TAG has two entrances; one dedicated to their restaurant, and a very small common area with access to the elevator (3 floors plus basement) and the second entrance. After waiting outside for 30 minutes, I stepped inside the door and waited patiently there. Another 15 minutes passed (roughly 9:15) and the officer came up the elevator, looked at me, went into the restaurant to talk with the hostess (mirror let me see this from where I was standing) and come back into the hall to talk to me. He asked who I was waiting for and I said "The guy downstairs, doing the talk." He asked why and I briefly explained I was a member of the press and had questions for Fadia. He said that I was on private property and had to wait outside. I pleaded that it was cold outside, that I planned to walk out ahead of Fadia and ask the questions outside, that I just wanted to stay warm. The officer said 'sorry' but I had to wait outside. So I did...

Fifteen minutes later (roughly 9:30), the officer came out and asked if he could ask me a few questions, to which I replied "Sure!" He asked again who I was waiting for and why. I explained briefly that Fadia was a serial plagiarizer, made fraudulent statements to the press and was all around unethical. I explained that I was with the Attrition Errata Project and our mission was to expose people in the security industry that did not adhere to a certain level of integrity. I gave him a piece of paper with the URL to Fadia's Errata page that I had printed up for such an issue. The officer then asked "You aren't going to kill him or anything, right?" I quickly replied "No, I have a phone with a recorder and six questions I am going to ask him." and showed him the printed questions. "Ok, I was just being facetious!" he replied smiling and touching my shoulder. He said that he was leaving now and to have a good new years and that I could wait inside to stay warm. I thanked him but told him no, I was going to follow the law and wait outside as requested, and continued to wait.

Hindsight: At this point it was an hour past the event was supposed to be over. I began having a suspicion shortly before that point that Fadia may leave through the service entrance into the alley. Looking back, the fact that the officer was certainly there for protection, and the officer leaving after determining I was not a risk and offering for me to go back inside, makes me think that Fadia left the building during that fifteen minute window between our talks.

While I had a suspicion he may have left, I waited anyway. I had spent enough time and I did not want to miss an opportunity to confront him about plagiarism. Around 10:45, one of the armed Larimer security guards approached and asked who I was waiting for. I told him someone from the event in TAG and we chatted for a bit. He walked off, and came back 10 minutes later to enter the restaurant. Five minutes later, a man in a suit, a younger man in jeans and the security guard came out to talk to me. The man in the suit did not identify himself, just began asking who I was waiting for. I told him 'Ankit Fadia, the guy speaking tonight'. He quickly told me "he's gone, there's no one down there". I knew that to be a lie, and confirmed it to myself as we talked, as more people came up from the elevator carrying the EO give-away (and continued coming out for 10 minutes after we stopped talking). I asked if he was with EO and he said no, with the restaurant.

He asked why I wanted to talk to him and I challenged him, "if he isn't in there, why do you care what I wanted to ask?" "I don't care" he said and turned to walk off, and instead turned right back around. He said he was curious so I explained the Errata thing, went into detail about plagiarism, unethical behavior and said I wanted to ask for his comments and why Fadia thought he could get away with it. At this point, having three guys half surround me, one armed, it was clear they were trying to physically intimidate me during the questions. If I wasn't so focused on being cold, I might have been intimidated. I mean really, the manager (a big guy) and an armed guard weren't enough to question me, he had to bring another employee out?

He again said that no one was there, that "he left", referring to Fadia. I smiled and asked "what, did you smuggle him out the back?" He (too) quickly replied "no, I did no such thing". His mannerisms and wording gave the not so subtle message "I didn't, someone else did." I nodded to him and said "OK, I'll just wait a few more minutes to make sure, then go home." I waited in the same spot for five minutes and 'left', walking down the block and across the street taking a much less conspicuous vantage point. I waited another fifteen minutes and watched several employees leave. During that time, I figured if he was still hiding in the restaurant, he would leave. No such luck. I ended up leaving at 11:15, not having asked Fadia any questions.

In summary, Ankit Fadia is scared of being asked direct questions about his plagiarism, lies to the media and displays generally unethical behavior. Instead of mustering a bit of integrity and answering the questions, he ducked me by leaving the restaurant through the staff entrance in the alley it seems. There is a small chance he exited the door farthest from me while being questioned by the officer or manager, as they obstructed my view somewhat and kept my attention. Instead of talking with me, Fadia lied to the police to get 'protection' that was not needed or warranted. After tonight's events, @c4i noticed that Fadia not only locked his Twitter feed yesterday, but had removed his list of speaking engagements from his training page (Google Cache).

Either way, Ankit Fadia is scared to face the truth. Until more pressure is applied, he will continue scamming people, giving FUD injected talks for $15,000 to $25,000 a pop.

Lesson learned: Next time, no friendly warning. We will have our staff or friends show up unannounced to his speaking engagements to ask questions.

The questions I had prepared:

  1. Any comment on the fact that 32% of your first book, "Unofficial Guide to Ethical Hacking" is plagiarized? And up to 90% of your IDS book from 2008?
  2. You repeatedly tell press you coined the term 'ethical hacking' when you wrote your first book in 1999. This term was used at least as far back as 1995 in Computer World in an interview with John Patrick of IBM. Comments?
  3. Continuing that topic, you told the Economic Times "at the age of 14, the concept of 'good hacking' .. did not exist." When you were 14, I was one of hundreds doing ethical hacking as a day job for years. Comments?
  4. You frequently claim to be a New York Times best-selling author, but do not appear on any of their lists going back 15 years. Comments?
  5. You repeatedly make the claim that you helped the US Government break "encrypted messages" from one of Osama Bin Laden's men, using steganography. Forgetting that stego has not been found, or publicly admitted, in any terrorist message, these claims have not been verified by anyone inside or outside the US Government. The only reference other than you, was Jack Kelly of USA Today who was fired for fabricating stories. Comments?
  6. In 1999 you claimed your book sold 3 million copies, in 2004 you claimed your books (plural) sold 80k copies, in 2005 and 2006 the number was 250k (bad year?) and in 2007 jumped to 2 million, finally ending at 10 million copies in 2009. Why the big discrepancies in sales numbers? Do you really maintain that your books have sold more copies than "Catch-22", "The Cat in the Hat" or "A Brief History of Time"?

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