Inside the world of a hacker


Goan-born Gautam Mayekar’s debut novel ‘!m S0 [email protected]’ was inspired by an unknown hacker that he came across while at work. He shares more with NT BUZZ


Gautam Mayekar has always been interested in writing. An engineer by education and ethical hacker by profession, Mayekar keeps participating in writing contests as and when he can. However, the idea for his new novel ‘!m S0 [email protected]’ came about back in 2014 while he was preparing for an internal seminar.

“The plot in my head kept developing but it was only in 2017 that I actually sat and got done with some serious writing,” he says.

‘!m S0 [email protected]’ follows @v!, a reclusive hacker who receives a letter from a mysterious revolutionary who wants to a create a ‘change’ in the world and uses @v!’s horrific past to motivate him to do various tasks.
And while being an ethical hacker himself, definitely helped in creating a good plot, putting down the complicated jargon into easy to understand language was a bit of a task, he says. “Hacking is not some punching of keys and getting ‘Access granted’ as they show in movies. The biggest challenge was to explain the real complex hacks with some everyday examples and keep the readers intrigued,” says Mayekar, adding that it appears that he has succeeded in this.

“Judging by the response to the book from even non-technical folk, I am glad to say, it was worth breaking my head during the writing process,” he says. Indeed, Mayekar himself got interested in hacking after witnessing an Orkut community of the Late APJ Abdul Kalam being hacked.“I had just completed reading ‘Wings of Fire’ then, when I witnessed this hack by some Pakistani hackers and the abusive language and insults which were posted there. A mini cyber war took place where Indian hackers retaliated by hacking Pakistani sites,” he says.

Today, Mayekar is a certified ethical hacker who works for an American IT company. “Sometimes, to catch the bad guys, you have to be a bad guy. And ethical hacker is someone who tries to break the software from the attacker perspective and gets those loop holes or vulnerabilities assessed and fixed before any external hacker can exploit those and compromise your system,” he says, adding that ethical hacking is a very niche field which sometimes falls under the category of software testing known as penetration testing. In fact, the inspiration for the book came about when he came across an unknown hacker while at work. “Generally speaking, it is a cat and mouse chase between us (cyber security professionals) and external hackers especially when it is an investigative project. It’s all about being one step ahead,” he says.

And while new writers especially struggle to get their work published, Mayekar believes that if you work hard enough on your manuscript, make it genuine and interesting, then publishers don’t mind signing you up traditionally. “Leadstart took their own sweet time, but their support, their meticulous editing, and designing was really first class,” he says.

And working hard on your writing, means writing daily, he says. “I keep posting quirky quotes and statuses on my social media account and keep participating in writing prompts not for the gain and fame but because it also helps me improve my writing in a way,” he says. And Mayekar already has plans for his next book. “This will be tech thriller again and will be based on the Indo-Pak cyber war. If all goes well, the book should hit the market early 2020,” he says. Romance is another genre he hopes to explore in the future.