More than 90% of the company’s network perimeter can be penetrated in an average of 2 days. It is predicted that the most frequent attack vector will be API attacks. API Penetration testing can be used to identify the security shortcomings of APIs that if neglected can cause significant financial and reputational damage.
In this article, we will examine the benefits of penetration testing (also known as “pen testing”) and the procedures that should be followed to carry it out. We will also discuss the industry-standard pen testing methods.
What is API penetration testing?
API penetration testing is a type of security testing designed to assess the security of an API. API pen testing aims to find and fix loopholes and defects that can be used by malicious actors to:
- Get access to data,
- Adversely affect performance,
- Take over the network.
We have provided a data-driven list of more than 20 penetration testing tools that you can check here.
Top 3 benefits of API penetration testing
1. Sustaining compliance
APIs if exploited can expose sensitive data of people and businesses. Companies have to follow rules and standards such as :
- HIPAA for healthcare information in the US
- GDPR in the EU
- PCI-DSS for payment processing card companies
The exploitation of the regulations can result in civil or criminal action by the governing authorities.
2. Preventing cyberattacks
Penetration testing can identify vulnerabilities that if found by hackers and malicious parties can lead to cyberattacks. Identified vulnerabilities can be fixed to prevent cyberattacks which in turn can prevent financial and reputational costs.
3. Keeping cyber security professionals up to date
Cyber threats are evolving all the time. Regular Penetration testing enables cyber security professionals to be aware of the new trends and methods applied by hackers.
PULSE is an AI-based automated API testing tool created by Testifi. The cost and effort of API testing can be reduced by 50% while using PULSE. Leading companies like Vodafone and Amazon employ Testifi’s services.
Insourcing vs Outsourcing
Penetration testing can be done internally using the testing team or outsourced to cybersecurity companies with experience and licenses in penetration testing. If you have already highly skilled testers with experience in penetration testing and awareness of compliance requirements for your industry then outsourcing might not be needed. However, if you do not have specialized testers in penetration testing, outsourcing offers the following benefits:
- Getting access to skilled labor.
- Getting access to professionals that know the compliance requirements.
- Possible cost saving as you will not need to hire full-time professionals or provide training and certification for the testers.
4 steps of penetration testing
This step involves testers gathering as much information as possible such as:
- API endpoints,
- Examples of calls,
- IP addresses,
- Documentation and so on.
Having greater information leads to making an effective attack strategy to improve API pen testing.
2- Vulnerability Assessment
This step involves enumerating all targets that are within the scope of the test in the network and application layer. It includes identifying and including information such as :
- Machine names,
- Network resources .
The scanning process aims to identify weaknesses that might exist in the API.
In this step, all of the vulnerabilities identified before will be exploited in a way that a hacker would. This step will identify:
- The degree that hackers can penetrate the API.
- The degree that hackers would be able to damage the API.
- Effect of mitigating solutions in place.
After exploitation is finished, the testers must write a detailed report on the test results. The report has to be thorough and include:
- Vulnerabilities identified.
- Level of penetration.
- Level of risks.
The report provides a starting point on what actions should be taken moving forward to address the security issues.
3 Penetration testing methodologies
Companies can develop their own penetration testing process and methodologies but a few testing methodologies have been developed that have achieved standard status in the testing industry as they have proven to be effective methodologies. They are:
1- Penetration Testing Execution Standard (PTES)
This standard was developed by information security practitioners with the aim of providing an up-to-date guide for penetration testers and aims to educate companies about what to anticipate from a penetration test. PTES has 7 sections:
- Pre-engagement Interactions,
- Intelligence Gathering,
- Threat Modeling,
- Vulnerability Analysis,
- Post Exploitation,
2- Open Source Security Testing Methodology Manual (OSSTMM)
OSSTMM is a peer-reviewed methodology maintained by Institute for Security and Open Methodologies (ISECOM) which is updated every 6 months. OSSTMM provides guidance on how to test the security of the 5 operational channels. They are:
- Human security,
- Physical security,
- Wireless communication,
- Data Networks.
3- Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP)
OWASP gives businesses access to an extensive list of web application vulnerability categories as well as solutions for mitigating or remediating them. OWASP offers various resources on its own to enhance the security posture of both internal and external web applications.
If you are looking to implement API penetration testing, you can reach us:
Cem has been the principal analyst at AIMultiple since 2017. AIMultiple informs hundreds of thousands of businesses (as per similarWeb) including 60% of Fortune 500 every month.
Cem's work has been cited by leading global publications including Business Insider, Forbes, Washington Post, global firms like Deloitte, HPE, NGOs like World Economic Forum and supranational organizations like European Commission. You can see more reputable companies and media that referenced AIMultiple.
Throughout his career, Cem served as a tech consultant, tech buyer and tech entrepreneur. He advised businesses on their enterprise software, automation, cloud, AI / ML and other technology related decisions at McKinsey & Company and Altman Solon for more than a decade. He also published a McKinsey report on digitalization.
He led technology strategy and procurement of a telco while reporting to the CEO. He has also led commercial growth of deep tech company Hypatos that reached a 7 digit annual recurring revenue and a 9 digit valuation from 0 within 2 years. Cem's work in Hypatos was covered by leading technology publications like TechCrunch and Business Insider.
Cem regularly speaks at international technology conferences. He graduated from Bogazici University as a computer engineer and holds an MBA from Columbia Business School.
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