API Security a Growing Concern for US Companies

July 26, 2023

Learn why API Security is a growing concern for US companies. As APIs increasingly link systems and transfer data, cybercriminals are taking advantage of these communication channels to steal sensitive personal information.

CISOs must implement robust security strategies to minimize the risk of data breach and safeguard their companies against malicious threats.

To achieve these objectives, CISOs must eliminate blind spots and implement robust access controls. Furthermore, they should enhance logging and monitoring of API activities for increased assurance.

1. Increased Data Exposure

APIs expose an ever-increasing volume and variety of data, making them a prime target for hackers. Furthermore, APIs give an attacker multiple ways to access sensitive information that could be misused without authorization.

One of the greatest security risks is API misconfiguration, which could leave an attacker with access to sensitive data or perform unauthorized administrative functions. This can occur if developers fail to incorporate security controls and techniques at all stages of development or are too busy for it.

Furthermore, an API that isn’t properly secured can become vulnerable to attacks that overwhelm it with excessive requests. These attacks could result in service outage or even a total denial of service.

Hackers may take advantage of this type of vulnerability by employing various attack methods such as SQL injection, which allows an attacker to inject code into an application and access database information. Other potential flaws include using weak cryptography algorithms and keys, or not implementing hashed and salted password practices.

As companies increasingly automate their processes, the number of APIs they utilize will grow. As such, API security is a growing concern for US companies as well as others worldwide.

Development of APIs can be a challenging endeavor, and developers often feel the pressure to meet deadlines so their applications are ready for release. Furthermore, developers often neglect security testing when releasing new features, leading to APIs with weak security profiles and potential security flaws.

Lack of communication can be a major security risk. This issue can affect all levels of development, from design and engineering teams to management.

Another major worry is the potential vulnerability of APIs to “chumming the water,” an attack in which an attacker takes advantage of one API method with excessive data exposure and then automates a request to collect all sensitive information available across all methods.

Data breaches can have devastating effects for companies, exposing customer names and contact info, credit card numbers, social security numbers, bank account info, medical records or other personal data. A major breach like this is highly damaging to a company’s reputation as well as customer trust.

2. Increased Risk of Data Breach

The data breach landscape is evolving, and API security has become a growing concern for U.S companies as hackers exploit vulnerabilities that aren’t adequately patched. These flaws could allow for personal information theft, account takeovers, and automated content scraping if left unchecked.

Furthermore, a data breach can lead to substantial financial losses and disrupt business operations, particularly when organizations don’t use data protection legislation as their guide.

Organizations continue to create more applications, which require APIs for functionality. Unfortunately, these APIs are accessible on the internet and thus vulnerable to being misused or access.

Companies must implement a robust API security strategy. This should include runtime protection, data security platforms and identity management tools.

When it comes to protecting an organization’s APIs, security teams must be able to quickly adjust according to changes in their environment. They need to identify both new and old APIs within their system, assess its security posture, and comprehend what kind of risks they are willing to accept.

It’s essential to have an ongoing plan for API security. This requires utilizing existing solutions like WAF infrastructure, identity management, and data protection tools as well as incorporating specialized API security technologies.

One of the most prevalent attacks against APIs is broken user authentication or access control. This method can bypass username and password protection, giving an attacker access to your application that they shouldn’t have had. This is typically accomplished through bugs or other flaws in API user authentication mechanisms.

Another type of API vulnerability is unauthorized administrative functions. This occurs when an API designer/developer neglects to require authorization for a given function, creating a situation in which an attacker can gain access to the application and perform malicious acts such as taking credit card numbers or accessing customers’ accounts without authorization.

That is why it is imperative for developers to design APIs with the expectation that they may be misused by external parties. Doing this helps prevent APIs from becoming the next major data breach and safeguards a company’s brand and reputation in the process.

3. Increased Attack Surface

APIs have become a crucial element of modern web applications and digital transformation initiatives. Not only do they facilitate integrations and automation, but they also offer user-oriented services for B2B use cases.

Therefore, API security is becoming an increasing concern for U.S companies as they move toward a distributed work model that requires remote workers. This makes it more vulnerable to attackers trying to breach APIs and steal sensitive information.

Many of the same vulnerabilities that affect web applications also impact APIs, such as authentication flaws and injection flaws. Injection flaws allow attackers to send malicious data to an interpreter or other third party and execute commands that negatively affect system functionality. For instance, a command injection flaw could send out a list of commands which compromise data integrity or cause it to crash.

Though authentication and authorization breaches remain the most frequent attacks against APIs, new threats such as DDoS attacks can overwhelm an API and render it inoperable.

Additionally, lack of documentation and version control can increase the vulnerability to API abuse by unauthorised parties. To mitigate this danger, an effective API management program should be in place.

Threat models can be utilized to visualize potential API attacks, providing organizations with insight into making informed risk management decisions. Furthermore, an comprehensive API security plan should include policies and procedures for pre-production as well as runtime security.

Due to the growing intertwinement between software supply chains and APIs, protecting this critical line of business software from cyberattacks has never been more important. Organizations are turning towards AI- and machine learning-powered security solutions that can detect, block and mitigate threats before they even reach production.

4. Increased Costs

APIs have become a cornerstone of many businesses’ digital transformation initiatives, enabling them to streamline operations and offer cutting-edge digital goods and services to customers. Unfortunately, this increased reliance on APIs also poses an increased risk of data breaches and hacks than ever before.

Due to this, organizations are investing more heavily in cybersecurity and compliance services than ever before. According to Imperva, the cost of API-related security incidents ranges from $41 billion to $75 billion annually.

Companies must devise an effective strategy to safeguard their APIs and prevent future breaches. The most reliable way of doing this is by implementing a comprehensive strategy that covers all aspects of API security.

This involves understanding and identifying which data is highly sensitive, then prioritizing mitigation efforts based on sensitivity versus risk. Adopting this approach will help guarantee that sensitive information does not leak through an API and also help prevent PII leaks from ever occurring in the first place.

Additionally, an effective approach to API security requires collaboration among various teams within an organization. This includes development teams, network and security operations teams, legal compliance teams and more.

These teams must collaborate to guarantee that security and development leaders have access to the correct information, helping them prioritize and mitigate threats affecting their APIs. Doing this helps them avoid needless and expensive security expenditures.

APIs often expose more endpoints than traditional web applications, creating an opportunity for malicious actors to insert code. This is especially true of services which undergo frequent updates.

APIs may also be vulnerable to injection flaws, which occur when untrusted data is sent as part of a command or query to an interpreter. This allows attackers to send malicious data directly into an API which could then be used for executing unintended commands or accessing company data without authorization.

Furthermore, hackers are employing bots to launch credential stuffing attacks against API authentication processes. This has become increasingly concerning as the number of attack bots has surged significantly over the past few months.

Ammar Fakhruddin

ABOUT AUTHOR

Ammar brings in 18 years of experience in strategic solutions and product development in Public Sector, Oil & Gas and Healthcare organizations. He loves solving complex real world business and data problems by bringing in leading-edge solutions that are cost effective, improve customer and employee experience. At Propelex he focuses on helping businesses achieve digital excellence using Smart Data & Cybersecurity solutions.


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