Footprinting through Search Engines

Search engines play a significant role in extracting critical details about a target from the Internet. Several search engines have the ability to focus on organisational data, including technology systems, personnel profiles, login pages, intranet portals, contact information, and so forth. The report helps the attacker perform social engineering and other advanced system attacks. 

Let's first examine the inner workings of search engines. Crawlers, a type of automated software used by search engines, are used to continuously scan live websites and add the results to the search engine index, which is then saved in a vast database. A list of Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) is returned when a user queries the search engine index. These outcomes include web pages, videos, photos, and numerous more file types sorted and presented based on relevancy. 

Examples of major search engines include Google, DuckDuckGo, Bing, Yahoo, Ask, Baidu, WolframAplha, and StartPage. Attackers can find, filter, and sort specific information on the target using advanced search operators offered by these search engines and creating complex searches. One of the example of queries is Google Dorks. 

There are various ways and techniques to gather information using search engines, from which a few are mentioned below:

One can conduct a more thorough, sophisticated and accurate web search with the help of Google Advanced Search and Advanced Image Search. Without having to type or remember the sophisticated operators (Google Dorks), you can utilise these search features to obtain the same level of precision. 

Google Advance Search

To carry out an Advance Google search,

Google Advance Image Search

To carry out an Advance Google Image Search, go to


You can use an image as a search query with reverse image search. The search engine verifies the search engine index and displays all the online locations of the image on the search results page. The outcomes can assist you in tracing the origin and specifics of images, including photos, profile pictures, and memes. Attackers can use tools like,


Internet-based search engines called "video search engines" search the web for video information. Since it may be utilised to learn more about the target, video content found using video search engines has significant value. Engines like YouTube, Google Videos, Yahoo Videos, and Bing Videos can help an attacker search for video-based content.

After examining the video, an attacker can continue to examine the video's content to discover secret data like the time/date and the video's thumbnail.  An attacker can transform a video into text and other formats and extract crucial information about the target by using video analysis programmes like YouTube DataViewer, EXGif, and


Meta search engines are a different kind of search engine. To get their own results, these search engines send their queries to other search engines (such as Google, Bing,, etc.). Additionally, meta-search engines have a feature that filters away duplicate search results so that they won't be shown twice if a user does the same search query again. 

Attackers can obtain a great deal of detailed information by querying many search engines using meta-search engines like Startpage, MetGer, and By masking the user's IP address, meta-search engines also give search engine users anonymity.


An attacker can take control of CCTV cameras, traffic control systems, Internet-connected home appliances, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems, industrial equipment, etc. by conducting a simple search on IoT search engines.  IoT search engines like Censys, Shodan, and Thingful make it easier for attackers to get target information. Many of them either use default credentials that are easily exploitable or operate without passwords. The attacker can access such IoT devices and carry out additional assaults using information like the IP address, location, hostname, and open ports.


FTP servers are widely used by businesses, industries, and academic institutions to store massive file archives and other software that are shared among their staff members. Numerous servers are accessible directly through web browsers and are unprotected. Attackers can look for crucial files and directories with important data using FTP search engines such as NAPALM FTP Indexer, Global FTP Search Engine, and FreewareWeb FTP File Search
As an ethical hacker, you can ask the search engine to delete any removed pages or information about your business that you discover in SERPs or the search engine cache. 

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