WSTG - Stable

Review Webserver Metafiles for Information Leakage



This section describes how to test various metadata files for information leakage of the web application’s path(s), or functionality. Furthermore, the list of directories that are to be avoided by Spiders, Robots, or Crawlers can also be created as a dependency for Map execution paths through application. Other information may also be collected to identify attack surface, technology details, or for use in social engineering engagement.

Test Objectives

  • Identify hidden or obfuscated paths and functionality through the analysis of metadata files.
  • Extract and map other information that could lead to better understanding of the systems at hand.

How to Test

Any of the actions performed below with wget could also be done with curl. Many Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) tools such as ZAP and Burp Suite include checks or parsing for these resources as part of their spider/crawler functionality. They can also be identified using various Google Dorks or leveraging advanced search features such as inurl:.


Web Spiders, Robots, or 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 Google sampled on 2020 May 5 is quoted below:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /search
Allow: /search/about
Allow: /search/static
Allow: /search/howsearchworks
Disallow: /sdch

The User-Agent directive refers to the specific web spider/robot/crawler. For example, the User-Agent: Googlebot refers to the spider from Google while User-Agent: bingbot refers to a crawler from Microsoft. User-Agent: * in the example above applies to all web spiders/robots/crawlers.

The Disallow directive specifies which resources are prohibited by spiders/robots/crawlers. In the example above, the following are prohibited:

Disallow: /search
Disallow: /sdch

Web spiders/robots/crawlers can intentionally ignore the Disallow directives specified in a robots.txt file, such as those from Social Networks to ensure that shared linked are still valid. 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.

The robots.txt file is retrieved from the web root directory of the web server. For example, to retrieve the robots.txt from using wget or curl:

$ curl -O -Ss && head -n5 robots.txt
User-agent: *
Disallow: /search
Allow: /search/about
Allow: /search/static
Allow: /search/howsearchworks

Analyze robots.txt Using Google Webmaster Tools

Web site owners can use the Google “Analyze robots.txt” function to analyze the website as part of its Google Webmaster Tools. This tool can assist with testing and the procedure is as follows:

  1. Sign into Google Webmaster Tools with a Google account.
  2. On the dashboard, enter the URL for the site to be analyzed.
  3. Choose between the available methods and follow the on screen instruction.


<META> tags are located within the HEAD section of each HTML document and should be consistent across a web site in the event that the robot/spider/crawler start point does not begin from a document link other than webroot i.e. a deep link. Robots directive can also be specified through use of a specific META tag.

Robots META Tag

If there is no <META NAME="ROBOTS" ... > entry then the “Robots Exclusion Protocol” defaults to INDEX,FOLLOW respectively. Therefore, the other two valid entries defined by the “Robots Exclusion Protocol” are prefixed with NO... i.e. NOINDEX and NOFOLLOW.

Based on the Disallow directive(s) listed within the robots.txt file in webroot, a regular expression search for <META NAME="ROBOTS" within each web page is undertaken and the result compared to the robots.txt file in webroot.

Miscellaneous META Information Tags

Organizations often embed informational META tags in web content to support various technologies such as screen readers, social networking previews, search engine indexing, etc. Such meta-information can be of value to testers in identifying technologies used, and additional paths/functionality to explore and test. The following meta information was retrieved from via View Page Source on 2020 May 05:

<meta property="og:locale" content="en_US" />
<meta property="og:type" content="website" />
<meta property="og:title" content="The White House" />
<meta property="og:description" content="We, the citizens of America, are now joined in a great national effort to rebuild our country and to restore its promise for all. – President Donald Trump." />
<meta property="og:url" content="" />
<meta property="og:site_name" content="The White House" />
<meta property="fb:app_id" content="1790466490985150" />
<meta property="og:image" content="" />
<meta property="og:image:secure_url" content="" />
<meta name="twitter:card" content="summary_large_image" />
<meta name="twitter:description" content="We, the citizens of America, are now joined in a great national effort to rebuild our country and to restore its promise for all. – President Donald Trump." />
<meta name="twitter:title" content="The White House" />
<meta name="twitter:site" content="@whitehouse" />
<meta name="twitter:image" content="" />
<meta name="twitter:creator" content="@whitehouse" />
<meta name="apple-mobile-web-app-title" content="The White House">
<meta name="application-name" content="The White House">
<meta name="msapplication-TileColor" content="#0c2644">
<meta name="theme-color" content="#f5f5f5">


A sitemap is a file where a developer or organization can provide information about the pages, videos, and other files offered by the site or application, and the relationship between them. Search engines can use this file to more intelligently explore your site. Testers can use sitemap.xml files to learn more about the site or application to explore it more completely.

The following excerpt is from Google’s primary sitemap retrieved 2020 May 05.

$ wget --no-verbose && head -n8 sitemap.xml
2020-05-05 12:23:30 URL: [2049] -> "sitemap.xml" [1]

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<sitemapindex xmlns="">

Exploring from there a tester may wish to retrieve the gmail sitemap

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<urlset xmlns="" xmlns:xhtml="">
    <xhtml:link href="" hreflang="x-default" rel="alternate"/>
    <xhtml:link href="" hreflang="el" rel="alternate"/>
    <xhtml:link href="" hreflang="it" rel="alternate"/>
    <xhtml:link href="" hreflang="ar" rel="alternate"/>

Security TXT

security.txt is a proposed standard which allows websites to define security policies and contact details. There are multiple reasons this might be of interest in testing scenarios, including but not limited to:

  • Identifying further paths or resources to include in discovery/analysis.
  • Open Source intelligence gathering.
  • Finding information on Bug Bounties, etc.
  • Social Engineering.

The file may be present either in the root of the webserver or in the .well-known/ directory. Ex:


Here is a real world example retrieved from LinkedIn 2020 May 05:

$ wget --no-verbose && cat security.txt
2020-05-07 12:56:51 URL: [333/333] -> "security.txt" [1]
# Conforms to IETF `draft-foudil-securitytxt-07`
Contact: mailto:[email protected]

Humans TXT

humans.txt is an initiative for knowing the people behind a website. It takes the form of a text file that contains information about the different people who have contributed to building the website. See humanstxt for more info. This file often (though not always) contains information for career or job sites/paths.

The following example was retrieved from Google 2020 May 05:

$ wget --no-verbose && cat humans.txt
2020-05-07 12:57:52 URL: [286/286] -> "humans.txt" [1]
Google is built by a large team of engineers, designers, researchers, robots, and others in many different sites across the globe. It is updated continuously, and built with more tools and technologies than we can shake a stick at. If you'd like to help us out, see

Other .well-known Information Sources

There are other RFCs and Internet drafts which suggest standardized uses of files within the .well-known/ directory. Lists of which can be found here or here.

It would be fairly simple for a tester to review the RFC/drafts are create a list to be supplied to a crawler or fuzzer, in order to verify the existence or content of such files.


  • Browser (View Source or Dev Tools functionality)
  • curl
  • wget
  • Burp Suite
  • ZAP