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API Security Testing Basics – How to Get Started

Application Programming Interfaces or APIs transfer information between multiple applications. A Web API refers to the interface for a web server or browser. These consist of public endpoints which often become a target for hackers and thus, API security’s aim lies in securing these endpoints. API security audit and pentesting deals with testing various elements to validate the API workflow.

API security is even more vital in the coming age as small and large businesses alike take their transactions online. Losing customer data for any such enterprise can potentially mean the end. And so, in order to enhance API security for your organization, let’s start with some basics.

What is a REST API?

The APIs in use nowadays are usually carried out through REST or Representational State Transfer. What REST defines is a set of guidelines for developers. Its common use is to create modern interactive websites like Facebook or Twitter. The websites following these guidelines are called RESTful. This architectural style is a recognized international standard. It is so because of many factors including portability across multiple platforms, simplicity, and supporting scalability.

What is API Security Testing?

APIs are vulnerable to attacks as they can expose sensitive data to the public. Only performing functional tests is not enough to discover all vulnerabilities. This is why API security testing also involves running scans that mimic an actual attacker.

Before moving on to types of security tests, here are some rules that guide API security testing:

  1. For a given input, the API must give the expected output.
  2. Inputs of an incorrect type must be rejected.
  3. Inputs of an incorrect size must be rejected.
  4. Any input that is null, when a null is unacceptable, must be rejected.
  5. Input values of unexpected size must be rejected.

Types of API Security Tests

There are three major ways of API security testing. These three are normally part of a single

1. Security Testing

This process involves validating encryption methods along with validating access conditions. This concerns testing authentication which proves the identity of a user. Secondly, it involves looking at access management which controls authority and also determines what a user is able to access and change. The third step is discovering where encryption starts and the points of decryption. These three steps build the base of API security testing.

2. Penetration Testing

In a penetration test, a pen-tester emulates a real cyber-attack in order to discover any vulnerability that could have been overlooked. The pen-tester may use the black box, white box, or grey box testing method. Furthermore, the process includes identifying vulnerabilities, organizing them by risk, exploiting the discovered vulnerabilities, and lastly, making a report.

3. Fuzz testing

In this process, a large number of requests test the APIs threshold. The data often varies from request to request to explore responses like an error message, etc. DDOS or Overflow attacks are some of the threats used to exploit these vulnerabilities.

Best API Security Practices

1. Tokens. Assigning access tokens in order to identify users who are sending a request. This can maintain a level of authorization along with giving control over access.

2. Encryption. Using TLS or Transport Layer Security for encrypting data. Additionally, incorporating the requirement of signatures to ensure that the data is not being decrypted by untrustworthy users.

3. Identifying Vulnerabilities. Keeping up with security measures will help you identify weaknesses in the system and thus aid in speedy fixes. Using sniffers can also help you detect security issues and data leaks.

4. Limiting Requests. Placing a limit over the number of requests that can be made per minute can help in preventing attacks like DDOS. Make sure to track the history of API use as well. Finding more calls on an API could mean an attack but may also suggest the possibility of a programming error.

5. API Gateways. Using API Gateways will allow you to authenticate traffic. It will also help in analyzing and controlling the use of APIs.

Prevention Better or Cure?

It is tough for an average user to think as a hacker does. However, if you were in the mind of one, you’d be surprised at how many ways there are to compromise a system. Web services are in more danger than ever. So it is not surprising that cyber-attacks make the headlines more often than climate crises. Even though the latter can wipe out our existence where the former may presumably wipe out your business. And you may not be prepared for either one of those.

Nevertheless, keeping good API security habits will contribute largely to your organization’s safety. It is always better to have good security measures in place rather than try to control the damage after a breach. Compromised data can bring about trouble both legal and otherwise, that people usually would not like to deal with. It is something that also comes with a loss of favor with clients and partners alike. API security testing is strongly recommended because it can help your organization patch the vulnerabilities that can be easily overlooked. When you hire professionals to test your website’s security, you can be assured that they will think like a hacker and leave no vulnerability standing. Sometimes it’s best to attack your website before a real hacker does. Make sure to check out Astra Security for all your security concerns.