Reconnaissance and Information Gathering

Lab-4: Reconnaissance and Information Gathering

A hacker uses many tools and methods to gather information about the target. There are two broad categories of information gathering methods: passive and active. These methods are detailed in the table below. In this lab, you will perform passive information gathering (gray-shaded column). In Lab 5, you will be performing active information gathering. Please review the table before starting this lab.

Information Gathering Passive (Reconnaissance and Information Gathering) – This Week Active (Scanning and Enumeration) – Next Week
Is the hacker contact with the target directly? No direct contact with the target Direct contact with the target
Are the activities logged? No audit records on the target Audit record might be created
What kind of tools has been used? Web archives, Whois service, DNS servers, Search Engines Port scanners, network scanners, vulnerability scanners (Nessus, Nmap)
What information can a hacker collect? IP addresses, network range, telephone numbers, E-mail addresses, active machines, operating system version, network topology Live hosts on a network, network topology, OS version, open ports on hosts, services running on hosts, running applications and their versions, patching level, vulnerabilities.


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In passive information gathering, the hacker does not directly contact the target; therefore, no audit logs have been created. Both non-technical (such as employee names, birth dates, e-mail addresses) and technical information (IP addresses, domain names) can be gathered. This information can be used in many ways in the subsequent steps of the attack. For example, the phone numbers or e-mail addresses you discovered can be used in social engineering attacks. DNS records or subdomain names can be used to leverage specific attacks against hosts or URLs.

More notes on Reconnaissance and Information Gathering :

1) In this phase, an attacker may collect a lot of information without being noticed.

2) In some cases, an attacker may even discover vulnerabilities.

3) The information collected in this phase can be quite valuable when evaluated together with the information collected in the scanning and enumeration phase. For example, you might find the phone number and name of an employee in this phase, and you may find the computer IP address in the active scanning phase. You can use these two pieces of information together to leverage a social engineering attack. An attacker will increase the chance of gaining trust when s/he calls the victim’s name and talk some specific about the victim’s computer.

4) Companies should also perform reconnaissance and information gathering against themselves so that they can discover -before hackers- what kind of information the company and company employees disclose.

In this lab, you will practice 6 passive methods of Reconnaissance and Information Gathering. You have to use Kali VM in Sections 3, 5, and 6 of the lab. You may use Kali VM or your computer (the only thing you need will be an Internet browser) for the rest of the sections.

Section-1: Using Google Search Operators

Google search engine has many search operators that help us collect specific results about a website, eventually a company. You will use some of these operators in this lab.

1) Search the term

Notice that all results are specific to Franklin Univesity pages.


Review the search results and find three subdomains among the results. What is a subdomain: the word “library” is a subdomain of the domain, as is an active website.


2) Search the term

This search result in millions of websites or documents that have been hosted on Amazon cloud servers.


Review the search results and find some company websites that have been hosted in the Amazon cloud. (AWS).


3) Search the term Franklin Univesity

This search query will reveal documents and web pages having “Franklin University” keywords and hosted in Amazon AWS.


4) Search the term filetype:doc

The filetype operator produces the search results linked to the indexed files with the type indicated in the operator. Above search will reveal word files hosted in the domain and indexed by Google.

If the above query does not produce any results, try another query by changing the file types such as docx, ppt, pptx, pdf.


Download one file and check the metadata information. Find information such as username, author name, application version, etc. There are various methods to see the metadata information. You can right-click the file and check the details tab, as shown below. Alternatively, you can open the file with Microsoft Word and see the properties within the Word program. Use the Google search engine, if you need, to learn how to see metadata information of Microsoft office documents/PDF files.


Note: Every small piece of information is important for a meticulous pentester. A username such as john.smith can indicate that the username pattern used in the organization is name.surname. It is important to know the username patterns in the social engineering attacks. Some metadata might contain Office software and operating system version information. Version information provides information about the patch level, and a hacker/pentester can create malicious payloads specific to the versions found in metadata.


5) Search the term inurl:login

inurl operator here finds the pages that contain the “login” in the URL. By using this operator, we can discover login forms hosted by the targeted website.


Review the search results. Take a screenshot of one of the login forms.


6) Visit this page:

QUESTION: Choose a query, start a Google search and analyze the search results.

Note: “The Exploit Database is a CVE compliant[footnoteRef:1] archive of public exploits and corresponding vulnerable software, developed for use by penetration testers and vulnerability researchers. Our aim is to serve the most comprehensive collection of exploits gathered through direct submissions, mailing lists, as well as other public sources, and present them in a freely-available and easy-to-navigate database. The Exploit Database is a repository for exploits and proof-of-concepts rather than advisories, making it a valuable resource for those who need actionable data right away [1:]

The Google Hacking Database (GHDB) is a categorized index of Internet search engine queries designed to uncover interesting and usually sensitive information made publicly available on the Internet. In most cases, this information was never meant to be made public but due to any number of factors this information was linked in a web document that was crawled by a search engine that subsequently followed that link and indexed the sensitive information.” (Source of this double-quoted information: about page)

Note that Google hacking (Google Dorking) is a broad topic; there are books written on this topic.

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