Cyberthreats are constantly evolving- as IT specialists find ways to patch existing system vulnerabilities, hackers find new vectors to infiltrate networks. API attacks are the latest of these threat vectors.
What is an API?
Application Program Interface or API is the intermediary that allows two software to communicate. Whenever you pick up your phone to check your social media or the weather, you’re using an API.
Here’s an example- you want to book a room at a hotel or a resort. Much like how you’d search for flights or a restaurant, you go to the hotel’s website and look up what rooms are free in their database. You might want to choose variables like applicable discounts and packages, arrival, duration of stay, etc.
But what if you weren’t on the hotel’s website, instead using a service like Booking.com that aggregated databases of multiple hotels? In this case, the booking website interacts with the hotel using API. API takes your request and looks up the hotel database, you book a room on the site, and the API returns the hotel’s response to you using the data you input.
The Rise of APIs Has Been an Exciting Evolution
As businesses continue to embrace the cloud, API has gained much relevance. APIs are the foundation of inter-software communication and integration, and businesses use it to develop complex apps that connect services and transfer data efficiently. Internal processes like inventory management and billing are also sped up. Remote workers also benefit from APIs of banking apps and management software as they gain access on any device.
Seeing this trend of enterprises moving more and more data into APIs, cybercriminals have shifted their focus to API-based attacks. On top of data breaching, these sophisticated attacks can disrupt your business activity and shoot down productivity to a minimum. API is needed for automated threats such as bot attacks and access violations.
As such, API security should be a top concern.
Some Common API Threats and How to Overcome Them
APIs come with documented data about their structure and ways they can be implemented. While this information is essential for businesses, hackers can leverage this to carry out cyberattacks. IT specialists should scavenge this data for vulnerabilities and patch them.
Lack of encryption and two-factor authentication weaken API security too. Improperly coded API is easy to exploit with phishing and malicious requests. Most of these vulnerabilities lie in backend systems.
Businesses should encrypt the traffic in transit and use SSL to encrypt links between browsers and servers.
Using OTPs and 2FA (SMS notifications with time-sensitive pins) are the safest methods to incorporate two-factor authentication.
Cybercriminals exploit unpatched files and systems, using improperly set-up APIs and broken HTTPs to misconfigure web applications and expose data.
Cybercriminals use DDoS attacks to make resources unavailable to the target audience, shutting down business activity. Reducing server redundancy, ensuring network security, and generating a DDoS response plan are the keys to mitigation.
Man-in-the-Middle attacks involve a perpetrator spying on conversations between two ends and stealing confidential information, usually through IP spoofing or DNS spoofing. It can be avoided by using encrypted communication channels and logging out after a session.
Server-Side Request Forgery (SSRF)
In SSRF attacks, hackers abuse servers to access secure information and either manipulate or leak it by sending requests to connect to an unknown external location. IT teams need to stay vigilant and blacklist suspicious IP addresses. Domains used by your business should be whitelisted. Always inspect and validate user input and allow specific URL schemas.