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API Security Testing in 2024: Benefits, Automation & Challanges

APIs are used by almost 90% of developers in some form. However, only 11% of companies have a comprehensive API security strategy that includes API testing.

API security testing has significant importance because :

  • It protects the applications from external attacks.
  • It helps developers to identify security flaws in their code before they are deployed for production.
  • Enables security compliance 
  • Provide real-time reports of threats associated with the API

In this article, we will explore API security testing and the importance of automation to increase API security testing efficiency. In addition, we cover common security issues and provide suggestions for mitigating these issues. 

What is API security testing?

API security testing is the process of scanning your API to ensure that its vulnerabilities are minimized. The goal is to identify potential security weaknesses and, where possible, mitigate those weaknesses before malicious actors discover them and cause further damage.

API security testing is vital for organizations who are looking to ensure that the users of their 

APIs, external services, machines, or devices that interact with an API – have the utmost protection and security. Customers expect their personal and corporate data to be safe from potential threats. At best, an API should meet your (or your customers’) security and compliance expectations.

Security breaches can lead to:

  • Leakage of customer data.
  • Adverse effect on the company & brand reputation
  • Reduction in revenue and number of users
  • Lawsuits

Why automate API security testing

Testing forms 15% to 25% of project development total costs. Manual testing of large and complex APIs is difficult. Automation can be used to augment your workforce and can benefit the QA process by:

  • Reducing the time of testing
  • Improving testing coverage 
  • Improving testing accuracy 
  • Increasing feedback speed

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If you are looking to deploy automated testing, check out our data-driven and transparent list of top vendors that can enable testing automation.

API security issues

Injection flaws

Injections such as SQL injection can be sent by attackers that if not detected can result in the execution of dangerous commands or giving access to data to attackers without authorization. 

Recommendations: In order to reduce the likelihood of injections, you can use :

  • User Data Sanitization: Enforce a blacklist that rejects any inputs that have special characters or an allowlist that only accepts certain characters. 
  • Parameterization: This enables the database to differentiate between the command’s code portion and data portion, regardless of how the user input is presented.

Broken authentication

Attackers can profit from authentication schemes that have been implemented poorly. In order to impersonate another user repeatedly or permanently, they may compromise an authentication token or take advantage of implementation defects.

Recommendations:

  • Map all the flows that are related to the API authentication
  • Implement multi-factor authentication as much as possible
  • Implement captcha mechanism

Broken object-level authorization

Endpoints handling object identifiers are frequently exposed via APIs. The attack surface is increased by level access control problems that can be caused by any function that takes user input and utilizes it to access a data source.

Recommendations: Carry out object-level authorization for any function that has access to a data source based on user inputs. 

Data exposure

Developers may expose all object properties, and it will be up to clients to filter the information before it is displayed to the user. This exposes a lot of data, which draws malevolent people who can utilize it for their own gain.

Recommendations: Only allow authorized individuals who need access to your data. Different bits of data can each have a specific access group defined by developers.

Further reading

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Cem Dilmegani
Principal Analyst
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Cem Dilmegani
Principal Analyst

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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