How to search like a spy: Google's secret hacks revealed

The Week

Try: "filetype:xls site:za confidential"

The National Security Agency just declassified a hefty 643-page research manual called Untangling the Web: A Guide to Internet Research (PDF) that, at least at first, doesn't appear all that interesting. That is, except for one section on page 73: "Google Hacking."

"Say you're a cyberspy for the NSA and you want sensitive inside information on companies in South Africa," explains Kim Zetter at Wired. "What do you do?"

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Well, you could type the following advanced search into Google — "filetype:xls site:za confidential" — to uncover a trove of seemingly private spreadsheets. How about an Excel file containing Russian passwords? Try: "filetype:xls site:ru login."

These are just two examples of the numerous private files that are inadvertently uploaded to the Internet, and can be accessed if you know the right Google search terms. 

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Here are a few more:

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Pretty neat, huh? Declassified information being what it is, though, some of the search tips can appear a little dated.

And even if keyboard espionage isn't really your thing, the document contains a number of practical tips anyone can use to become a better Googler:

* Adding a tilde (~) immediately before a term will search for its synonyms. For example: "Scary ~animals" will also search for "scary creatures," etc.

* Repeating a word will help you find more relevant hits. For example a search for "java coffee coffee coffee" will cut down on the results about the programming language.

* You can use Google wildcard (*) to replace a term in a query if you don't know exactly what you're searching for. For example: "Sacramento is the * of California."

Take a look if you're interested over here. (Via Wired)

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