API in Cyber Security
API stands for Application Programming Interface and is basically a communication protocol that enables applications to interact with each other. The API interface is also used by multiple computer programs in order to maintain and implement software.
Another thing to remember is that APIs are also used to share and extract data across and within certain organizations. This means that they are designed to be accessible and consumed by a specific set of audiences, i.e., developers.
Not just that, APIs enable businesses or organizations to transform digitally rapidly in order to increase customer demands and keep up with the market competition.
What are API Attacks
In this fast-paced era, as technology is advancing with every passing moment, it is enabling people to solve difficult problems without having to get into much hassle. While on the other side, hackers and cyber attackers are also using technology in a negative way to maliciously attack systems.
So, API attacks are basically hackers/attackers trying to exploit data by attempting hostile usage or abusive usage of API data. Most of the time, these attacks might be inflicted due to any number of reasons, such as poor code, API expansion, logic vulnerabilities, etc.
However, one thing to remember is that since every organization has a unique API structure, every API security gap is also going to be different from one another. The attackers mostly spot these loopholes and enter the system from such API endpoints.
Importance of API Security
Since APIs have direct access to the services and critical data of a mobile or web application, this puts the entire software of an organization at a major risk. For this very reason, most web applications are attacked using APIs.
The loopholes left in API development can make any application vulnerable and an open opportunity for attackers for their malicious activities. It is because APIs expose sensitive data, resources, and application logic, which increases the attack surface as well as additional threats.
Types of API Attacks
There are several different types of API attacks because they keep on changing forms. It is also why these attacks are quite difficult to find. Here are some of the most common ones:
API Injection Attack
This is one of the most common API attacks that happens when malicious data is injected into several different parts of the web protection. Unverified or untrusted API data is sent to an interpreter as a part of their query to attack the system.
What happens is the attacker or user sends malicious database queries with the API requests in order to implement the injection attack. Once the command is sent to the system, it is then brought to the server.
This turns out to be really dangerous as this query might delete some directories or, in some cases, even the entire application from the server.
In simple words, Man/Bot-in-the-Middle is identity theft. This kind of attack occurs when an attacker enters a conversation between an application and a user unethically. It is done in order to imitate one of the parties or to eavesdrop, making it look like a general exchange of information.
This way, the attacker targets personal and sensitive business information and steals the credentials for websites where login is required. In other words, the MITM attack is equivalent to your mailman stealing your bank details and then delivering the mail to your door, making it look normal.
Insufficient Logging And Monitoring
This kind of attack happens most of the time when an API fails to respond at the time of the breach. This is because no logs were notified or created. Poor logging and monitoring might not seem like a direct threat, but it can still cause delays in detecting the attack.
This type of threat basically makes the organization link to the ongoing malicious attack or any other previous attack as well. This also creates a wall between the system and the required information that would be needed to identify the impact of the attack.
The DoS stands for Denial of Service, and DDoS stands for Distributed Denial of Service. In such malicious attacks, the hacker tries to make the system inaccessible to its users. The way the attacker makes it unavailable for the users is by flooding the server with unusual internet traffic.
Just like any other API attack, the purpose of this malicious activity is also to find a loophole in the API endpoints and enter the system for unethical purposes. In DoD or DDoS, the attacker intends to make the system slower in order to exhaust the user’s resources.
How to Prevent API Attacks Effectively
Keeping a checklist of API security helps you take preventive measures that are needed to lay a good technical foundation without leaving any ambiguity behind. Here is the API security checklist that can help your system to stay away from attackers and keep your organization’s sensitive data safe.
API Security Testing
Every functionality or feature that the APIs of your system have to offer or are generated for tends to be a potential risk for your system. This is because it might create a possible vulnerability through which attackers can enter your system and exploit your data.
To ensure your data is secure and no hacker can abuse your API is by adequately responding to all the API tests. You can follow the given checklist of tests:
- Penetration test
- Vulnerability scan
- Functional test
- Performance test
However, one thing you need to keep in mind is that all these tests are not there to improve the API security and are rather a way to check all the hidden technical issues to keep all cybercriminals away from your sensitive data.
The reason why it is more difficult to make sure that no attacker can access the functionalities or sensitive information of the system is that they do not need to sign to cause damage to the data when a certain API has access control vulnerability.
For this very reason, access control is an essential aspect of API security that helps prevent unauthorized access, data breaches, and other security threats. It can be implemented using different methods, such as oAuth, API keys, etc.
Using the access control mechanisms in API security, developers are likely to be able to prevent unauthorized access, data breaches, and other security threats that can harm the organization’s data.
Authentication And Authorization
Authentication refers to verifying the identity of a user or client making a request to an API. It is necessary to ensure that only authorized users can access the protected resources of the API. Some of the most popular authentication methods include token-based authentication, API keys, OAuth, etc.
On the other hand, authorization is the process of identifying whether a user or client requesting an API has the essential permissions to access the requested resources.
In other words, it is used to ensure that only authenticated users with the correct privileges can access specific API parts. The most common authorization methods include Role-Based Access Control (RBAC), Attribute-Based Access Control (ABAC), and others.
Front-end security in API security refers to the measures taken to secure the client-side or front-end components of an application that interacts with an API. These components include web browsers, mobile apps, desktop apps, and other client-side applications.
Front-end security is important to reduce the risk of unwanted attacks and can include input validation, encryption, Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF) protection, Content Security Policy (CSP), and the use of secure communication protocols.
By implementing these security measures, developers can help protect the company’s application and users from potential security threats and vulnerabilities without having to get into much hassle.
To sum it all up, maintaining high-performing API security is necessary to secure your system from bleeding and keep your sensitive information safe in your system. By ensuring that your APIs are built on a strong foundation, you can try to overcome a lot of technical difficulties. Following some of these best API security practices will certainly help you safeguard your organization and reduce the threats of any kind of unwanted behaviors or attacks.
Clustox, Your Ideal Business Partner
Get support to learn more about how Clustox can help you develop a secure and efficient application without any API vulnerabilities. Our expert team gains insights to uncover any API attacks in runtime and provide you with the best possible solution without wasting your time and resources.
Frequently Asked Questions
API logging is recording API requests and responses to a log file. It can help prevent attacks by providing an audit trail of API activities that can be used to identify and investigate suspicious activities, detect attacks, and mitigate their impact.
To prevent API attacks, you can implement security measures such as input validation, authentication, authorization, encryption, rate limiting, and logging. You can also use tools such as API gateways, firewalls, and intrusion detection systems to monitor and protect your API.
API encryption refers to encrypting data transmitted between the client and server. It helps prevent attacks by ensuring that sensitive information, such as user credentials and personal data, is encrypted and protected from interception and unauthorized access.