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article imageGoogle has been indexing private network-connected hard drives

By James Walker     Apr 10, 2015 in Technology
A report has found that Google has been inadvertently indexing network-connected hard drives in peoples' homes. These drives are often used by families for backing up devices and the researchers found that stored files could be found on Google.
At this point it is worth nothing that Google has not directly done anything wrong here. The files are visible in the search engine's results because network routers made them accessible to the search engine due to misconfigured settings.
The investigation was conducted by CSO and found that personal file backups from a family computer to a network-connected hard drive going right back to 2009 could be found on Google by searching for their names.
The files are making it onto Google due to incorrect FTP settings on routers. FTP is the protocol that allows the distribution of files across the Internet.
The researchers viewed files from the family including personal email correspondence, diaries, passports, tax records, financial statements, mortgage documents, customer lists, passwords, private documents and more.
CSO said: "It was possible to map the family's personal and financial history over the last five years." The family also reported that their debit and credit cards had been compromised in the last year, potentially as a result of the information available online.
Some people use FTP on their routers intentionally. It means that files on hard drives connected to the router can be accessed across the Internet while you are out and can be very useful, especially to technology enthusiasts and people who run their own web servers from home.
The issue here though is that when Google trawls the web for data to include in its search results it sometimes stumbles across these incorrectly configured routers. Effectively asking them "have you got any data that needs indexing?", they respond "yes" and expose the contents of the hard drives connected to them.
Google looks through the data, sees it consists of valid files and makes it accessible in its search results. The outcome is that your personal data and file backups could be visible to anybody on the Internet. Note that other search engines use the same practice and may also have indexed your data.
If you are concerned that this may have happened to you, start by finding out your hostname on this website. Then, go to ftp://[your hostname] in your web browser. If files are shown, then your router is exposing your data.
The next step is to configure your router or cloud storage device correctly. If you don't use FTP, disable it in the settings. For more specific guidance, consult with user manuals for the product. To get the files removed from search engines, use the removal tools that they provide. You can find Google's removal tool here and the others by searching for them.
More about Google, Network, Personal, Files, Backup
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