The Importance of API Security Testing
API security and testing are critical parts of any company's IT and development strategy. By securing your APIs, you can protect your data and ensure that only authorized users have access to your systems. API security testing is essential for identifying vulnerabilities in your system and ensuring that your APIs are secure from attack. In this brief, we'll explore the importance of API security, how you can go about securing your APIs, and some API security best practices.
What is an API?
Before we get into API Security, let's quickly level set and review what an API is. API stands for "Application Programming Interface". It's likely a term you've heard before, but what does it actually mean? Essentially, an API is a set of rules that govern how one application can communicate with another. APIs enable various applications to talk to each other, sharing data and functionality. This makes them hugely valuable to businesses, especially if they run a web application as they can quickly and easily build new features and products by tapping into the functionality of existing applications.
What is API Security?
API security is a term used to describe the various measures you can put in place to protect your application programming interfaces (APIs) from unauthorized access and misuse. API security is essential for two reasons: first, because APIs are often the gateways through which sensitive data and systems are accessed, and second, APIs can be used to access internal systems and data in ways that can compromise security. Now, we'll cover some API security best practices.
The first step in API security and API management is proper documentation. While this may seem like a "duh," it's an important place to start because many developers fail to write lengthy, detailed documentation for their APIs. A thorough API document includes things like what the API is supposed to do, how it's going to be used, and how it works. You should also include information about the authentication protocols that will be used when accessing your APIs. In addition, any new application or integration with your APIs should have complete documentation of its own on how it communicates with your existing APIs.
Key Areas of API Security
There are three key areas of API security that you need to focus on: authentication, authorization, and confidentiality. Each of these is expanded upon below.
- Authentication: Authentication is the process of verifying the identity of a user or system. In order to obtain API access, the user must first provide authentication credentials (such as a username, password, or tokens). If the credentials are valid, access to the API or API gateway is granted.
- Authorization: Authorization is the process of determining if an authenticated entity has permission to carry out a requested action. For example, when testing your APIs, you may only want regular members of staff to be able to query information about orders, but not delete them. You can set this up by defining a role for each user type, and then configuring an API request or API key so that only authenticated users with the relevant role can execute it.
- Confidentiality: Confidentiality ensures that data remains private between an authorized entity and the API. For example, you may have a number of APIs used to collect social media feeds from various sources. In order to ensure that only authorized staff members can view this data, you would need to secure the API so that it can only be accessed by certain roles within your organization.
API Security Testing in Today's World
API security testing is critical in today's world, where the increasing number of cyber threats means that your data is more at risk than ever before. By ensuring that your APIs are well-protected, you can reduce the chances of your data being compromised. Sources have reported that in the first six months of 2021 API attack traffic increased over 300%. One such attack that made national headlines was the Peloton API breach which exposed users' personal information.
Put concisely in The Hacker Mind podcast episode, "Hacking APIs":
"So, if a hacker wanted to, they could register as a peloton user, and then with a few tools, obtain all the user IDs, instructor IDs, group memberships, and whether or not somebody was in a studio. This information by itself might not seem very problematic. But the peloton API also contains your location, your workout stats, your gender, and even your birthday. Okay, that's starting to get very personal."
There are a number of ways to test the security of your APIs. The most important thing is to make sure that you test all aspects of API security, including authentication, authorization, and confidentiality. You should also test for vulnerabilities such as cross-site scripting (XSS) and SQL injection attacks.
You can begin testing your APIs today with Mayhem for API, a free tool to probe your REST API with an infinite stream of test cases generated automatically from your OpenAPI specification or Postman collection.
More API Blogs:
The Hidden Cost of A 500 Internal Server Error
Testing Postman APIs with Fuzzing
Mayhem for API ❤️ GitHub Code Scanning: Seamless DevSecOps for your REST APIs
Tips for API Security Testing