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How API Security is Emerging as a Potential Threat to Data-Driven Enterprises

If an API is not properly secured, it could result to numerous cyberattacks, making API security essential for today's data-driven enterprises.

Application programming interfaces play a big role in data-driven enterprises since they rely largely on their software application architecture. APIs have led to a sea change in the way we use web applications as they act as a communication pipeline between numerous services. Using APIs, developers can incorporate any contemporary technology into their architecture, which is quite helpful for including functionality that a consumer needs. 

APIs, by nature, are at risk of getting the application logic or sensitive data exposed, such as personally identifiable information (PII). Since APIs are generally accessible over public networks, they are often well-documented and can easily be manipulated and reverse-engineered by a threat actor. Additionally, they are susceptible to DDoS attacks. 

Since most significant data leaks happen as a result of defective, vulnerable, or hacked APIs, exposing data like medical, financial, or personal information, it is crucial to ensure the security of APIs. Additionally, if an API is not properly secured, it could result in numerous cyberattacks, making API security essential for today's data-driven enterprises. 

Critical API vulnerabilities and attacks 

In recent times, APIs have emerged as a preferred method for establishing more advanced applications, significantly for mobile devices and the internet of things (IoT). however, some businesses still need to fully understand the possible risks pertaining to their APIs while making them accessible to the public, given the continually evolving application-development methodologies and pressure for innovation. 

Businesses should as well be cautious of these typical security errors before public deployment.

Authentication flaws: Many APIs deny requests for authentication status made by legitimate users. Threat actors could take advantage of these exploits in a variety of ways by replicating API requests, such as session hijacking and account aggregation. 

Lack of encryption: Several APIs lack encryption layers present between the API client and server. Flaws as such could lead a threat actor into intercepting unencrypted or stealing sensitive data via unencrypted or inadequately protected API transactions. 

• Flawed endpoint security: Since most IoT devices and microservices are created in order to communicate with the server via an API channel, hackers often attempt to acquire unauthorized access over them through IoT endpoints. This frequently causes the API to reorder its sequence, leading to a data breach. 

Challenges Faced by API Security

As per Yannick Bedard, head of penetration testing, IBM security X-Force Red, one of the challenges in API security in current times is going through tests for security, for intended logic flows could be difficult to understand, and test it is not clearly comprehended. 

Bedard tells VentureBeat, “In a web application, these logical flows are intuitive through the use of the web UI, but in an API, it can be more difficult to detail these workflows […] This can lead to security testing missing vulnerabilities that may, in turn, be exploited by attackers.” 

“It is common for services to inherently trust data coming from other APIs as clean, only for it to turn out to not be properly sanitized,” says Bedard.  “Malicious data would eventually flow to backend APIs, sometimes behind many other services. These APIs would, in turn, be vulnerable and could provide the attacker an initial foothold into the organization.”

“The top challenge is discovery, as many security teams just aren’t sure how many APIs they have,” says Sandy Carielli, principal analyst at Forrester. 

Carielli said that many teams unknowingly deploy rogue APIs or there may be unmaintained APIs that are still publicly accessible, which can lead to several security hazards. 

According to her, many teams obliviously use rogue APIs, and there may be unmaintained APIs that are still accessible to the general public. This poses a number of security risks. “API specifications could be outdated, and you can’t protect what you don’t know you have,” she said. “Start by understanding what controls you already have in your environment to secure APIs, and then identify and address the gaps. Critically, make sure to address API discovery and inventory.” 

Best practices to enhance API security 

Listed are a few approaches that may be utilized in order to effectively secure your system against API intruders: 

API gateway: API gateway serves as the cornerstone of an API security framework, since it is easy to create, administer, monitor, and secure APIs, and serves as the cornerstone of an API security framework. The API gateway can enable API monitoring, logging, and rate limitation in addition to protecting against a variety of threats. Additionally, it may automatically validate security tokens and restrict traffic depending on IP addresses and other data. 

Web application firewalls (WAF): WAF serves as a layer between traffic and the API gateway or application. It offers an additional security layer against threat actors, like bots, by providing malicious bot detection, the ability to detect attack signatures, and additional IP intelligence, WAFs can be useful for preventing malicious traffic from entering your gateway in the first place. 

Security applications: Standalone security applications with features like real-time protection, static coded and vulnerability scanning, built-time checking, and security fuzzing can as well be incorporated into the security architecture. 

Security in code: An internal form of security that is built into the API or apps is security code. However, it can be challenging to apply uniformly across all of your API portfolios the resources necessary to verify that all security measures are applied appropriately in your API code.   

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