API-First Product is critical thinking that every new and existing innovation has to think through.
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What is API Security?
A foundational element of innovation in today’s app-driven world is the API. From banks, retail, and transportation to IoT, autonomous vehicles, and smart cities, APIs are a critical part of modern mobile, SaaS, and web applications and can be found in customer-facing, partner-facing, and internal applications. By nature, APIs expose application logic and sensitive data such as Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and because of this have increasingly become a target for attackers. Without secure APIs, rapid innovation would be impossible.
API Security focuses on strategies and solutions to understand and mitigate the unique vulnerabilities and security risks of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).
- Broken Object Level AuthorizationAPIs tend to expose endpoints that handle object identifiers, creating a wide attack surface Level Access Control issue. Object-level authorization checks should be considered in every function that accesses a data source using input from the user.
- Broken User AuthenticationAuthentication mechanisms are often implemented incorrectly, allowing attackers to compromise authentication tokens or to exploit implementation flaws to assume other users’ identities temporarily or permanently. Compromising the system’s ability to identify the client/user compromises API security overall.
- Excessive Data ExposureLooking forward to generic implementations, developers tend to expose all object properties without considering their individual sensitivity, relying on clients to perform the data filtering before displaying it to the user.
- Lack of Resources & Rate LimitingQuite often, APIs do not impose any restrictions on the size or number of resources that can be requested by the client/user. Not only can this impact the API server performance, leading to Denial of Service (DoS), but also leaves the door open to authentication flaws such as brute force.
- Broken Function Level AuthorizationComplex access control policies with different hierarchies, groups, and roles, and an unclear separation between administrative and regular functions, tend to lead to authorization flaws. By exploiting these issues, attackers gain access to other users’ resources and/or administrative functions.
- Mass AssignmentBinding client-provided data (e.g., JSON) to data models, without proper properties filtering based on a whitelist, usually lead to Mass Assignment. Either guessing objects properties, exploring other API endpoints, reading the documentation, or providing additional object properties in request payloads, allows attackers to modify object properties they are not supposed to.
- Security MisconfigurationSecurity misconfiguration is commonly a result of insecure default configurations, incomplete or ad-hoc configurations, open cloud storage, misconfigured HTTP headers, unnecessary HTTP methods, permissive Cross-Origin resource sharing (CORS), and verbose error messages containing sensitive information.
- InjectionInjection flaws, such as SQL, NoSQL, Command Injection, etc., occur when untrusted data is sent to an interpreter as part of a command or query. The attacker’s malicious data can trick the interpreter into executing unintended commands or accessing data without proper authorization.
- Improper Assets ManagementAPIs tend to expose more endpoints than traditional web applications, making proper and updated documentation highly important. Proper hosts and deployed API versions inventory also play an important role to mitigate issues such as deprecated API versions and exposed debug endpoints.
- Insufficient Logging & MonitoringInsufficient logging and monitoring, coupled with missing or ineffective integration with incident response, allows attackers to further attack systems, maintain persistence, pivot to more systems to tamper with, extract, or destroy data. Most breach studies demonstrate the time to detect a breach is over 200 days, typically detected by external parties rather than internal processes or monitoring.