Cognizant Innovation Summit 2011 – Ankit Fadia TED Style Talk

Cognizant Innovation Summit 2011 posters were so inviting which has invited speakers all over the world to dissipate knowledge and learning in the field of innovation. I was a part of Social Media – Live Blogging & Live Cweeting team which proved to be a wonderful opportunity to interact with many bloggers around the locations and witness mind blowing talks and get enthralled with the proceedings of the events.

Hack, Whack & Shack was the TED style talk session on Day-2 (Nov 16 2011) by Ankit Fadia who is an independent computer security and digital intelligence consultant with definitive experience in the field of Internet security based out of the Silicon Valley in California, USA.

He was young energetic and full of josh on the dais. He started with his life history of how it all happened. He narrated an incident that happened in Mumbai where a woman’s computer connected to the internet with the webcam was attacked and how an unknown hacker broke into her system online and the webcam was switched permanently on. This led to the live broadcasting of the activities in her small room in a porn internet site for around two weeks or so without her knowledge. Life was very normal for her but to the world, her privacy was compromised. Later one day when she attended a job interview, the interviewer was more than happy to offer her a job because she was very famous in a porn website and saw everything of her live. Only then she realized the security and privacy breach that has happened in her computer.

The remaining of the session was all about his life history.

  • At the age of 13, he did his first hack on a Chip Magazine website and defaced it. He also said that his favorite magazine was Chip. He was more than happy to claim that he was responsible for it. Later he emailed the editor of the Chip India Magazine confessing the attack. The editor even offered a job for him.
  • At the age of 14, he published his first book and the events that are associated with it. Normally at this age, all the kids would be playful, but he was busy writing his book and one fine day he showed up to his mom and informed that he has written a book on ‘Computer Hacking’ and wants to get it published. His mom initially did not give much attention to it, but had to believe it later when she was dragged to his computer and looked into the manuscript.Since he was very young and was little shy to talk over the phone, his mom was the one who spoke to the editor for publishing the book. The editor initially believed that the person on the other side, whose book is to be published, is a professor of some college. But when the mom denied and said that he is in school, the editor again understood Ankit to be a teaching staff in the school, but later when his mom disclosed that he is in 9th standard, the editor asked them to submit the manuscript just to ensure that, it wasn’t a prank call. The manuscript was then reviewed by the professors of IIT was a different story.
  • Later on he published 14 more books. The most interesting point to be noted is, usually these books on computers were published first in the US and UK markets and only then the Indian version would be released and then published in India. But his books have reversed the trend. All his books were first published in India only then they were released in other countries.
  • At the age of 16, he was called for seminars by various universities including IITs and also for training the students, professors and CEOs in the field of Cyber Security.
  • He was a part of many projects including India-Pak terror attacks, Al-Qaeda terrorism and Mumbai terror attacks in intercepting the emails and hacking into the networks of terrorists to unveil the mission. He was even called by US government to investigate on the cyber and intelligence front for 9/11 attacks.
  • At the age of 18, he did his Bachelors in Computer Science with specialization in Information Security at Stanford University, USA. When talking about Stanford, he also mentioned few products of Stanford which he promised that we all use in our day to day life – Google, Yahoo, HP, Siri (A voice based personal assistant application for iOS in iPhone 4S). After graduation he started his own courses in Cyber Security which is available as ‘Ankit Fadia courses and certifications in Ethical Hacking’
  • His achievements include : MTV Youth Icon 2008 (which only a Bollywood person or someone with cricket background or a billionaire gets!), Indo-American Society Young Achiever Award 2005, IT Leader Award 2005 (which only a Singaporean gets and Ankit was an exception in receiving this award!), Person of The Year 2002, Limca Book of Records, Hall of Fame Award, Outstanding Young Achiever’s Award, Silicon India Person of the Week, Embassy State Award, Best Speaker Award (4 occasions) and many more feather in his hat!
  • He even hosts a show in MTV – What the hack! He also told the audience that, he used to give hacking techniques on how can you still access your girlfriend’s profile even if she blocks you and un-friend you, how to access sites that were blocked and many more hacking ideas! (Whoa!) He also offers training to the National Police Academy, Hyderabad without any fee. Well he still has the appreciation letter sent from the Police Academy laminated and mounted in his office wall which gives him small happiness and proves to be the source of innovation.
  • He even works with major corporations, banks and other organizations for conducting security audits on their systems and use ethical hacking to find loopholes and offer security solutions for them.

He says, he has 12 years of experience in the industry and he is currently 26!

Few points to be kept in mind when it comes to innovation

  • Don’t try too complex things to innovate
  • Make it simple or keep things as simple as possible
  • Don’t change many things many times. Change one thing at a time.

Giving back to the society is important according to Ankit. He says, ‘You need not donate half of your wealth and bring change to the society or to the economy. Even donating or contributing as small as Rs.10/- to charity through cash or even through options available in many of the online and paper forms available in many places can make a big difference in the life of under privileged class.

He also said that, he has lots of hate clubs and blogs spreading hatred against him. But he never missed reading those critics and blogs, as those critics sometimes proved to be an opportunity to understand the fallbacks and mistakes from which one can learn and keep an eye on things happening around us. Even a bad remark can be helpful to us. Those remarks need not necessarily be a mistake but the outlook in which they have been written can be understood. We cannot satisfy everyone and cannot make everyone happy around us. It is our duty to do what is right for us. Even his website was hacked twice. When asked about it, he says, the US government website is being hacked every year and the websites of CIA is hacked every month.

Towards the end of the session, he recreated and demonstrated the hacking, which he did for US Government during 9/11 attacks using a technique called Steganography.

The session came to an end with a Q&A session with more of inquisitive audience asking him questions on security and other general questions. He always encouraged kids to do what they like to do. He recommends all the parents to allow the children to chase their passion and not thrust their own ideas and dreams into them. He also advised parents to place the computer in the common room and not in the kid’s bedroom (!) so that they can monitor them and prevent them from landing on a wrong site or in a wrong company! On a funny note, he even offered to help the parents out, if they want to hack into their kid’s accounts. More questions followed and since they were running out of time for the next session, one last question was allowed and Ankit left the stage, leaving all of us in awe!

Overall, the session was inspiring, enthralling, exciting and kept us glued to our seats. Thanks CIS2011 team for inviting him and help us know more about his life in person in his own words. But on a serious note, it would have been more useful if the session had been oriented more on the Cyber Security & Ethical Hacking techniques and other technical front with examples rather than him emphasising on his childhood and life stories for an hour. Those details could have been got from the internet as well, but a practical session on hacking could have given more insights on the security threats and legal hacking techniques.

For more information you can visit his personal website here –

P.S: For all the registered delegates of the Cognizant Innovation Summit 2011, the Innovation Passport Tag with the QR code imprint was given so as to identify them! This one below is mine!

Ciao folks!!


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