APIs are an integral part of digital transformation strategies, and securing those APIs is now a concern as Cyber threats such as data breaches and payment hacks are on the rise. According to a recent Gartner report, API attacks will become the most-frequent attack vector, causing data breaches for enterprise web applications by 2022. To protect sensitive data, businesses must prioritize cybersecurity measures, particularly API security.
API security is vital as most businesses use APIs to connect services and transfer data. Due to the usage of these APIs, any attack could be catastrophic and lead to a data breach. In the recent past, the Peloton API bug can be considered a good example to illustrate the precarious nature of API security. When the API bug was reported back in 2021, it showcased how easy it was to acquire user data from the system. This became a case study for API security as even the POTUS is one of the users of the at-home fitness brand.
One of the important reasons why APIs are increasingly becoming a target among hackers is because of exposure. Traditional web applications usually receive high-frequency one-and-done attacks such as request failures, sequel injection, or cross-site scripting that are blocking a system. However, there is no guarantee that the hacker will be able to get in. On the other hand, APIs reveal application logic and sensitive data, which helps hackers study patterns to penetrate the system easily. Having a secure API offers the following benefits:
- Ability to innovate and mitigate unique security risks
- Adds an extra layer of protection from external attacks and data breaches
- The cost of running API security checks is low and requires less time and minimal codes to test
- Helps identify weak areas without compromising the integrity of the application
API security posture
The security posture of the API is critical while building an API. It is important to note that there are no greenfield deployments, and developers must have a good understanding of who has access to APIs, irrespective of the development process. This can be made possible only when the security posture of the API is clearly understood.
APIs are designed to facilitate the easy flow of data across applications. As there is active movement of data, there is little room for traditional security tools such as firewalls to differentiate between malicious activity and appropriate use. To remediate the same, it is important to have a good API security posture. API security posture is relevant to determining the organization’s ability and preparedness for cyberattacks. It is about testing the ammunition that the developers have in hand with a realistic understanding of where the attack can come from.
API discovery tool for inventory assessment
An important first step in managing API security is the API security posture assessment. In this step, an API discovery tool is used to find the entire inventory of all the existing APIs, including legacy and shadow APIs. By running this program, developers can get an understanding of the interdependencies and the volume of API in use. API security tools can also be used to continually monitor for vulnerabilities.
API gateway security policies
Authentication is an important step in API security posture. It is considered more complex in comparison to traditional web applications as the interaction is not at a human-to-machine level but rather at a machine-to-machine level. To secure APIs, it is recommended that developers have gateway policies that authorize users to complete certain tasks. This way, there is a clear bifurcation in the way people enter and use an API as opposed to having everyone enter with an all-access pass.
Use AI/ML to monitor traffic
With the API inventory list in hand, developers can use AI and ML capabilities to monitor user traffic that helps detect patterns. When the behavioral baseline is set, it makes it easy to set alerts for anomalies and cyberattacks. Monitoring real-time traffic can also give insights into data tampering, leakage, data misuse, or any other security attack.
Open Source for API security
Open Source solutions are very powerful and can be used for a range of API testing. With these tools, the developer can upload the API description and test it to ensure the API is not misused during an API attack. Open Source can also be used to find static security issues. Some API learning tools help understand the security aspects of an API in a mock environment to test. There are several open-source tools available to check for API vulnerabilities. Open-source tools are easy to customize to suit specific requirements.
To keep up the API security posture of the application, it is imperative to follow certain key practices. Some of them are listed below.
- Document all the APIs in production
- Understand and gather the entire potential exposure of the organization using an API discovery tool
- Correlate API against the different types of data and associated resources
- Evaluate the workload of the current application security team and decide to add more as required
Noname Posture Management
Noname Security Posture Management uncovers all APIs across your environment, including rogue and shadow APIs. The solution helps discover legacy and rogue APIs, classify sensitive data, and identify misconfigurations. Offering complete visibility, the platform detects all vulnerabilities in the OWASP API Security Top 10. Noname Security Posture Management can also be used for API inventory monitoring.
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