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Protecting APIs From Advanced Security Risks

An API means an Application Programming Interface which works as software intermediary for communicating among your apps. In turn, it enables sharing and extraction of data among apps in an effective accessible manner.

Your web APIs here effectively establish connections between apps and platforms or services like games, social networks, devices, databases and some more. In IoT apps and devices, APIs serve well to gather data apart from being capable enough to control other connected devices too.

The APIs are in general developed as REST APIs and SOAP APIs. SOAP or Simple Object Access Protocol APIs are XML based and helps as messaging protocol among computers for exchanging information. These APIs are developed basing up on WS Security standards using XML encryption, SAML token and XML Signature for dealing security for transactional messaging. It can support successfully W3C and OASIS recommendations too.

Similarly, REST APIs or Representational State Transfer APIs are developed for remote computer systems using HTTP for obtaining data and to perform certain operations significantly. Here, these APIs enable secure communication using SSL authentication and HTTPS. JSON standards are used in these APIs for consuming payloads to simplify data transfer over the browsers.

Here, REST is all about stateless and that means each HTTP request is made to contain all the necessary or needed information with no necessity for server or client to retain data for satisfying the request.

Security Threats to API

API is often said as self-document information. It means its internal structure and implementation can serve as a way for a cyber attack. If any additional vulnerability like lack of encryption, weak authentication, flaws in business logic and some of the insecure endpoints can result in cyberattacks too.

Cyber-attacks often can lead to a data breach which can, in turn, result in an organization’s reputation loss yet keeping its relations at stake. Very often the data breach can attract the latest fines through the latest GPDR guidelines too.

The APIs security deserves seeing it in two folds as data breach and operations disruptions. So, it is quite imperative to secure your API through its design. Very common phishing acts often happens through the end-user. This is making users invaluable allies in the attack detection process and its progress.

So, often it is a remedial measure to recruit end-user input and these loops are not supposed to be hardcoded for handling a set of situations that are predetermined. Real-world examples should be examined for these end-user input loops.

Let us see in detail some of the vulnerabilities in API

  • MITM or Man In The Middle: Very often MITM involves in obtaining sensitive data between two parties by secretly relaying altering communications by intercepting API messages between two. This MITM attacks often saw happening through two stages as decryption and interception. To secure against this MITM, it is suggested to have TLS or Transport Security Layer in the API. If your API is lacking this TLS is an open-handed invitation to attackers. So, enable this Transport Layer Encryption without fail to safeguard your API against MITM.
  • API Injections: Inserting a malicious code into the API for staging attack is called as API Injection. These can be seen as XSS or Cross-Site Scripting and SQLI or SQL injection. Vulnerable APIs are often a great possibility for these kinds of attacks. If your API is failing to perform appropriate filter input or FIEO (escape output), then it is the best way one to launch the attack in the form of XSS through end user’s browser. This attack can also add into the API some malicious commands like SQL commands to delete or add tables to the database forms. The most effective way to control this issue is proven well through input validation.
  • DDoS or Distributed Denial of Service: This is a kind of attacker where the attacker pushes long or enormous messages to the server or the network with invalid return addresses. This kind of attack can result in a non-functioning situation. It deserves proper security precautions while designing the API. It is safe to enable multiple access control method to your API to mitigate well this issue. API keys may be enough when your API contains non-sensitive information. For the APIs with sensitive information are suggested using robust authentication mechanisms, HTTPS, OAuth, Two-way TLSSAML tokens and some more.
  • Broken Authentication: These broken authentication cases can allow the attacker to take control or bypass the set authentication methods in the API. Also, this situation can attack over JSON web tokens, passwords, API keys, and some more too. To mitigate this issue, it is suggested taking care authentication and authorization requirements with OAuth/OpenID tokens, API key and PKI. Also, it is wiser and safe not to share credentials across connections that are not even encrusted. Also, never reveal the session ID over the web URL too.