Managing Broken Access, Authorization Exploit Risks to Corporate APIs

By Srikanth
6 Min Read
Managing Broken Access, Authorization Exploit Risks to Corporate APIs 1

If your organization has any online presence, it’s likely that you have (or at least use) APIs. Due to their flexibility and utility, APIs aren’t going anywhere despite their large attack surface and numerous security risks. Fortunately, there are things you can do to manage your risk of attack. API security solutions provide automated discovery and classification that can help keep your data safe while alerting you to your highest-priority vulnerabilities.

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APIs are the Future (and Present)

APIs enable interactions between apps, websites, microservices, and other essential functions of organizations’ online presence. The vast majority, if not all, businesses now have at least a website, but many have fully-developed online commerce platforms or web-based applications for customer use. As consumers increasingly rely on the Internet to do things like pay bills, connect with friends, and shop, organizations must provide secure, high-functioning web apps to stay competitive.

Most web app traffic relies on APIs to effectively communicate with other applications and websites. APIs save developers time and headaches by offering standard protocols for data transmission and other functions, which allows multiple platforms and applications to successfully integrate without requiring customized code for each novel integration. As developers are increasingly beleaguered by the growing pace of app development, anything that can save time will be more and more heavily used. Given their impressive functionality, APIs are here to stay.

For now, APIs are everywhere, but they aren’t always properly secured. Security professionals are also often overwhelmed by the needs of their organizations, which means that vulnerabilities are not always addressed appropriately or punctually. As a result, while using an API is likely essential to your business operations, you need to watch out for the security risks that come with them and actively manage those risks to prevent a security incident.

Top Three API Security Risks

With 94% of organizations experiencing API-related security issues, you can’t be complacent about your risks. Here are the top three API security risks to watch out for and prioritize addressing:

  1. Broken Object Level Authorization: When an API has poor access control and does not verify the authenticity of a request, unauthorized users and malicious actors can interact with private data.  This can result in data theft or leaking. Your organization may also find your data modified, or if there is a ransomware attack, deletion is a strong possibility. This is a very simple vulnerability to exploit, making it an enticing target to attackers.
  2. Broken Authentication: All APIs need strong authentication protocols, but developers and security teams often struggle with implementation. Many APIs are built on open-source code, which means that developers may not be completely aware of all the code built into the API. Poor endpoint security around the authentication protocols are a major problem for security teams. Attackers can easily access open-source code databases, which allows them to study up on a typical API before attacking yours. If you have not taken steps to secure those endpoints, there’s nothing stopping the attacker from exploiting them.
  3. Broken Object Property Level Authorization: While problems with authorizations are bad enough, a property level authorization problem creates additional problems because attackers can access some administrative permissions. Instead of being able to interact with data, attackers have excessive abilities to access sensitive data that should have extra layers of protection. Data leakage or loss is likely, and attackers may transmit it to themselves or a third party.

Protecting Your Corporate APIs

Broken authorizations or authentications can be detrimental to your API security. To minimize the potential damage, it’s important to implement API security solutions that focus on vulnerabilities at access points. Automated deep-discovery solutions can help by finding and classifying sensitive data, which helps you ensure that the most private data is kept out of immediate reach.

As developers and security professionals scramble to keep up with the potential exploits in the ever-multiplying number of available APIs, automated solutions are essential. It’s impossible to stay on top of security with manual strategies, so automated threat classification that leverages machine learning is the best time-saving tool to use for securing APIs. Automated tools monitor your APIs for critical or high-risk vulnerabilities and alert you, giving you notice to apply a patch or update before it’s too late.

Ideally, your API security solutions should take a holistic approach and include WAFs to protect all of the access points, bot protection to prevent credential compromise and data scraping, and DDoS protection to keep your platforms online and fully functional. Each of these components plays a role in minimizing the risks of having a web-facing app or website.

So, although the risks are nearly unavoidable, you can manage them by implementing a multifaceted security solution with automated features and detection capabilities. You may not be able to escape the necessity of using APIs in your organization or the fast pace of API development, but you can manage the risks by properly addressing vulnerabilities and broken authorizations.

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