OWASP

How Improper Assets Management Can Leave Your APIs Vulnerable to Attacks

April 10, 2022
7 min read

TLDR Key Takeaways

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IT staff turnover is a normal part of doing business, but it’s also one of the biggest threats to API security.

When employees leave your company, they take your organizational knowledge with them - which could include technical details that, when lost or overlooked due to improper assets management, lead to a high-risk API security vulnerability.

Improper assets management is severe and common enough to regularly appear on the OWASP API Security Top 10 list of the most dangerous risks to your APIs.

Keep reading to learn more about improper assets management and how you can mitigate the risk to your API security.

What Is Improper Assets Management?

Improper assets management is a security flaw that occurs when developers do not correctly document and manage their APIs.

Improper assets management can occur when teams neglect obsolete APIs, use outdated or unpatched software, launch APIs prematurely, trust unsecured connections, or fail to vet third-party providers thoroughly.

Improperly managed APIs are a prime target for cyberattacks because it is typically much easier to exploit them to access sensitive data and systems - and often can go undetected when APIs are no longer actively managed.

How Improper Assets Management Flaws Occur & And How To Fix Them

Improper assets management is a significant security threat to your business, but there’s a silver lining: it’s completely preventable. How you manage your company’s digital assets is up to you – and that means there are several measures you can take to avoid improper management and mitigate your security risk.

Let’s look at the most common reasons this happens and how to avoid it for your business.

Incomplete or Missing API Documentation

Incomplete, inaccurate, or missing API documentation makes it easy to forget, overlook, and neglect proper security checks in the dev process. If the only person who understands how an API is built leaves the organization, a new team member is almost sure to miss critical flaws.

The Solution: Keep An Up-To-Date Inventory of All APIs & Review It Regularly

A simple but effective strategy requires your development teams to maintain accurate and up-to-date inventories of all APIs and related systems. Your team should record the location, purpose, security status, version, and access controls for every single digital asset they create – no exceptions allowed.

Review your inventory regularly and take action to update security controls or decommission obsolete code as needed.

We’ve already covered how knowledge lost during developer transitions leads to improper assets management and security risks. Avoid this problem by including processes to record and transfer essential knowledge when API developers leave your organization.

Improper Management of User Roles & Responsibilities

When you assign responsibility to everyone, you assign it to no one. When teams don’t know who is responsible for API documentation and security, they’re likely to leave it at the bottom of their priority list - focusing on consistently urgent fires that tend to pop up daily for most developers.

The Solution: Clear Roles & Responsibilities

It’s vital to have a clear understanding of who is responsible for managing different types of digital assets. Make sure everyone on your team knows who is responsible for securing and monitoring your APIs and other assets – and who is responsible for taking appropriate action if a breach occurs.

Mismanaged Access Controls & Monitoring

Unsecured APIs can provide cyber attackers with a foothold into your organization’s systems and data. Successful cyberattacks occur frequent;y because someone made public an API that should have been private.

The Solution: Limit Access to All Public & Private APIs

To avoid this, you should use a combination of role-based access controls (RBAC) and federated identity management (FIDM) to authenticate users, limit access to only those who need it, and control the type of actions users are allowed to take.

Lack of Comprehensive API Security Throughout the Dev Cycle

Insecure APIs and other asset management problems are missed due to a lack of comprehensive API security measures such as frequent testing and monitoring - often until a data breach forces you to examine your system's security.

APIs are often hacked when they're in staging - these temporary pieces of code can and will become a security risk if they're not documented and maintained as well as more permanent ones.

You can reduce your risk by constantly monitoring and controlling which APIs make requests to your data servers and what data they are accessing - but this can also be very resource-consuming when done manually.

The Solution: Comprehensive API Security Testing

API Testing software has revolutionized the way companies secure their APIs. APIsec specifically provides 100% automated, continuous API security testing that works at CI/CD speed.

APIs are getting more powerful, versatile, and used in all kinds of industries, including financial services, healthcare, retail, and even professional services like legal firms. At the same time, cybercriminals are continually working on new tactics to breach and compromise data at firms of all sizes.

With APIs becoming critical to the foundation of businesses, proper management of the APIs has never been more important.

If you want a free vulnerability assessment of your APIs. Our experts will evaluate your network, answer your questions, and help you implement practical tools and effective strategies to keep your APIs secure.

Reach out to us for a free vulnerability scan today.

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