Using Google hacks -- requests typed into the search engine that bring up cached information on networks -- hackers are discovering and using login details for networked photocopiers so they can watch what is being copied.
"You don't have to be a genius to do this," said Jason Hart, security director at Whitehat UK. "You can see what people are photocopying on your monitor. You just have to search for online devices on Google."
Google stores billions of Web URLs and information sent from Web servers. Some Web servers, if configured incorrectly or left to default, can accidentally broadcast network information, such as IP addresses, login details and device information. Google, like many other search engines, stores this information, which can be recalled at any time.
"Essentially Google caches everything on the Web," said Hart. "By inputting commands into Google you can extract information and use it as a reverse-engineering tool."
Hackers have been using Google hacks for some time -- exploiting photocopiers is only a recent example of compromising online devices. Hackers also use the search engine to view logged conversations on the Google computer groups list. In these, techies often share network information, such as logins, and their company domain name when they post their email address with a message.
Hart added: "If you look at a firm's domain you can see all their security questions which means you can see their network infrastructure. [Hackers] wait for people to come along and say: 'I've been put in charge of security but don’t know much. Can you help me?' The hacker helps out and gets their trust until they get the passwords to the firewalls."
Hart advised that security staff should regularly check Google for cached information on their firms' domain names. He said that if using public forums to solve problems, participants should sign in using an anonymous e-address.
"You can ask Google to take certain information off its site," said Hart. "It's always worth taking a look at. It's a simple check, but worthwhile."