5 API Security Challenges Every Organization is FacingJune 17, 2022 No Comments
By John Iwuozor
APIs continue to grow in popularity due to the growth in microservices and the need to bring new applications and services to market faster. While such rapid innovation benefits industries such as the financial and technology sectors, it also opens the possibility of breaches, especially regarding API security risks.
Nine times out of ten, we look at the ramifications of API threats following a breach or hack. Unfortunately, it is usually too late as the harm is already done. Attacks come with few warnings, and API security issues are a growing problem as the number of hackers grows.
This article will examine some of the security challenges to the API and its ecosystem. You will also see how to protect yourself from hackers.
Security Challenges that Organizations Face
1. Broken Object-level Authorization
Object-level Authorization is an access control mechanism typically implemented programmatically to validate a user’s ability to access a particular object.
A problem with APIs is the exposed endpoints that handle object identifiers, creating a large area of potential attack. Attackers can easily exploit API endpoints vulnerable to broken object-level authorization (BOLA) by manipulating the ID of an object sent in an API request. These vulnerabilities are widespread in API-based applications because the server component typically does not track the client state.
Failure to impose authorization at the object level or improper broken object-level authorization can lead to data leakage and unauthorized viewing, editing, or data destruction. BOLA can also lead to full account control, for example, in cases where an attacker can disrupt the password reset flow and reset credentials for an account for which they are not authorized.
One way to prevent BOLA attacks is to allow an API security solution to learn the business logic of an API and detect when an authenticated user attempts to gain unauthorized access to another’s user data.
Injection errors are pervasive in the web application space and are pushed to the web API. Structured Query Language (SQL) injection is one of the best known.
Attackers exploit these injection vulnerabilities by sending malicious data to an API, which is processed by an interpreter or parsed by the application server and passed to an embedded service, such as a database management system (DBMS) or a database-as-a-service (DBaaS) in case of SQL injection (SQLi). The interpreter or parser is tricked into executing unwanted commands or providing access to information without proper authorization.
The injection can result in various impacts, including information disclosure, data loss, denial of service (DoS), or complete host control. In many cases, successful injection attacks expose large sets of unauthorized confidential data. Attackers can also create new functionality, execute code remotely, or bypass authentication and authorization mechanisms altogether.
An attacker can use an injection flaw maliciously in almost any part of a request, such as headers, cookies, query parameters, and the message body. It would be best if you detected these flaws early, and you need to configure input validation where you can reject unwanted requests that try to exploit and access your data.
3. Improper Asset Management
This vulnerability occurs when sensitive information is not sufficiently protected or cannot be accessed in the API. This makes it easier for hackers to discover and exploit the system.
For example, if a company does not protect their employees’ passwords with hashing algorithms, hackers can easily use publicly known hash algorithms to create phishing campaigns against them. These campaigns aim to obtain victims’ login credentials to access confidential company data.
Potential consequences of poor asset management include data leaks or server control through a common database between the current API and the previous one.
API security solutions must be able to analyze all API traffic and continuously discover APIs. API traffic analysis must include the ability to identify all API endpoints, host addresses, API parameters, HTTP methods, and token data types, including identification and classification of sensitive data and their values.
4. Excessive data Exposure
Taking advantage of Excessive Data Exposure is simple. It is typically done by sniffing the traffic to analyze API responses, looking for sensitive data exposure that shouldn’t return to the user.
Developers can expose all object properties and allow clients to filter out the data before displaying it to the user. Because APIs are used as data sources, developers sometimes try to implement them generically without worrying about the sensitivity of the exposed data. Traditional security scanning and runtime detection tools sometimes report this type of vulnerability.
APIs often send more information than necessary in an API response and let the client application filter the data and provide a view to the user. An attacker can detect traffic sent to the client to access sensitive data, including account numbers, email addresses, phone numbers, and access tokens.
Apply an API security solution that can monitor endpoints, map, and identify excessive data consumption per user.
5. Security Misconfiguration
This issue is a wildcard for a wide variety of misconfigurations that often affect the security of the API as a whole and inadvertently introduce vulnerabilities. Examples of poor security settings include insecure defaults, incomplete or ad hoc settings, open cloud storage, misconfigured HTTP headers, unnecessary HTTP methods, excessive cross-origin resource sharing (CORS), and verbose error messages.
During the rebuild phase, attackers can exploit incorrect security configurations to learn about the application and API components. Detailed errors, such as stack trace errors, can expose sensitive user data and system details that can help an attacker during the reconnaissance phase to find exploitable technologies, including outdated or misconfigured applications and web servers.
Yes, as you can avoid them by thoroughly analyzing API activity and establishing a baseline. Writing tests that reinforce the structure of a specific response and updating the API documentation simultaneously as its development can also add essential points to ensure API security.
In a world of growing API security threats and attacks, the only way for businesses to stand a chance against hackers is through constant monitoring. Monitor API security risks because your business depends on them, as the damage is enormous and can cost far more than proactive measures.
The best thing to do is recognize where the threats are coming from and put the necessary defenses in place long before anyone tries to launch an attack.
About the Author: John Iwuozor is a freelance tech writer with proven expertise in the tech niche. This includes Data Science, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing (NLP), Computer Vision, Image Recognition, IoT, Programming Languages, SaaS, and Cybersecurity. He is also a regular writer at Bora.
APPLICATION INTEGRATION, DATA PRIVACY, DATA SECURITY