Application programming interfaces, or APIs, are software intermediates that enable separate programs to interact with one another in an effective manner, trade data with one another, and respond to instructions that have been predefined. They make the applications available to external third-party developers, which makes them easy to integrate, perfect for automation, and gives the application the ability to utilize the data and functionality of other applications.
The primary emphasis of API security is the development of strategies and solutions, with the goals of better understanding the specific vulnerabilities and security risks that APIs may provide, and mitigating those risks whenever possible. The fundamental function of an API may be broken down into the following steps:
- In order to get information, a client application makes a request to an application programming interface (API).
- After receiving a legitimate request from the client app, the application programming interface (API) makes a call to either a web server or an external software.
- The information that was requested is included in the response that the server provides to the API.
- The data are sent to the app that requested them through the API.
Because application programming interfaces (APIs) are susceptible to reverse engineering and are often available over the internet, ensuring that they are safe ought to be of the utmost importance. The essential network and application security considerations that apply to applications and other types of internal network traffic also apply to APIs. A few of these essential security features are strong access limits, data governance, rate limitations, input validation, and threat detection.
Any vulnerability in the security of an API is likely to be identified and exploited by hostile actors as soon as it is detected. Recent high-profile breaches have shown that hackers are aggressively targeting application programming interfaces (APIs). The Open Online Application Security Project (OWASP), a nonprofit that works to improve the safety of web applications and web servers, identifies the following types of vulnerabilities as the most prevalent ones affecting application programming interfaces (APIs).
Vulnerabilities affecting application programming interfaces (APIs)
Unreliable Attempts at Authentication
The authenticity of users or devices is established by authentication. When there is just a minimal level of security provided by the authentication method, there could not even be one in place. The majority of the time, these security flaws manifest themselves in the form of faulty setup or settings that reduce the strength of authentication.
A few instances of this would include depending only on API keys as the only method of authentication, having a password complexity that is too low, or having account lockout thresholds that are too high. Threat actors may be able to manipulate the user’s accounts or sessions, steal their data, or even participate in other fraudulent operations by taking advantage of poor authentication.
Broken Object Level Authorization (BOLA)
A vulnerability in the BOLA API exists anytime sensitive fields included inside an object are exposed in an inappropriate manner. This is due to the fact that the server component does not keep a full record of the client’s state and instead depends heavily on the object IDs that are sent from the client in order to decide which object to access.
For example, attackers may utilize a user’s personal information if it is not securely secured in an API response that is sent back to the user’s browser or mobile device. They might then use this information to impersonate the user and get access to the account. As a result, threat actors may reveal, edit, or even erase personally identifiable information. This issue occurs often in applications that make use of APIs. If you are interested in learning more about BOLA, you may read this article that was authored by one of my coworkers.
Incorrect Configuration of the System
Misconfiguration of a system may take place on numerous levels, and some examples of it include the omission of security updates, excessively descriptive error messages, the failure to encrypt data, and the leaving of cloud storage buckets exposed and vulnerable to intrusion. Misconfigurations of the security settings may provide a number of risks, including the potential for sensitive data or internal systems to be compromised.
Injection vulnerabilities make it possible for threat actors to transmit instructions or malicious data to an API by means of user input fields, either by sending them as parameters or by uploading them as files.
Improper Asset Management
It is essential to have appropriate documentation since application programming interfaces (APIs) often expose more endpoints than traditional web applications. Inventorying deployed API versions and hosts in the correct manner may help minimize a number of issues, including deprecated API version exposure and exposed debug endpoints.
Protecting Against API Security flaws
API vulnerabilities are often becoming more of an issue as more businesses depend on APIs as a means of engaging with customers and business partners. As we’ve seen, there are a few different ways to make use of these application programming interfaces (APIs). You may, however, aid in the defense against them by executing a few simple acts, which are as follows:
- Ensure that your application programming interfaces (API) have enough security.
By using robust passwords and several other security measures, you can ensure that the system is only accessible to those who have been granted permission to use it. Make use of stringent authentication strategies like multi-factor authentication methods, and check to see that every user has their own distinct password. Because of this, it will be much more difficult for attackers to access your API; thus, you should make sure to review your security measures on a regular basis in order to stay current with the most recent advances.
- Perform routine security checks on your application programming interfaces (APIs).
The logic of an application must be carefully tested and validated before any user input can be incorporated into it. Developers have a responsibility to ensure this. You should also carefully regulate the amount of requests that are coming in so that you can prevent assaults that deny you access to the service.When developing APIs, you should also exercise caution to prevent critical corporate information from being publicly available. Make use of various penetration testing methods to identify any holes in the system and fix them as soon as you possibly can.
- Ensure that all of your systems are always up to date.
The most effective course of action is always prevention. Be sure that you are informed of any new vulnerabilities or exploits that might potentially compromise the safety of your systems.
Information security specialist, currently working as risk infrastructure specialist & investigator.
15 years of experience in risk and control process, security audit support, business continuity design and support, workgroup management and information security standards.