Google #Searching (4): How to Reach FTP servers

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In this instalment of our series on more effective Google searching, we will turn our attention to exploring FTP servers, which often contain very interesting and sometimes sensitive information. For this, we will learn how to use the advanced operator “inurl:“.

The acronym FTP stands for file transfer protocol. This term is used in computer science to mean the transfer files between computers across a network (more properly, between an FTP server and a client). It is this feature of the FTP protocol that interests us in terms of searching for documents as Google crawlers also index files on various, often unsecured FTP servers.

Finding a way to these servers is quite simple, but once again we have to use our favourite advanced operators, including a new addition, “inurl:“.

Searching in URL addresses

Let’s start by describing how inurl: works. This operator allows us to search for the required keyword in the URL address bar. For example, if we’re looking for a contacts page, we might assume that the page is called Contact or Contacts. So, let’s try to find a page with European Commission contacts.

site:ec.europa.eu inurl:contacts intext:+32

In natural language: search the website ec.europa.eu, look for the word contacts in the URL and the phone extension +32 (Belgium) within the search result. (This gives us a telephone contact, which might, for example, help to verify an unknown number that is trying to contact you.)

Result!:

The World of FTP servers

As we have already said, these servers are full of interesting and valuable information in the form of various kinds of documents (e.g. contact directories, contracts, market reports, technical reports, standards, product sheets, etc.). So, this time we’ll try to limit the search for documents available on FTP servers only. Let’s enter the following syntax:

inurl:ftp | inurl:"ftp://" (-inurl:http OR -inurl:https OR -inurl:www) inurl:pricelist

We’re asking Google to show us documents that contain information from a price list located on an FTP server  [inurl:ftp | inurl:”ftp://”], but not [-inurl:] on a regular website with an http:, https: or www prefix.

Among other things, this search has thrown up one pricelist on the Panasonic FTP servers, and another on outdoor and mountaineering products from AustriAlpin, either of which could very well be of interest.

Try the “inurl:” operator for yourselves and your specific information requirements.

Conclusions

  • FTP means file transfer protocol.
  • This is a protocol that allows files to be transferred across the network.
  • The inurl: operator allows you to search within URL address.