Australian Credit Breach Culprit: Google Cache

The ability of Google's cache capture to memorialize anything found on a Web site—including credit card information—is hardly new, but some Australian IT execs have been given a concrete reminder, as they found that data from some 19,000 credit cards—including including CVVs, expiration dates, names and addresses—in a routine Google search.

"The alert started with a bunch of other numbers, so I went to the web page and it was just a virtual directory listing with a bunch of directories underneath and a load of files inside," one anonymous IT worker quoted in a story in ITNews in Australia. "It looks like the site might have been a payment processing gateway that handled credit card transactions for a bunch of websites before it went belly-up."

Google corporate issued a statement that pretty much said, "We're a search engine. You keep ultra-sensitive data on your site in the clear and you're trying to blame us because our spiders do what everyone knows they do?" To be precise, this is the wording that Google issued: "Please keep in mind that search engines are a reflection of the content and information that is available on the Internet. Search engines such as Google do not own this content, and do not have the ability to remove content directly from the Internet. Standards are in place that Google and other search engines follow that enable site owners to protect information on their sites from being indexed and searchable. These standards give site owners the flexibility to publish content and control how it is found."

The Google statement also said: "At Google, we recognize that privacy and security of data is important, which is why we provide simple tools for webmasters to ensure that these types of pages are not cached. In addition, Google provides webmasters with an automatic URL removal system, which enables webmasters to quickly remove their pages, including cached copies, from the Google index in the event that information has been mistakenly published."

This incident was limited and the damage seems to be minimal. But the bigger issue, which ITNews noted, is why has this hole not been adequately plugged by now? Was this sloppy work done by the online equivalents of the guys that dump credit card files in front of the store when a location is shut down? Or is this problem hitting those who are otherwise security sensitive?