Adversaries may use search engines to collect information about victims that can be used during targeting. Search engine services typical crawl online sites to index context and may provide users with specialized syntax to search for specific keywords or specific types of content (i.e. filetypes).
Adversaries may craft various search engine queries depending on what information they seek to gather. Threat actors may use search engines to harvest general information about victims, as well as use specialized queries to look for spillages/leaks of sensitive information such as network details or credentials. Information from these sources may reveal opportunities for other forms of reconnaissance (ex: Phishing for Information or Search Open Technical Databases), establishing operational resources (ex: Establish Accounts or Compromise Accounts), and/or initial access (ex: Valid Accounts or Phishing).
This technique cannot be easily mitigated with preventive controls since it is based on behaviors performed outside of the scope of enterprise defenses and controls. Efforts should focus on minimizing the amount and sensitivity of data available to external parties.
Much of this activity may have a very high occurrence and associated false positive rate, as well as potentially taking place outside the visibility of the target organization, making detection difficult for defenders.
Detection efforts may be focused on related stages of the adversary lifecycle, such as during Initial Access.