4 Major API-Related Vulnerabilities & How You Can Deal With Them

By Richard Grant •  Updated: 09/12/22 •  6 min read

APIs (Applications Programming Interfaces) are programming interfaces that dictate the communication and sharing of data between different applications. They have become some of the most important software assets for businesses today.

This is because they allow businesses to transfer data between systems either within or without the businesses. For instance, users can log into a company application using their Google details. This is made possible by APIs. 

It, therefore, means that APIs transfer and share sensitive data, making their security very important. Unfortunately, technological advancement has not only given birth to positive solutions such as APIs but also provided different techniques for cybercriminals to infiltrate these solutions.

Here are some of the major API-related vulnerabilities and how you can deal with them; 

Code Injections

Code injections such as cross-site scripting (XSS) and SQL injections are among today’s most common API-related vulnerabilities. With SQL injections, cybercriminals add certain SQL statements into your application or API entry fields. This tells your database to behave differently.

For example, a hacker might tell your database to provide them with sensitive information or display it against your wish. This would mean they have all the information you would otherwise keep hidden. 

Cross-site scripting, on the other hand, allows hackers to inject client-side scripts on an application or web page that users access. The script runs when a user launches the app or visits the affected web page. This allows the hacker to collect personal information from the user.

Dealing with Code Injections

Most developers do not know that handling SQL injections is one of the easiest things they have to deal with. All you need to do is to use parameterized statements when writing SQL queries. 

These statements ensure that users have no option but to enter certain data types into specific parameters. These data types are combined when forming the final query. This ensures that users are prevented from using the complete SQL statements.

Input validation can be used to prevent cross-site scripting on the server side. This is important because hackers can bypass client-side input validation easily. You should also ensure that input data is encoded before sending any response to users.

Lack of Attribute-Based Access Control (ABAC) Validations

Some APIs support attribute-based access control (ABAC), which exposes them to several vulnerabilities, including the ones discussed in this article. Such APIs allow regressions to grant users access to actions such as deleting, updating, and viewing objects that API owners should only access.

This access is made possible if an API lacks attribute-based access control validation. With such a vulnerability, a cybercriminal can gain access to other user resources by simple trial and error methods using predictable patterns to identify the user account numbers.

Dealing with Attribute-Based Access Control (ABAC) Validations

You can implement different strategies to deal with some of these vulnerabilities, such as the lack of Attribute-Based Access Control (ABAC) Validations. In addition, it might be challenging to track all the strategies and policies that help you to restrict access to your APIs and their resources. 

That notwithstanding, you can deal with ABAC validations by continuously assessing your APIs and ensuring that all the validations are in place. This way, you will always know when there is a new vulnerability.

Business Logic Flaws

Business logic flaws play a vital role in web application security. Looking at most API vulnerabilities, you will realize that they originate from business logic flaws. But what are these flaws, and how do they work?

Using business logic flaws, cybercriminals can devise legitimate flows that they use maliciously. This, in the end, triggers unintended actions that might leave your APIs exposed and lose data.

With such actions, cybercriminals might lock some of your legitimate users out. For instance, they might repeatedly try to log into your APIs and systems using your legitimate user accounts. This might log out some users.

Dealing with Business Logic Flaws

The best way to deal with business logic flaws is to ensure that your APIs are audited from time to time. When doing this, consider all your workflows and evaluate the different ways through which they can be used to hurt you.

In addition, ensure that your API exposes little to no information if possible. For instance, you do not have to expose your users’ usernames not unless it is necessary. 

Business logic drives your business towards achieving its goals. You, therefore, need a way to collect API data and track their contract statuses throughout their lifecycle. You can do that using SolarWinds IT asset management solutions with powerful capabilities and tools to help you manage your IT solutions and achieve your business goals.

Denial of Service

Some cybercriminals use denial of service to gain access and harm your Application’s Programming Interfaces. Denial of service can be described as the process through which cybercriminals send many intentional requests to your APIs. The process slows down and drowns out legitimate requests from your users.

Even though you can use an API gateway with rate-limiting capabilities to limit the requests that are sent to your API, some hackers are way ahead of this and try to make a few requests to abide by the number of requests that your API supports.

These requests come with larger payloads compared to legitimate requests from your users. For example, they can send a single search request intended to return thousands of results. This might affect the ability of your server to respond on time.

Dealing with Denial of Service

You can deal with denial of service effectively using pagination. Pagination can be defined as a process that generates multiple parts from a single response. This is important in avoiding oversized payloads.

However, you need to be careful when dealing with pagination. This is because you might encounter a few challenges when implementing pagination. That notwithstanding, ensure that you have limited your API to a certain number of results that your APIs should return for every request.

APIs are playing a very essential role in driving digitization and automation in businesses. However, businesses are at risk of losing data and getting exposed due to the continued use of APIs. Fortunately, as discussed above, they can easily deal with the major API-related vulnerabilities.

Richard Grant

Despite Richard's background being in computer science and database admin, his passion lies in helping business leaders to understand the importance of emerging technology to help improve their company.