Application Programming Interfaces (API) are functions and resources that allow applications to interact with each other. APIs, often described as machine-to-machine interfaces, include libraries, frameworks, toolkits, and software development kits.
APIs are driving the Internet and our economy. You use an API every time you enter an app like Instagram, send a message, or check your email. APIs enable smooth data exchange.
In addition, APIs make it simple for developers to add new functionality to their apps. Rather than constructing a product from scratch, a developer can use an API and build on top of what others or themselves have already done. This shortcut saves time and ensures that important functionality works correctly.
Furthermore, with the spread of cloud technology, more and more SaaS programs are migrating to the cloud. These cloud services use APIs to communicate with each other. From text messaging to e-commerce to simply checking the news, everyday activities depend on API support.
As a result of these conveniences, API usage is rising rapidly. As a result, there could be dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of APIs connecting internal apps to each other and the outside world in a single organization. But it’s not all good news.
As the use of APIs increases, so do the threats that target them. An API attack occurs when an API is used or attempted to be used maliciously. API-based attacks are three times more common than attacks against HTML applications. APIs include documentation about their structure and implementation methods, making it easier for hackers to use this information to launch cyber-attacks. If an API is broken, exposed, or not adequately secured, it can result in sensitive or personal data exposure. Security flaws, or even misconceptions, can lead to these attacks. Therefore, API security must evolve to remain updated in this ever-changing environment.
Many companies and organizations do not fully understand APIs. These misconceptions can lead to an API being left unprotected and vulnerable to attacks. Here are three common misconceptions:
Some organizations think they don’t have any APIs at all, some aren’t aware of all their APIs, and others may think there is little traffic going through them. Many businesses today do not maintain a complete inventory of all APIs, which creates a significant vulnerability.
Knowing all the APIs used by your applications, including shadow APIs, makes it easy to be aware of changes and evolving risks. Misconfigurations, suspicious behavior, and cyber-attacks can happen when security teams are unaware of APIs, and sensitive data breach protocols cannot sufficiently protect applications from potential attacks.
Many businesses still rely on traditional security tools such as API gateways and Web Application Firewalls (WAFs) or other conventional protection methods. But while these means may be able to protect your APIs from familiar threats, they don’t protect you from other threats.
Traditional tools completely miss attacks that target the logic of APIs as threats become more complicated and sophisticated. Because these low-volume, slow-moving attacks occur over hours or days, WAFs cannot collect and analyze the large amounts of data required to establish context and identify these subtle attacker activities.
Another common misconception is that APIs are hidden behind the scenes and benefit from security through obscurity. Compared to typical web apps, APIs, by their very nature, reveal a lot more application functionality and data than you may think. As a result, attackers can easily explore APIs using the same tools as developers, using subtle methods to map the API, grasp the logic, and seek vulnerabilities.
Moreover, some companies may not be aware of public or undocumented APIs in their systems and applications, potentially allowing hackers to gain entry.
As the use of APIs grows, so does the motivation of hackers to exploit security gaps. Gartner predicts that by 2022, API abuses will move from an infrequent to the most frequent attack vector. Not having an API state of mind may cause companies and businesses to be exposed or attacked.
API security requires its own set of tactics and solutions to comprehend and mitigate specific vulnerabilities and security concerns. The only way to protect APIs is to secure them holistically and comprehensively throughout the software lifecycle. You need to discover all your APIs, learn their business logic, baseline and track traffic, identify security gaps or potential threats, and consider possible remediation—throughout each API’s entire lifecycle.