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Understanding API Attacks: Why Are They Different and How to Prevent API Attacks

Stephanie Best
Jul 20, 2023

Salt has just released a new resource for business and security leaders: “Understanding API Attacks: Why Are They Different and How Can You Stop Them.” Salt undertook writing this eBook as part of our ongoing commitment to educate the market about API security issues and trends. In this new eBook, we take a close look at how API attacks differ from traditional attacks, and the measures organizations can take to protect against them.

We all know that API attacks are growing. API attacks have gained significant attention due to high-profile incidents such as the Optus data breach and breaches affecting organizations such as Peloton, Experian, LinkedIn and Twitter. No organization is immune to API attacks, regardless of size or data value, which is why protecting APIs has become crucial for sustaining business growth.

Why have APIs become a top target for cybercriminals?

Three main reasons are making APIs a top target:

  1. API usage has exploded. This widespread adoption of APIs has created a large attack surface for attackers — and they are taking full advantage of the opportunity.
  2. APIs expose large volumes of valuable data, including PII, making them a highly lucrative target for bad actors.
  3. Most organizations lack centralized security strategies and governance frameworks for APIs, leading to increased data exposure risks. This is further complicated by API sprawl, generated by the rapid pace of API proliferations, and the use of open-source or third-party APIs.

How do API attacks differ?

Our eBook walks you through multiple types of API attacks and discusses how API attacks differ from traditional pattern-based attacks. With APIs, attackers focus on exploiting the underlying application and business logic behind each API. They use reconnaissance techniques to probe for vulnerabilities and gain unauthorized access to data or functionality within the API. We discuss why traditional tools and testing methods are inadequate to detect and prevent these attacks.

What are the most common types of API attacks?

In our eBook, we also outline the most common types of API attacks, among them:

  • Lack of visibility and governance — where attackers exploit unknown or unsecured APIs, including shadow or zombie APIs, to gain unauthorized access
  • Abuse and misuse of APIs — where attackers manipulate APIs according to their intended design to achieve malicious outcomes, such as data exfiltration
  • Business logic flaw exploitation — where attackers conduct reconnaissance to identify vulnerabilities in the unique business logic of each API enabling unauthorized access or data manipulation
  • Stolen credentials and social engineering — where attackers use social engineering techniques to gain access to privileged API keys, allowing them to impersonate legitimate users

Our eBook also takes an in-depth look at the vulnerabilities and threats outlined in the recently released 2023 OWASP API Security Top 10 list.

Explore the changing nature of API attacks and protect your organization

What’s needed to effectively protect against API attacks?  

Our eBook provides focused insights on how to effectively protect against API attacks with a different approach to security. We look at considerations that include:

  • Visibility and governance — automatic and continuous API discovery is essential to identify all APIs, including shadow and zombie APIs, and assess their risk
  • Attack prevention with AI — only cloud-scale big data combined with AI and ML algorithms can analyze API traffic, detect anomalies, and identify attackers during the reconnaissance phase
  • Elimination of future security gaps — APIs requires continuous protection and learning. Insights gained from analyzing attackers’ activities can help development teams prioritize and address vulnerabilities

API security has become a hot button for today’s organizations. According to the State of the CISO 2023 report, 95% of CISOs worldwide say their organization has made API security a planned priority over the next two years. Understanding the types of API attacks, their evolution, and defensive measures is crucial for protecting your valuable data and ensuring continued business growth in today’s digital landscape.

We invite you to download our new eBook to learn about changing API attacks and what steps you can take to enhance your organization’s API security. If you have any questions, we are here to help. Our API experts are happy to discuss all of the issues covered in our eBook or provide you with a customized demo of the Salt Security API Protection Platform to demonstrate how a purpose-built API solution can defend your organization.

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