Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Cloud

6/9/2016
11:00 AM
Connect Directly
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail vvv
100%
0%

Google Dorking: Exposing The Hidden Threat

Google Dorking sounds harmless, but it can take your company down. Here's what you need to know to avoid being hacked.

Virtually everyone uses Google or other search engines, but what most people don't know is that these search engines can perform advanced queries that are exploited to carry out successful cyberattacks.

For example, earlier this year, a cyberattack by suspected Iranian hackers made headlines when they used a simple technique called Google Dorking to access the computer system that controlled a water dam in New York. Google Dorking is readily available and has been used by hackers for many years to identify vulnerabilities and sensitive information accessible on the Internet.

Since its inception, the capabilities in Google Dorking have been added to other search engines, including Bing, Baidu, and Open Source Network Intelligence Tools (OSNIT) such as Shodan and Maltego.

Google Dorking, however, isn’t as simple as performing a traditional online search. It uses advanced operators in the Google search engine to locate specific information (e.g., version, file name) within search results. The basic syntax for using an advanced operator in Google is Operator_name: keyword

The use of advanced operators in Google is referred to as “Dorking” and the strings themselves are called “Google Dorks.” Dorks can be as basic as just one string, or they can be a more complex combination of multiple advanced operators in a single search string. Each Dork has a special meaning to the Google search engine that enables hackers and others to filter out unwanted results and significantly narrow down search results. For example, Google Dorks can be used to find administrator login pages, user names and passwords, vulnerabilities, sensitive documents, open ports, email lists, bank account details, and more.

Anyone with a computer and Internet access can easily learn about the availability of advanced operators on Wikipedia or via other public sources. Therefore, it’s not surprising that federal authorities say it is increasingly being used by hackers to identify computer vulnerabilities in the United States. The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI in 2014 issued a special security bulletin warning the commercial sector about the risks of Google Dorking.

The underlying threat associated with Google Dorking is that search engines are constantly crawling, indexing, and caching the Internet. While most of this indexed data is meant for public consumption, some is not and is unintentionally made “accessible” by search engines. As a result, a misconfigured intranet, or other confidential information resource, can easily lead to unintended information leakage.

Considering how easy it is for cybercriminals to access sensitive information via public search engines and security tools raises an important question: What can organizations do to minimize the risk of being hacked via Google Dorking?

The first step is to avoid putting sensitive information on the Internet. If unavoidable, assure that the data is password-protected and encrypted. In addition, make sure that websites and pages that contain sensitive information cannot be indexed by search engines. For example, GoogleUSPER provides tools to remove entire sites, individual URLs, cached copies, and directories from Google’s index. Another option is to use the robots.txt file to prevent search engines from indexing individual sites, and place it in the top-level directory of the Web server.

More important, organizations should implement routine Web vulnerability testing as part of standard security practices. In this context, Google Dorking can be a proactive security tool using online repositories like the Google Hacking Database (GHDB), which documents the expanding number of search terms for files containing user names, vulnerable servers, and even files containing passwords. The database provides access to Google Dorks contained in thousands of exploit entries. The direct mapping between Google Dorks and publicly available data allows security professionals to more rapidly determine if a particular web application contains these exploits.

The Google Dorking phenomenon once again underscores how organizations must not only test for vulnerabilities, but also assess whether they can be exploited, and what risks they represent. This is best achieved when vulnerability assessment, penetration test, and a cyber-risk analysis are performed hand in hand.

Related Content:

 

 

Dr. Srinivas Mukkamala is co-founder and CEO of RiskSense and a former advisor to the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Intelligence Community. He is an expert on malware analytics, breach exposure management, web application security, and enterprise risk reduction. Dr. ... View Full Bio
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Threaded  |  Newest First  |  Oldest First
ChristopheV560
50%
50%
ChristopheV560,
User Rank: Author
6/9/2016 | 3:03:54 PM
Still relevant in 2016
This was relevant a decade ago, and continues to be, especially given the recent spat of social engineering related attacks. 
ruchiroshni
50%
50%
ruchiroshni,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/2/2017 | 12:10:03 AM
Re: Still relevant in 2016
Thanks so much for providing this information, it is really helpful, also i have found one platform to learn more on 

cyber security please visit for more information on https://infosecaddicts.com.
Why Cyber-Risk Is a C-Suite Issue
Marc Wilczek, Digital Strategist & CIO Advisor,  11/12/2019
Black Hat Q&A: Hacking a '90s Sports Car
Black Hat Staff, ,  11/7/2019
The Cold Truth about Cyber Insurance
Chris Kennedy, CISO & VP Customer Success, AttackIQ,  11/7/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
7 Threats & Disruptive Forces Changing the Face of Cybersecurity
This Dark Reading Tech Digest gives an in-depth look at the biggest emerging threats and disruptive forces that are changing the face of cybersecurity today.
Flash Poll
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Frustrated with recurring intrusions and breaches, cybersecurity professionals are questioning some of the industrys conventional wisdom. Heres a look at what theyre thinking about.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-18954
PUBLISHED: 2019-11-14
Pomelo v2.2.5 allows external control of critical state data. A malicious user input can corrupt arbitrary methods and attributes in template/game-server/app/servers/connector/handler/entryHandler.js because certain internal attributes can be overwritten via a conflicting name. Hence, a malicious at...
CVE-2019-3640
PUBLISHED: 2019-11-14
Unprotected Transport of Credentials in ePO extension in McAfee Data Loss Prevention 11.x prior to 11.4.0 allows remote attackers with access to the network to collect login details to the LDAP server via the ePO extension not using a secure connection when testing LDAP connectivity.
CVE-2019-3661
PUBLISHED: 2019-11-14
Improper Neutralization of Special Elements used in an SQL Command ('SQL Injection') in McAfee Advanced Threat Defense (ATD) prior to 4.8 allows remote authenticated attacker to execute database commands via carefully constructed time based payloads.
CVE-2019-3662
PUBLISHED: 2019-11-14
Path Traversal: '/absolute/pathname/here' vulnerability in McAfee Advanced Threat Defense (ATD) prior to 4.8 allows remote authenticated attacker to gain unintended access to files on the system via carefully constructed HTTP requests.
CVE-2019-3663
PUBLISHED: 2019-11-14
Unprotected Storage of Credentials vulnerability in McAfee Advanced Threat Defense (ATD) prior to 4.8 allows local attacker to gain access to the root password via accessing sensitive files on the system.