Reconnaissance, while commonly overlooked and discounted, is a key phase providing successful targeted attackers (and penetration testers) with information about the target, the target’s server and application technologies in use, employees, location, and much more. Often called OSINT, or open-source intelligence because it uses publicly available sources, the recon phase is anything that can help the attacker obtain his goal. Security pros can leverage the same tools and techniques as the attackers to identify unintentionally exposed devices on the Internet and users leaking sensitive information via social networking sites, and address those issues before they’re used during an actual attack.
There’s also the excellent Shodan computer search engine that contains service banners from Internet-accessible servers all over the world. Security pros can find all sorts of juicy information, like internal network and host names exposed through DNS, or unintentionally exposed services that Shodan has found without scanning or touching the target network.