What Is the Wayback Machine?

What Is the Wayback Machine?

Is it a time machine? Can it take me back to the time when I was (insert obsolete technology) old? Well, sort of, but not really. The Wayback Machine is a web site run by a non-profit organization called the Internet Archive. Beginning in 1996, this organization started archiving web sites on the Internet, stating “Universal Access to All Knowledge” as its mission. In keeping with that, anyone may access and use the various features of the site for free. Today, the archive, which is accessible through the Wayback Machine, contains billions of records that include web pages, books, audio recordings, videos, images, and software programs. Its URL is www.archive.org.

The Wayback Machine is an amazing web site run by a well-meaning organization, and it has many positive applications. For example, if you want to see the changes made to a web site over time, then this is the perfect tool to help you. You might even be able to catch important and sometimes unannounced changes to sites that affect your life or business. When conducting searches, please keep in mind that this isn’t exactly the fastest site on the Web. It produces search results slowly, so reserve some time and patience.

On the other hand, as with many good things these days, nefarious individuals have figured out ways to use the Wayback Machine to advance their criminal activities. Mainly, if any of your current or former web sites ever contained sensitive information, then the Wayback Machine archived it. The chief concern here is username and password combinations in the HTML code. Therefore, starting today, if your web site contains sensitive information that you do not want archived, then remove it and if the passwords are still the same, change them. Make it a practice to not include such information in the future. As for any information that was on a site in the past, it is already in the archive and available for hackers and penetration testers to see (which is why you need to change it).

Additionally, social engineers can look at the history of a site over time to glean information such as when a company changed strategy, staff, policies, etc., and then use that information as a springboard for an attack. The only way to combat this problem is by maintaining an effective level of security awareness in your day-to-day life and business dealings.

A few other things to keep in mind are that the Wayback Machine cannot archive web sites that require authentication, allows individuals to archive sites manually, and provides extensions for Google Chrome and Firefox that allow users to save pages and search the archive for former versions of now-defunct web sites. For more information on how to secure sensitive information on your web site, email us or give us a call today!