The Challenge of Protecting Websites from Third-Party Scripts

May 5, 2023IThe Hacker NewsWebsite Security / Data Security

Third party scripts

Third-party applications such as Google Analytics, Meta Pixel, HotJar, and JQuery have become critical tools for businesses to optimize their website’s performance and services for a global audience. However, as its importance has grown, so has the threat of cyber incidents involving unmanaged third-party applications and open source tools. Online businesses are increasingly struggling to maintain complete visibility and control over the ever-changing third-party threat landscape, with sophisticated threats such as evasive skimmers, Magecart attacks and illegal tracking practices that can cause serious damage

This article explores the challenges of protecting modern websites from third-party scripts and the security risks associated with a lack of visibility into such scripts.

Invisible to standard security checks

Third-party scripts are often invisible to standard security controls such as web application firewalls (WAFs) because they are loaded from external sources that are not under the control of the website owner. When a website loads a third-party script, it runs in the user’s browser along with the website’s own code. This means that a WAF, which is typically placed in front of a website to inspect and filter incoming traffic, may not be able to detect and block malicious activity that occurs from a third-party script .

In addition, third-party scripts often use obfuscation techniques to hide their true purpose or to evade detection by security controls. This can make it even more difficult for security controls to identify and mitigate potential threats. Therefore, it is important for website owners to take additional steps to monitor and control the behavior of third-party scripts.

The safety risks caused by the lack of visibility

Lack of visibility into third-party web applications and open source tools can pose several security risks to an organization, including:

  1. Data breach: Third-party applications often have access to sensitive data, and a lack of visibility into these applications can make it difficult to detect and prevent data breaches or unauthorized access to sensitive information.
  2. Malware and viruses: Third-party applications can introduce malware or viruses into your organization’s systems, which can infect other systems and cause data loss or system downtime.
  3. Compliance Violations: Third-party applications that are not properly reviewed or that do not meet regulatory requirements can expose an organization to legal and financial risks, such as fines and lawsuits.
  4. Network Vulnerabilities: Third-party applications that integrate with an organization’s systems can create network vulnerabilities that can be exploited by cybercriminals.
  5. Poor security practices: Some third-party applications may not have strong security controls, which may increase the risk of security incidents and data breaches.

To mitigate these risks, it is essential to have a thorough understanding of the third-party applications an organization uses and to implement strong security controls and processes, such as continuous security assessments, monitoring, and patching. In addition, it is important to have clear policies and procedures in place for selecting, verifying, and managing third-party applications to ensure they meet the organization’s security and compliance requirements.

External/installed monitoring solutions

Effective monitoring of third-party scripts requires external or installed monitoring solutions. Many companies install security scripts on their websites to protect against known threats and vulnerabilities. However, these scripts cannot access many third-party components such as iFrames and the scripts they contain, as they are limited by navigation restrictions. Although this embedded monitoring approach was designed to increase the security of web components, it creates limitations for installed JavaScript to provide full security because these iFrames include trackers, pixels, and various unmanaged third-party scripts.

The lack of visibility into third-party scripts is a significant challenge for enterprises, as it limits their ability to map all trackers, detect data leaks, and create a running inventory of third-party applications and scripts. Critical activities such as CVE detection for JS frameworks, tracking pixels such as Meta and TikTok, and tag misconfiguration are limited because these components become inaccessible. This limitation exposes companies to the risk of data collectionwhich can result in lost revenue, damaged reputation and regulatory fines.

Improved visibility achieved with external monitoring

Embedded website monitoring solutions suffer from a lack of visibility. Therefore, an external monitoring solution could be the answer to solving this challenge. Reflectiz, an external monitoring solution, recently helped a large financial services company detect suspicious activity related to the TikTok pixels. The company used Reflectiz on its website to monitor its security, and the solution detected unauthorized activity related to the pixel: TikTok’s pixel script was accessing sensitive input data on one of its entry forms login TikTok had updated its pixel and the new version had been “painting” users on the website, accessing personal information and transmitting the information to its servers. The Reflectiz research team provided clear mitigation steps to immediately end unapproved pixel activity.

This case is a clear example of how monitoring your website from the outside gives you enhanced visibility into the modern attack surface, unlike installed monitoring solutions that simply don’t see the full picture and they cannot effectively monitor third-party website components such as iFrames. , tags and pixels.

Screenshot of rogue Tiktok pixel detection
Screenshot of rogue Tiktok pixel detection

Maintain tight security against third-party scripts

So what can you do to protect your websites from the risks associated with third-party scripts? Here are some tips:

  1. Conduct regular security audits: Regularly audit your website and third-party services to identify vulnerabilities and address them quickly.
  2. Use external website monitoring solutions: Implement website monitoring solutions that can detect suspicious activity and provide clear mitigation steps to address it.
  3. Use secure hosting: Choose a secure hosting provider that offers regular backups, monitoring, and security updates.
  4. Educate your employees: Train your employees to recognize potential threats and educate them about safe online practices.
  5. Use two-factor authentication: Two-factor authentication is required for all sensitive areas of your website, such as the admin panel and payment page.
  6. Use content security policies: Implement content security policies that restrict the types of content that can be uploaded to your website.
  7. Keep your software up-to-date: Regularly update your website software, including third-party services, to ensure that known vulnerabilities are patched.

In conclusion, the growing reliance on third-party scripts has brought new challenges to online businesses seeking to maintain the security and privacy of their users. The lack of visibility into these scripts increases the possibility of data breaches, cyber-attacks and compliance breaches. To mitigate these risks, companies must understand the third-party applications their organizations use and implement strong security controls and processes. External website monitoring solutions such as reflectcan significantly improve online visibility and provide clear mitigation steps to address suspicious activity related to third-party scripts.

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The digital age has revolutionized the way businesses interact with their customers, and has opened up tremendous opportunities for forward-thinking companies. However, with the onset of smarter, more sophisticated cyber threats, companies must now be proactive in protecting their website from malicious attacks. One growing challenge is protection from third-party scripts, which can create devastating and hard-to-detect vulnerabilities in a website.

At Ikaroa, we understand the complexities of cybersecurity and the need for organizations to stay safe and compliant. We offer numerous solutions to proactively secure your website against the risks inherent with third-party scripts. By keeping track of third-party scripts and running regular vulnerability tests, we are able to identify potential risks and take corrective action before an attack occurs.

It is important to remember that third-party scripts can be used for both malicious and legitimate purposes. Commonly, these codes are used to enhance a website’s functionality or show advertisements. But in the wrong hands, they can also be used to access sensitive information or commit malicious acts. To compound the issue, many third-party scripts lack clear documentation, making it difficult to identify their presence and track them throughout a website.

Ikaroa provides a full suite of security solutions to help businesses protect their websites. Our powerful monitoring tools can detect malicious or vulnerable third-party scripts and alert you to take immediate action. Additionally, our robust penetration testing service provides a comprehensive picture of your website’s security state and identifies any weaknesses.

At Ikaroa, we understand that staying ahead of the cyber security challenge is key to ensuring your website’s safety. With our comprehensive solutions, you can protect your website from third-party scripts and keep your data safe. We are committed to helping you protect your business from malicious cyber attack.


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