Google is a powerful tool for information security or IT in general. I was first introduced to Google back in 2003, while serving in the US Navy. Before Google I had used Yahoo, Netscape, and Lycos search functions with varying results. Once Google showed up, it changed the game. More accurate and quicker results became the norm. The other search engines began to fade until eventually Google was the reliable go to.
At my DerbyCon talk, someone mentioned Google Hacking for Penetration Testers by Johnny Long, Bill Gardner, and Justin Brown. The book takes a red team approach to utilizing Google. While that is important we're going to focus on some beginner level techniques in this post.
As with all the tools we’ll be covering, using Google is well documented. If a search technique needs better understanding, Google it. It’s that simple. Two of my favorite parameters to use are: quotation marks (“ “) and site search (site:).
Using quotation marks (“ “) around search terms will help refine searches. For example if I search for infosec tools I’ll get one set of results:
Using “infosec tools” I get a different set of results:
The first search term (infosec tools) is checking the entire page for the words infosec and tools. The second search tearm (“infosec tools”) is looking for that specific phrase in the web page. I've found using quotations useful for searching names and complex problems. Putting the quotations around a phrase helps refine the search. The search infosec tools returned 701,000 results; the search “infosec tools” returned 2,940 results.
This technique is also useful for using exact words with other terms. Example: Forensics “infosec tools”
The other parameter I like to use is the site: parameter. This parameter allows you to search within a specific site for specific words or terms:
That’s 19 results for the word NSA on this site. This is useful for searching blogs or sites that are difficult to navigate. Earlier today I came across this post on MOZ that talks about 25 operators specifically for the site: parameter.
There are numerous other search operators available to further refine searches. filetype: is another useful one. This operator is useful for discovering specific file types like a spreadsheet or PDF. Here are two of the many sites that dive deeper into Google search operators:
- The Ultimate Guide to the Google Search Parameters by Pete Wailes
- Google Guide Advanced Operators Reference
We’ve only scratched the surface, but this is a good starting point. Google is a powerful tool for security teams. Learning to use it effective is a valuable skill for any security team. From here disciplines like Google Dorking and OSINT await. As well as other tools that will help make your team better at what they do.