It is common knowledge that maintaining a high level of cyber security has rapidly become one of the top priorities for businesses of all sizes, and this is particularly true for companies operating in sectors that deal with sensitive consumer information. It is essential for these companies, as they work toward the goal of developing effective security plans, to take into consideration the many vulnerabilities and attack vectors that exist.
The security of APIs is one area that needs a great amount of investigation. Application programming interfaces, sometimes known as APIs for short, have emerged as a standard component for the construction of digitally connected businesses. They not only assist key digital transitions but also make communication and essential business processes easier to carry out. It should thus come as no surprise that the average number of APIs used by an organization has climbed over the course of the last year.
The process of developing a security strategy for an API is a difficult one. APIs provide a distinct set of security challenges, many of which cannot be adequately addressed by conventional security measures such as web application firewalls or identity and access management systems. The first thing that must be done in order to do it correctly is to have an understanding of the typical limitations.
The Top 5 Most Commonly Used API Flaws and How to Fix Them
The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) has compiled a list of the top ten threats to application programming interfaces (APIs) that may be found in their API Security Top 10. In the following, we will examine some of the most prevalent in further detail.
Broken Object Level Authentication (BOLA)
Attackers are able to easily exploit API endpoints in APIs that have failed object level authentication because they are able to manipulate the ID of an object that is delivered along with an API request. What is the result? Short comings in the BOLA authorization system may result in unauthorized data reading, alteration, or deletion, or even the complete takeover of an account.
BOLA is responsible for forty percent of all API attacks nowadays. Traditional security measures, such as WAFs or API gateways, are unable to recognize them as abnormal to the standard API behavior, which is one of the key reasons why they are so widespread. Instead, organizations need an API solution that can identify instances in which an authenticated user is attempting to obtain illegal access to the data of another user.
Ineffective User Authentication
An improperly functioning user authentication system in an API might be caused by a variety of different issues. This includes having an insufficiently difficult password or having poor password hygiene, not having account lockout thresholds, having extended periods for password or certificate rotations, or depending only on API keys for authentication.
Cybercriminals may acquire access to apps by using authentication-related attacks such as credential stuffing and brute-force attacks when an API has broken user authentication. These attacks can be used when an API has broken user authentication. Once the attackers have gained access to the system, they are able to take control of user accounts, modify data, or carry out unlawful activities.
Conventional security measures often lack the capacity to monitor traffic over time, which means that they are unable to effectively detect high-volume attacks such as credential stuffing. This is one of the main drawbacks of traditional security measures. In light of this, a solution for API security should be able to recognize aberrant activity in comparison to a standard authentication procedure.
Excessive Data Exposure
The majority of application programming interfaces (APIs), in an effort to maximize efficiency, are often designed to provide more data in API responses than is strictly necessary. This is one of the most prevalent problems with APIs. They then pass the responsibility of filtering the information and displaying it to the user on to the client application. The fact that attackers may utilize the duplicated data to get sensitive information from the API is an issue caused by this situation.
Even while some conventional security solutions are able to recognize this kind of vulnerability, they are not always able to tell the difference between sensitive data that should not be supplied by the API and lawful data that has been returned by the API. This indicates that a user should be able to be identified by an API security solution when they are accessing an excessive amount of sensitive data.
Insufficient Resources and the Imposition of Rate Limits
It is not usually the case, but sometimes application programming interfaces (APIs) may not place limits on the quantity of resources that a user or client can request. Because of this, they are susceptible to server interruptions that may result in denial of service, as well as brute-force and enumeration attacks directed at APIs that are responsible for authentication and the retrieval of data. In addition, attackers are able to build up automated attacks against APIs that do not have any constraints. These attacks may include cracking credentials and cracking tokens.
Traditional systems will often provide at least some fundamental rate limiting capabilities; however, it is not always simple to install this feature at scale. Because of this, these security technologies often lack the context that is necessary to detect an attack while it is in progress. A cutting-edge security solution for APIs should be able to detect any behavior that deviates from typical use parameters and report it.
Errors in the Security Configuration
A variety of security misconfigurations have the potential to inadvertently introduce vulnerabilities into application programming interfaces (APIs). Incomplete settings, incorrectly configured HTTP headers, verbose error messages, open cloud storage, and other similar issues are examples of these types of vulnerabilities. Attackers may take use of them to learn more about the API components, and then use their newly acquired knowledge to exploit misconfigurations as part of their attack.
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.