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By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2004-08-30 Print this article Print

And Ive probably seen worse. I wont get into any more details, but by searching for important file types, I found sensitive budget information for a major media company. My jaw still hurts from hitting the floor.

Of course, theres no problem here with Google. Theres a problem with users and administrators putting sensitive data out where Google can find it. Some of the files I saw appeared to be on users member sites for their ISP accounts. I suppose this is supposed to be a poor mans remote-access method, in that they can get to important files through the Web page. Oy, what a bad idea!

In fact, you might want to do some creative searching of your own sites (using the "" search modifier) to get a sense of what Google has on you. If you find the wrong things up there, you can remove it following Googles instructions.

For insights on security coverage around the Web, check out Security Center Editor Larry Seltzers Weblog. And dont rely on password protection to make it "safe" to put those files up there. I guarantee you that for any significant file format, theres an easily available crack program to break the password protection, and I know this is the case for Quicken and QuickBooks data.

So, keep your sensitive data off the Web, even for brief periods of time. Even if there are ways to keep Google off it, its not worth the chance that some crawling program will find it and grab the contents.

Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983. Check out eWEEK.coms Security Center at for security news, views and analysis.

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Larry Seltzer has been writing software for and English about computers ever since—,much to his own amazement—,he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983.

He was one of the authors of NPL and NPL-R, fourth-generation languages for microcomputers by the now-defunct DeskTop Software Corporation. (Larry is sad to find absolutely no hits on any of these +products on Google.) His work at Desktop Software included programming the UCSD p-System, a virtual machine-based operating system with portable binaries that pre-dated Java by more than 10 years.

For several years, he wrote corporate software for Mathematica Policy Research (they're still in business!) and Chase Econometrics (not so lucky) before being forcibly thrown into the consulting market. He bummed around the Philadelphia consulting and contract-programming scenes for a year or two before taking a job at NSTL (National Software Testing Labs) developing product tests and managing contract testing for the computer industry, governments and publication.

In 1991 Larry moved to Massachusetts to become Technical Director of PC Week Labs (now eWeek Labs). He moved within Ziff Davis to New York in 1994 to run testing at Windows Sources. In 1995, he became Technical Director for Internet product testing at PC Magazine and stayed there till 1998.

Since then, he has been writing for numerous other publications, including Fortune Small Business, Windows 2000 Magazine (now Windows and .NET Magazine), ZDNet and Sam Whitmore's Media Survey.

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