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What Is OWASP API Security Top 10: A Deep Dive

The rise of APIs has changed the landscape of vulnerabilities so fundamentally that a new approach was necessary, and 2019 OWASP added the API Security Top 10 list.
July 20, 2021
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10 min read
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Wesley Meier

Business Logic

Business Logic vs. Application Logic: The Key Differences You Need to Know

Business logic refers to the rules and procedures that govern a business, including things like pricing, discounts, inventory levels, customer eligibility, etc. Application logic, on the other hand, is the code that implements those business rules within a specific application. The key difference between business logic and application logic is that business logic is all about the data inputs based on your business, while application logic is all about how the user interacts with the app. For example, business logic is concerned with calculating interest on a loan, whereas application logic is concerned with what happens when the user clicks the "Get pre-approved" button on a website. To better understand why this distinction matters, it is important to fully understand how these logics function and how they work together to ensure that your applications are more reliable and scalable. What is the Function of Business Logic? Business logic encodes real-world business rules that determine how users interact with the application and how data should be created, exchanged, and managed. This code is typically written in if-then statements or decision trees and sits between the user interface and the database. It is responsible for ensuring that all data that passes through it is valid, consistent, and accurate. "If a user makes an out-of-state purchase over $500, flag the transaction as suspicious." Business logic should be written independently of the technology used to implement it. That way, if the technology ever needs to change, you won't have to rewrite your business logic. Or, if your business rules change, then alterations can quickly be made to the business logic. Business logic is also responsible for handling all of the behind-the-scenes work that needs to happen in order to keep the data safe and secure. If the logic isn't sound, a loophole occurs. This is known as a "business logic flaw," and it has serious consequences. What Goes Wrong with Business Logic? One of the most common problems with business logic is that it becomes outdated as a business changes. This leads to inaccurate calculations, bad decisions, or simply an inability to function correctly. Malicious actors frequently exploit business logic flaws. If there are security holes in the system, attackers use them to gain access to sensitive data, disrupt operations, or even take control of the entire system. Adopting security measures to test your logic for any loopholes or flaws is one way to protect your business logic. What is the Function of Application Logic? Application logic is the engine that bridges the gap between business logic and the user interface: It takes the back-end business logic input and turns it into the front-end output that the user sees. In short, the actions run with application logic have nothing to do with business, it simply outlines a series of actions triggered by an event. "If a user clicks this button, a tab will open in a new window." It contains all of the rules and processes that control how the user interacts with the data. Its main responsibility is to ensure the user interface is easy to navigate, providing a good experience. Unlike business logic, application logic is typically written in high-level programming languages, including C++, Java, or Python. This code is what makes the system work. Without proper application logic, an application would be nothing more than a bunch of disconnected code snippets. What Goes Wrong with Application Logic? The complexity of the programming in the application logic is what also makes it susceptible to errors. If the code is poorly written, if there are bugs in the system, or if the data that's being used is incorrect—the entire app can collapse. Since application logic is user-facing, any glitches will directly affect consumers. This could cause problems ranging from minor inconveniences to completely losing customer loyalty. The good news is that these bugs are much easier to find than vulnerabilities in business logic. How do Application Logic and Business Logic Work Together? Even though they each have distinct functions, business logic and application logic work together to ensure that a business runs smoothly and efficiently. Companies rely on both types of logic to automate tasks, keep data safe, and provide a consistent user experience. The two types of code are often combined within an application or program. For example, an e-commerce application might have business logic that defines the process for adding items to a shopping cart and application logic that actually adds the items to the cart. When an application needs to perform a task, it uses business logic to determine how to carry it out. The business logic will tell the application what rules to follow and in what order they should be performed. The application logic will then use this information to carry out those steps. The important thing to remember is that business logic and application logic need to work together in order for a company to be successful. They are essential for creating a successful web application that is both efficient and user-friendly. Read More: Why APIs Are Your Biggest Security Risk Protect Your Application from Business Logic Vulnerabilities with APIsec With APIs well on their way to becoming the primary attack vector in 2022, business logic flaws are the most dangerous type of vulnerabilities that can't be detected with traditional scanners and testing tools. APIsec is the only fully automated API security testing solution that identifies business logic flaws at scale. With thousands of attack scenarios tailored to the unique architecture of your APIs, APIsec investigates every corner of your API and leaves it completely covered. Reach out to a consultant to get set up with a free demo.
April 10, 2022
6 min read
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Dan Barahona

Business Logic

5 Real-world Examples of Business Logic Vulnerabilities that Resulted in Data Breaches

Business logic flaws are considered to be the most dangerous cluster of API vulnerabilities - and for good reason. While some vulnerabilities are relatively easy to spot with scanners and penetration tests, business flaws are typically hard to detect as they occur within the bounds of your system's legitimate functionalities. A rapidly growing list of organizations falling victim to major cybersecurity incidents resulting from business logic flaws serves as a cautionary warning for anyone overlooking thorough API security testing processes. Business Logic Vulnerabilities 101 A business logic vulnerability refers to a flaw in the design of an API that can be exploited to achieve a malicious goal. These flaws allow attackers to gain unauthorized access to sensitive data without turning to malware or exploits by using the API as it was designed in ways unintended by developers. Because of this, business logic flaws can go undetected for years without triggering any alarms, making them a favorite target for bad actors. That's why companies must have a process for identifying and fixing business logic vulnerabilities before they are exposed and exploited. Read More: Why Business Logic Flaws Are Your #1 API Security Risk These 5 Major Data Breaches Were Caused by Business Logic Flaws Companies that don't take data security seriously often find themselves in trouble. A data breach may result in a tsunami of lawsuits, massive financial losses, and permanent damage to an organization's reputation. In fact, nearly a quarter of Americans stop doing business with companies that have experienced a data breach. To help you avoid becoming a statistic, below we'll break down five real-world data breaches caused by business logic flaws and provide actionable tips on protecting yourself against them. 1. USPS Data Breach: 60 Million User Records Exposed In 2018, the United States Postal Service (USPS) became a data breach victim when a cyberattacker opened the system to allow anyone with an active account at usps.com to view - or even view modify - account details of other users. What Information Was Lost or Exposed? Approximately 60 million records of users were exposed as a result of this major data breach. The incident led to the unauthorized access of real-time delivery data, exposing all sensitive personal information on the affected accounts, including email addresses, user IDs, usernames, phone numbers, and street addresses. How Did This Breach Happen? The USPS data breach happened due to broken access controls in their informed delivery API. This business logic flaw allowed attackers - or any authorized user for that matter - to gain access to other people’s sensitive data without any exploits by abusing the flaws in the legitimate authentication mechanisms. How to Combat This Business Logic Flaw Companies can take several steps to protect their APIs from this business logic vulnerability - some of the best examples include: Authenticate all API requests to ensure that user A can’t access user B’s information. Adopting the zero-trust security model to monitor both unauthorized and authorized users. Eliminating Basic Authentication (the standard combination of a username and password) and implement OAuth, JWT, or OpenID instead. Avoiding auto-increment IDs to drastically reduce the severity of a data breach should one occur. Considering the use of short-lived access tokens. 2. Citi Data Breach: Over 350,000 Customer Records Stolen Since financial institutions contain large amounts of highly sensitive data that can be sold on the dark web, they have traditionally been a prime target for cybercriminals. In 2011, Citi announced the security of its online banking platform was compromised, leaking personally identifiable information. What Information Was Lost or Exposed? A seemingly minor vulnerability allowed attackers to gain unauthorized access to 350,000 customer records of North American cardholders. The breach exposed the names, account numbers, and contact information of the customers. While sensitive financial data was not leaked, the company suffered major reputational losses. How Did This Breach Happen? The data breach occurred due to a parameter tampering attack targeting their business logic layer. An attack using this method involves manipulating certain parameters exchanged between the client and server. In this type of attack, web elements like cookies, URL strings, and hidden form fields can hijack a request to the database and gain unauthorized access to sensitive data or elevate their user privileges. Read More: How Cybercriminals Acquired 350K Citi Customer Records (In-depth Analysis) How to Combat This Business Logic Flaw Several methods exist to prevent parameter tampering attacks on web applications and APIs: Ensure that the application or API validates and sanitizes all input parameters before they are used. Many techniques can be used to accomplish this, including regular expression matching, whitelist validation, and blacklist validation. Enforce cookie encryption to prevent parameter tampering. Do not include parameters in URL query strings. 3. HealthEngine Data Breach: 59,000+ Containing Personally Identifiable Information Leaked Black market sales of medical records are on the rise since they contain all of an individual's personal information. Fraudulent transactions and blackmail can easily be carried out using these data sets. Over the last three years, 93% of healthcare organizations experienced a data breach - including HealthEngine, a marketplace and review platform for healthcare services. What Information Was Lost or Exposed? The data breach exposed over 59,000 records of patients’ personally identifiable information. The incident brought the attention of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission that went in to audit the company and fined HealthEngine $2.9 million for violating privacy and consumer laws. How Did This Breach Happen? The attacker didn’t need to use any sophisticated hacking techniques to harvest the records as the data breach was caused due to a pretty common vulnerability known as excessive data exposure. Excessive data exposure vulnerabilities occur whenever an API returns more information than a user needs to perform a given task or action. In HealthEngine’s case, the backend of the system sent healthcare practice review data along with all the personally identifiable information of the patient who had submitted the feedback. Since the client was responsible for data filtering, it was easy for anyone to analyze network calls to collect the records. Read More: How Cybercriminals Acquired Patients' Personally Identifiable Information from HealthEngine (In-depth Analysis) How to Combat This Business Logic Flaw Excessive data exposure is a common yet overlooked cybersecurity issue that plagues web applications and APIs. Consider the following measures to reduce the attack surface: Avoid returning entire database objects in API responses. Never rely on the client for data filtering - simply hiding certain fields doesn’t prevent cybercriminals from accessing them. Minimize the amount of data in your API responses to the bare minimum needed to execute a certain task. Make sure your error pages don't contain any information that can help bad actors identify your tech stack. 4. Symantec Data Breach: 23,000 SSL Certificates Revoked In 2019, Symantec, one of the largest cybersecurity companies in the US, found itself on the receiving end of a data breach, which resulted in severe reputational and legal repercussions. What Information Was Lost or Exposed? After thousands of private keys were exposed, DigiCert, a leading provider of digital certificates, revoked 23,000 Symantec SSL certificates. How Did This Breach Happen? The incident was caused by a broken access control vulnerability in the business logic. The API failed to properly validate whether a given user was allowed to access sensitive data. The compromised records allowed the attackers to perform Man-in-the-middle attacks. Read More: How a Common API Flaw Gave Attackers Access to Symantec's Customer Certificates (In-depth Analysis) How to Combat This Business Logic Flaw This business logic flaw can be averted by implementing the following measures: Analyze all possible ways for authorized and unauthorized users to authenticate to your APIs Implement rate-limiting to prevent automated attacks Enforce multi-factor authentication 5. Venmo Data Breach: Over 200 Million Transactions Harvested In 2019, the money transfer site Venmo (owned by PayPal) became a victim of one of the largest data breaches in recent years. What Information Was Lost or Exposed? Approximately 200 million transactions were exposed along with massive amounts of sensitive data associated with them as a result of the data breach. As a result, it was possible to analyze the entire transaction history of the compromised users, including the recipients, the amount of money sent, and even the purpose of those transactions. How Did This Breach Happen? The attacker scraped millions of Venmo payment records through their unsecured API that was leaking data. The developer API was open to unauthenticated requests, making it possible for anyone to harvest highly sensitive data. This business logic flaw is related to security misconfiguration, a cluster of API threats that ranks #7 on the OWASP API Security Top 10 list. This vulnerability occurs when an API is left unsecured or poorly configured, leaving loopholes for attackers to take advantage of. How to Combat This Business Logic Flaw Consider implementing the following security measures to protect yourself against this cluster of vulnerabilities: Limit administrative access across all of your APIs. Enforce authorization and authentications mechanisms for all of your APIs - even for private or staging assets. Eliminate insecure default configurations. The Only Automated API Security Testing Tool that Can Tackle Business Logic Flaws Business logic flaws are almost impossible to spot using vulnerability scanners and penetration testing since each API is built in a unique way. Popular API testing tools can only give you a surface-level view of the API while leaving critical issues unaddressed. That’s where APIsec comes into play. APIsec is the only automated API security testing solution that leverages the power of AI to deeply analyze your APIs, generate hundreds of custom-tailored attack scenarios, and execute them within minutes - not hours or days. This approach allows APIsec to successfully identify business logic flaws for a fraction of the cost of manual pen-testing. Sounds too good to be true? Get in touch with our team today to schedule a free demo.
April 7, 2022
6 min read
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Dan Barahona

Business Logic

Why Business Logic Vulnerabilities Are Your #1 API Security Risk

You may think it requires writing hundreds of lines of code to break through the most secure network defenses. In reality, cybercriminals typically gain access to your sensitive data through the standard functionalities of your API, used in a way you didn't anticipate. These loopholes are called Business Logic Flaws, and they are your biggest threat to your API security. What Are Business Logic Flaws? A business logic vulnerability is a flaw in an API's design that lets an attacker manipulate legitimate functionalities, data, or workflows to reach a malicious goal. Business logic flaws are so prevalent that four of the top five OWASP API attack vectors are related to this cluster of vulnerabilities, making it vital for you to understand how they work. From elevating user privileges to destroying databases, the key factor is that these flaws occur due to incorrect assumptions about how different parts of your systems work and interact. As a real-world example, a business logic vulnerability was the root cause of a massive data breach involving the United States Postal Service and 60 million records of sensitive user data, leaving a permanent mark on the organization's reputation. Read More: What is API Security and Why It's Important How Do Business Logic Flaws Happen? APIs are the pipelines that are allowed through the firewall. And if they're not tested properly, they could be vulnerable - essentially, by design - with business logic flaws. Corey Ball, Cybersecurity Consulting Manager & Author of "Hacking APIs" When an attacker tries to access your network systems using malware, SQL injections, or other techniques, even the most basic security measures will likely trigger an alarm and warn your security teams about an ongoing cyberattack. With business logic flaws, it's an entirely different story. Imagine a scenario where your dev team overlooks restriction protocols that allow HTTP request methods on the page displaying the current balance of a user's bank account. The attacker could potentially use the PUT method to edit the value or delete the record entirely. Since logic flaws like this happen within the bounds of legitimate API functionalities, they typically don't trigger any alarms until long after your data has been compromised - if ever. Businesses suffer financial losses, decreased customer confidence, damaged reputations, and even bankruptcy due to data breaches. Read More: What is API Testing Automation? What Are the Most Common Types of Business Logic Flaws? While business logic flaws are unique vulnerabilities based on the architecture of a given API, we can single out the most common types of them to help you stay ahead of cybercriminals. 1. Misusing HTML Elements and Other Client-side Code Web pages are often built using HTML, with dynamic elements that can be changed on the client-side using scripting languages like JavaScript. But these same elements can become a huge security risk when they are left vulnerable to manipulation by outside actors. If an attacker can alter these elements to make unauthorized queries, they can bypass any firewalls to access sensitive data. 2. Authorization Bypass A vulnerability known as authorization bypass allows certain users to access information that should be beyond their authorization level. Since this is a very broad umbrella of vulnerabilities, it's no surprise that many levels and instances of cyberattacks fall under this category. Broken Object Level Authorization (BOLA) is already #1 on the OWASP API Security Top 10 list - and for good reasons. API providers do a great job of ensuring that users are authenticated to the API, so they want to make sure that legitimate users have access. But the number one thing that's often overlooked is authorization, ensuring that user A can't access user’s B resources. And it's one thing to hide the resource IDs, but the important factor there is that user A should not be able to access, interact with, or alter user B’s resources - at all. Corey Ball, Cybersecurity Consulting Manager & Author of "Hacking APIs" The two most common subtypes of authorization bypass include: Lateral movement: accessing data of another account at the same privilege level Privilege escalation: accessing data that the current privilege level isn't supposed to have access to Strong authorization and authentication protocols - such as oAuth or OpenID - should be implemented to prevent authorization bypass and protect your systems against this attack vector. 3. Failing to Handle Unconventional User Input An attacker can trigger an unexpected response from your systems by providing inputs to an API that a developer failed to anticipate, potentially exposing sensitive data. Many APIs lack the security controls that other attack vectors have in place, making them the equivalent of the Death Star's thermal exhaust port: a path to doom and destruction for businesses. Corey Ball, Cybersecurity Consulting Manager & Author of "Hacking APIs" Businesses have to be very careful when it comes to handling unconventional user input and meticulously test for all data types, including unexpected values and characters. They can do this by running a series of fuzz tests to feed the systems with different kinds of random user input. 4. Putting Excessive Trust in Users Many IT systems trust their authorized users too much, creating a host of security potential security vulnerabilities. If an attacker can access the login credentials of real admin users - whether as a result of a phishing attack or by simply buying that data on the dark web - they can easily sneak in, access the database, and cause a data breach - similar to one led to the exposure of three billion Yahoo records. To keep yourself safe and protected, you have to assume that every user is a potential security threat, whether authorized or not. That's what the zero-trust security model is all about, ensuring that every user is properly authorized and authenticated - all while monitoring their behavior even after letting them in. 5. Domain-Specific Flaws Domain-specific flaws are the weaknesses in your system that are only present in a specific area. Unlike general vulnerabilities that affect your entire application, domain-specific flaws are only found within a particular module or function. This key aspect makes them harder to identify and fix because you need to deeply understand the objectives attackers may try to achieve by abusing domain-specific flaws. The more information you have about what your end users are doing, the easier it is to identify and flag suspicious actions accurately. A good starting point would be utilizing your API management tool's analytics and reporting capabilities to identify and analyze usage patterns. Read More: API Security Checklist: What You Need To Know How to Prevent and Test for Business Logic Flaws in Your API Security Effective API security testing is critical. And if we think back to the USPS data leak, that was tested a month before a leak of 60 million instances of private data. It’s not that you’re just testing APIs generically but that you’re using the right tools and techniques that will help your API security vulnerability management program to do a good job at preventing these sorts of attacks. Corey Ball, Cybersecurity Consulting Manager & Author of "Hacking APIs" Now that you know the most common types of business logic flaws, it’s time to do something about them. Here are some tips for testing for business logic flaws in your API security: 1. Ensure that Your Test Cases Cover All Possible Scenarios The first step towards ensuring that your API security is airtight is to craft as many test cases as possible to cover all possible attack scenarios. The more attack scenarios you test against, the higher the chances of identifying the underlying business logic vulnerabilities. That’s where you need a deep understanding of all aspects of your API to create test cases that actually move the needle. APIs have direct access to sensitive data. They connect to your application servers, your microservices, and your database applications, so they have to be really secure. And a lot of APIs are overpermissioned - with some of them, you don’t even realize they’re probably leaking credentials. Cecil Pineda, Co-Founder at CISO XC 2. Validate All User Input Treat user input as a security threat by default. This approach entails validating all user input, regardless of where it’s coming from or who submits it. That way, you’re protecting yourself from an entire layer of API vulnerabilities and drastically mitigate the risks related to insider threats. All invalid input should be logged and eventually monitored to uncover potential chinks in your armor that can lead to a data breach. The zero-trust security model has proven to be effective in reducing the number of cybersecurity incidents, so it’s a good idea to apply it to your APIs. Read More: What Is API Privacy and How to Protect Your Sensitive Data 3. Improve Your API Documentation Make sure that your APIs are adequately documented so that developers can understand how it works. This will boost your adoption rates and help you catch any errors or inconsistencies in your business logic. A well-documented API will make it easier for you to test for security vulnerabilities. 4. Monitor for Unusual Behavior and Review All Access Logs Regularly API logging and monitoring are absolutely vital to protect your users from cyberattacks. No system can ever be completely secure, so it’s crucial for your team to constantly track and analyze all auditable events - from failed logins to large transactions. Some user actions may point you toward a critical business logic vulnerability, so eye your logs like a hawk. 5. Use Automated API Security Testing Tools Automating your security testing is a great place to begin if you feel overwhelmed by this information or don't know where to begin. The problem is that business logic flaws are incredibly difficult to identify and detect, even when having a team of developers at your disposal. Often, your developers are the most expensive employees on your payroll. Popular API testing tools lack the depth needed to truly protect your APIs because security is not their specialty, allowing you only to automate the execution of thousands of test cases that you still have to create manually. That's where APIsec comes into play. APIsec runs on every release, not just once or twice a year with the pen test cycle, constantly updating the playbooks and making sure that any new code gets evaluated. APIsec is the only API security testing tool that automatically creates and executes thousands of test cases and actually makes it possible to identify business logic flaws based on the unique architecture of your API. Our customers ask us what we’re doing to protect their sensitive data on Seismic, and once they see what we have done with APIsec, their confidence grows. Tim Dzierzek, VP of Information Security Request a demo today to learn about APIsec’s one-of-a-kind technology to keep your APIs and data safe.
April 3, 2022
6 min read
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Dan Barahona

OWASP

How Improper Assets Management Can Leave Your APIs Vulnerable to Attacks

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.
March 28, 2022
7 min read
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Dan Barahona

Business Logic

What Is a Business Logic Layer?

Navigating the landscape of IT involves an understanding of software architecture. The business logic layer is critical in modern applications. It's the linchpin that holds everything together, but it's also the weakest link from a cybersecurity perspective. Understanding how the development process works is essential for everyone involved, including non-technical employees. In this article, you'll learn what the business logic layer is, how it works, and how cybercriminals take advantage of it. What is a Business Logic Layer & Why Does It Matter? The business logic layer is the connector between the database and the application, defining the rules and restrictions of how the database data is used. In the three-tier architecture, the BLL acts as the engine of the application, separating business rules from presentation and database layers (which do not interact directly). The BLL is often powered by APIs, making them susceptible to cyber-attacks. In fact, API attacks are projected to become the main attack vector this year. "The business logic is the prime target for attackers because business flaws - cyber threats that occur when cybercriminals exploit the legitimate functionalities and workflows of the application to reach their malicious goals - spare them the trouble of having to do the dirty work of actually hacking your application. What a normal criminal attacker could be going after would be data, right? So, normally, you'd have to get past the firewall and have exploits at your hands in order to gain access to a single system. Once you have that access to that system, you could pivot to other systems on the network, hoping to find the database filled with private user data that could be valuable on the dark web. But instead of doing that, you could learn how to use the API. And if the API is not protected, you don't need to do any of that fancy hacking. Instead, you can use the API as it was designed and make queries for other users' data, and get handed everything you were looking for from the very beginning. So without proper testing, you're leaving APIs exposed and just ripe for the picking. - Corey Ball, Cybersecurity Consulting Manager & Author of "Hacking APIs" How Attackers Can Attack Your Business Logic Layer Whenever the phrase "data breach" appears in the news, it's likely to be another instance of cybercriminals abusing the business logic layer. Venmo, USPS, Peloton, Instagram - just a few of the companies that have suffered devastating API attacks through business logic flaws. Let's explore some of the most common ways attackers can take advantage of your BLL. Tampering with Data: Attackers manipulate data inputs to inject malicious code or run unauthorized commands. Denial of Service: Attackers disrupt business operations by flooding the BLL with more requests than it can handle. Spoofing: An attacker fabricates data and bypasses defenses to gain access to the system's data or functionality by posing as a known, trusted source. Elevation of Privileges: Attackers exploit the BLL loopholes to gain more privileges than they're entitled to or even take over the entire system through its API. How to Protect Your Business Logic Layer for API Security Here are some steps you can take to protect this layer from such attacks and others like them: Restrict Access to the API: Only provide access to the API to authorized users. A user can be authenticated and authorized based on their role within the organization. Enforce Strong Authentication and authorization mechanisms: Use robust authentication methods, such as oAuth and OpenID, to ensure that attackers can't gain access to the API. Use Encryption: Protect the data being passed between the client and the server with encryption methods that prevent attackers from being able to read sensitive information. Implement Rate Limiting: Use throttling to prevent attackers from flooding the system with requests, preventing DDoS and DoS attacks. Log Access Attempts: Log all auditable events so that you can monitor them for suspicious activity or unauthorized requests. Adopt AI-based API Security Testing: Implementing AI testing platforms ensures comprehensive and continuous testing of your APIs that manual tests can’t provide. While many API testing tools include security as part of their package, this is not enough to prevent attacks on your business layer since issues with the business logic arise from issues with the design of your legitimate workflows. APIsec is the only fully automated API security testing tool that can write and execute tests capable of identifying business logic flaws. The platform pressure-tests the entire API to ensure that no endpoints are left vulnerable, unlike traditional security solutions, which just look for common security issues. You can do what you do best while APIsec automates your API security testing to ensure complete coverage at all times. Find out how APIsec can redefine how you approach API security by scheduling a free consultation.
March 25, 2022
6 min read
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Dan Barahona

FinTech

FinTech API Security: How APIs Are Shaping the Future of Financial Services

The information age is upon us. Every day, more and more of the world’s data moves to digital formats—from financial transactions to medical records. But with this transition comes new risks: By 2025, cyberattacks are projected to cost businesses $10.5 trillion per year globally. One major attack can cripple an entire organization for years to come, not just in terms of finances but also in customer trust and brand reputation. With APIs powering the entire financial sector, many companies have started adopting API security strategies. This article will discuss the role of APIs in financial services, some of the most common threats faced by APIs today, and how the FinTech industry can take proactive steps to fight back against cybercriminals. What Is an API and Why It’s Important for the Financial Sector? An API, or application programming interface, is a type of interface that allows data to be shared with other applications. Think of it as a server at a restaurant that acts as a middleman between the customer and the kitchen, helping serve food faster while enhancing operational efficiency for the chef. By the same token, APIs often provide a more streamlined way for businesses to interact with an organization's services. These APIs can be used to programmatically create, read, update, and delete database records, allowing organizations to run complex process chains within seconds - by the time the money you sent to your friend reaches their account, the transaction may have gone through dozens of APIs. Read More: API Terminology: A Complete List of Terms for Beginners APIs are important for the financial sector because they allow for the easy sharing of financial data between different banks, FinTech services, and other institutions. Most of the major banks and financial services firms in the US have an API available for public use. In fact, 78 percent of banks rely on banking APIs to provide a better customer experience and develop new revenue streams. The most common example of an API is the Stripe API, which makes its data easily accessible for third-party apps and services. With unprecedented monetization opportunities, implementing APIs is becoming more and more popular in the financial sector. A good example may be a bill-paying service offered at many banks that can now be integrated directly into other banking sites utilizing APIs rather than requiring users to log into the bank's site and initiate usage of the service from there. This integration eliminates intermediaries or potential points of vulnerability when sharing highly sensitive information between banking entities. The biggest concern with APIs is security. With a solid security strategy in place, APIs are relatively safe compared to using direct web services calls or other methods of data exchange because they provide a layer of abstraction between both ends of the connection. APIs also provide an easier way to filter out traffic that should not be allowed to access specific resources on either end. Suppose someone wants to implement check imaging into their application but doesn't want other applications calling it directly. In that case, they can create a rule in the authentication scheme that requires applications to be authenticated via the API to access that resource. In this way, APIs can provide faster data exchange while still being relatively simple and easy to use for developers. Read More: What is API Security and Why It's Important The 7 Most Common Types of Attacks Against APIs Unfortunately, the rise of APIs and open banking did not go unnoticed by hackers - APIs are projected to become the main attack vector in 2022. API attacks come in many different forms, but they all have one common goal - to steal or manipulate data. Below, we explore some of the most common types of API attacks that can cripple financial institutions and lead to disastrous reputational and financial losses. 1. DoS & DDoS Attacks One of the most common clusters of API attacks is an application-level denial of service (DoS) and distributed DoS (DDoS) attacks. In this type of attack, the hacker sends a massive number of requests to the API to overwhelm it and prevent legitimate users from accessing it. Using this approach, the attacker tries to overload your API with requests until it's unable to handle them and shuts down. There are several ways to protect your API against DDoS attacks, including using a load balancer or an intrusion prevention system. 2. SQL Injection Attacks In a SQL injection attack, the attacker tries to gain unauthorized access to databases by injecting malicious code into database requests. To protect your API against SQL injection attacks, you should use parameterized queries and ensure that all requests to your API are authorized, authenticated, and validated. 3. XML External Entity (XXE) Attacks When an XXE attack occurs, the hacker tries to access files on the server or other external services using specially crafted XML documents. You can prevent your API from being exploited with XXE attacks by configuring your XML parser correctly. 4. Cross-site Scripting (XSS) Attack Another common type of API attack is a cross-site scripting (XSS) attack. In an XSS attack, the attacker tries to inject malicious scripts to steal sensitive data or gain unauthorized access to the functionalities of your APIs. You can protect your API against XSS attacks by configuring it to use X-Frame headers and Content Security Policy (CSP) headers. 5. Brute Force Attacks A brute force attack entails using automated tools to try different username/password combinations until they guess the correct one and gain unauthorized access to the system. To protect your API from brute force attacks, you should use rate limiting and IP address restrictions on your API. 6. Cross-site Request Forgery (CSRF) Attacks A CSRF attack occurs when the attacker tricks authenticated users into clicking a specially crafted link to make unauthorized requests to your API on behalf of the attacker. To protect against this, you can use a CSRF Protection library and custom tokens in your requests. 7. Man-in-the-middle (MITM) Attacks A man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack occurs when the bad agent intercepts traffic between two parties to access private information. An easy way to defend against MITM attacks is to ensure that your connections are secure using SSL/TLS encryption. Another option is enforcing client authentication - when both the user and the API request certificates from a trusted third party before exchanging data. This stops MITM attacks from occurring because both parties have been validated by an authority figure, blocking unauthorized requests from getting through in between. Read More: Critical API Security Risks: Understanding Cyber Threats to APIs How to Protect your FinTech Business Against API Attacks While these tips are helpful to cover some of the loopholes in API security, it’s nowhere near enough to provide a safe space for your customers. Let's cover the building blocks of any API security strategy to empower you to tackle this issue systemically. 1. Zero in on Business Logic Flaws Business logic flaws, the practice of abusing the legitimate functionalities of an API to reach a malicious goal, are the #1 security risk in apps and APIs. This cluster of vulnerabilities is the most dangerous and the most difficult to detect. Hackers might exploit a business logic flaw to access your API's back-end systems, leading to a data breach or other nefarious activity. Some examples of business logic flaws include: Hardcoded credentials: This involves storing usernames and passwords within the source code, making it easy for anyone to access login credentials. Insecure direct object references: This occurs when an application identifies an object by its primary key rather than using an ID from an associated table, giving more context about the model being used. Dynamic SQL statements: This entails using dynamic SQL queries to query databases or other back-end systems. Hackers can exploit it if your application uses dynamic SQL statements without first parameterizing all user input. Loosely Defined Business Processes: Without proper security measures, anyone who knows how to act within the bounds of a loosely defined process can use it in a way unintended by developers to access sensitive information. 2. Use Strong Authentication and Authorization Mechanisms Authorization and authentication vulnerabilities took the top spots of the OWASP API Security Top 10 list, making them the most common types of API vulnerabilities. Read More: What Is OWASP API Security Top 10 & Why It's Important That’s why enforcing robust authentication and authorization mechanisms should be a top priority for both traditional financial institutions and innovative FinTech startups alike. Things like Basic Authentication (using the standard combination of a login and password to authenticate users) and hardcoded credentials should be banished from your APIs - forever. Instead, use OAuth or OpenID to validate the identity of your users and add an extra layer of security with two-factor authentication (2FA) like Google Authenticator to drastically reduce the likelihood of a successful API attack. SMS forms of 2FA can be used in a pinch, but it’s not very secure as it’s easy to bypass. As an added benefit, proper authentication and authorization will keep your FinTech business safe from identity thieves looking to gain access using social engineering. 3. Keep Your Data Separate & Safe Many applications make it easy for hackers to find and steal data because they keep everything together in one extensive database rather than segregating sensitive data into different entities. That means a hacker only has to compromise one database to get access to all of your data. It's a lot easier to secure a system if you can compartmentalize different parts – for example, if you have an account management app and a banking app, make sure they're entirely separate. Restricting access to sensitive information is one of the best things you can do to protect your API from being hacked, which entails creating security groups with limited permissions on what they are allowed to see based on their job functions. Lastly, whenever possible, make sure only trusted APIs can access your APIs so that you know who's behind API requests and to make it easy to flag suspicious activity for an audit. Read More: Drilling Down into Excessive Data Exposure: How to Protect Your API's Sensitive Data 4. Enforce the Secure Socket Layer (SSL) Encryption Security Protocol SSL communication adds another layer of security by ensuring no unauthorized third parties can read communication - even if it's intercepted. Your customer will first connect to a server controlled by you, which uses a certificate to synchronize a secret key with your customer's browser. This means that all communication is encrypted, and no one can hijack data in transit. There's also HTTPS encryption, which makes sure that any information sent between your site and customers is encrypted as well as authenticated using SSL certificates. 5. Invest in Cyber Security Training for Employees Employees should be educated on how to identify an API attack and what steps they can take to prevent one from happening. Ensure that your employees are aware of the dangers of API attacks and how to protect themselves. This could be something as easy as flagging any suspicious activity for a security audit or removing compromised accounts from your system immediately. Another great way to prepare is to implement cybersecurity tabletop exercises that include the most common API scenarios. They should also be aware of the consequences of a successful API attack. This way, they'll know what to do if or when an API attack occurs. 6. Have a Contingency Plan in Place in Case of an Attack But even with all this protection, you still need to remember that no matter how many firewalls and authentication procedures you have in place, API attacks are almost impossible to safeguard yourself against completely. This means it's also important to know what needs to be done when an attack does occur immediately to mitigate the damage caused to your organization. It can be something as simple as notifying your customers that their login credentials have been compromised to help them take proactive steps until it's too late. As FinTech continues to gain popularity, the threat of API attacks will only grow unless businesses take steps like these necessary to keep themselves safe from hackers who want access to their data. Read More: API Security Checklist: What You Need To Know 7 Use API Security Testing Solutions to Ensure Full Coverage API security is a critical issue for the financial services industry. As we have seen from the news, API breaches can have severe consequences for consumers, businesses, and third-party providers. To ensure the safety of your data, it is vital to take steps to protect your APIs from hackers. Using automated API security platforms can make all the difference in protecting your business from data breaches and other cyber threats, allowing your to ensure continuous and comprehensive API security testing around the clock for a fraction of the cost of hiring a cybersecurity specialist. APIsec is one of the best API security testing solutions available on the market. While this claim might be a bit biased (only slightly), here's what separates APIsec from everybody else: On top of continuously monitoring your APIs across a massive list of known vulnerabilities, our AI-based platform is the only solution that can automatically write and execute thousands of test cases generated based on the unique architecture of your APIs. If you are in the financial industry, APIsec is your best choice for API security. For more information on the benefits of using APIsec to secure your APIs, reach out to our team today for a free vulnerability assessment.
March 21, 2022
6 min read
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Dan Barahona

FinTech

How to Protect Your Bank APIs and Create a Secure Open Banking Environment

Open banking represents a huge opportunity for banks and other financial institutions looking for innovative ways to grow their revenue. The open banking system started in Europe, but consumer demand for fast, easy, personalized banking services is driving rapid expansion in the U.S. and Canada. 74% of consumers in the U.S. and Canada are willing to adopt open banking, and many people (especially young adults) have already used at least one open banking service. One of the keys to the success of open banking is security. As the name suggests, open banking involves the open exchange of financial data — making tight security absolutely necessary. Let’s explore how you can boost your API security to maintain secure APIs and a safe, open banking environment for your customers. What is an Open Banking API? Open banking APIs are a type of software that allows banks and other financial organizations to share data with financial technology firms and other partners. APIs power the open banking system via a network of accessible API endpoints that allow banks, lenders, FinTech firms, and other financial institutions to request and exchange the data they need to run their apps and services. Think of it this way: in the same way a user interface allows users to interact with an application, open banking APIs allow financial applications to interact and exchange data with each other. Read More: What is API Security and Why It's Important What are the Benefits of Open Banking and Bank APIs? We’ve already mentioned how open banking helps consumers by enabling convenient and personalized digital banking, but what about the banks? No need to worry — there are big benefits for banks, too. Let’s look at the top three. 1. Develop Additional Revenue Streams Open banking relies on mutually beneficial partnerships between traditional financial institutions like banks and modern FinTech companies. For banks, one of the biggest benefits is the opportunity to create new revenue streams. The potential payoff is huge, with experts predicting that open banking will create $416 billion in new revenue over the next several years. Here are just a few of the additional revenue opportunities available to you as part of the open banking ecosystem: Revenue sharing with partners Data licensing fees API call fees Transaction fees Expert data analysis and reports Innovative, data-driven new products and services such as loyalty programs, credit cards, account types, banking as a service (BaaS) platforms, and subscription-based personal finance tools. 2. Expand Your Reach As part of the open banking network, you have access to new distribution channels and groups of customers who might never have encountered your bank otherwise. To help you better appreciate the exciting possibilities of this expanded reach, let’s look at two examples: Quicken Loans, Citizens Bank, and Better Mortgage expanded their potential client base by forming an open banking partnership to provide special refinancing services for Airbnb hosts. Community Coastal Bank’s branches are located in Washington, but their BaaS partnership with business checking FinTech company BlueVine gives them access to small businesses and entrepreneurs nationwide. 3. Create Personalized Banking Services With the help of data exchanged through open banking APIs, you can gain valuable insight into customer behavior and expectations. This allows you to improve your customer experience and provide personalized financial services based on each individual’s spending patterns, saving habits, and personal preferences. Read More: Why APIs are Your Biggest Security Risk How Do I Protect Open Banking APIs from Common Cybersecurity Attacks? Whether you build your own APIs or get them from third-party providers, it’s important to make sure your APIs are protected from common cyber attacks. Here are some banking API security best practices to get you started in the right direction. 1. Protect Your API from Malicious Bots Hackers use bots to attack exposed API endpoints. Bots are automated and extremely versatile, meaning cybercriminals can use them to launch DDoS attacks, manipulate HTTP calls, introduce malware, steal customer information, and cause data breaches. There are several ways to combat bot attacks on APIs. Three of the most effective solutions include: Implement rate limiting to prevent your system from being overwhelmed by DDoS attacks. Rate limiting puts a cap on how many requests a user or IP address can submit, allowing you to shut down malicious API traffic while allowing legitimate requests to get through. Allow only necessary HTTP methods at each endpoint to keep cybercriminals from using unexpected HTTP calls to steal sensitive data, change account balances, and delete records. Perform intent-based deep behavioral analysis of bot traffic and use machine learning to help your system recognize and react to malicious traffic patterns. 2. Strengthen Your Authorization and Authentication Protocols Users want to access their bank accounts quickly and without a complex authorization process. Unfortunately, hackers also want to access customer accounts. You need advanced access management controls that satisfy your users AND keep cybercriminals out. The best way to strengthen your authorization and authentication protocols is to implement a combination of multi-factor authentication, OAuth 2.0, OpenID Connect, and mTLS. Each of these security protocols helps verify that users are who they claim to be and are authorized to have the access they’re requesting. When used together, they protect your API at different levels and provide a reliable defense against identity theft attacks. Read More: What Is OWASP API Security Top 10 & Why It's Important 3. Adopt a Comprehensive API Testing Solution Open banking technology depends on numerous APIs — all with multiple endpoints. Each endpoint represents a potential security vulnerability, and it’s impossible to test them all effectively using traditional techniques. APIsec offers a comprehensive automated API testing solution. Using our unique platform, you can thoroughly test every aspect of your APIs as often as needed. APIsec empowers organizations to identify and correct security flaws before hackers find and exploit them — giving you and your customers peace of mind when it comes to the security of your open banking environment. Get in touch with our team to schedule a free vulnerability scan or set up a time to talk about how we can boost your API security measures.
March 17, 2022
5 min read
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Dan Barahona

FinTech

Cybersecurity in Fintech: Top 8 FinTech Cybersecurity Risks and Challenges

Venmo, Robinhood, Chime, PayPal, MoneyLion, Mint, Card Curator—fintech apps such as these have disrupted and transformed the banking and financial service industries in the last few years. Up to 75% of global consumers use at least one fintech service, and that number is expected to rise as more people embrace contactless payments, mobile banking, micro-investing, online lending, travel hacking, and other fintech-powered financial activities. Unfortunately, consumers aren’t the only ones who love fintech. Fintech apps are gold mines for cybercriminals looking to steal valuable personal and financial data. As more users adopt fintech (and more money flows through the associated apps), bad actors launch increasingly clever attacks, making fintech cybersecurity more important—and more difficult—than ever. We’ve put together this list of eight high-risk fintech cybersecurity challenges to help IT leaders like you protect your organization from determined cybercriminals. Top 8 FinTech Cybersecurity Risks and Challenges Apps are the face of fintech, but APIs are what make fintech magic possible—and are the primary target of many modern cyberattacks. Most of the eight cybersecurity threats below are directly related to API security. 1. Identity Theft Cybercriminals use stolen or hacked login credentials to impersonate users and access accounts on fintech apps, allowing them to steal both money and sensitive personal information. A global survey of financial institutions in 2021 revealed that account takeovers had become a favorite source of attack by cybercriminals, with the number of attempted takeovers rising 282% between 2019 and 2020. One of the most common identity theft tactics involves API attacks that compromise authentication tokens and other verification methods meant to keep accounts secure. To combat this threat and protect users, implement strong authorization and authentication mechanisms as part of your security policy. 2. Data Breaches From credit card and bank account numbers to addresses and security question answers, fintech apps contain an incredible amount of personal and financial data. This sensitive data is highly coveted by cyber attackers looking to either use the data to commit financial fraud or profit by selling it to others. To get the data they want, determined thieves launch phishing attacks, sneak in malware, and take advantage of exposed API endpoints without proper access controls. Unfortunately, they’re good at what they do and have managed to steal millions of account details and credit card numbers from fintech startups and established companies, including well-known institutions such as Equifax and JP Morgan Chase. Business logic flaws present the most dangerous type of vulnerabilities that make it possible for users to exploit the legitimate functionality of your application to gain access to sensitive data and must be identified and corrected before hackers have a chance to exploit them. They are also very time-consuming and difficult to test for manually because you have to craft a separate test for every possible way the API could be abused. 3. DDoS Attacks In DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks, hackers flood an app with traffic in an attempt to crash it—and hopefully, force a security breakdown in the process. Unfortunately, many of the APIs underpinning fintech apps don’t have the rate-limiting or resource restrictions required to fend off these targeted attacks. Because of this, DDoS attacks are a serious security risk to many fintech applications. Rate limiting is the practice of restricting the number and/or frequency of requests a given user or IP address is allowed to send within a certain timeframe. Enforcing this restriction can help you defend against DDoS attacks. 4. Integration Loopholes Many popular fintech functions, such as mobile transfers, require apps to interact with traditional banks. Integrating the modern high-tech apps with the legacy systems often used by established financial institutions is a difficult technical challenge. The solution usually involves multiple custom APIs, which introduces numerous potential security vulnerabilities. Without extreme attention to detail and thorough testing, it’s easy to leave a loophole for cybercriminals to find and exploit. Conduct regular vulnerability scans to ensure exposed API endpoints are protected from abuse. Do this after every change to the source code, even the slightest tweaks, as patching one vulnerability could open another vulnerability elsewhere. 5. AI Fuzzing You’ve probably noticed a theme in our list so far: cyberattackers look for errors and vulnerabilities they can exploit and use to steal user data and identities. One way hackers find errors is through a method called “fuzzing” or “fuzz testing.” This testing technique feeds applications or APIS with invalid, unexpected, or random data. The program is then monitored for exceptions such as crashes, failing built-in code assertions, or potential memory leaks. Until recently, fuzzing was a slow, manual process, which gave security teams a chance to find and fix errors before hackers could take advantage of them. Now, however, cybercriminals are increasingly using AI and machine learning to automate the fuzzing process and uncover zero-day vulnerabilities—especially in APIs. Minimize the amount of data used in server responses to limit the data attack surface area. By using the least amount of data necessary as well as random testing and data filtering, you can reduce the risk of sensitive information falling into the hands of cybercriminals. 6. Phishing Attacks Phishing attacks have come a long way since the clumsy “Nigerian prince” scams of the early 2000s. Users have grown smarter, but so have criminals - in fact, 36% of data breaches involve phishing. Modern phishing attacks feature hackers posing as banks, government agencies, company executives, and other legitimate entities to trick users into resetting passwords or sharing financial information over the phone. Phishing emails are often nearly indistinguishable from legitimate emails, making them a major security risk to fintech apps and users. The consequences of a successful phishing attack are high; once hackers have access to the system, they can introduce ransomware or other malware and cause massive identity theft or a data breach. Invest in cybersecurity training for your employees to prevent the severity of phishing attacks and the likelihood that they will succeed. 7. Insider Threats “The chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” This is especially applicable to fintech cybersecurity. Reports indicate that insider threats—risks stemming from employees within the company—represent the primary cause for 60% of security breaches. In rare cases, the threat comes from a disgruntled or dishonest employee who intentionally destroys or leaks data. Most of the time, however, the threat to your security comes from a simple mistake. It could be an employee who falls for a phishing scam and accidentally gives hackers access to your system or a developer who made a coding error that creates a security flaw. Either way, it’s a threat you can’t afford to ignore. Implement strict password and account management policies and practices within your organization to mitigate the risks related to insider threats. 8. Regulatory Compliance Regulatory compliance isn’t a cybersecurity risk per se, but it is a challenge. The fintech industry is strictly managed and must comply with a wide range of banking regulations, data privacy laws, payment processing standards, investing regulations, and standard security protocols. Keeping up and complying with all the requirements is difficult but necessary. Regulators won’t hack you or steal your data, but they will impose severe penalties if you suffer a data breach due to lax security or compliance. Consult with cybersecurity specialists to ensure that you stay compliant with cybersecurity and data privacy regulations. Protect Your FinTech APIs with APIsec There’s no question about it: one of the best ways to prevent fintech cybersecurity issues and nullify potential threats is to improve API security. APIsec has the tools you need to strengthen data protection, close API security loopholes, and prevent cyber incidents. Contact our team or schedule a free vulnerability scan to learn more about how our automated API testing platform can protect your financial technology (and your users) from advanced cyberattacks.
March 15, 2022
7 min read
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Dan Barahona

API Testing

What Is Vulnerability Scanning and How Does It Work?

19,138 new common vulnerabilities emerged in 2021, reinforcing the need for high-quality vulnerability scanning tools. A vulnerability is an exploitable flaw in a network, web application, or API, allowing hackers to access secure data. Vulnerability scanning is especially crucial for APIs, as they are a favorite target for hackers, accounting for 90 percent of cyberattacks in 2021 alone. Read on to learn everything you need to know about vulnerability scans and how to keep your networks, web applications, and APIs secure. What Is Vulnerability Scanning and How Does It Work? A vulnerability scan is an automated, high-level system test that identifies weaknesses in networks, web applications, and APIs that attackers can exploit. These vulnerabilities can include coding bugs, faulty configurations, and authentication issues. The process typically involves checking your systems against a database of known vulnerabilities then generating a report of found issues for your IT team to review and patch. The problem with this approach, specifically for APIs, is that similar API vulnerabilities aren't as common since each company develops its APIs in its own unique configuration. To help you illustrate this distinction, consider this hypothetical example: A SQL injection vulnerability is common, but being able to query your next-door neighbor's postal packages via the USPS API is not. That's a unique logic flaw of the USPS API. While vulnerability scanners are great at finding common vulnerabilities, most platforms won't catch your unique business logic flaws. Read More: What is API Security and Why It's Important Vulnerability Scanning vs. Penetration Testing Both vulnerability scanning and penetration testing help organizations achieve the same goal of securing their APIs. Still, they have some key differences in how they do it. Vuln scans are a high-level look at servers and applications - APIs are usually under the scope of vuln scans - penetration tests look deep into your code to find the specific issues that lead to the vulnerability. A vulnerability scan looks for weaknesses in your systems and generates a report, while penetration testing is an authorized, simulated cyberattack performed either by a live developer (a pen-tester) or an AI-based tool. Penetration testing has the added advantage of identifying flaws in your business logic responsible for weak points in your security that a high-level vulnerability scan may miss. Regular vulnerability scans can help you monitor your systems, but most tools on the market aren't enough to protect more complex APIs. How Automation Made Vulnerability Scans an Industry Norm When software was on-premises, companies deployed, secured, and updated their software on their own networks. Manual penetration testing was aligned with the release schedules of the vendors. Subsequently, they were scheduled to repeat every year or even as infrequently as every other year. With cloud and SaaS products, that changed. Software is no longer on-premise with a tightly coupled frontend and backend. Modern apps are mostly cloud-based, relying on APIs to connect to various backends, databases, and subsystems. As a result, unsurprisingly, hackers, red teams, and penetration testers have shifted their focus and TTPs to the API layer, while software developers have been slow to expand their defenses to APIs. Pen-tests performed manually are typically infrequent monitoring activities that leave a large window of opportunity open for cyber-attackers, resulting in data loss and breaches. Manual pen-tests that happen annually, or even quarterly, just can't keep up with software releases or even cyber-attack evolutions. The software in question has already been in production for several months and has been changed numerous times by the time a pen test is performed. Companies can now run thorough vulnerability checks in minutes instead of hours or days, thanks to the advancements in automation. This speed allows them to continuously check their networks and APIs for vulnerabilities, all while saving valuable development resources. Automated pen-testing solutions (like ours) provide a pen-testing strategy that is aligned with contemporary web development practices - making sure vulnerabilities get detected and fixed before they get into production. Read More: 3 Steps for an Effective API Testing Process The Four Most Common Types of Vulnerability Scans Regulations require specific types of vulnerability scans, such as HIPAA - but on a high level, there are four types of vulnerability scans that you should be familiar with. External and Internal Vulnerability Scans External scanning is the scanning of the public-facing elements of the network. This is critical, as any hacker can access these components through any public-facing aspect on the network just as easily as the dev team. Internal scanning takes place inside the firewall, within the protected network. This method is vital because it helps identify database vulnerabilities. If a hacker somehow finds their way inside the network (i.e., via phishing or malware), you want to ensure they don't get access to your database. This scan can also check for potential insider threats, such as a security risk from a corrupt employee or outside contractor. Unauthenticated and Authenticated Vulnerability Scans Unauthenticated scanning occurs when the systems are scanned for vulnerabilities without special credentials. In other words, no direct access is granted to the network—hence the “unauthenticated” part of the name. These scans are ideal for determining the security posture of a network. Authenticated scanning means logging into the asset (be it a device, application, or API) and seeing what you can do. In this way, it can check for vulnerabilities inside your network. How the Vulnerability Scanning Process Works A specific chain of tasks needs to take place to identify, evaluate, and mitigate vulnerabilities. Below, we break down how the vulnerability scanning process works. Step 1: Configuring a Vulnerability Scanner The old way of doing vuln scanning involved deploying a scanner that would wake up on a schedule and scan around the network against a list of know vulnerabilities. Over the past decade, that model has morphed into the agent-based approach - which entails adding a little piece of code (agent) to every endpoint. This agent just sits there in the background, keeping an eye on things all the time and reporting back to the vuln management platform anytime an auditable event happens. This way, organizations get continuous visibility into vulnerabilities and ensure increased coverage. Step 2: Evaluation of the Risk Posed by Any Vulnerabilities Identified When the scan has been completed, review the generated report for vulnerabilities found. If your organization has never conducted vulnerability scans before, many security teams can find themselves challenged by the sheer number of vulnerabilities exposed by the scan. This leads to some crucial decisions on which threats to address and which to ignore. The IT team must consider: The threat level of the vulnerability The likelihood and feasibility of a hacker exploiting the hole in security If there are existing security controls that can reduce the risk. After considering these factors, the IT team must prioritize each vulnerability. The most pressing threats are the ones that require immediate action. Step 3: Treatment of Any Identified Vulnerabilities This step involves taking proactive measures to correct the most pressing threats. Common fixes include installing system updates, tweaking the configuration of the API, or rolling out a security patch. Not every vulnerability can be directly addressed or easily patched. If there isn't an immediate fix for a critical security risk, the team may try adding new security controls. Step 4: Re-running a Vulnerability Scan A good habit to develop would be to re-run a scan every time you add a new feature, fix a bug, or even slightly tweak the source code. Doing so can help you avoid creating new vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit due to patching up the loopholes your scan previously identified. Read More: API Security Checklist: What You Need To Know Try out APIsec for Comprehensive API Security Testing Now that you fully understand the benefits of vulnerability scanning, you can take proactive steps to reinforce your cybersecurity. This practice alone can’t fully protect you from a wide spectrum of cyber threats - that’s where APIsec comes into play. APIsec is the first automated API security testing solution that leverages the power of AI to write and execute thousands of test cases based on the unique structure of your APIs, allowing you to ensure full coverage, eliminate human error, and save your precious developer resources. If you want to learn more about the massive value APIsec can bring to the table, reach out to our team today to get a free vulnerability assessment.
March 12, 2022
7 min read
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Dan Barahona

API Testing

5 Best Web Application and API Vulnerability Scanners in 2022

You need a vulnerability scanner to protect your assets, but finding the right one can be overwhelming. It's critical to ensure that the tool you choose reduces frustrations among your IT team, developers, and security department and works with them. This article will cover the top five best vulnerability scanners on the market today—helping you find the right tool for your security needs. What Is a Vulnerability Scan? You should know what to expect from a vulnerability scan before making a decision. Vulnerability scans detect and report weaknesses in a network, web application, or API that hackers can exploit. The reports generated from the scans allow your IT team to regularly patch your vulnerabilities, protecting your most sensitive data. What Are the Best Vulnerability Scanners? Here are our top picks for the best vulnerability scanners in 2022: APIsec Burp Suite Acunetix beSECURE Nessus 1. APIsec APIsec is a vulnerability scanner that offers full coverage API scanning and automated testing designed to keep up with your fast-paced business. Most API security testing tools require you to manually write thousands of test cases. APIsec is the only AI-based solution that writes tests for you, allowing you to fully automate the entire API security testing process. It identifies loopholes regardless of the size and complexity of your API, including business logic flaws (an aspect other scanners often overlook that allows hackers to abuse the legitimate functionalities of your API) before hackers have the chance to exploit them. Top Features Full Coverage: APIsec learns the ins and outs of your API once it is integrated into your system, discovering exactly how it is used and where weaknesses may occur. Automatic Testing: The scanners run continuous, comprehensive tests that cover a wide range of vulnerabilities, including the OWASP Security Top 10 list. API Pen Tests: APIsec simulates attacks on your API, ensuring its every aspect is secure from potential hacks. Business Logic Flaws: APIsec leverages the power of AI to deeply understand how your API works, making it possible to uncover business logic vulnerabilities - one of the most dangerous types of cyberthreats that typically slip through the cracks. Pricing APIsec offers a free API assessment that tests your endpoints and provides a report of the findings. You can choose from one of three package options: Standard ($500 per month*): The standard plan includes over 100 API test categories to choose from, full OWASP coverage, daily tests for both application logic and security, and support for public and private APIs. Professional ($1,950 per month*): This plan is built for those who require advanced ticketing, pipeline, single-sign-on, and API gateway integration. Additionally, this plan provides unlimited scans, remediation guidance, and access to community support. Enterprise (Contact for price): This all-inclusive plan provides access to every feature APIsec has to offer, including volume discounts, account management, a dedicated support team, and the ability to create custom test categories. *Note: All prices apply per API. Why we recommend this scanner: APIsec’s full-scale approach to detecting weaknesses or loopholes in your security and logic makes it the best vulnerability scanner for APIs. 2. Burp Suite Burp Suite is used by over 15,000 organizations to help development teams protect their user bases from various threats. With their original Burp Scanner technology, Burp Suite is scaled for maximum coverage of an enterprise. It is ideal for testing web applications, whether you use their automated features or opt for manual testing. Top Features Intuitive Reporting: Receive scan reports on the go and access specialized security dashboards. Out-of-the-Box Integration: Incorporate built-in security plugins with your existing software development. Accessible Feedback: Vulnerability reports are tailored to your specifications, making them easy to understand and not overloaded with technical jargon. Customized Scanning: With customizable scan configurations, you can decide when, where, and what threats to search for. Pricing Burp Suite’s prices vary based on your business size and needs. Each package has full access to all features. Starter ($6,995 per year): Designed for small teams with five scanning agents. Grow ($14,480 per year): Recommended for medium-sized teams with 20 scanning agents. Accelerate ($29,450+ per year): Built for large teams with more than 50 scanning agents. Why we recommend this scanner: With no application limits and solid out-of-the-box features, Burp Suite offers a complete product at every price point. 3. Acunetix Acunetix is a great web application vulnerability scanner for small to medium-sized businesses. Its advanced crawling technology and ability to scan password-protected areas have made Acunetix a fan favorite among IT teams. Acunetix's step-by-step process is designed to help organizations streamline threat detection and simplify security resolutions. Top Features Advanced Crawling Technology: With the ability to scan unlinked documents, password-protected areas, and script-heavy sites, discover hidden vulnerabilities other scanners miss. Blended DAST and IAST Scanning: Search for over 7,000 vulnerabilities swiftly and efficiently with a robust scanner. Automate Manual Tasks: Reduce the time it takes to fix errors by letting Acunetix automate singling out lines of code that need attention and reducing false positives. Developer Integration: Easily communicate with developers through integrated tools, helping them fix and prevent vulnerabilities through secure code. Pricing Request a quote to see what Acunetix has to offer. Why we recommend this scanner: With the ability to scan hidden areas, Acunetix’s vigorous scanning protocol identifies potential vulnerabilities in every aspect of your application. 4. beSECURE beSECURE is a flexible vulnerability scanner that can deploy scans in the cloud. It also offers web application scanning and extensive training for new users. This is particularly valuable if you’re in need of a refresher course on vulnerability management. beSECURE’s customizable features allow you to easily adapt this tool to fit your needs. Top Features Flexible Deployment: Choose how you want to deploy your scans—in the cloud, on-premises, or via a hybrid model. Rapid Scanning: Scans take around five minutes from start to finish. Agent Free: Host-based clients or agents are not required. Automatic Updates: Daily updates allow you to catch potential security breaches and stay ahead of potential threats. Pricing beSECURE offers a free trial of their scanners. For further pricing and plan information, contact them directly. Why we recommend this scanner: With its adaptable deployment abilities, beSECURE’s vulnerability scanners can be applied to different types of applications, providing you with more flexibility. 5. Nessus Nessus is a broad-coverage vulnerability scanner known for its accurate scans and low rate of false positives. The Nessus team collaborates with security communities to continue to innovate products, providing customers with extensive coverage. To assist in providing a comprehensive vulnerability assessment, Nessus hosts a massive database containing over 59,000 threats. Top Features Dynamic Plugins: Enable faster scans and increase efficiency with a diverse range of plugins to extend the core functionalities of the scanner. Pre-Built Templates: With access to over 450 templates, establish vulnerabilities and audit configuration compliance with ease. User-friendliness: Easy-to-use navigation and access to a resource center make it easier for you to work with the vulnerability scanner, even for those who don’t specialize in cybersecurity Portable Deployment: Deploy Nessus on a variety of platforms, including Raspberry Pi. Pricing Nessus divides its products into two categories: Vulnerability Assessment and Vulnerability Management. In their Vulnerability Assessment category, they offer two packages. Nessus Essentials (Free): This package is geared toward educators or students and offers limited scans, free training, and support. Nessus Professional ($2,990 per year): This package is designed for the professional and provides unlimited scans, live results, community support, and configuration assessments and reports. Nessus recommends Tenable.io for vulnerability management. This package is built for small to mid-sized organizations and includes cloud management, advanced dashboards, access controls, scalable features, and advanced support. Why we recommend this scanner: With access to free training and easy-to-use features, Nessus scanners are a solid choice for new or non-technical users. The Wrap Up As the number of cyberattacks increases each year, businesses must be proactive in mitigating their risks. While vulnerability scans do not repair the issues they find, they do point IT teams in the right direction. Having a quality vulnerability scanner is essential for maintaining internet security and peace of mind for businesses and customers alike. At APIsec, we can help you discover and address vulnerabilities before hackers have the opportunity to exploit them. Ready to take the next step? Get a free vulnerability assessment today.
March 9, 2022
6 min read
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Dan Barahona

API Security

Top 5 Best API Documentation Tools to Help Improve Adoption Rates

With APIs accounting for 83% of web traffic, organizations have been pouring more resources into API development to add additional revenue streams, streamline processes, and improve business outcomes. The value of your APIs depends on your adoption rates - without an active user base, your chances of succeeding are slim. API documentation plays a considerable role in improving adoption rates by providing API consumers with instructions on using and integrating your APIs. But that's the case only if you provide API documentation tools that help your API consumers use your APIs more effectively. This article ranks and reviews the best API documentation tools based on their features, pricing, and collaboration toolset. What Are the Best API Documentation Tools? Here are our top picks for the best API documentation tools to use this year: Postman Swagger UI ReadMe Stoplight RapidDoc 1. Postman Postman is a powerful and popular platform that helps developers build, test, and document APIs. Its API documentation tool enables you to generate machine-readable documentation to keep your APIs fresh and accurate with automatic updates. Postman is a top choice for many API development teams with its user-friendly interface and robust features. Key Features Auto Updates - Each time you make any changes to your API, the platform automatically updates your API documentation, ensuring your docs are always up-to-date. Machine-readable Documentation - Postman allows you to create structured API documentation to make it processable by applications, saving you time and dev resources. Powerful Collaboration Tools - Postman provides everything large teams need to collaborate in the cloud, promoting innovation and collaboration seamlessly. The "Run in Postman" Button - This unique feature allows third parties to import your collection in just a few clicks. Pricing The pricing packages are pretty straightforward, allowing you to seamlessly scale as you grow: Free - Postman offers a free plan that provides access to the core functionalities of the platform for up to three users. Basic ($12/mo per user) - This pricing plan unlocks all collaboration tools, ten powerful integrations, a 30-day window for deleted collection recovery, one custom domain, and 10,000 monthly calls to Postman API. Professional ($29/mo per user) - The plan contains everything included in Basic while unlocking the features that medium-sized teams need, including workspaces, basic user roles and permissions, and 100,000 calls to Postman API. Enterprise ($99/mo per user) - This plan provides large companies with the tools they need to take their API development to the next level, including 100+ integrations, public API governance, and advanced reporting tools. Why we recommend this tool: Postman is one of the most popular API management platforms both for individual developers and large teams. The API documentation tool is well-polished and can be easily integrated into virtually any ecosystem. 2. Swagger UI Swagger UI is an API documentation tool that helps developers quickly create, visualize, and understand their APIs. The platform removes the manual work of documenting APIs, allowing you to save precious dev resources and streamline your development process. Top Features Dynamic API Documentation - Swagger UI makes it easy to generate and maintain user-friendly docs to save your development team time and resources. API Mocking - Make a mock API to test your requests and responses to ensure the high accuracy of your API documentation. Hosted API Documentation - Swagger UI allows you to create interactive API documentation hosted on the platform to ensure high-security standards and user-friendliness. Import Your API Documentation - Move your existing OAS definitions to Swagger UI to boost adoption rates. Pricing The platform offers three pricing plans. Each of them has included, but you may want to switch to one of their pricing plans to unlock advanced integrations, collaboration features, and more: Free - This plan provides access to the core API documentation functionalities for one user. Team ($75/mo per user) - This pricing package unlocks advanced integrations, collaboration features, as well as chart and email support. Enterprise (a custom quote) - The pricing package is geared towards large teams looking for sophisticated tools for scaling their API development, including API standardization, on-premise installation, and SSO to ensure high-security standards. Why we recommend this tool: Swagger UI is an excellent option for large teams looking to scale their API development efforts. 3. ReadMe ReadMe is a flexible API documentation tool that empowers developers to create interactive API documentation. The dashboard looks great right out of the box, providing a stellar user experience with an easy-to-use set of tools. With ReadMe, you can use their drag-and-drop editor to build robust API documentation, giving developers everything they need to get started in no time. Top Features API Analytics - Track developer metrics to better understand and serve your API consumers from status codes to usage graphs. API Explorer - Enable your users to test how your APIs work right on the API documentation pages. Drag & Drop - Get up and running in minutes by setting up your docs and landing pages using the built-in theme builder and markdown editor. Customization - Use CSS to create a fully custom API documentation hub to align it better with your brand and digital assets. Community Building Tools - From support forums to Q&As, connect with your user base on a deeper level to improve your APIs and boost your adoption rates. Pricing ReadMe offers flexible pricing packages to make the platform accessible to small teams and large organizations alike: Free - Test out the platform with the core features unlocked, including five admin users, three API versions, and a 30-day metric history. Startup ($99/mo per project) - This plan entails everything included in Free along with custom pages and domains and the ability to create changelogs and support forums. Business ($399/mo per project) - This plan unlocks custom CSS, 404 redirect rules, and removes the ReadMe logo, helping you brand your API documentation however you see fit. Enterprise ($2,000/mo per project) - This pricing package unlocks a broad spectrum of critical features for large teams, including OAuth 2.0 authorization, multi-language support, and custom JS. Why we recommend this tool: ReadMe is a specialized API documentation tool that removed a lot of manual work for small teams, helping them focus on building their API. 4. Stoplight Stoplight is a specialized API documentation platform that allows users to describe their APIs without enduring a steep learning curve. By publishing interactive documentation, tutorials, and code samples using Stoplight, you can help internal and external users discover, learn, and use your APIs much more effectively - which boosts your API adoption rates. Top Features Developer Hub - Consolidate your public and private API docs in one place to make your APIs more manageable. Flexible Branding Tools - Stoplight offers powerful theming toolsets to make your API documentation hub congruent with your brand styling. Granular Search Functions - Stoplight supports hub-wide search, making it easy for developers and API consumers to navigate your API documentation - regardless of its size and complexity. Code Samples - Drastically shorten the learning curve for your API users by providing them with pre-built code samples and SDKs. Pricing Stoplight offers four pricing plans based on your unique API documentation needs. Free - a free plan with limited functionalities and the ability to create up to two projects. Starter ($79/mo) - This pricing plan unlocks a wide range of features, including versioning and theming Professional ($319/mo) - This pricing package includes LDAP & SAML SSO, activity logs, and up to 50 guests. Enterprise (a custom quote) - A custom pricing plan designed for large organizations. Why we recommend this tool: Stoplight has everything you need to scale your API documentation along with your APIs without any disruptions. 5. RapidDoc RapidDoc is one of the best API documentation tools available to help you quickly document your APIs with interactive and responsive docs. The platform provides an intuitive UX, allowing developers to get started right away while offering a wide range of features to make the process of documenting your APIs more manageable. Here's a quick sample showing you how RapidDoc API documentation looks like: Top Features Supports Swagger 2.0 & OpenAPI 3.x.x - RapidDoc supports the most popular API documentation formats and frameworks. Intuitive User Interface - The developers went above and beyond to create a seamless UX, including auto-expanding all examples to minimize the average number of clicks needed to navigate your API docs. Powerful Branding Functionalities - From fonts to logos, you are in control of the look and feel of your API documentation. Fast Performance - No virtual DOM, no runtime, and minimal dependencies ensure low memory consumption and fast performance. Pricing RapidDoc is free to use. Why we love this tool: RapidDoc has everything you need to set up your API documentation without the need to pay for maintaining your docs. FAQ: API Documentation Tools What Are API Documentation Tools? The purpose of API documentation tools is to make it easier for developers to design, document, and publish APIs. API documentation tools can improve your overall API development process by helping you write - or even automatically generate - clear and easy-to-follow documentation. Most API documentation tools can also generate machine-readable descriptions, helping save development resources on maintenance and versioning. Why Is API Documentation Important? API documentation is necessary because it can help improve the adoption rate of your APIs by making them accessible to both developers and non-technical users alike. The easy-of-use of your APIs is especially important as citizen development becomes more prevalent in the digital age. Good API documentation should include a clear description of the endpoint, input and output parameters, response codes, API specifications, and any other relevant information. Best Practices for Writing Good API Documentation Use the following best practices to create API documentation that moves the needle: Make your API documentation accessible for non-technical users Eliminate or minimize technical jargon Encourage feedback from your users Describe the most common use cases with examples Protect Your APIs with APIsec While documenting your APIs is crucial, protecting them. To keep your APIs protected from data breaches and other cyber threats that can wreak havoc on your reputation, APIsec developed an AI-based API security testing solution for automated, comprehensive, and continuous API testing. Want to find out more? Sign up to get a free vulnerability assessment, or contact our team today to schedule a free consultation.
March 5, 2022
6 min read
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Dan Barahona

API Security

What Is OAuth 2.0 and How Does It Work?

"Or Login with Your Google or Facebook Account." The fact that you can use a single login to access most of your favorite go-to sites is a luxury that, while simple, has dramatically changed the way we interact with businesses online. Ditching hundreds of usernames and passwords is just one example of the incredible impact OAuth - specifically OAuth 2.0 - has had on the digital landscape. Think about it: at their core, online banking, social media, online shopping, email, video conferencing, and GPS navigation are all different forms of data and information exchange. Much of the data you trust to the internet is personal and highly sensitive. The success of the entire system depends on having a reliable way to control access to private data and ensure it is protected from unauthorized entities. OAuth 2.0 is a critical facilitator of internet activity, but it's not well understood outside a small subset of specialized developers. What Is OAuth? OAuth 2.0 is an open-standard authorization framework that allows unrelated services to safely permit authenticated access to their assets without sharing some critical central credentials — i.e., the owner's password. OAuth works on the principle of granting permission to access data rather than providing proof of identity, meaning it is an authorization protocol rather than an authentication protocol. Users delegate exactly what personal information will be revealed. OAuth works over HTTPS, authorizing servers, devices, APIs, and applications. Instead of passwords, it uses short-term access tokens. To better understand the purpose of OAuth, you might consider this often repeated analogy of a valet key. Many of today's luxury cars come equipped with a special key to be used only by a parking attendant. Unlike your standard key, the "valet version" will start the car but denies access to certain areas of the vehicle like the trunk or glove box. Nor will this key allow the vehicle to be driven more than a short distance - with speed maximums also regulated. Working on the valet key principle, OAuth allows you (the user) to grant limited access to your private resources to a third-party website without sharing your identity or password. Read More: What is API Security and Why It's Important Why OAuth Became the Industry Norm Until late 2007, there was no open standard for API access designation. To connect with a website, you'd need to provide your user name and password. So far, so good. But if another site were involved in the mix, which often happens, the second site would need them, too. Giving up your password to a separate set of hands is not only tedious but risky. Now the odds your secret could fall to the wrong person have exactly doubled. Fortunately, OAuth 1.0 and now 2.0 can eliminate the need for a do-all password and restrict these sites to necessary functions. In more practical terms, beyond the single sign-on example above, OAuth is what makes it possible to easily complete actions like posting pictures and videos from your phone to social media and paying for online purchases using your Amazon account instead of entering your credit card information. You see OAuth in action every time you grant permission for an app to access the camera on your phone or allow a browser plug-in to access your Google account. Basically, the list of OAuth-related functions that make our lives easier is exhaustive. Read More: API Terminology: A Complete List of Terms for Beginners OAuth 1.0 vs OAuth 2.0 These days, when developers speak of OAuth, they mean OAuth 2.0. In fact, the iterations differ so widely that they're incompatible. The programs can be operated separately, though that's become increasingly rare. To understand the distinctions, some clarification and history may be helpful. In late 2007, OAuth 1.0 arrived on the scene with a framework based on digital signatures. It was reliable, secure, and quickly accepted by players such as Google and Twitter. The drawback: OAuth 1.0 meant crypto-implementation and crypto-interoperability, a challenge for many developers. OAuth 2.0, released in Oct. 2012, was a totally different animal. This newer version wasn't backward-compatible with OAuth 1.0 or 1.1, and crypto was no longer part of the system. OAuth version 2.0 relies on access tokens to circumvent the need for passwords, making authorization much easier and more flexible - and also more interoperable between sites and devices. Superseding its predecessor, OAuth 2.0 has become the go-to solution for many companies, including Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, Google, and Mozilla. To summarize the differences: OAuth 1.0 used complicated crypto graphics, supported only three flows, and did not scale. OAuth 2.0 has six flows for various needs and applications and enables signed secrets over HTTPS. OAuth 2.0 tokens need not be encrypted on the endpoints but are encrypted in transit. Read More: What Is OWASP API Security Top 10 & Why It's Important How It Works: The Building Blocks of OAuth 2.0 Before addressing the individual components, let's look at the sequence of events when a user initiates a website action that involves another unrelated site or service. It's assumed that the user has signed in to the first site using HTTPS. Site A uses OAuth 2.0 to connect with site B, providing the user's verified identity. Site B issues a one-use request token, along with a unique secret. Site A sends the token and the secret to the user's client software. The client software sends the request token to the authorization provider (OAuth's main engine). If, for any reason, there’s been no authentication to the provider, the client is asked to approve the authentication to site B. The user (or the user's software) approves a specific type of transaction on-site A. The request token now becomes an approved access token and is awarded to the user. In turn, the user gives the approved access token to site A. Site A now gives the access token to site B. This demonstrates proof of authentication. Site B (at last) allows site A access on behalf of the user. Mission accomplished. The discussion of how OAuth 2.0 works can easily become highly technical. At a high level, the basic building blocks and their functions fall into five central components. Scopes and Consent Actors Clients Tokens Flows Now, let's break down each of the components in greater detail. 1. Scopes and Consent Scopes are mechanisms that define permissions and set boundaries for what an application or service does or does not have access to. When an app sends an authorization request, the user is presented with the specific scope of the request and must authorize consent. This consent serves as proof of authorization and allows an access token to be granted. 2. Actors There are four actors appearing in an OAuth flow: The resource owner owns the data for which access is requested. The resource owner can be an individual end-user or a company. Circling back to our valet key analogy, you are the resource owner of the luxury car. The resource server is the API or server that securely stores the data the application or service has requested to access. The resource server must accept and validate an access token from the requesting application to grant access to the data. In our analogy, the resource server is the car's computer that verifies the validity of the valet key. The client is the application or service requesting access to the data the resource server is protecting. Clients gain access to the requested resources by presenting a valid access token to the resource server. Again, using our analogy, the client is the valet attendant who's requesting to move the car. The authorization server handles token management and is, therefore, where most of OAuth takes place. Access requests from the client are directed to the authorization server. Once the resource owner has seen the scopes and provided consent, the authorization server issues a new access token to the resource server. 3. Clients Clients can be either confidential or public. Confidential clients are what the name implies — they keep secrets. They run in safe areas and can't be accessed by end-users. Public clients are less secure entities such as browsers, mobile apps, and IoT devices, while confidential clients are more secure and can be granted more access to secure resources. 4. Tokens There are two types of token actors in OAuth flows — access tokens and refresh tokens. Access tokens are granted by the authorization server and used to access the data in the resource server. They typically allow clients to access resources for a few minutes up to a few hours. Refresh tokens are only granted to confidential clients with secure authentication protocols and can be valid for days, months, or even years - they can also be used to get new access tokens for other clients. When you kill a refresh token, you get a new, cryptographically signed access token. Typically, these are formatted in JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) and are known as JSON Web Tokens, or JWTs (pronounced "jots"). JWTs allow digital signatures (also known as claims), which can be later verified with a secret signing key. Tokens are retrieved from two primary endpoints on the authorization server. First is the "authorize endpoint" that grants user consent and authorization. The authorization then passes to the "token endpoint," where the grant is processed and both the refresh token and access tokens are awarded. The access token is the key to accessing the APIs. But once expired, it takes another trip to the token endpoint, with the refresh token, to do it all again. 5. Flows Flows are the series of steps and authorization grant types required for clients to access the requested resources. OAuth 2.0 includes six flows intended for different types of interactions. Implicit flow involves granting short-term access tokens to public clients. Authorization code flow is the most secure flow and uses a combination of authorization code grants and access tokens. Client Credential Flow is meant to handle server-to-server access requests from confidential clients. Resource Owner Password flow is rarely used and not recommended for most use cases. Assertion Flow is similar to client credential flow and makes allowance for the use of federation. Device Flow handles access requests made via a smart device such as a TV screen. Potential Downsides of OAuth 2.0 or Why It's Not Enough to Secure Your APIs As welcomed as OAuth 2.0 has been by developers and end-users for protecting private data, there have also been detractors. Some have slammed the severe changes between versions 1.0 and 2.0, not without reason. OAuth 2.0 is significantly less secure than its predecessor and more complex. The greatest criticism of OAuth2.0 may be that it doesn't directly support client verification, signature, or channel binding. Detractors charge that OAuth 2.0 creators chose to concentrate on increased interoperability between sites and devices rather than provide additional range and security. OAuth has suggested using a third-party protection protocol such as Transport Layer Security (TLS) to provide the additional features. While OAuth 2.0 is a step forward in the safe use of private data, it's nowhere near enough to protect your API from broken object-level authorization (BOLA) vulnerabilities that rank #1 in the OWASP API Security Top 10 list. Companies rely on automated API security testing platforms to comprehensively test their APIs to keep up with ever-evolving security standards. APIsec provides just that by leveraging the power of AI to test your APIs across a wide range of vulnerabilities automatically. The setup process takes minutes (not days or weeks), allowing you to save countless hours of your highly-paid developers while completely eliminating human error from the equation. Are you looking to see APIsec in action? Reach out to our team today for a free security assessment.
March 2, 2022
7 min read
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Dan Barahona

API Testing

5 Best API Security Testing Tools in 2022 (Ranked & Reviewed)

Gartner predicts that APIs will become the primary attack vector in 2022, so API testing tools are in high demand right now. With more frequent and incredibly sophisticated cyberattacks looming, the challenge to protect your API assets from data breaches that can permanently - and often, irrevocably - damage your brand's reputation has to be a top priority. Companies that don't have a well-polished API security strategy in place can easily fall victim to these attacks and see their revenue plummet. To help you stay ahead of hackers, we compiled the five best API security testing tools, ranked based on their functionalities, ease of use, test coverage, reporting systems, and integration capabilities. What Are the Best API Security Testing Tools? Here are our top picks for the best API security testing tools: APIsec Burp Suite Acunetix beSECURE Zap 1. APIsec APIsec is a comprehensive API security testing platform that automatically monitors your APIs around the clock to protect them from vulnerabilities, data breaches, and other cyber threats. The platform leverages the power of AI to offer comprehensive, continuous, and automated testing of all of your APIs and endpoints. APIsec is the only automated API security testing solution that writes security test cases for you. After that, the tool will automatically execute those tests to ensure full coverage. These factors make APIsec an excellent option for companies looking for ways to save development resources while increasing their test coverage and eliminating human error. Key Features: Test every endpoint and method against OWASP risks Identify business logic flaws Execute complete API test suites in minutes, not hours or days Automatically generate security and logic tests Integrate with CI/CD for automated testing on every release Extensive reporting capabilities, including audit-ready pen-test reports Offers free API pen-test service Pricing: APIsec offers a flexible pricing structure to help you seamlessly scale your API security testing as your company grows. Free - get a free API assessment covering the entire OWASP API Security Top 10 list. Standard - $500/month (billed annually). Professional - $1,950/month (billed annually). Enterprise - based on your unique API testing needs. Get started with APIsec today to get a free vulnerability assessment. 2. Burp Suite Burp Suite is a security testing tool used by over 15,000 organizations and 60,000 developers worldwide. The Burp Suite offers API security tools and modules that allow pen testers and developers to find security vulnerabilities and issues within your APIs. Burp Suite is a popular tool among many API security testers for its robust features, affordability, and ease of use. Key Features: Extensive manual penetration features Uncover hidden attack surface Construct CSRF exploits Powerful brute-forcing and fuzzing functionalities Pricing: Burp Suite offers a three-tier pricing model for organizations to use their resources more effectively: Starter - $6,995 per year Grow - $14,480 per year Accelerate - from $29,450 per year 3. Acunetix Acunetix is a web vulnerability scanner that has been on the market for over ten years, helping development teams secure websites, web applications, and APIs. The platform provides you with complete security reports that are easy to understand and implement. Key Features: Detect over 7,000 web and 50,000 network vulnerabilities. Automatically prioritize your high-risk vulnerabilities OWASP Top 10 scanning Unlimited web scanning Eliminate false positives Increase your test coverage Pricing: The price tag depends on your unique API security testing needs. Acunetix requires you to sign a multi-year, long-term contract. 4. beSECURE beSECURE is a cloud-based vulnerability assessment solution that helps you quickly and easily identify vulnerabilities in your APIs. For those without any prior experience or training, beSECURE offers an intuitive interface that makes it easy to get started. Key Features: Flexible reporting Continuous scanning of network vulnerabilities Supply workflow capabilities for prioritizing and tracking remediation efforts. A bug bounty program aimed at eliminating false positives and negatives. Pricing: beSECURE doesn't offer structured pricing packages, providing you with a custom quote based on your needs. 5. Zap Designed and supported by OWASP, Zap is a tool used to run and manage API security tests. Zap allows you to create, schedule, and automate your own custom vulnerability scans based on the OWASP best practices. Key Features: Test your web applications and API across the entire OWASP Top 10 list Free to use Easy integrations with third-party tools and platforms Pricing: Zap is a free tool maintained by a dedicated team of international volunteers to make the Web a safer place. What Are API Security Testing Tools? API security testing tools are used to identify vulnerabilities and security issues in APIs. Pen testers, developers, and security specialists can adopt these tools to find, exploit, and fix vulnerabilities in their applications. the APIsec is a web application security scanner that uses automated vulnerability. The tools listed above represent some of the most popular and effective options available today. Final Thoughts: Best API Security Testing Tools So, there you have it: the five best API security testing tools in 2022. Each of these tools has its own unique set of features and benefits, so be sure to choose the one that best suits your needs. Are you looking for ways to get started with API security testing? Get in touch with our team today to get a free vulnerability scan.
February 24, 2022
7 min read
No items found.

Dan Barahona

API Testing

What is API Testing Automation? And How It Will Improve Your DevSecOps Process

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. What Is API Testing vs. API Monitoring? 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 How Automation Has Transformed API Security Testing for Digital Businesses 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. How Automated API Testing Helps Your Business 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. Automation Saves Your Dev Resources for Development 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. Eliminate Human Error in API Testing 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. Read More: What Is OWASP API Security Top 10 & Why It's Important Automated API Testing Takes Seconds, Not Hours 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. Top 4 Best Tools for Automated API Testing 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. Read More: API Security: 10 Best Practices To 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. 1. APIsec 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. 2. Postman Postman’s mission is to help you build better APIs faster using its API building and testing platform. Postman is a popular choice for developers working with RESTful APIs. 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. 3. BurpSuite 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. 4. Zap 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. Automate Your API Security Testing With APIsec 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, Read More: API Security: 10 Best Practices To Protect Your Data 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: AI-Powered: The APIsec bot instantly writes custom validations as playbooks for your APIs, giving you complete control and visibility of your API layer, automatically detecting, prioritizing, and helping you fix vulnerabilities. Cost-effective: Drastically reduce the cost of API testing across the board by leveraging the power of our AI-based solution. Continuous & Automatic: APIsec integrates with all major CI/CD tools and automatically manages vulnerabilities across all major engineering issue tracking and IT ticketing systems. Not only does automation helps you save time and money, but it also enables you to share and resolve issues a lot faster. Comprehensive Coverage: Covers dozens of modern exploits in business logic, role assignment, access control, multi-tenancy, and injection flaws. Schedule a free vulnerability scan or contact our team to schedule a consultation.
February 20, 2022
7 min read
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Dan Barahona

API Security

API Security Checklist: What You Need To Know

APIs have already become the most frequent attack vector for cybercriminals. The first step towards creating a safe environment for your user base is to cover the basics of API Security by implementing a set of core security measures. To help you get started, in this article, we provide a checklist that examines the essential API security measures to protect yourself from data breaches and other cyber threats. What Is an API Security Checklist, and How You Should Use It? An API security checklist covers a set of critical security measures needed to lay the technical foundation that fortifies your APIs against cyber threats. Additionally, you need to run a complete API security check each time you release a patch, update your build, or even slightly tweak the source code. These checks will help you avoid creating new loopholes when you remediate an old problem. For that reason, organizations typically utilize automated API security tools to achieve full visibility and coverage of their APIs (but more on that later). We’ve based some of our recommendations on industry-leading security guidelines, such as found in the OWASP API Security Top 10 list. The rest stem from our experience working with organizations of all sizes. Read More: What Is OWASP API Security Top 10 & Why It's Important Section 1: Authentication & Authorization Authentication and authorization vulnerabilities are widely recognized as one of the most common clusters of API threats. Authentication mechanisms act to validate the identity of your API users, while authorization measures ensure that only authorized users gain access to the data and functionalities of your API based on the privileges granted to their users. Below, we list the steps you need to take to protect your API from authentication and authorization vulnerabilities. Authentication & Authorization Checklist: Avoid Basic Authentication Implement Two-Factor Authentication Enforce Transport Layer Security (TLS) 1. Avoid Basic Authentication While Basic Authentication is easy and straightforward, we don’t recommend you rely on it due to its inherent security flaws. Instead, consider using API keys, OAuth, or OpenID as much safer substitutes for a standard combination of a login and password. If you must rely on Basic Authentication, credentials are the first line of protection against any unauthorized access to an API. Implementing a strong password policy is a simple yet powerful security measure you can enforce right away without major costs involved. Some best practice tips for a strong password policy include: At least ten characters long A combination of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, digits, and special characters Do not belong to the list of the most common passwords Do not include any personal information that can be used to identify an API consumer- birth dates, for example 2. Implement Two-Factor Authentication Two-factor authentication (2FA or TFA) is a method of user validation where an API consumer needs to verify their identity in two distinct ways before they can access their account. For example, when a user attempts to log in using the regular username and password, the system also requests verification via email, phone, and sometimes biometrics. This second layer of authentication creates more work for the hacker and sometimes makes it impossible for them to gain access at all. Say a login triggers a code sent to a user’s phone. When that's the case, a hacker would need both the password and physical possession of the device to gain unauthorized access. Implementing 2FA prevents cybercriminals from breaking in even when login credentials have been compromised. 3. Enforce Transport Layer Security (TLS) Transport Layer Security (TLS) encrypts any data in transit between the client and the server, preventing unauthorized third parties from hijacking or modifying the message along the way. This protects your APIs from a massive range of vulnerabilities such as eavesdropping attacks (aka man-in-the-middle attacks). The TLS protocol ensures all information sent from the client remains out of reach to anyone other than the intended recipient. Any web service without TLS should be considered insecure as it exposes sensitive user data such as passwords or credit card information to cyber attacks. Read More: API Terminology: A Complete List of Terms for Beginners. Section 2: Access Control Attackers don’t even need to sign up to wreak havoc when an API has access control issues. For that reason, it's critical to make sure they can't access the functionalities and data that can be used to achieve malicious goals regardless of how they interact with your API. To help you get started, consider implementing the following security measures to mitigate the risk and severity of data breaches. Access Control Checklist: Implement a Zero-Trust Security Model Implement API Rate Limiting Address Excessive Data Exposure Issues 1. Implement a Zero-Trust Security Model Traditionally, certain user groups - like admins or employees - get a certain amount of trust within an API infrastructure by default. However, with hackers coming up with more ways to penetrate the defense lines of APIs each year, this approach failed. As a countermeasure, the zero-trust security model represents a paradigm shift from placing a certain amount of unconditional trust in some user groups to eliminating the concept of trust when it comes to API governance. In other words, this model means that no entity - be it within or outside the organization - should be trusted unless they’ve been properly authenticated and authorized. But it doesn’t stop just there. Since each user is considered a potential security threat, they are being constantly monitored for any malicious activity even after getting verified by your APIs. Apart from preventing hackers from causing damage if they gain access to one of your user accounts, this approach also prevents insider threats, which account for roughly 60 percent of data breaches. From malicious intent to negligence and human error, your employees are capable of exposing your system for hackers to go in and wreak havoc on your organization. And the zero-trust model is the first step towards preventing that from happening. 2. Implement API Rate Limiting Providing unlimited access to your API for every consumer is a recipe for disaster, opening it up to myriad ways for hackers to exploit it - especially as you grow your active user base. API rate limiting refers to a set of measures aimed at managing API traffic by enforcing certain limitations and restrictions related to: The number of requests a given user or IP address can send over a certain period of time The number of requests your API can process at any given time Any additional fees related to sending new API calls once the limit has been exceeded The way an API reacts once any of the rate limits have been reached - from redirecting the user to an error page to triggering an alarm to the development and security teams The primary goal of rate limiting is to protect your APIs from DDoS and brute force attacks, both of which entail submitting a large number of requests within a short timeframe. It prevents users from making too many calls at once or making too many calls in a short time, which can overload the API and cause the system to crash. As an added benefit, you lay a solid foundation for seamlessly scaling up your APIs, improving the overall performance and stability of your application. To get started, consider the following four rate limiting strategies you can adopt to manage your resources without interfering with user experience effectively: Leaky Bucket: an algorithm that approaches rate limiting with queues -first in, first out Token Bucket: an algorithm that approaches rate limiting with fixed capacity buckets Fixed Window: time-based rate limiting algorithm that processes requests based on time limits Sliding Log: time-stamped logs for each request 3. Address Excessive Data Exposure Issues Excessive data exposure is an OWASP vulnerability that stems from giving users information outside what they primarily need to execute a task. Some common examples of excessive data exposure include leaving login credentials in the URL string and having your error page expose the build and version of your server. This exposed data allows hackers to abuse vulnerabilities like these to understand how your API works from within. When hackers understand how your API works, they become more effective at finding loopholes and have better chances to reach their malicious goals. For instance, if a hacker knows that your servers run on Apache, this alone makes their job much easier since they can proceed to try penetrating your defense lines using publicly known Apache vulnerabilities. To prevent scenarios like this from even happening to you, examine the following elements of your API where most excessive data exposure vulnerabilities typically occur: Error pages URL strings API responses Data in transit Data at rest The client - especially when it comes to filtering data To make APIs safer for your users, you should also stop clients from filtering data, minimize return responses, and adopt OpenAPI and RAML standards to limit the exposure of excessive data. Read More: API Security: How to Add the Sec in DevSecOps Section 3: Input & Output Any user input can be potentially used to bypass your API security systems since it’s often used to call other code. In this section, we cover the essential security measures to make it harder for hackers to manipulate user input to reach their malicious goals. Access Control Checklist: Always Validate User Input Enforce HTTP Methods Conduct API Fuzz Input Testing Test for SQL Injections Restrict Parameter Tampering 1. Always Validate User Input We can’t stress this enough - you should treat any user input as a tool that hackers can potentially use to gain unauthorized access to the functionalities and data of your API. That’s why it’s essential to validate all user input regardless of the privileges assigned to the user submitting it - invalid user data should trigger an error and should not be processed by an API while valid input should meet all of the criteria specified by developers. Armed with this approach, analyze where and how your API consumers can submit user input. Once there, proceed to limit the fields and data types they can use to a bare minimum without hurting the UX or scaling back your API functionality. 2. Enforce HTTP Methods Enforcing HTTP methods refers to the practice of restricting the range of HTTP methods a user can use to perform a certain task. For instance, your API consumers should only be able to use the GET method when requesting to check their account balance. In this case, if developers don’t restrict HTTP methods, a user can hypothetically use the POST, PUT, or PATCH method to modify their account balance without your permission. This simple example demonstrates the importance of double-checking which HTTP methods users can use while performing a certain task. Any operations that do not match the allowed methods should result in a 405 Method Not Allowed response. 3. Conduct API Fuzz Input Testing Fuzz testing is a technique that feeds an API large amounts of typically malformed data in an attempt to expose vulnerabilities within your API. The goal is to trigger and identify unexpected API responses that can be exploited by hackers or crash the system. This straightforward yet powerful API test ensures the stability of your API and helps you polish up the design for better performance. Here’s the list of the tools you can use to conduct API fuzz testing: Fuzzapi Wapiti Wfuzz 4. Test for SQL Injections As one of the traditional ways for hackers to penetrate systems, SQL injections refer to the practice of manipulating database queries to achieve a malicious outcome - be it stealing sensitive data or gaining editing privileges. Using SQL injection testing, you can determine whether it is possible to inject data into an API to cause it to run a user-controlled SQL query in a database and potentially access and manipulate sensitive data. You can use on - or the combination of - the following tools to test SQL injections: SQLmap SQLninja SQLSus APIsec 5. Restrict Parameter Tampering A parameter tampering attack refers to manipulating URL parameters or form field data to get unauthorized access to the data and functionalities of an API that a given user is not supposed to see. The following elements are the most common targets of parameter tampering attacks. Cookies Form fields URL query strings HTTP headers For instance, when an application relies on hidden fields to store status or technical data, a hacker can identify and modify those fields to break in. Here are some of the security measures you can implement to prevent parameter tampering attacks: Using regex to validate data Removing parameters from URL query strings Setting up a whitelist of formats for an API Encrypting session cookies Read More: Critical API Security Risks: Understanding Cyber Threats to APIs. Section 4: API Security Testing Every feature or functionality of your API is a potential vulnerability that hackers can exploit. After you have successfully made it through the past three phases mapped out above, you need to ensure that your API adequately responds to standard API tests. While most of the tests mentioned below are not aimed at improving API security directly, each of them can point out hidden technical issues and vulnerabilities that cybercriminals can use to steal your sensitive data to hurt your user base. API Security Checklist: Conduct Functional Tests Carry out Performance Tests Execute a Penetration Test Run a Vulnerability Scan We covered the process in its entirety in our guide to the API testing process, so we’ll only cover the key ideas below. 1. Functional Testing The goal of functional testing is to examine how different elements of your API work both in unison and in isolation to ensure your system works like clockwork. Some of the functional tests include: Smoke testing analyzes the most critical functionalities to understand whether the current build is stable. Sanity testing verifies the stability of new features and functionalities. Regression testing confirms that any new changes to the source code - from rolling out security patches to implementing new functionalities - do not negatively impact or create vulnerabilities within the existing functionalities Integration testing analyzes how different functional modules work together. Usability testing helps uncover any user-facing technical issues hurting the UX. 2. Performance Testing Performance testing analyzes how your API works under stress when a massive spike of API traffic overloads the system. Load and stress testing ensures that an API can withstand a large amount of API traffic without crashing the system. Volume and capacity testing tries to identify the performance limits of your API, analyzing the number of requests the system can process while maintaining high performance levels. Reliability testing identifies how much time it takes for an API to recover after an incident has occurred - and whether it can autonomously deal with it without the need to involve API developers. 3. Penetration Testing & Vulnerability Scans Finally, once you have followed the entire checklist, you need to test your entire API using the two most common API security testing methods: a penetration test and a vulnerability scan. A penetration test (also called ethical hacking) simulates an API attack to uncover vulnerabilities that hackers can take advantage of - while a vulnerability scan analyzes your API across the most popular API security loopholes using industry-standard guidelines such as the OWASP Top 10 API Security list. Read More: What Is OWASP API Security Top 10 & Why It's Important Final Warning: No Checklist Is Enough to Keep Your API Safe Even though the checklist exhaustively covers a wide range of API vulnerabilities, it’s nowhere near enough to keep yourself protected from the ever-evolving techniques and methods of hackers. This mainly has to do with the fact that any API is a complex system where virtually each of its elements can, in one way or another, be abused by hackers. Also, no matter how detailed your checklist actually is, it fails to effectively tackle the most dangerous type of API vulnerabilities - business logic flaws. When your users can abuse legitimate functionalities of your API to steal your data or perform actions they are not allowed to, it doesn’t take a hacker to cause damage - every API consumer becomes a real threat. So, how do some of the world’s largest tech companies tackle this issue? Luckily, we know the answer. Manual security tests take a massive amount of time and resources - and can only be done a few times per year. Tools like APIsec help development teams stay ahead of cybercriminals with AI-based solutions that empower organizations to monitor their APIs around the clock —and across hundreds of potential API vulnerabilities. From the entire OWASP list to business logic flaws, our platform makes it possible to run a complete API security check within minutes for a small fraction of the cost of hiring cybersecurity experts - all while completely eliminating human error from the equation. Get in touch with our team today to get a free vulnerability scan of your API.
February 19, 2022
7 min read
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