In the age of the digital economy, APIs carry tremendous data loads. APIs power business, gaming, education, science, industry, and art & entertainment. Despite the world’s dependence on APIs, API security is neglected. Developers think they follow security principles even when not using frameworks. System admins rely on infrastructure or service provider default security. But nobody really cares about APIs!
The API security risks are increasing. Because every feature is linked to other software and digital products using API to offer a seamless user experience. APIs allow cybercriminals & hackers to bypass security and directly access sensitive data. Furthermore, APIs’ benefits and use cases in modern business are growing, but security problems remain the same.
That’s why we’ve created a top ten list for API security practices. This blog post discusses API security vulnerabilities and how to mitigate them using the 10 recommended techniques. Additionally, the blog answers which API security strategy is best? And how can tech secure APIs?
What is API Security?
An API provides services that allow two programs to communicate. API security usually refers to securing an application’s backend services, such as its database, user management system, or other data store-interacting components.
API security protects tech stacks with numerous tools and procedures. A secure API protects an organization’s APIs and services. This includes preventing unwanted malicious actors from accessing critical information or acting on your behalf. While modern applications and software depend on APIs, attackers often use them to steal sensitive data.
Misuse of API or malicious attacks on API can disrupt applications, resulting in lost income, customer frustration, and sensitive data disclosure. Thus, API users must understand how third-party applications pass data through the interface.
API security measures can help security teams, identify security risks, and develop a comprehensive protection plan when APIs become an attack vector.
What are the Potential Risks of APIs?
APIs frequently steal sensitive data like program logic, user credentials, credit card numbers, etc. Malicious actors also use API endpoint vulnerabilities to access systems and networks for additional attacks.
APIs’ business significance makes them riskier than other software components. If they fail, APIs can cost companies a lot of money, though they can increase the customer base or develop multiple revenue streams.
The rise in API-related security threats has prompted the automated web application and API vulnerability scanner for SaaS businesses, developers, compliance, security teams, DevOps, and more. Developers and entrepreneurs are building and integrating APIs more than ever due to the rise of microservices and the need to minimize production time to market (TTM).
As a result, there is an exponential increase in API security challenges such as broken object-level authorization, improper asset management, broken user authentication, broken function-level authorization, excessive data exposure, revenue & credibility loss, lack of resources & rate limiting, security misconfiguration, injection, and insufficient logging & monitoring.
Along with these API security challenges, some common API security risks include injection attacks, broken authentication and authorization, insufficient input validation, DoS & DDoS attacks, lack of encryption, insecure storage, improper error handling, insecure pagination, insecure API key generation, wrong server security, and more.
What are the Common Attacks Against Web APIs?
APIs are vulnerable to many of the same attacks faced by networks and web app defenders over the years. These API exploits aren’t new. While modern apps and microservices are interconnected, making API security management critical for all stakeholders is vital. In 2023, cyberattacks on APIs will be the leading cause of data breaches in enterprise web applications.
Here are some of the common attacks against APIs:
- An attacker injects malicious code or commands into a program, usually where a username or password is expected. SQL injection lets attackers control SQL databases.
- DDoS attacks & DoS attacks overload a network, system, or website, making it inaccessible to users. API endpoints are becoming DDoS targets.
- An attacker impersonates two communication systems in a man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack. MitM attacks can occur between the API and its endpoint or between the app and the API.
- Credential stuffing exploits API authentication endpoints with stolen credentials.
- API attacks typically exploit detection delays and security misconfigurations.
To prevent these attacks, APIs must utilize proper authentication and authorization, evaluate user input and create security strategies, encrypt sensitive data, and manage failures. Security testing and monitoring can also find and fix vulnerabilities.
10 Best Practices for Securing APIs
Securing API demands organized and active end-to-end visibility. API security depends on how well CI/CD workflows follow API development and API security practices. Here are the top API security best practices to follow:
1. Remediating API Risk
How fast and efficiently you manage threats by severity determines your API’s security. To prevent escalation, your API management framework should detect and fix threats. Assess the sensitive data exposure, API endpoint risk, and policy violations. It should also use its experience to identify, prioritize, and mitigate API security and compliance problems.
2. API Runtime Maintenance
At runtime, attackers try to infiltrate apps at different endpoints, compromising API security. A solid API security solution detects & prevents threats and data exfiltration at runtime. It tracks API drift, anomalies, and recently added or deleted APIs.
3. All Requests and Responses Encrypted
Encryption turns ordinary text into code text or cipher text. Encrypted and decrypted data are only accessible with keys. APIs secure user data by encrypting queries and responses. As a result, there will be no encryption key for the attackers. Therefore if the data is intercepted, it will be useless.
4. API Gateways
API gateways link clients to backend services. It routes all customer API queries to the appropriate microservice. API gateways verify your identity and access permissions for security (authorization). Thus, API gateways add security and control. Before sending queries to the API backend, they authenticate them using their service configurations.
5. OAuth/OpenID Connect
API security requires authentication and permission access control. OAuth and OpenID Connect standardize authentication and permission. OAuth is an open standard authorization technique that employs tokens to let third-party websites or apps receive information from another system without disclosing user credentials. OpenID Connect is a basic OAuth overlay that allows clients to verify end-user identities and get the profile information.
6. Find Vulnerabilities
A practical method for securing APIs is to determine which steps of the API life cycle could be exploited to breach and reveal sensitive data because of vulnerabilities in the system. Routine testing and reviews might reveal API vulnerabilities, especially during early development and code changes. Additionally, penetration testing can secure APIs.
7. Quota and Throttle
DDoS attacks flood API servers with requests from various sources. Degrading system performance makes it inoperable. But, we can limit API consumption with throttling and API quotas. When a client request fulfills certain circumstances, we increase the throttle counter. Based on throttling, API quotas limit call volume. As a result, the API quota prevents client traffic.
8. API Validation
API parameters involve comparing API queries and responses to a strict standard. An API-integrated system or app is secure and only shares permitted inputs and data. It can show whether the requested resources were successful. Oversharing sensitive data can be exploited. Hence it prevents it.
9. Model Threats
This is cataloging API security flaws and how to mitigate them. Defining safety standards, identifying risks, assessing threats, mitigating threats, and implementing an essential process in threat model development are parts of this API security practice. Threat models help you understand API attacks and make informed risk management decisions.
10. Always Use HTTPS
If your API endpoints enable HTTP or other non-secure protocols, you risk them. Cyberattacks on APIs, like man-in-the-middle attacks and packet sniffers, can steal passwords, secret keys, and credit card information. Always use HTTPS. No matter how simple an endpoint is, HTTP shouldn’t be used. Buy a TLS certificate on the SSL store. This activity will help you to keep your endpoints secure.
APIs will become more vulnerable as organizations continue to microservice. Also, an API failure can damage a company’s software, data, and image. The risk is high in the modern API economy, where many businesses use the APIs for development purposes.
Thus, organizations must guard against malicious attackers who exploit security misconfigurations or expose API keys. API security best practices must be followed to protect APIs from attacks to prevent data breaches and other API dangers that might cost companies a lot of money.