Api Security 101: The Ultimate Guide – Cpo Magazine

API Security 101: The Ultimate Guide – CPO Magazine

APIs, application programming interfaces, are driving forces in modern application development because they enable applications and services to communicate with each other. APIs provide a variety of functions that enable developers to more easily build applications that can share and extract data.
Companies are rapidly adopting APIs to improve platform integration, connectivity, and efficiency and to enable digital innovation projects. Research shows that the average number of APIs per company increased by 221% in 2021.
Unfortunately, over the last few years, API attacks have increased massively, and security concerns continue to impede innovations.
What’s worse, according to Gartner, API attacks will keep growing. They’ve already emerged as the most common type of attack in 2022. Therefore, it’s important to adopt security measures that will keep your APIs safe.
An API attack is malicious usage or manipulation of an API. In API attacks, cybercriminals look for business logic gaps they can exploit to access personal data, take over accounts, or perform other fraudulent activities.
API security is a set of strategies and procedures aimed at protecting an organization against API vulnerabilities and attacks.
APIs process and transfer sensitive data and other organizations’ critical assets. And they are now a primary target for attackers, hence the recent increase in the number of API attacks.
That’s why an effective API security strategy is a critical part of the application development lifecycle. It is the only way organizations running APIs can ensure those data conduits are secure and trustworthy.
A secure API improves the integrity of data by ensuring the content is not tampered with and available to only users, applications, and servers who have proper authentication and authorization to access it. API security techniques also help mitigate API vulnerabilities that attackers can exploit.
Your API is vulnerable if:
API attacks are extremely different from other cyberattacks and are harder to spot. This new approach is why you need to understand the most common API attacks, how they work and how to prevent them.
This most common form of attack happens when a bad actor changes parameters across a sequence of API calls to request data that person is not authorized to have. For example, nefarious users might authenticate using one UserID, for example, and then enumerate UserIDs in subsequent API calls to pull back account information they’re not entitled to access.
Preventive measures:
Look for API tracking that can retain information over time about what different users in the system are doing. BOLA attacks can be very “low and slow,” drawn out over days or weeks, so you need API tracking that can store large amounts of data and apply AI to detect attack patterns in near real time.
This type of attack happens if there are undocumented APIs running (“shadow APIs”) or older APIs that were developed, used, and then forgotten without being removed or replaced with newer more secure versions (“zombie APIs”). Undocumented APIs present a risk because they’re running outside the processes and tooling meant to manage APIs, such as API gateways. You can’t protect what you don’t know about, so you need your inventory to be complete, even with developers have left something undocumented. Older APIs are unpatched and often use older libraries. They are also undocumented and can remain undetected for a long time.
Preventive measures:
Set up a proper inventory management system that includes all the API endpoints, their versions, uses, and the environment and networks they are reachable on.
Always check to ensure that the API needs to be in production in the first place, it’s not an outdated version, there’s no sensitive data exposed and that data flows as expected throughout the application.
API logs contain personal information that attackers can exploit. Logging and monitoring functions provide security teams with raw data to establish the usual user behavior patterns. When an attack happens, the threat can be easily detected by identifying unusual patterns.
Insufficient monitoring and logging results in untraceable user behavior patterns, thereby allowing threat actors to compromise the system and stay undetected for a long time.
Preventive measures:
Always have a consistent logging and monitoring plan so you have enough data to use as a baseline for normal behavior. That way you can quickly detect attacks and respond to incidents in real-time. Also, ensure that any data that goes into the logs are monitored and sanitized.
Here’s a list of API best practices to help you improve your API security strategy:
Organizations are rapidly adopting APIs to improve connectivity and provide easy access to their applications and services. But unmanaged and unsecured APIs create vulnerabilities that could lead to major security breaches. Therefore, it’s critical to adopt a robust API security strategy across the entire lifecycle of the APIs.
 
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