What Does API Security Mean in the Modern Threat Environment? Posted in Security Shigraf Aijaz July 19, 2023 Application programming interfaces (APIs) are like connective tissues between applications and data sources that allow businesses to connect with their partners or users. They make it easier for organizations to engage in real-time business communication and access data while reducing human errors. Also, they give users smooth and convenient access to digital services. The world is now much more reliant on APIs. However, as organizations continue to adopt more APIs, cybercriminals are making them a prime target in various cyberattacks. APIs are an integral part of modern enterprises. While these APIs play a crucial role in making organizations more efficient, they often cause security hazards and data leaks. According to a recent survey, 94% of organizations have faced security issues in API productions in the last year. Moreover, the research also revealed that one out of five organizations suffered a data breach due to security gaps within APIs. Why Are APIs the Prime Target For Hackers? The modern digital landscape has made it crucial for organizations to rely on APIs. Not only do they help ensure a smooth communication exchange, but they also help make several significant tasks easier to execute. However, in their effort to integrate APIs, most organizations tend to overlook their vulnerabilities. Often, these APIs remain a part of the organization without receiving relevant security updates and patches. Since APIs enable data exchanges between applications, services, and microservers, any vulnerabilities can lead to data breaches. Specifically, since organizations have an average of 15,564 APIs, it’s hard to secure each API respectively. The situation remains particularly dire as a growing expertise gap among professionals can block guaranteeing proper API security. Some of the common reasons why APIs remain vulnerable are: Level of permissions Misconfigured APIs Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks Malware attacks Unencrypted communication However, the crux of the problem does not lie in the fact that APIs are insecure. The main API security issues arise from the vast number of APIs that are now a common part of enterprises, making it hard to detect and address vulnerabilities. According to a recent survey by Gartner, less than 50% of APIs will be managed by organizations by 2025, all because the growth in the number of APIs goes beyond the capabilities of available API management tools. In other words, if attackers keep trying to hack into industries or organizations that are now full of APIs, they will likely come across various vulnerable APIs to exploit. Modern Threats to API Security One prime issue with APIs is using stolen tokens to access the endpoints. The attackers can exploit the authentication systems and gain unauthorized access to protected resources and sensitive data. Comprising the systems’ ability to identify the user compromises the overall API security. Misconfigured APIs also make APIs a prime target for hackers and comprise two-thirds of cloud breaches. They can exploit misconfigurations in the API servers as facilitated by application infrastructure, API resources, and transport protocols. In addition, API security misconfiguration includes HTTP methods, data leaks, and usage of default configuration with weak or no authentication. Moreover, DDoS attacks are also increasing against the API endpoints. Various clients launch API DDoS attacks because each client sends average traffic volumes. Since these attacks are difficult to detect without analyzing the aggregate traffic rates on each API service, it is another difficult security issue to address. Hackers invade communication because many organizations still use APIs without solid encryption. This again allows hackers to abuse the APIs and get hold of sensitive business data. Hackers can also intercept client and endpoint API communication and steal confidential data through a MitM attack, compromising users’ online anonymity. How to Maintain API Security Amid Rising Cyber Risks? To secure APIs at a higher level, organizations need to gain a holistic approach to cybersecurity, which means considering the vulnerabilities within both the external and internal APIs present throughout the environment. Security teams and developers need to collaborate and implement some of the following best practices for API security: Search for vulnerabilities: Finding the insecure areas within the API is the foremost and crucial step to API security. Manage access control: Since APIs are gateways for information exchange, regulating each third party’s access to sensitive information is crucial. Implement zero-trust model: The zero-trust model focuses on securing resources and users, which helps authenticate users and applications and monitors for abnormal behavior. Encrypt all data: All the data present within the API must be encrypted so that the data is not compromised in a hack attack. Use API gateways: Gateways are crucial to API security as they act as points of enforcement, helping organizations authenticate traffic while controlling and monitoring the use of APIs. Use service mesh: A service mesh routes one service to another while ensuring proper incorporation of access control, authentication, and security measures. Build a reliable threat model: A threat model is crucial as it helps evaluate and find vulnerabilities within the APis. Use tokens: Tokens are a way to allocate identities which helps establish controlled access to APIs. Validate parameters: Validating parameters is crucial to ensure any incoming data is not harmful by making it pass through a system of permissible inputs. These are some of the best tips that help ensure API security. However, apart from these points, there are several other things that organizations need to consider to gain secure APIs, such as deactivating zombie APIs and using various tools to identify potential security issues. Final Thoughts The modern threat landscape requires the use of strong API security. APIs have become a prime target of cybercriminals and can cause significant damage to the organization if vulnerabilities are not fixed quickly. Thus, it’s imperative to prioritize all the APIs within your organization and track and detect the behavior traits. You can also deploy a zero-trust approach, but first, educate and train your employees about the potential for API security threats and risks.