Ekalawya

Hemanth Joseph: The Big Bounty Hunter

Hemanth Joseph, a native of Palai in Kottayam, is now a star hacker. His name appeared in international headlines when he bypassed the lock of Apple Ipad. It may be recalled that Apple always boasted of its security. He is now a B.Tech student of Amal Jyothi Engineering College, Ramapuram.

And, Hemanth recalls this interesting episode.

He was travelling from Pala to Ramapuram, his native village, when a woman who was sitting beside him started a conversation. When he told her that he’s a native of Ramapuram, she was quick to ask:

“So you may know one Hemanth, right? The guy who broke the lock of Apple?”

“Yes, I know,” Hemanth said, feeling proud.

“These new gen boys are impossible. Their parents work their ass off to send them to colleges and guess what, they end up breaking locks. How disappointing!”

Hemanth, who almost started telling her that he was the guy, kept mum.

And here is Hemanth, talking to Dhanasree for www.abhimukham.com

Recently, your name was in news for yet another reason. You had found security lapses in the online functioning of three major banks in India. How did you enter ethical hacking?

It started in my teens. I guess there was the influence of some films and naturally, we become gradually computer-controlled. I had a passion for computing and security and hacking were two fields I found extremely interesting. Believe me, it is an extremely important field and you may even expect cyber wars in future. I had some Facebook friends who were successful ethical hackers who inspired him.

I diagnosed a bug in Pebble watches, which made it vulnerable to be destroyed from anywhere in the world remotely. They gifted me with a watch and media covered it. I started using Bugcrowd, a website for bug bounty hunters. This website will list sites where we should find bugs and we can report them. I had entered Hall of Fame after reporting bugs in Yahoo and Google. This followed bypassing Apple security.

And you are interested in writing on technology.

Yes, there are many people with a keen interest in cyber security but they do not have proper resources. Cyber security is at its infant phase in our state and we do not have enough materials in Malayalam. ZeroSecCon is the first open security community for students in India.

How are white hat hackers different?

Back hat hackers hack illegally, they are exploiting and victimizing others to make a profit. But white hat hackers and whistle-blowers; we tell website owners that their sites are vulnerable and black hat hackers may use it for their vicious means. All websites listed in Bug Bounty permit white hackers to hack them and we get paid for that.

And, I understand that hacking is not the right word. It has a negative meaning attached. Hacking is a broad community with good and bad intentions.

How do you keep yourself updated?

Hacking technology is fast developing and a hacker should be up-to-date. He has to encounter new exploits and bugs. I keep on reading new materials, whatever available to me. There are many platforms for bounty hunters with really helpful resources.

April 12, 2017
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