Modern software applications face many threats. Keeping your systems updated on the latest security vulnerabilities is a tactful way to tackle threats. Ideally, you should have benchmarks for such vulnerabilities to ensure application security if an attack occurs.
You can refer to the guidelines published by non-profit organizations on softer security analysis. One such premier publication by OWASP or Open Web Application Security Project highlights the API security vulnerabilities list.
The increasing need for API in our daily lives has led to the higher vulnerability of these touchpoints. This article highlights some of these vulnerabilities and how API providers are addressing them.
Object Level Authorization
The use of APIs gives access to objects, and there is significant exposure of endpoints. It creates an open wide attack area in case of a broken authorization. Therefore, it demands secured authorization to API-accessible objects. Object-level authorization checks are an integral part of every function allowing the user access to a data source.
The API providers choose an API Gateway for implementing object-level authorization checks. Any access through such systems is permissible only after the availability of access tokens. Only those users who have proper authorization credentials.
For example, various meteorological service providers are now helping other sectors to integrate weather forecast data into their weather APIs. You can read more about such APIs that help to integrate weather data in your system seamlessly after authorization checks.
It often happens that incorrect implementation of authentication mechanisms creates flaws in the system. It allows a compromised authentication token to be available for attackers. Thus, compromising the identity of the users either temporarily or permanently. It leads to an overall API security compromise with the failure of the system’s ability to identify the users.
A prevalent API vulnerability is gaining access to endpoints by the use of illegitimate tokens. Accidental exposure of API key or authentication systems getting themselves compromised is also possible. Attackers use such loopholes to gain access.
The use of secure user authentication and onboarding only trusted users can help get rid of this issue. Taking a step beyond API keys with additional authorization flows and putting access classification in place can add the required security. In the case of machine-to-machine access, the additional security layers such as Mutual TLS help ensure that the tokens are not available to the wrong user.
At times developers tend to expose a lot of data to their clients without putting any individual filters in place or considering the sensitivity of the information. It also happens that they rely on their client to filter data before displaying it to the end-user.
Developers often rely on the easy task of publishing a suite of endpoints without putting any individual restrictions. However, not all functions are necessary for the users. The higher the data exposed, the higher is the chance of an increase in unnecessary risk.
As a thumb rule, limiting the data exposure to only trusted parties who need it can be the way forward. Various authentication tools that help identify the eligible users to access the data can be beneficial. It also helps you have an API code that is simple and easy to maintain access in a structured way.
It often happens that APIs do not have restrictions on the number of resources that a client or user can request. It not only puts unnecessary pressure on the API server but leads to DoS or denial of service.
A prevalent method of attacking is DoS attacks that use black hats to overload a server. In cases where there is no limitation set for an API, it allows unlimited resources to get involved and becomes open to attack.
As a protection methodology, API providers rate the limits by management solutions or API Gateway. They implement pagination and filtering.
Function Level Authorization
Authorization flaws can also stem from complex access control policies. Unclear preparation between administrative and regular functions and in between different hierarchies can only aggravate the situation. Attackers can gain access to other users’ administrative functions and resources.
Using a functional level authorization system to standardize user identity creation and maintenance can be the way forward. You should stop in-house development and outsource specialized tooling for Access Management Systems.
Therefore, as you can see, various vulnerabilities can attack the APIs. However, the implementation of corrective measures can help to check attackers from gaining access to data or exploiting any functions.