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The Most Important Search Engine You’ve Never Heard Of
April 11, 2013
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Everyone knows Google - the company's name has become a verb. But what about Shodan? Are you familiar with that?

Shodan is a relatively new search engine that looks for devices that are hooked up to the Internet - everything from servers and webcams, routers and printers, traffic lights and security cameras.

And along the way, it exposes just how bad security on the net can be.

For example, a quick search using the words "default password" brings up countless printers, servers and system controls that use "admin" and incredibly, "1234" as a password.

As a report from CNN says "all you need is a web browser to connect to them."

On the company's site, Shodan says it is the "world's first computer search engine that lets you search the Internet for computers."

The Shodan search engine runs 24/7 and collects information on about 500 million devices each month, many of which have lax to no security measures in place.

As Shodan's founder John Matherly told CNN, "When people don't see stuff on Google, they think no one can find it. That's not true."

Shodan Search Engine.jpg

As unnerving as that sounds, Matherly has controls on his site. He's limited searches to just 10 results if you don't have an account, and 50 if you do.

Beyond that, you have to provide more information about what you're after along with a payment.

To this point, academics, law enforcement and security professionals are Shodan's primary users.

Their goal is to use the search engine to find companies and systems that are vulnerable, and alert them so they can tighten security.

In many ways, that's the point - as one security expert told CNN a lot of what's happening online is "a massive security failure."

At a cyber-security conference, one tester showed how he used Shodan to find controls for garage doors, pressurized water heaters and a car wash that could be turned on and off.

He also found traffic lights for an entire city that could easily be put into "test mode", and the controls for a hydroelectric plant in France.

"Scary stuff, if it got into the wrong hands," as CNN writes.

The problem, as explains, "Many of these systems have no security, because they were designed to be hooked up to a company's own systems. Instead, they are connected to a web server - making them open to anyone with a computer."

Or as Matherly put it, "Of course there's no security on these things. They don't belong on the Internet in the first place."


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