Review Webserver Metafiles for Information Leakage (OTG-INFO-003)
This article is part of the new OWASP Testing Guide v4.
Back to the OWASP Testing Guide v4 ToC: https://www.owasp.org/index.php/OWASP_Testing_Guide_v4_Table_of_Contents Back to the OWASP Testing Guide Project: https://www.owasp.org/index.php/OWASP_Testing_Project
This section describes how to test the robots.txt file for Information Leakage of the web application's directory/folder path(s). Furthermore the list of directories that are to be avoided by Spiders/Robots/Crawlers can also be created as a dependency for OWASP-IG-009
1. Information Leakage of the web application's directory/folder path(s).
2. Create the list of directories that are to be avoided by Spiders/Robots/Crawlers
How to Test
Web spiders/robots/crawlers retrieve a web page and then recursively traverse hyperlinks to retrieve further web content. Their accepted behavior is specified by the Robots Exclusion Protocol of the robots.txt file in the web root directory .
As an example, the beginning of the robots.txt file from http://www.google.com/robots.txt sampled on 11 August 2013 is quoted below:
User-agent: * Disallow: /search Disallow: /sdch Disallow: /groups Disallow: /images Disallow: /catalogs ...
The User-Agent directive refers to the specific web spider/robot/crawler. For example the User-Agent: Googlebot refers to the GoogleBot crawler while User-Agent: * in the example above applies to all web spiders/robots/crawlers  as quoted below:
The Disallow directive specifies which resources are prohibited by spiders/robots/crawlers. In the example above, directories such as the following are prohibited:
... Disallow: /search Disallow: /sdch Disallow: /groups Disallow: /images Disallow: /catalogs ...
Web spiders/robots/crawlers can intentionally ignore the Disallow directives specified in a robots.txt file . Hence, robots.txt should not be considered as a mechanism to enforce restrictions on how web content is accessed, stored, or republished by third parties.
Black Box testing and example
The robots.txt file is retrieved from the web root directory of the web server.
For example, to retrieve the robots.txt from www.google.com using wget or "curl":
cmlh$ wget http://www.google.com/robots.txt --2013-08-11 14:40:36-- http://www.google.com/robots.txt Resolving www.google.com... 220.127.116.11, 18.104.22.168, 22.214.171.124, ... Connecting to www.google.com|126.96.36.199|:80... connected. HTTP request sent, awaiting response... 200 OK Length: unspecified [text/plain] Saving to: ‘robots.txt.1’ [ <=> ] 7,074 --.-K/s in 0s 2013-08-11 14:40:37 (59.7 MB/s) - ‘robots.txt’ saved  cmlh$ head -n5 robots.txt User-agent: * Disallow: /search Disallow: /sdch Disallow: /groups Disallow: /images cmlh$
cmlh$ curl -O http://www.google.com/robots.txt % Total % Received % Xferd Average Speed Time Time Time Current Dload Upload Total Spent Left Speed 101 7074 0 7074 0 0 9410 0 --:--:-- --:--:-- --:--:-- 27312 cmlh$ head -n5 robots.txt User-agent: * Disallow: /search Disallow: /sdch Disallow: /groups Disallow: /images cmlh$
Analyze robots.txt using Google Webmaster Tools
Google provides an "Analyze robots.txt" function as part of its "Google Webmaster Tools", which can assist with testing  and the procedure is as follows:
1. Sign into Google Webmaster Tools with your Google Account.
2. On the Dashboard, click the URL for the site you want.
3. Click Tools, and then click Analyze robots.txt.
Gray Box testing and example
The process is the same as Black Box testing above.
- Browser (View Source function)
-  "The Web Robots Pages" - http://www.robotstxt.org/
-  "Block and Remove Pages Using a robots.txt File" - http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=156449&from=40364&rd=1
-  "(ISC)2 Blog: The Attack of the Spiders from the Clouds" - http://blog.isc2.org/isc2_blog/2008/07/the-attack-of-t.html
-  "Block and Remove Pages Using a robots.txt File - http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=156449&from=35237&rd=1
-  "Telstra customer database exposed" - http://www.smh.com.au/it-pro/security-it/telstra-customer-database-exposed-20111209-1on60.html