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[Full-disclosure] Stealing Search Engine Queries with JavaScript

From: Billy Hoffman (Billy.Hoffmanspidynamics.com)
Date: Fri Sep 29 2006 - 11:45:12 CDT

SPI Labs has discovered a practical method of using JavaScript to detect the search queries a user has entered into arbitrary search engines. All the code needed to steal a user's search queries is written in JavaScript and uses Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). This code could be embedded into any website either by the website owner or by a malicious third party through a Cross-site Scripting (XSS) attack. There it would harvest information about every visitor to that site.


Possible uses:

-HMO's website could check if a visitor has been searching other sites about cancer, cancer treatments, or drug rehab centers.

-Advertising networks could gather information about which topics someone is interested based on their search history and use that to echance their customer databases.

-Government websites could see if a visitor has been searching for bomb-making instructions.


SPI has published a whitepaper about this technique and has also release proof of concept code that will steal search engine queries. Works solid in Firefox, and IE support is a little shaky on multi word queries.


Whitepaper: http://www.spidynamics.com/assets/documents/JS_SearchQueryTheft.pdf

Proof of Concept: http://www.spidynamics.com/spilabs/js-search/index.html


Have fun,

Billy Hoffman


Lead R&D Engineer

SPI Dynamics - http://www.spidynamics.com <http://www.spidynamics.com/>

Phone: 678-781-4800

Direct: 678-781-4845

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