Top 3 API Vulnerabilities

Jan 4, 2023 Reading time : 6 min

9 out of 10 software, apps, and other digital services use API. Why? Because today it is all about offering a holistic approach to everything, including your digital existence. Users don’t like to jump from one app to another when interacting with their software. API offers companies a way to meet that demand. 

Today’s software is a conglomerate of parts, most using legendary 3rd party applications, through APIs, in order to boost their performance and give their user more features. In this article, we’re going to talk a bit about what APIs are, we’ll also dive into the concept of API vulnerabilities and, more importantly, what are the top 3 to look out for. 

What is an API Vulnerability? 

API stands for Application Programming Interface. It’s a program that connects computers or computer programs. This type of software is critical for today’s technology since it patches various apps, done by different companies, together. 

For example, let’s say you are an e-commerce store, an API is what allows you to “plugin” to a payment platform — say VISA, Apple Pay, or PayPal. If you’re an App, an API is what allows you to, perhaps, patch your software to Google Maps or allow your Instagram feed to scroll at the bottom of the page. 

Today, APIs are critical. And most companies are investing a lot in not only fabricating them but using them. 

Meanwhile, an API vulnerability is a security exploit that takes advantage of a software’s exposed “plug-in.” This can be done by accessing the API without authorization or by manipulating the data that is passed through it. API vulnerability filters out critical data that passes through this conduit. The back and forth between computers or software. 

Often, APIs are used to communicate between two different pieces of software. This communication can be done securely with authentication and encryption, but if not, then an API vulnerability can be exploited.

Security and privacy are two of the most important considerations when building a product. It is important to make sure that your API is secure and doesn’t have any vulnerabilities. Otherwise, you will be at risk of being hacked or other security risks.

The first step in securing your API is to identify all the endpoints that are available for use. This will help you identify which ones need more security and which ones need less.

Next, it’s important to check for any vulnerabilities in your API by running a vulnerability scan against it. This will help you find out what all the potential threats are to your API and how they can be fixed quickly and efficiently.

Most Common API Vulnerabilities

There are dozens of API vulnerability attacks out there. Dozens. And the truth is that today’s hackers are incredibly resourceful and creative — and with deep pockets. That means that they have the tech, the capital, the know-how, and the imaginative power to really hurt you and your company. 

And why are they so driven? Because any cyberattack, even an API vulnerability breach, can end up making them millions. Their ROI is staggering. From a business venture POV, right now, there’s nothing as profitable as being a digital highwayman. It’s a crime that’s incredibly hard to process, there are huge jurisdiction issues, and in most cases, some farms or hackers are actually protected by their local governments — either because they work for them, or because they pay them off. 

With that said, and taking into account that API vulnerability attacks are only going to get more and more complex and daring, here’s a list of the top 3 you need to shore up as soon as possible — top 3 vulnerabilities. 

Broken Object Level Authorization (BOLA)

BOLA is a security system that allows an administrator to specify the level of access that a user has to a particular system. This is done by specifying the object level authorization for each object in the directory tree and then applying it to users or groups.

Most coders are a bit superfluous when it comes to security. This is mainly because they see security issues and protocols as an impediment to their work. They, it is a general idea, halts their creative process. They make everything they love about coding dull and extremely slow. One of the things that suffer is BOLA — who has access to what. For example, one interface issue that really plummeted a well-known credit card company’s stock occurred a couple of years ago. What was the vulnerability? A simple coding error gave users access to key information about the company by way of an API. A user was going to make a payment and suddenly they had access to important, IP, data.

Broken User Authentication

Broken User Authentication API vulnerability is a loophole in the authentication process where an attacker can access the victim’s account.

The Broken User Authentication API security vulnerability has been found in many popular apps such as Facebook, Twitter, and Uber. This vulnerability is caused by developers not following best practices for handling authentication requests. For example, developers may store the authentication token in a cookie rather than using it to create a session and storing that session on the server.

The Broken User Authentication API vulnerability can be exploited by an attacker who has access to the victim’s account credentials or has intercepted an authorization code sent through SMS or email.

Improper Assets Management

Improper Assets Management sounds like a mouthful, but it’s not. It’s not a complicated concept. Essentially it means not keeping track of your API endpoints. This can be due because of two things:

  • Incomplete API documentation. 
  • Or Complete lack of said documentation. 

API Vulnerability Testing Role

The best way to get a handle on API vulnerabilities is to test them out. To create a protocol that takes them in and creates an in-depth analysis of the whole scheme. Figuring out where you’re vulnerable, what you can patch up, and how you can better improve as a company is pivotal to your success. 

Alex Smith
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Alex Smith