Ankit Fadia, a self-proclaimed "ethical hacker" and a person who has been repeatedly outed for making false claims and plagiarising, has been picked as a brand ambassador of the 'Digital India' mission. Fadia revealed this on Facebook even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi was busy pitching Digital India to the titans of Silicon Valley and getting Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to change his display picture into a tri-coloured in support of 'Digital India'.
Fadia, in a Facebook post, shared the news today.
Social media erupted in dismay and amusement. Because Fadia and his claims of being a young tech prodigy was a staple of an India before democratised fact checking on social media.
Ankit Fadia selling Digital India.
Salman Khan selling Being Human.
Saudi Arabia selling Human Rights.
Pattern. Trend. #SameGuy
— Sohini (@Mittermaniac) September 28, 2015
Ankit Fadia appointed Digital India brand ambassador. Rahul Yadav may feel ignored now.
— Madhavan Narayanan (@madversity) September 28, 2015
A campaign foiled in patriotism to rob us off our internet neutrality and freedom. Who can be a better brand ambassador than Ankit Fadia? :)
— Scotchy (@scotchism) September 28, 2015
Witty. Sadly, Ankit Fadia is to Digital India what Smriti Irani is to education. A conduit for hidden agendas. https://t.co/ZfDoArVGiE
— Wildcard Vidyut (@Vidyut) September 28, 2015
Ankit Fadia brand ambassador of Digital India?
Why not Sonam Kapoor, didn't you see her skills in Players?
— Gappistan Radio (@GappistanRadio) September 28, 2015
When HuffPost India got in touch in Fadia, he said that he was picked as the brand ambassador in July when Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the ambitious Digital India mission in Delhi.
"I was the first one to be chosen as the brand ambassador," Fadia said.
Is he getting paid for it? "I don't want to discuss that," he said.
Kruti Tiwari, a IIT-JEE topper from Indore was also picked by the Modi government to spread the message of digital India.
Fadia said he is supposed to promote and educate the masses about digital India through various channels. "I am going to help the government with all their Digital India initiatives and the programmes that they hold," Fadia said.
R.S. Sharma, whose signature as IT Secretary is on the certificate Fadia exhibited on Facebook, told HuffPost India that Fadia might have been on the many people the government had picked as brand ambassadors. Sharma is now chairman of TRAI and is no longer involved with Digital India.
Fadia's career of claims and fame:
Fadia, now 30, pitched himself as an "ethical hacking" prodigy from a very young age and used unquestioning media to position himself as an IT security consultant and expert. He wrote books and launched certification programmes in his name.
He rose to fame at 17 after he claimed that he had defaced the website of CHIP -- a popular computer and communications magazine.
However, over the years, several of his claims have been trashed by his critics and magazines.
In fact, In 2013, Charles Assisi, who used to be the editor of CHIP wrote in his article for Forbes how that incident never happened.
"As your story goes, after you defaced CHIP, you felt guilty and wrote to the editor telling him you were responsible for the act. The gentleman apparently called you up and said somebody as talented as you ought to be working for CHIP. When you confessed you were only 13, the editor asked you to wait until you turn 18 and then sign up with him.
I used to be the editor of CHIP and know the magazine’s website was never defaced. Nor do I remember offering you a job. Like I told you earlier, those were the days I thought you a skiddie."
Assisi then called up his predecessor Gourav Jaswal, who was the founding editor of CHIP India. "Gourav sounded mildly amused and said nothing like this happened during his stint either," he wrote.
He then called up Marco D’Souza, who took over at CHIP after Assisi left. Marco, too, denied knowledge of any such episode.
Assisi tweeted this when he came to know of the devlepment.
— Charles Assisi (@c_assisi) September 28, 2015
Fadia had also claimed that he had helped the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to crack an email that came from the Al Qaida. However, no one could verify this.
Assisi in his column wrote how every security expert he spoke to laughed because nobody could figure how a then 15-year-old could understand what takes clusters of supercomputers to decipher.
Later, he said that he never claimed the FBI asked him to do it. Apparently, journalists threw in their two bits and claimed he was contacted by the FBI.
Fadia also claimed that the Indian Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) contacted him to help with a case they were having trouble with. However, that too, could not be verified.
A 2012 article in The Sunday Guardian too said that Fadia was a fake and he was largely successful due to the tech-illiterate media in India.
The article noted that Fadia, the author of over a dozen books has often been accused of plagiarism and making tall claims.
A security professional, who uses the handle @FakeAnkitFadia on Twitter, told The Sunday Guardian, "The first book that Fadia 'wrote' at the age of 14, The Unofficial Guide to Ethical Hacking, was a little over 32% plagiarised from other security publications and websites."
Fadia, once, also claimed of being featured in The New York Times Best Sellers List. But, the security professional told The Sunday Guardian that too was a fake claim. "I have not found any mention of him in the list going back 50 years, either in the fiction or the non-fiction category," he said.
The hacker is so hated on social media for such claims that a Facebook page called "We hate Ankit Fadia" was created by a bunch of techies, calling out his bluff.
"I will utilise the large social media following that I have to promote the government's Digital India project," Fadia told HuffPost when asked about his role in the project.
Fadia says he can educate India because he is so 'tech-savvy' and has written so many books, educating people on how the Internet works.
Earlier, Business Line had reported that the Centre will announce names of some young techie achievers as brand ambassadors for its ‘Digital India’ programme. Is Fadia Modi government's idea of a 'techie achiever?'
Contact HuffPost India