Google now a hacker's tool

Google's search engine has many uses for hackers, a security researcher says.

Somewhere out on the Internet, an Electric Bong may be in danger. The threat: a well-crafted Google query that could allow a hacker to use Google's massive database as a resource for intrusion.

"Electric Bong" was one of a number of household devices that security researcher Johnny Long came across when he found an unprotected Web interface to someone's household electrical network. To the right of each item were two control buttons, one labelled "on," the other, "off."

Long, a researcher with Computer Sciences and author of the book, "Google Hacking for Penetration Testers," was able to find the Electric Bong simply because Google contains a lot of information that wasn't intended to lie unexposed on the Web. The problem, he said at the Black Hat USA conference in Las Vegas last week, lies not with Google itself but with the fact that users often do not realise what Google's powerful search engine has been able to dig up.

In addition to power systems, Long and other researchers were able to find unsecured Web interfaces that gave them control over a wide variety of devices, including printer networks, PBX (private branch exchange) enterprise phone systems, routers, Web cameras, and of course Web sites themselves. All can be uncovered using Google, Long said.

But the effectiveness of Google as a hacking tool does not end there. It can also be used as a kind of proxy service for hackers, Long said.

Although security software can identify when an attacker is performing reconnaissance work on a company's network, attackers can find network topology information on Google instead of snooping for it on the network they're studying, he said. This makes it harder for the network's administrators to block the attacker. "The target does not see us crawling their sites and getting information," he said.

Often, this kind of information comes in the form of apparently nonsensical information -- something that Long calls "Google Turds." For example, because there is no such thing as a Web site with the URL (Uniform Resource Locator) "nasa," a Google search for the query "site:nasa" should turn up zero results. instead, it turns up what appears to be a list of servers, offering an insight into the structure of Nasa's (the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration's) internal network, Long said.

Combining well-structured Google queries with text processing tools can yield things like SQL (Structured Query Language) passwords and even SQL error information. This could then be used to structure what is known as a SQL injection attack, which can be used to run unauthorized commands on a SQL database. "This is where it becomes Google hacking," he said. "You can do a SQL injection, or you can do a Google query and find the same thing."

Although Google traditionally has not concerned itself with the security implications of its massive data store, the fact that it has been an unwitting participant in some worm attacks has the search engine now rejecting some queries for security reasons, Long said. "Recently, they've stepped into the game."

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Robert McMillan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?