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Hackers use Google to get sensitive data

Search engine used to find info such as NI numbers

Hackers are employing search engines such as Google when attacking web applications that hold sensitive data, says a security expert.

Google and other search engines are taking steps to stop the abuse. For example, Google has stopped certain kinds of searches that could yield a trove of personal data in a single swoop. It also puts limits on the number of search requests sent per minute, which can slow down mass searches for vulnerable websites.

In reality, it just forces hackers to be a bit more patient. Putting limits on search also hurts security professionals who want to do automated daily searches of their websites for problems, Shulman said.

Shulman said he's seen another kind of attack called 'site masking', which causes a legitimate website to simply disappear from search results.

Google's search engine penalises sites that have duplicate content and will drop one from its index. Hackers can take advantage of this by creating a website that has a link to a competitor's web page but is filtered through a proxy server.

Google indexes the content under the proxy's domain. If this is done enough times with more proxy servers, Google will consider the targeted web page a duplicate and drop it from its index.

"This is quite a business hassle," Shulman said.

One way website administrators can defend against this is barring their website from being indexed by anything other than the legitimate IP address of a search engine, Shulman said.

See also: Hackers rush to exploit critical Windows bug

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