Top API Security Risks and Solutions

Top API Security Risks and Solutions

Application programming interfaces (API) offer benefits like reliable data transfer, streamlined development, seamless scalability, and cost-effective re-usability. While APIs have become increasingly prevalent in the cloud-native industry, they also open apps to security threats.

APIs can expose the application’s data and expand the attack surface, offering many attack opportunities. Moreover, an unprotected API can disclose sensitive data resulting in revenue loss and reputational damage. Here are a few API security risks and solutions

Broken Object Level Authorization (BOLA)

BOLA, a common API vulnerability, occurs due to broken authorization control around objects like database records or data files. The vulnerability allows hackers to access inaccessible and sensitive information causing severe compromises in the security infrastructure. Moreover, it results in revenue loss when hackers publicly release this information.

Businesses must set up a system that detects and corrects any broken object-level authorization minimizing the damage. They must implement robust authorization mechanisms and use random IDs and API gateways.

Broken User Authentication

API authentication verifies that the user attempting to access an API is authentic. A broken API authentication occurs due to misconfigurations. It leads to unauthorized account access, data theft, and significant security breaches. Hackers employ many ways to exploit broken user authentication and use them to conduct ransomware or denial-of-service (DoS) attacks.

Primary mitigation efforts include enforcing multi-layer authentication for user identity verification. Using powerful API keys, limiting the number of login attempts, and user credential protection are standard ways to mitigate a broken user authentication vulnerability.

Broken Function Level Authorization

Authorization implementation at a functional level allows users to access specific functions and resources. These risks develop if the function is left exposed regardless of authentication status.

Businesses must set a well-defined policy that outlines who can access the data and their roles within the organization. It will help companies to ensure that everyone on the team is responsible and well aware of the consequences of violating the policy.

At the same time, organizations must audit the systems regularly to ensure that access controls are in place and check whether there are any unauthorized users.

Unprotected Pagination

APIs offer access to a list of entities like users or widgets referred to as resources. The API filters out and paginates these entities to restrict the number of items that return to the client. However, if the entities return with a PII or any other vulnerabilities, a hacker could eliminate all the entities in the database. It causes more damage if any of these entities accidentally expose sensitive information leading the hackers to view the web application’s usage statistics and access email lists.

Businesses must track the number of items of a single resource to secure the data against pagination attacks. They must track these single resources within a specific time by users or an API key instead of at the request level. Organizations can block the user or an API key after they meet a particular threshold by measuring the API resources individually.

API Key Exposure

API key’s design allows users to obtain them over a definite period, raising the hackers’ likeability of obtaining the unexpired API key. When debugging, the API user has direct access to the web app credentials.

Following this, it can let the user accidentally copy and paste the CURL command with the API key in a public forum. More importantly, API keys are bearer tokens that do not need identifiable information since they do not use elements like 2-factor authentication or one-time use tokens.

Businesses can safeguard the API key exposure using two tokens instead of one. Hence, a refresh token stores itself as the environmental variable that enables users to generate short-lived access tokens. Thus, businesses can use these short-lived tokens to access resources for a limited time.

Inaccurate Server Security

APIs are very similar to web servers in maintaining good server hygiene. Easy data leaks occur due to misconfigured SSL certificates or through non-HTTPS traffic. While there are no reasons to accept non-HTTPS requests, a user might issue a non-HTTP request accidentally from their web app that exposes the API keys.

Businesses must test the SSL implementation over an SSL tool to prevent accidental API key exposure. More importantly, companies must block non-HTTP via a load balancer.

DDoS Attack

While it is true that users can access API platforms programmatically, it makes DDoS protection complex. DDoS’ design absorbs and rejects requests from hackers during DDoS attacks. However, this makes it challenging for API products as every traffic resembles bot traffic.

The DDoS attack mitigation lies within API. Every web app access requires an API key, so users can reject it automatically when they come across a request that doesn’t have an API key.

Security Misconfiguration is an unintentional mistake in the application’s security settings and is the most consent security threat against API and non-API applications. This API vulnerability occurs due to insecure default configurations, permissive Cross-Origin resource sharing (CORS), ad-hoc configurations, and verbose error messages containing sensitive information.

Businesses must conduct periodic audits to detect missing patches or misconfigurations. They must not rely on default configurations and must prevent inserting sensitive data in error messages.

Also Read: Increasing Visibility to Ensure Security in Critical IT Infrastructure


An injection is an API security issue when the application receives input from an untrusted source and misuses it. It allows attackers to access sensitive data or execute malicious code. Typical attack vectors of malicious API injection threats include OS commands, XML, and SQL.

For example, a hacker sends a well-crafted request containing malicious code in SQL injection. The application executes the code when it parses the input. Businesses must constantly monitor API requests for unusual behavior using a web application firewall (WAF). They must also utilize an API gateway and validate user inputs to prevent untrusted SQL data types.


API attacks result in significant financial losses causing reputational damage. Businesses must adopt a robust security system to identify and restrict malicious requests. At the time, companies must adhere to advanced API security practices to share the APIs publicly.

Moreover, businesses must test the API regularly against the API vulnerability list to fix them before its exploitation. Lastly, companies must employ Web Application and API Protection (WAAP) that combines Web Application Firewalls, Anti-DDoS Solutions, API protection, and Bot Mitigation to fight API security attacks.

For more such updates follow us on Google News ITsecuritywire News. Please subscribe to our Newsletter for more updates.

Previous articleOCR Labs Rebrands as IDVerse
Next articlePassword Management for Businesses
Apoorva Kasam is a Global News Correspondent with OnDot Media. She has done her master's in Bioinformatics and has 18 months of experience in clinical and preclinical data management. She is a content-writing enthusiast, and this is her first stint writing articles on business technology. She specializes in data privacy, cloud security, endpoint security,and security compliance,Her ideal and digestible writing style displays the current trends, efficiencies, challenges, and relevant mitigation strategies businesses can look forward to. She is looking forward to exploring more technology insights in-depth.