Censys started as a research project at the University of Michigan, and we remain committed to providing free data to the research community. This article describes the data we provide and how to request access if you're a researcher.

Do I qualify for research access?

We understand that not all security researchers work at a university, have a formal title, or publish in an academic venue. Many folks perform research in their free time. We haven't forgotten you. We're far more interested in knowing that you're performing research for the public good than your job title. 

There are the two things we look for when granting research access:

  1. Impactful Research. We're most excited to provide data to researchers that want to improve real world security for everyone. This might be measuring the impact of a vulnerability you found, helping track down C2 infrastructure, understanding censorship in a region, or following up on abuse in the web PKI. Research is not trying to defend a single organization from attack, searching for phishing attempts against your company, or looking for problems to report to a bug bounty.
  2. Intent to Share. Research only benefits the community if results are shared with the world. For academics, this is typically in the form of a conference or journal publication, but can also be a blog post, talk at a conference like BSides or CCC, or an email to the mozilla.dev.security.policy mailing list.

What if I perform research as part of my job?

If you're performing research as part of your job at a commercial organization (e.g., tracking down APTs at a company), you are not eligible for a research account and will need to purchase commercial access. This also includes research that you might be performing on your own, but are presenting on behalf of your employer. 

What if I'm looking for problems to submit to a bug bounty program?

We encourage you to use Censys to help notify companies about problems. However, we consider this commercial use, not research. We do not provide raw data access for this purpose. 

How do I request Research Access?

If—based on the information above—you think that you qualify for research access, please reach out to us at research@censys.io with the following information:

  1. Project description. What's the goal of your research project? Where are you planning on presenting the work?
  2. A bit about yourself. Are you an independent researcher or a Ph.D. student? If you're a student, where are you studying? Have you presented your research at conferences in the past or written up a blog post about your work?
  3. How can Censys help? Please try out the free access and see if it meets your needs before requesting additional access. Help us understand the limitations you're running into. We receive many requests for additional access simply for the sake of access—these will be rejected.
  4. Confirm Non-Commercial Use. Please confirm that you understand that the data you collect through your research account cannot be used for any commercial purpose and that any results you publish need to cite Censys.
  5. Agree to Terms of Service. Please confirm that you understand and agree to the Censys Terms of Service as a Censys Researcher Customer. https://censys.io/tos
  6. Google Account. We use Google BigQuery to provision access to the Censys Researcher datasets. Please provide a Google account email address we can share the datasets with.
  7. Censys Account. All approved researchers must have an existing Censys account. Please provide your username with this application. If you do not have an account please register here.

Your message needn't be long! We mostly want a little bit of information about who you are and the goal of your project, and how Censys can help out so that we can confirm you're going to be using the data non-commercially and non-maliciously.

Once we receive your request, a panel of other security researchers will review your request and our support team will get back to you in a few days. We may also check in with you down the road to see how things are going. 

Note! If you're an academic, please create an account using your ".edu" email address instead of generic Gmail account. This will speed up the verification process.

What access does Censys provide Researchers?

We typically provide researchers access by granting them rights to two resources:

Google BigQuery Datasets. We'll grant your Google Cloud account access to query all of the Censys data through Google BigQuery. BigQuery allows you to run SQL against all of our datasets as well as run Spark and Hadoop jobs against the data (through Cloud dataproc). This is the same data we provide to our Enterprise Customers.

Why does Censys restrict access to research data?

When Censys originally launched, we provided data to researchers without much interaction. Unfortunately, as time went on, we encountered significant abuse. This ranged from corporations selling products built on data licensed for non-commercial use and results being used maliciously to attack organizations.

We've since taken a more proactive approach to how we provide data to researchers. Please don't let this discourage you from reaching out.

How should I cite Censys?

We ask that any publications that use data from Censys cite the service. If you're writing a blog post, feel free to just link to Censys. If you are writing an academic paper, please use the following BibTex:

    author = {Zakir Durumeric and David Adrian and Ariana Mirian
              and Michael Bailey and J. Alex Halderman},
    title = {A Search Engine Backed by {I}nternet-Wide Scanning},
    booktitle = {22nd {ACM} Conference on Computer and
                 Communications Security},
    month = oct,
    year = 2015

What if I'm not eligible?

There are a couple of options if you're not eligible for free research access:

  1. Commercial License. We offer commercial access to raw datasets for enterprise users.
  2. Free Protocol Scans.  We offer some data for free to all users. These can be found at https://censys.io/data

Who should I contact with questions?

If you have any questions about research access, please reach out to research@censys.io.

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