TLDR Key Takeaways
APIs are the engine powering our connected world. The API economy has grown exponentially in the past few years, and API calls now make up at least 83% of all web traffic.
APIs facilitate interaction and secure data exchange between applications, making the online activities and automatic transactions we take for granted possible. Companies have figured out how to utilize APIs to improve their operations and drive incredible revenue, but there's a downside.
The access to sensitive data and critical systems make APIs a primary cyberattack target and a major security risk for your business.
According to recent data shared by top cybersecurity researchers, more than 90% of surveyed companies have experienced an API-related cyberattack or data breach in the last year.
Recent API attacks on companies like Venmo, Facebook, and the United States Post Office resulted in massive data leaks affecting hundreds of millions of users. Your API may not have quite that many users, but security should still be one of your top priorities.
The best way to keep your API secure and performing at a high level is frequent, thorough testing — which was virtually impossible until API testing automation software was developed.
In this guide, we'll cover some API testing basics, talk about why it matters for your business, and briefly explore some tools you can use to improve API security and performance.
First, we need to distinguish between API testing and API monitoring. They're often misunderstood and mischaracterized as competing options when, in reality, the exact opposite is true — API testing and API monitoring are both critical to API security.
The easiest way to understand the difference between the two is to imagine you're securing a house. If you wanted to keep your home safe, you would likely install a security system to constantly monitor and report any break-ins or suspicious activity. In the API world, API monitoring is equivalent to the security system you would install for your home.
API monitoring systems alert your team when there is a security breach, so they can react swiftly to patch the system and limit the amount of data loss or other harm.
Seems simple enough, right? Now let's talk about how API testing fits into the picture.
Let's go back to our hypothetical house. Even with a reliable security system installed, you wouldn't be able to sleep soundly at night without checking to make sure all the doors and windows were securely locked. The reason you would check and double-check your doors is obvious: alarms and security systems are great, but you would much rather prevent intruders from entering your house than deal with the consequences of a break-in.
API testing is like making sure your doors and windows are locked. It's an oversimplified comparison, but, like checking your locks, API testing involves systematically checking your API for security vulnerabilities and closing any loopholes that hackers can exploit with malicious intent.
API testing and API monitoring are both absolutely critical to your DevSecOps flow — the combination of these two security measures is the only way you can be confident your API is safe and secure.
Read More: 3 Steps for an Effective API Testing Process
Let's visit our hypothetical house one last time. If your house is a one-bedroom apartment, manually checking your doors and windows is quick and easy. If you have a comfortable single-family home with four or five doors and two dozen or so windows, the nightly check is more tedious but still manageable. Now imagine the house you want to secure is Buckingham Palace — with 1,500 doors and 760 windows. Manually checking each one becomes an impossible task.
The same is true for API testing. APIs have dozens or hundreds of endpoints — each of which performs various functions and supports multiple methods and input parameters. Depending on the complexity of your API, that means you can have anywhere from hundreds to thousands of potential security vulnerabilities and attack vectors for determined cybercriminals.
It's impossible to test them all after every new build or update manually, but for a long time, manual testing was the only option development teams had.
The complexity of manual testing often meant API security testing only happened once or twice per year — giving cyber attackers plenty of time and opportunity to find and exploit business logic flaws and other security loopholes.
Automated API testing platforms have completely transformed API security testing. There's no more need for tedious and error-prone manual testing.
Instead, testing platforms execute a series of comprehensive automated tests covering every API in its entirety.
The automated tests cover all possible scenarios needed to verify your API is working, secure, reliable, and performing as expected. They find bugs or flaws in the source code so that your dev team can proactively fix them before any bad actors can find and exploit them.
API test automation gives testers and developers an easier way to achieve better testing results — and better testing benefits your entire business. Let's look at three ways automated API testing helps boost your business.
Your developers are probably some of your highest-paid employees, and you want them to spend most of their valuable time on innovative development — not on repetitive testing. Automation helps you achieve that goal.
Less time spent testing means your developers have more time to fix bugs and build new products or features instead of writing and running manual tests.
As a result, you’ll be able to improve innovation and quality to keep up with changing business and customer demands by building, testing, and releasing more bug fixes, features, and products at a much faster pace.
API testing is complex because APIs are complex. APIs are built to be flexible, interact with multiple other systems, and do a lot of things in between — which means there’s lots of room for updates and changes to unintentionally cause security problems.
To test for all possible errors and security vulnerabilities, you need a vast amount of perfectly coded test scenarios.
Your developers are skilled, but they’re still human - and humans make mistakes. When it comes to API security testing, mistakes can lead to major security breaches. Automated API testing eliminates human error and enables you to test how your APIs respond to a broad spectrum of API calls and conditions.
The result is excellent test coverage and peace of mind knowing your team has tested all possible scenarios without overlooking any critical details.
Manual API testing is time-consuming and requires significant coding and API expertise to execute.
With APIs, there’s no UI, so you have to know what you’re doing and be able to write code at the command level. As you can imagine, it’s a slow process. A single test can take hours to write and run. In addition to being slow, manual testing gets very expensive very fast because of all the hours required from your developers.
Automated tests take seconds to execute. You can run an entire testing program in minutes as opposed to the weeks required to do the same thing with manual testing. As a result, automated testing drastically reduces the time your team spends on API testing planning, writing, and running tests — and the cost associated with these activities.
Automated API testing is also repeatable and scalable. With the help of automation, your testing can keep pace with development and business demand without sacrificing quality.
No matter how complex your APIs get, you can test them every time you make changes to the code and verify that the adjustments or improvements you made to one function didn’t have unpredicted consequences elsewhere.
While most API testing automation tools execute all the tests that you manually create for you, you still have to sit down and author all those thousands of test scenarios - so simply automating the execution isn't enough.
However, there is a way to automate both test creation and execution. Below, we cover some of the best API testing automation tools to help you build robust APIs.
If you follow Agile development practices, you’ve most likely already embraced some form of automation as part of your CI/CD process. If not — what are you waiting for? It’s time to introduce and expand the use of automation in your API testing process.
There are a lot of tools that can run tests extremely well - but few can actually create tests and give you complete coverage of every endpoint, method, OWASP category, and attack vector to thoroughly protect your data.
Let’s run through four API test automation platforms that we trust to secure your API environment for both functional and security testing.
APIsec stands out as the only fully automated security testing platform in the world of API automation.
APIsec combines human cybersecurity expertise with the power of AI to help you test and scale your APIs.
APIsec is the only automated API security testing solution that actually creates and executes tests for you to give you compete coverage, checking every endpoint, method, OWASP category, and attack vector.
Users appreciate the intuitive UI and the ability to quickly create and run functional tests, integration tests, regression tests, and a variety of other tests.
There’s a free version for cost-conscious developers, but it lacks many of the features of the full version.
However, you still have to create tests before Postman can automatically execute them.
BurpSuite is a popular tool for semi-automated API security testing. The free version includes tools to help with manual testing, while the paid version offers penetration testing and vulnerability scans to help you improve and maintain security.
One of the most effective features is the ability to perform continuous API security testing using a recurring series of automated checks. For more in-depth testing, you can take advantage of a suite of manual and semi-automated test creation tools to speed up your process and run more scenarios.
Zap is unique in two ways: it's completely free, and it's continuously maintained and improved by a volunteer team of international API testing experts and enthusiasts.
Zap offers both helpful videos and resources to get you started with API automation and an extensive suite of tools to help you develop and execute a thorough API security testing process.
Whether fully automated like APIsec, or another platform with less robust features, utilizing automated API testing is beneficial for boosting your security testing. Through comprehensive penetration testing and vulnerability scans, the software can uncover business logic flaws along with other security loopholes hackers can exploit,
However you use it, automated API testing takes your development process to the next level of speed and efficiency while maintaining and even improving the quality of your releases.
When it comes to API threats, the most dangerous vulnerabilities come from business logic, role configuration, and access control flaws, making traditional web security, pen-testing, and WAF approaches obsolete against the top API exploits.
APIsec is the first fully automated API security testing platform that can instantly detect and fix the most damaging security threats in the API layer, offering a unique spectrum of benefits: