Penetration testing and cyber defense

Shodan IoT search engine for cybersecurity professionals

8 min read
shodan iot search engine

what if you’re interested in measuring which countries are becoming more connected? Or if you want to know which version of Microsoft IIS is the most popular? Or do you want to find the control servers for malware? Maybe a new vulnerability came out, and you want to see how many hosts it could affect. Traditional web search engines don’t let you answer those questions. but Shodan IoT will answer them.

In recent years, the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) has led to a proliferation of internet-connected devices, from refrigerators to security cameras.

While these devices offer many benefits, they also pose serious security risks, as many are vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

Enter Shodan, an IoT search engine that allows cybersecurity professionals to search for, identify, and analyze internet-connected devices.

In this article, we will explore the capabilities of Shodan, its role in cybersecurity, and best practices for using the search engine effectively.

Introduction to Shodan IoT Search Engine

What is Shodan IoT?

Shodan is a search engine designed to find internet-connected devices and systems, such as server racks, routers, webcams, and even traffic lights.

Unlike traditional search engines like Google, Shodan provides information on the devices’ characteristics and configurations, making it a tool of choice for cybersecurity professionals.

History of Shodan

Shodan was created in 2009 by John Matherly, who wanted to build a search engine that could find internet-connected devices.

Initially, the search engine was designed for security researchers and developers, but it quickly grew in popularity among ethical hackers and cybersecurity professionals.

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How Shodan Works: Understanding Its Capabilities

Shodan collects data from internet-connected devices by crawling the internet looking for devices with open ports. It then indexes the information and makes it available to users through its search engine.

Also, the types of devices that are indexed can vary tremendously: ranging from small desktops to nuclear power plants and everything in between.

When using Shodan the information gained from Shodan services can be applied to many areas.

  • Network Security: keep an eye on all devices at your company that are facing the Internet
  • Market Research: find out which products people are using in the real-world
  • Cyber Risk: include the online exposure of your vendors as a risk metric
  • Internet of Things: tracking the growing usage of smart devices
  • Tracking Ransomware: measure how many devices have been impacted by ransomware

Shodan provides a platform that ensures accurate, consistent, and up-to-date information on Internet-facing devices.

Features of the Shodan Search Engine

Shodan’s search engine provides features that allow users to search for specific devices, operating systems, and software.

The search engine also provides information on the device’s location, IP address, open ports, vulnerabilities, and even the organization that owns the device.

Shodan’s Search Query Language

Shodan’s search query language allows users to refine their searches using specific keywords and filters. For example, users can search for devices in a specific country, devices with a default username and password, or even devices with a particular hardware vendor.

Traditional search engines like Google are designed to find websites and web pages on the internet. In contrast, IoT search engines like Shodan are designed to find internet-connected devices and systems.

The most fundamental difference is that Shodan crawls the Internet, whereas Google crawls the World Wide Web.

However, the devices powering the World Wide Web only make up a tiny fraction of what’s actually connected to the Internet. Shodan’s goal is to provide a complete picture of the Internet.

Another difference with Google is that Shodan requires you to understand the search query syntax. For example, you can’t simply enter a power plant into Shodan and expect to get proper results.

Also, to get the most out of Shodan it’s important to understand the search query syntax.

Limitations of Traditional Search Engines for IoT Security

Traditional search engines are not designed to provide information on the configuration and characteristics of IoT devices, making it challenging to find vulnerable devices and systems.

Also, traditional search engines do not index devices that are not publicly accessible, which limits their usefulness for security research.

Benefits of Shodan IoT Search Engines

IoT search engines like Shodan allow cybersecurity professionals to identify vulnerable devices and systems, allowing them to take proactive measures to prevent cyberattacks.

These search engines also provide information on the device’s configuration and characteristics, making it easier for security researchers to identify and report vulnerabilities.

Real-life Examples: Shodan’s Role in Cybersecurity

Examples of IoT Devices Vulnerable to Cyber Attacks

IoT devices are vulnerable to cyberattacks because they are often connected to the internet with default usernames and passwords and outdated software.

Examples of vulnerable devices include security cameras, routers, printers, and medical devices.

How Shodan has been used in Cybersecurity

Shodan has been used to identify vulnerable devices and systems and report them to their vendors, allowing them to fix the vulnerabilities before they can be exploited by cybercriminals.

The search engine has also been used to find and report vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure systems, such as power grids and water treatment plants.

How to Use Shodan: Best Practices for Cybersecurity Professionals

While there are limitations and privacy concerns associated with using Shodan, it can be a valuable tool for cybersecurity professionals, pentesters, and researchers. Here are some best practices for using Shodan effectively.

Setting Up Your Shodan Account

Shodan IoT create account

Before you can start using Shodan, you must create an account. This will allow you to run advanced searches and access the full range of Shodan’s features.

When setting up your account, be sure to use a strong password and enable two-factor authentication for added security.

Advanced Shodan Searching Techniques

Shodan’s search capabilities go beyond simple keyword searches. You can use filters to narrow your search results based on specific criteria, such as device type, location, and open ports.

You can also use operators to refine your search, such as the “hostname” operator to search for devices with a specific hostname.

Using Shodan to Find Vulnerable IoT Devices

One of the most useful applications of Shodan is identifying vulnerable IoT devices that can be exploited by cybercriminals.

By searching for devices with known vulnerabilities, cybersecurity professionals can take steps to secure those devices and prevent a potential attack.

However, it is important to obtain permission before scanning any devices that do not belong to you.

How to use Shodan IoT

Let us see how you can navigate it by using its official website. We are going to discuss 4 services offered by Shodan.

  1. Main Shodan:
  2. Shodan Maps (membership required):
  3. Shodan Images (membership required):
  4. Command Line Shodan

All of the above websites access the same Shodan data but they’re designed with different use cases in mind.

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Main Shodan IoT Search Engine

This is the first Shodan interface for accessing the data gathered.

Shodan IoT

By default, When you search for something via Shodan search engine, the search query will look at the data collected within the past 30 days.

This means that the results you get from the website are recent and provide an accurate view of the Internet.

In addition to searching, Shodan gives you the possibility to download your search reports. Also, you can create your report and with the functionality share, you can share your report if needed.

Warning: Shared search queries are publicly viewable. Do not share queries that are sensitive or you don’t want others to know about.

Shodan Maps

shodan maps

Shodan Maps provides a way to explore search results visually instead of the text-based main website. It displays up to 1,000 results at a time and as you zoom in/ out Maps adjusts the search query to only show results for the area you’re looking at.

All search filters that work for the main Shodan website also work on Maps. From a technical perspective, Shodan Maps is the same as the main Shodan website except it automatically adds a geo filter to your search query to restrict search results to the area that you’re looking at on the map.

Also, you need a Shodan Membership account to use Shodan Maps services.

Shodan Images

For a quick way to browse all the screenshots that Shodan collects check out Shodan Images. It is a user-friendly interface around the has_screenshot filter and is one of the services that’s included with the Shodan Membership.

shodam image

Also, the image data is gathered from 5 different sources:

  • VNC
  • Remote Desktop (RDP)
  • RTSP
  • Webcams
  • X Windows

Each image source comes from a different port/ service and therefore has a different banner. This means that if you only want to see images from webcams, you could search for HTTP.

To search for VNC you can search using RFB and for RTSP you simply search with RTSP.

The images can also be found using the main Shodan website or Shodan Maps by using the search query has_screenshot:true:

Installation of Shodan Command Line

shodan cli

The command-line interface (CLI) for Shodan is provided alongside the Python library. This means that you need to have Python installed on your computer in order to use the Shodan CLI.

Once you have Python configured, then you can run the following command to install the Shodan CLI:

pip install -U --user shodan

Also, to confirm that it was properly installed you can run the command:


It should return show you a list of possible sub-commands for the Shodan CLI

Future of Shodan and IoT Security

As the number of internet-connected devices continues to grow, the need for effective IoT security measures becomes more important.

Shodan is one tool that can help cybersecurity professionals identify vulnerabilities and secure IoT devices. Here are some developments to look out for in the future of IoT security and Shodan’s role in it.

Recent Developments in IoT Security

Recent developments in IoT security include the introduction of new security standards and protocols, such as the IoT Security Foundation’s “best practice” guidelines.

Additionally, some device manufacturers are starting to incorporate security features into their products, such as automatic firmware updates and secure boot functionality.

How Shodan Continues to Evolve

Shodan continues to evolve and improve its search capabilities. For example, it recently added a feature that allows users to search for devices based on their unique digital fingerprints, which can help identify devices that are intentionally hiding from search engines.

Additionally, Shodan is working to expand its search capabilities to include more types of devices and data.

The Future of IoT Security and Shodan’s Role in it

As the Internet of Things continues to grow, the role of Shodan in IoT security will become increasingly important. By providing valuable information about internet-connected devices, Shodan can help cybersecurity professionals identify vulnerabilities and secure their networks.

However, it is important to use Shodan responsibly and ethically to avoid any privacy concerns or legal issues.

In conclusion, Shodan is a powerful tool for cybersecurity professionals seeking to protect against IoT-related cyber threats. By understanding its capabilities and limitations, and adhering to best practices for use, Shodan can be an invaluable asset in securing internet-connected devices and preventing data breaches.

As IoT continues to grow and evolve, the role of Shodan in cybersecurity is likely to become even more important in the years to come.

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