Review Webserver Metafiles for Information Leakage (OTG-INFO-003)
This article is part of the OWASP Testing Guide v3. The entire OWASP Testing Guide v3 can be downloaded here.
OWASP at the moment is working at the OWASP Testing Guide v4: you can browse the Guide here
This is a draft of a section of the new Testing Guide v3
This section describes how to test the robots.txt file.
Description of the Issue
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.
Web spiders/robots/crawlers can intentionally ignore the "Disallow:" statement[s] of the robots.txt file. Hence, robots.txt should not be considered to control access to web content not intended to be stored or published by external parties.
Black Box testing and example
The robots.txt file is retrieved by from the web root directory of the web server. For example, the URL "http://www.google.com/robots.txt" is the robots.txt file for www.google.com
Google provide an "Analyze robots.txt" function as part of its "Google Webmaster Tools" which can assist with testing.
Gray Box testing and example
The process is the same as Black Box testing above.
-  "The Web Robots Pages" - http://www.robotstxt.org/
-  "How Google crawls my site" - http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/topic.py?topic=8843
-  "(ISC)2 Blog: The Attack of the Spiders from the Clouds" - http://blog.isc2.org/isc2_blog/2008/07/the-attack-of-t.html
-  "How do I check that my robots.txt file is working as expected?" - http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=35237