How to Secure Your Website Against Shadow Code Threats

shadow code threats
Share article
twitter linkedin medium facebook

Shadow code, often hidden in plain sight, poses a significant threat to organizations and their cybersecurity efforts.

In an increasingly interconnected and technology-dependent world, the threat landscape for cyberattacks has expanded exponentially. As organizations strive to protect their digital assets and sensitive data, they must remain vigilant against ever-evolving techniques used by cybercriminals. One such technique that has been gaining prominence is “Shadow Code.”

This article delves into what shadow code is, how it is implemented in cyberattacks, and explores how Reflectiz’s proactive approach can help organizations identify and mitigate this covert threat.

What is Shadow Code?

Shadow code refers to the malicious scripts, snippets of code, or software components hidden within a legitimate website or web application. These rogue elements often remain undetected by traditional security measures and are executed in the background, often with the aim of carrying out a range of malicious activities. They are like covert agents working within an organization, undermining its security from the inside.

These hidden components can take various forms, including JavaScript, HTML, CSS, and other web technologies. They may be inserted through a variety of methods, such as third-party integrations, ad networks, plugins, and compromised libraries, making it challenging to detect them through routine security scans.

What Causes the Presence of Shadow Code in Web Applications?

Web applications often incorporate shadow code due to the reliance on open source libraries and third-party code for rapid innovation and meeting evolving business needs. Approximately 70% of scripts on a typical website are third-party, providing an avenue for shadow code infiltration.

Moreover, the trend in modern web and mobile applications is to shift logic to the client side, enhancing performance and user experience. A significant portion of the application now operates on users’ browsers and mobile devices through client-side JavaScript code.

Consequently, a substantial part of your site’s code is externally sourced and doesn’t run on your server. Without adequate security measures, this exposes vulnerabilities to script-based attacks, risking the theft of sensitive user data.

Shadow Code Examples

Understanding the various manifestations is crucial for recognizing potential threats. Below are some illustrative examples of how this code can manifest in cyberattacks:

Obfuscated JavaScript: Cybercriminals may obfuscate JavaScript code within a website to conceal its true intent. This technique makes it challenging for security tools to detect malicious activities, allowing the code to operate in the shadows.

Hidden Iframes: Attackers can employ hidden iframes to load malicious content from external sources while appearing benign to users. This technique enables the execution of malicious scripts without the user’s knowledge.

Steganography in Images: Malicious code can be embedded within image files using steganography techniques. This covert method allows cybercriminals to hide executable code within seemingly innocuous images, evading traditional security measures.

Dynamic Loading of External Scripts: The code may dynamically load external scripts during the runtime of a web page. This technique enables attackers to introduce malicious functionality after the initial security scans have taken place.

Camouflaged Code in Third-Party Plugins: Cybercriminals may compromise third-party plugins by injecting shadow code. These plugins, if not regularly monitored, can become conduits for malicious activities, as the embedded code operates within the context of seemingly legitimate functionalities.

Where can shadow code be located?

Shadow code may exist in various script locations, including:

  • Within an internal repository.
  • In a valid open-source library or repository.
  • In code loaded by vendors without organizational awareness.
  • In code injected by threat actors with malicious intent, as seen in digital skimmers.
  • Within third-party plugins developed for a content management system.

Issues related to shadow code encompass:

Vulnerabilities: Even proficient code developers can make errors, introducing the potential for security compromises.

Malicious Intent: Threat actors may intentionally create and insert malicious code into repositories, hoping organizations will unknowingly download it. Additionally, rogue insiders can introduce malicious code into first-party scripts.

Incompatibility: Legitimate code may sometimes be incompatible with other applications or systems, introducing vulnerabilities and posing a risk of attacks on other systems.

How Shadow Code is Implemented in Cyberattacks?

The code is implemented in cyberattacks through a series of covert tactics that enable attackers to compromise security and steal sensitive data. Let’s explore some common ways in which shadow code is utilized by cybercriminals:

Data Exfiltration 

Shadow code can be used to silently exfiltrate sensitive data from an organization’s systems. This can include customer information, financial data, intellectual property, and more. Attackers may use the stolen data for various purposes, such as selling it on the dark web or using it for further attacks.

Credential Harvesting 

Shadow code can be deployed to steal login credentials, including usernames and passwords. This information can be used to gain unauthorized access to systems and sensitive accounts. Attackers may later misuse these credentials for various nefarious purposes, including identity theft and fraud.

Malware Delivery 

Shadow code can act as a gateway for the delivery of malware. Attackers can inject malicious code into a website or application, making it possible to infect unsuspecting visitors with malware. This could include ransomware, keyloggers, or other malicious software that can lead to data breaches and system compromise.

Man-in-the-Middle Attacks 

Cybercriminals can use this code to carry out man-in-the-middle attacks, intercepting data transmitted between a user and a website. This allows attackers to eavesdrop on sensitive communications, such as financial transactions or login sessions, potentially leading to unauthorized access or data theft.

Exploiting Zero-Day Vulnerabilities 

Shadow code can exploit zero-day vulnerabilities, which are previously unknown vulnerabilities in software or web applications. Attackers can leverage these vulnerabilities to infiltrate systems, disrupt operations, or steal data without the organization’s awareness.

How the Reflectiz Solution Can Help Secure Your Website Against Shadow Code Risks

Reflectiz is an advanced website security solution designed to proactively detect and mitigate shadow code threats by putting the spotlight on all the code in your website, including the code that the company’s security team doesn’t know exists. It offers a comprehensive approach to addressing this hidden menace by identifying and neutralizing this code in real-time. 

Here’s how Reflectiz can assist organizations in protecting their digital landscape:

Code Monitoring and Analysis 

Reflectiz continuously monitors and analyzes the code of a website or web application. It scrutinizes every component, including third-party integrations, plugins, and ad networks, to identify any discrepancies or malicious elements.

Behavioral Analysis 

Reflectiz employs behavioral analysis to identify abnormal activities, such as unauthorized data transfers, unauthorized access attempts, or malicious injections. By analyzing how the code behaves, it can detect and respond to shadow code threats promptly.

Real-Time Alerting

When Reflectiz detects shadow code or suspicious activities, it triggers real-time alerts to notify security teams. These alerts provide valuable information about the threat, allowing organizations to take immediate action.

Continuous Scanning 

Reflectiz offers continuous scanning to ensure that shadow code does not go unnoticed. As cyber threats are constantly evolving, this proactive approach ensures that organizations are protected against both known and emerging threats.

Automatic Mitigation 

Reflectiz doesn’t stop at detection. It also offers automatic mitigation capabilities to neutralize shadow code threats. This can involve disabling malicious scripts, blocking suspicious third-party integrations, and preventing data exfiltration.

Compliance and Reporting 

Reflectiz provides compliance reporting and documentation, enabling organizations to meet regulatory requirements and demonstrate their commitment to cybersecurity. This is crucial for maintaining trust with customers and partners.


Shadow code is a growing concern in the realm of website security, as it lurks within the digital infrastructure, evading traditional security measures and potentially causing significant damage. Organizations need to be proactive in addressing this threat, and Reflectiz offers a comprehensive solution to do just that. By continuously monitoring, analyzing, and mitigating shadow code threats, Reflectiz helps organizations stay ahead of cybercriminals and secure their digital landscape. Sign up now and get a free vulnerability report for your websites. 

Subscribe to our newsletter

Stay updated with the latest news, articles, and insights from Reflectiz.

Your Website looks great!

But what’s happening behind the scenes?

Discover your website blind spots and vulnerabilities before it’s too late!

Try for free