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Wednesday, 17 April, 2002, 13:43 GMT 14:43 UK
Indian hacker turns cyber cop
Indian programmers
Net security is an increasing concern in India
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By Brajesh Upadhyay
of the BBC Hindi service
line
The clock had just struck midnight when users logged onto a popular chat site noticed a rather short message flashing up on their monitors: "DOS attack".


Hackers are actually good, pleasant and extremely intelligent people who could keep computer criminals on the run

Ankit Fadia
To the majority, it may not have meant much, but to 16-year-old Ankit Fadia sitting in front of his PC in the Indian capital Delhi it was a "Denial of Service" attack - someone somewhere was trying to hack into a website.

Within seconds, he had managed to track the location of the sender - from somewhere in Pakistan. Minutes later he had also found the target of attack - the website of a top Indian firm.

They were soon alerted and a major hack was averted.

Early start

Ankit Fadia is one of the many "ethical hackers" now employed by businesses all over the world to protect against such attacks.

"It was my first anti-hacking operation and it was successful," says Ankit, who was only 10 days into a job as an intelligence consultant with a US Government agency when he saved this website.

Ankit Fadia
Ankit Fadia: Now advising governments and business
He refuses to divulge the name of the agency he is employed by or the firm whose website he saved for security reasons.

At 14, Ankit defaced the front page of an Indian magazine and sent an e-mail to the editor confessing to the hack and suggesting counter measures.

He wrote a book on "ethical hacking" at the age of 15, becoming the youngest ever author to be published by Macmillan India.

"The term hacking leaves a negative impact on people," he says.

"In reality, hackers are actually good, pleasant and extremely intelligent people who could keep computer criminals on the run.''

India catches up

Employing ethical hackers to protect against malicious ones has become common practice in the US, but has only recently caught on in India.

It only really got going when the Reserve Bank of India directed its banks to use "ethical hackers" last year, according to Pavan Duggal, President of Cyberlaw.net, a law firm with expertise in cyber laws.

"It was done after several Pakistan-based hackers launched some sort of cyber war against India and the sites belonging to the Ministry of External Affairs and the Atomic Energy Research Board were hacked," says Mr Duggal.

However, there is still no organised body to guard against such practice.

"We don't have a strong legal regime to protect against such violations," says Pavan Duggal.

As for Ankit Fadia, Pavan Duggal says he is now so well known in the net community, that there are even some in the corporate world who fear his success might encourage others to turn to hacking.

See also:

13 Oct 99 | South Asia
Pakistani coup spreads to the Internet
24 Oct 01 | South Asia
Indian news sites hacked
12 Jul 99 | Sci/Tech
India opens virtual front in Kashmir
06 Jul 99 | South Asia
Indian army Website ambushed
24 Oct 98 | Monitoring
Cyberwarfare breaks out on internet
17 Apr 02 | South Asia
Indian hacker turns cyber cop
27 Oct 00 | Sci/Tech
Hacking: A history
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