Thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request from MudRock, we can now feast our eyes upon a 643-page manual from the NSA titled, "Untangling the Web: A guide to Internet Research."
As the name implies, the manual is a how-to with respect to conducting detailed online research.
Wired pinpoints some particularly interesting factoids from the manual:
Say you’re a cyberspy for the NSA and you want sensitive inside information on companies in South Africa. What do you do?
Search for confidential Excel spreadsheets the company inadvertently posted online by typing “filetype:xls site:za confidential” into Google, the book notes.
Want to find spreadsheets full of passwords in Russia? Type “filetype:xls site:ru login.” Even on websites written in non-English languages the terms “login,” “userid,” and “password” are generally written in English, the authors helpfully point out.
Checking in at 643 pages, the manual is extensive to say the least. That said, it encompasses a whole lot more than just conducting Google queries. It also houses sections on people-finder websites -- it recommends Pandia People Search by the way. It also includes information on how to query crime databases and other pools of information that may not necessarily be available via a generic web search.
Somewhat comically, the NSA doesn't seem to be too keen on Microsoft products. It's manual reads in part:
One of the biggest underlying problems vis-a-vis Internet Security is that virtually all Microsoft products, including Internet Explorer, come with all the doors open and unlocked, figuratively speaking. You must take upon yourself to find the open doors, shut them, and lock them tight.
To be fair, the manual is a few years old.
In any event, it's an interesting document to peruse if you're interesting in how the NSA advises its own folks to search the vast world wide web.