Three Reasons why API Security is Important | HCLTech

Three Reasons Why API Security is Important

API security testing involves evaluating the security of API’s to identify vulnerabilities and ensure that they are robust against potential cyber threats.
4 minutes read
Sudheer Kumar Guduguntla


Sudheer Kumar Guduguntla
Senior Specialist
4 minutes read
Three Reasons Why API Security is Important

Why API security testing requires special attention

API security testing involves evaluating API security to identify vulnerabilities and ensure they can withstand potential cyber threats. For three key reasons, API security testing is critical.

  1. Lack of visibility

    This refers to a situation where an organization or development team does not have comprehensive insight into the APIs being used within their systems, applications or infrastructure. This lack of visibility can manifest in several ways:

    1. Untracked API usage: Developers may integrate third-party or internal APIs into their applications without proper documentation or tracking. This makes it difficult for organizations to know which APIs are being used, where they are deployed and how they are accessed.
    2. Shadow APIs: These are used within an organization's environment without the knowledge or approval of IT or security teams. If they are not properly monitored, managed and secured, they may pose security and compliance risks.
    3. Limited monitoring and logging: Inadequate monitoring and logging of API usage can lead to blind spots in detecting and responding to security incidents, performance issues or compliance violations related to API activity.
    4. Dependency risks: Organizations may rely heavily on third-party APIs or external services for critical functions without fully understanding the potential risks and dependencies associated with these APIs. A lack of visibility into these dependencies can make it challenging to assess the impact of API downtime, security breaches and service disruptions.

    Overall, the lack of visibility can delay an organization’s ability to effectively manage, secure and optimize its API ecosystem. Organizations should implement robust API management practices to address these challenges, including inventorying and cataloging APIs, monitoring API usage and conducting regular security assessments. Additionally, leveraging API Security monitoring platforms and tools can help improve visibility and governance over APIs across the organization’s infrastructure.

  2. The rush in API adoption

    This refers to the significant increase in the use of APIs across various industries and the corresponding rise in cyberattacks targeting APIs. This trend has been led by various factors:

    1. Digital transformation: Organizations are rapidly adopting digital technologies to modernize their business processes. APIs play a crucial role in facilitating integration between different systems, services and applications, enabling organizations to deliver innovative digital solutions. However, this rapid transformation leads to limited assessments of APIs in terms of security, leaving low-hanging vulnerabilities.
    2. Microservices architecture: The adoption of microservices architectures has led to the explosion of APIs. Each microservice exposes its functionalities through APIs, allowing for greater flexibility, scalability and agility in software development. However, this distributed architecture also introduces new security challenges, as each API endpoint represents a potential entry point for attackers.
    3. Mobile and IoT integration: The rise of mobile devices, IoT devices and other connected devices has fueled the demand for APIs to enable seamless integration with backend systems and services. Similar to digital transformation, Mobile and IoT integration via APIs poses the risk of device vulnerabilities and firmware/software update changes, potentially leading to data breaches, disrupted functionality and security gaps, necessitating robust security measures and efficient API designs to mitigate risk.

    Organizations need to prioritize API security and implement robust security measures throughout the API lifecycle to address the surge in API adoption. This includes implementing strong authentication and authorization mechanisms, encrypting data in transit and at rest, enforcing access controls, conducting regular security assessments and continuing API Security monitoring

  3. Failure of traditional application security scanners

    The ability of traditional application scanners refers to the limitation of automated security testing tools designed for scanning and accessing the security of web applications when APIs are involved. Traditional web application scanners are typically designed to interact with user interfaces and test applications through the browser. However, APIs operate differently from traditional web applications and, as a result, traditional scanners may struggle to effectively test APIs for several reasons:

    1. Lack of schema understanding: Traditional scanners may be unable to understand/are not supported for API specifications such as open API (formerly known as swagger). Failure to understand this leads to inaccurate identification of API endpoints, parameters, or data formats, limiting their ability to test API security effectively.
    2. Inability to authenticate and handle tokens: APIs often use token-based authentication mechanisms such as OAuth or JSON Web Tokens (JWT) to secure access. Traditional scanners may not have built-in support for these authentication methods or struggle to properly handle authentication tokens, leading to inaccurate test results or false negatives.
    3. Limited support for API-specific vulnerabilities: APIs are at risk of unique security vulnerabilities that may not be adequately addressed by traditional scanners. For example, traditional scanners may overlook API-specific vulnerabilities such as insecure direct object reference (IDOR), broken function-level authorization or excessive data exposure through API responses.
    4. Inability to identify business logic flaws: Traditional security scanning tools may struggle to understand the context in which an application operates. These tools often focus solely on identifying known vulnerabilities or common security issues without considering the specific logic or functionality unique to the business.

    To address the limitations of traditional web application scanners in testing APIs, organizations may need to supplement automated scanning with manual testing techniques, specialized API security testing tools or dedicated API security gateways.

  4. HCLTech for complete coverage
    1. API security assessment: With a unique managed approach that applies the right security models based on API needs, HCLTech's AppSec team offers complete coverage for the top 10 OWASP API threats. Conducting ~100 automation/manual testing of APIs will help you discover the loopholes that can lead to hacks by following a comprehensive checklist that covers all the aspects of the API and helps developers remediate swiftly.
    2. API Security Automation: Discover security issues in your APIs as fast as your DevOps runs. HCLTech’s AppSec team can create/customize CI/CD pipelines based on the requirement, which can give enhanced, fully informative results.
    3. API security management: HCLTech Appsec experts can seamlessly integrate different kinds of API-managed platforms to enterprise security solutions, which are managed internally/externally, any SaaS-based architecture (Azure, AWS, etc.), and customize security platform dashboards according to requirements.
    4. API Security Monitoring: Integration of monitoring platforms in API Gateway Level to identify security risks, take swift actions and help developers identify the attack pattern to process for remediations.
    5. Choose the right solution: We are well experienced in developing product POCs, which can help our clients choose the right solutions in terms of security assessments. We have conducted more than 30+ security product POCs, including API security.
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