Protect your business from a Google hack

Google hacking is the practice of using specially crafted search engine queries to cull information about a target. It should be part of every pen-tester's repertoire. The idea is to turn Google's extensive search powers

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after an enterprise's vulnerable servers and files, password logs, open directories, Web-based device-management panels, remote desktop protocol clients or administration interfaces for routers and switches. You want to discover the sensitive security information that's exposed on the Internet before a black hat does. The trick is to use advanced operators, special searching techniques offered by Google that enable advanced queries. Here is a sampling of advanced operators that you can combine with a search term against your company's domain:

  • intitle, allintitle -- searches for terms in Web page or Google group title
  • inurl, allinurl -- searches for terms in URLs
  • filetype -- searches URLs that end in a particular file extension
  • allintext -- searches for a string within text of a page
  • site -- searches only for pages hosted on a specific server or domain
  • link -- searches for pages that link to other pages
  • inanchor -- searches text representation of a link in an HTML anchor
  • daterange -- searches for pages indexed by Google within certain date ranges
  • cache -- searches for cached versions of pages
  • info -- searches summary information of a site
  • related -- displays sites related to a site
  • phonebook -- searches for business or residential phone listings
  • rphonebook -- searches for residential phone listings only
  • bphonebook -- searches for business phone listings only
  • author -- searches for authors of newsgroup posts
  • group -- searches title of Google Groups posts for search terms
  • msgid -- searches for Google Groups message identifiers, strings that identify newsgroup posts
  • insubject -- searches Google Groups for subject lines
  • stocks -- searches for stock market information about a company
  • define -- returns definitions for a search term

    Source: "Google Hacking for Penetration Testers" by Johnny Long

More on Google hacking
Read our glossary definition of Google hacking and learn tips for preventing this attack.

Also, several tools run automatic Google scans against your company's domain to determine if sensitive information is exposed via a search query. They include:

  • SiteDigger -- Automated and Windows-based Uses Google API and requires Google license key. Download at www.foundstone.com/resources/proddesc/sitedigger.htm


  • Witko -- Requires Google license key; compatible with Google Hacking Database. Available http://www.sensepost.com/research/wikto/


  • Athena -- Windows-based, Performs only one search at a time. Download at http://snakeoillabs.com*


  • Gooscan -- Linux-based; does bulk searches. Download at http://johnny.ihackstuff.com/*

*--Denotes product does use the Google API, which is a violation of Google's terms of service. Google has the option of blocking your IP range from using its search engine.

Source: "Google Hacking for Penetration Testers" by Johnny Long.

About the author
Michael S. Mimoso is Senior Editor of Information Security magazine.

This was first published in March 2006

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