What Are API Attacks and How Can We Prevent Them?

An API, or Application Programming Interface, is a software intermediary that enables applications to respond to each other. APIs provide protocols, routines and tools for software developers, enabling them to extract and share data in an accessible manner. For instance, a web API connects an application with other platforms and services, such as games, social platforms, device and database. Most companies are using one or any form of API, and because of the increase in malicious hacking technologies and methods, API security has become a concern.

Unfortunately, as much as there is a risk of any company likely to get an unprecedented API attack, most are not aware of the possibility at all. This is mostly due to the unfamiliarity with APIs, and how a poorly implemented one can cause damage to a business. More importantly, companies are not fully aware of how to prevent such an attack, and they end up losing critical user/client information. In lights of such a scenario, let us discuss these attacks and how we can prevent them.

Possible API Attacks

APIs often document information about their structure and methods of implementations. Hackers can use this information to launch their cyber-attacks. There are other methods which can also cause vulnerabilities like poor authentication, no encryption and other flaws which can give rise to these attacks. Let’s take a look at some methods:

The DDoS Attacks

This is probably the most common attack, something that even the movies and TV shows talk about often. A Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS, or D-doss) attack is the one in which multiple systems flood the bandwidth of the target system. A DDoS attack on a web API attempts to overwhelm its memory by crowding it with several thousand connections at the same time. Hackers can also do this by sending a large and hefty amount of information in each request.

Here we can take an example of Federal Communications Commission’s Office (FCC) of the USA, which suffered a cyberattack in 2017. The hacker used commercial cloud services to issue a massive amount of API requests to their commenting system. This not only overflowed the human commenters but also consumed all available resources, ultimately causing the website to crash.

Man in the Middle (MITM)

A MITM attack exactly what it means; an attacker discreetly relays, alters and intercepts communications, messages and requests between two parties to obtain sensitive information. A hacker can act as a man in the middle between a session token issuing API to an HTTP header and a user. If the hacker can intercept that session token, it would grant him access to the user’s account, which can lead to (possibly) a tonne of sensitive and personal information.

A Code Injection Attack

This kind of attack happens on an application running on poorly developed code. The hacker injects malicious code in software, like SQLi (SQL injection) and XSS (cross-site scripting) to gain access to your software.

The API attacks are not limited to the three discussed, there are more, and hackers can even develop more powerful attacks in the future as well. Session replays, spoofing, reverse engineering, there are many forms of API attacks that can launch on companies and software. So, what do they need to do?

Preventing API Attacks

Push Notifications

Companies can develop a notification system in which the receiving system can forward notification alerts to the user’s phone. A user can set up this notification system when they get on board for the first time. MBaaS platforms can take care of this need where it can integrate with API policies which the company is looking for. However, during this make sure that the method to change mobile number itself is secure from all ends. This may not entirely prevent an attack, but it can alert the user, giving more possibility to fight off the hack.

Two Factor Authentication

Another method is to enable Two Factor Authentication (2FA) where a user has to enter an additional passcode other than the password itself. This additional password is sent to the user, in different methods when the login attempts happen from a distant location or another computer. For example, Facebook uses its built-in OTP (one-time passwords) which generate for a few moments before a new one comes.

Some banks use 2FA using an SMS push notification in which a time-sensitive pin is sent to user’s mobile phones upon account access. This might be the safest form of authentication available where a user must have access to the registered mobile number to enter the account.

Encrypt Data

Another fix is to encrypt all traffic in transit. While the hacker can still capture data, it is as meaningful as nothing unless they have access to its decryption methods. Always use a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) to ensure the encryption link between a server and a browser.

There is a growing market that offers API security, which is largely due to the risk involved in an API based attack. Estimated 69% of the organizations are sharing their APIs with partners and customers. In the end, it is software companies like InvoZone that offers reliable solutions to securing your data and APIs. Generally, applications developed by experienced professionals are more secure and the security systems involved further reduces its vulnerability. As new technologies emerge, so should better methods of security, and that is what InvoZone offers.

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