In China, there is a reality TV show for programmers that first aired for the first time, titled “Program Genius”. And among the contestants participating in the program, most are from prestigious universities, some are prominent personnel in the industry. They are divided into 4 teams to solve a number of problems related to cyber attack and defense, or AI identification within a 48 hour limit.
And an emerging figure as a phenomenon named Ha Lap Nhan. He plays a key role in the team thanks to his excellent offensive and defensive skills. While the opponent only got 2,000 points, he led his teammates to the top with 16,000 points as time passed by 1/3, winning with a prize of 150,000 USD.
However, what makes this character a phenomenon, is his resume. Because Ha Lap Nhan used to give up when he was studying at a vocational high school, then taught himself to code in an Internet cafe to gain fame in the field of information technology.
Ten years ago, it all started with a small Internet Cafe near the gate of a vocational high school in Hefei city, Anhui province, China. Before that, Ha Lap Nhan failed the entrance exam for a high school because of a somewhat “awful” situation. In the examination room that year, he felt bored and fell asleep. When he woke up, he only found his saliva soaked the exam paper, which directly led to his failed exam. To get rid of family control, he chose to study at a vocational high school in Hefei.
But the young man that year had no interest in school courses and the Internet cafe near the school gate became his “home”. At first, Ha Lap Nhan was addicted to the game. But after playing a few games, he couldn’t find a worthy opponent. So this young man started thinking about playing something more fun than a game.
Ha Lap Nhan said that when he was a child he was able to play with computers in game shops. At that time, he knew how to crack the computer’s password by observing the employee’s gesture to enter password. This was a very rudimentary hacking technique, but it also enlightened this young man. Then, when a virus appeared on his home computer, he didn’t even want to kill it with software but spent his time searching for the source of the virus.
Ha Lap Nhan and his teammates in the program “Genius Programmer”
In the process of learning after that, Ha Lap Nhan gradually approached the names of famous hackers, and even enjoyed online legends about the hacker war. That is also the reason that after getting bored of playing games, Ha Lap Nhan started to learn cyber attack and defense techniques in Internet Cafe. He then joined various hacker forums, read a few books on hacking techniques and gradually immersed himself in the world of tech experts.
“At that time, I spent the night at gaming almost every day, costing only 5 yuan (about 0.7 USD),” said Ha Lap Nhan. At that time, his living expenses were 300 yuan a month. To save money, he often has to eat steamed dumplings to ease hunger and drink tap water if he is thirsty.
“At that time, I was considered an oddball, and the blankets I slept over there were thrown away by them,” he recalls.
Ha Lap Nhan is now the boss of a security company and is the idol of many young people in China.
Today’s Sugar Free Information giant office
After countless nights sitting in an Internet shop, the name Ha Lap Nhan gradually gained recognition among hackers. Also at that time, the principal of the vocational high school where Ha Lap Nhan was studying discovered that he often dropped out and was forced to quit school. Fortunately, he then got an appointment from a company in Shanghai to start working as an information security officer.
In 2017, a technology company named “Sugar Free Information” was established in Thanh Do Hi-Tech Park, with 9 employees and Ha Lap Nhan is one of them. Dong Yong Ngao, a PhD in biology from Sichuan University, is also one of them. Like Ha Lap Nhan, he also taught himself programming skills in Internet cafes.
This group of people decided to become “white hat” hackers. Unlike “black hat” hackers, who use hacking techniques to develop viruses and attack network security vulnerabilities, “white hat” hackers are responsible for maintaining the security order of the Internet system.
Dong Vinh Ngao (left) and Ha Lap Nhan (right), both of whom learned programming in an Internet shop.
The business of this company is mainly related to cooperation between the police and enterprises. His official website, the company said it has cooperated with all the police departments at all levels, with up to hundreds of units. When the police force fights criminals on the “front line”, Ha Lap Nhan and his colleagues will silently provide technical assistance behind the scenes and use technology to deal with them. Especially the cybercriminals scam, online gambling …
Over the past four years, the company’s team has grown from 9 to over 150 people, moving into a brighter and more spacious office. However, when sharing about his past, Ha Lap Nhan said he felt himself “not a good example”.
Answer the question: “Why learn programming at an Internet cafe?”, he replied: “Can they play games in the Internet Cafe? Why can’t I learn to code here? I think that’s normal.”
“But I don’t think I’m a good role model for young people to follow!”, he added.