Industry Insights with Shay Levi

API Security

How to Block API Attacks in Real Time

The Different Types of API Attacks and Best Practices for API Security
How to Block API Attacks in Real Time

API attacks are on the rise as hackers increasingly exploit them to gain unauthorized access to sensitive data. API attacks can take multiple forms, including but not limited to SQL injection, cross-site scripting, and denial-of-service attacks. The consequences of an API attack can be severe and range from data breaches, financial loss and reputational damage to complete system failure. To mitigate the risk of API attacks, it's crucial to implement robust security measures such as authentication, authorization, encryption and regular vulnerability assessments.

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Real-time protection against API attacks is nonnegotiable. Without it, your application is vulnerable to data breaches, downtime and other security threats. Dynamic security controls must be in place to safeguard your APIs and protect your users' data.

Understanding API Attacks

APIs, or application programming interfaces, are the communication channels between different software applications and systems, which makes them vulnerable to attacks.

Some of the most common types of API attacks include:

  • Injection Attacks: Attackers inject malicious code into the API request in order to execute unintended actions.
  • Denial-of-Service - DoS - Attacks: Attackers overwhelm the API with a large number of requests, causing it to crash or become unresponsive.
  • Man-in-the-Middle - MitM - Attacks: Attackers intercept traffic between the client and the API, allowing them to view and modify the data being transmitted.
  • Broken Authentication and Session Management: Attackers exploit vulnerabilities in the authentication and session management mechanisms to gain unauthorized access to the API.
  • Improper Error Handling: Attackers use error messages to gain information about an API's internal workings and exploit vulnerabilities.

Real-Time API Protection Strategies

To protect APIs in real time, organizations must employ a variety of strategies and techniques that mitigate the risks associated with API vulnerabilities. The key to successful protection lies in the combination of proactive monitoring, strict access controls and regular vulnerability assessments.

One strategy involves using automated monitoring tools that can detect and respond to threats in real time. Implementing strict authentication and access control measures can also help prevent unauthorized access and limit exposure to potential attacks. So can performing regular vulnerability assessments and penetration testing to identify weaknesses in the system and address them before they can be exploited.

Here are some best practices to follow.

Implement an Effective Web Application Firewall

A WAF filters out unwanted traffic and protects your web applications from common web-based attacks such as XSS, SQL injection and cross-site forgery. But it's important to understand that APIs are often not routed through a proxy such as a WAF or API gateway. So, you need an API security platform that integrates with your WAF in order to achieve comprehensive real-time protection.

Use Rate-Limiting to Prevent Brute Force Attacks

Rate-limiting involves setting a limit on the number of requests that can be made to a server within a given time period. This prevents attackers from repeatedly attempting to guess login credentials.

Follow Authentication and Authorization Best Practices

First, it's important to use strong password policies and to encourage users to create unique, complex passwords. Multifactor authentication can add an extra layer of security. It's also important to regularly review and update user roles and permissions to ensure that only authorized users have access to sensitive information. Finally, logging and monitoring can help identify any suspicious activity and protect against potential security breaches. You should also scope JWT tokens properly and use OAuth 2.0 and OpenID Connect.

Use Automation and ML-Based Anomaly Detection

This technology helps businesses identify and address issues more quickly and efficiently. It analyzes data from various sources and identifies patterns or deviations that indicate potential problems. By automating this process, businesses can save time and resources while also improving their ability to proactively address issues before they become major problems. API security focuses on the attacker rather than on the transaction. API attacks generate multiple API transactions over a long period of time, and leveraging machine learning to link the traffic patterns to the users goes a long way toward keeping the bad guys out.

ML-based anomaly detection allows for more accurate and reliable identification of anomalies, reducing the risk of false alarms or missed issues. This technology can help businesses improve their operations, reduce downtime and better meet the needs of their customers.

Conduct Regular Security Audits and Assessments

Regular security audits and assessments play a vital role in keeping your company secure from any potential threats. They help identify vulnerabilities or weaknesses in your security systems and allow you to take corrective measures to mitigate those risks. By conducting them on a regular basis, you can stay ahead of potential threats and ensure that your company's data and sensitive information remain secure. Keep in mind that APIs are so fundamentally different from traditional web applications that you need to bring in specialized skills to address this often-misunderstood attack vector.

How to Stay Protected Against Attacks

Real-time API protection is no longer an option but a necessity. To help you get started, download the Definitive Guide to Runtime Protection. By following these best practices and staying vigilant against emerging threats, you can help ensure the security and integrity of your APIs and protect against the potentially devastating consequences of a successful attack.

About the Author

Shay Levi

Shay Levi

CTO, Co-founder, Noname Security

Shay Levi is the Co-Founder and CTO at Noname Security, a leading pioneer in the API security space. As a cybersecurity expert, Shay leads the innovation and engineering efforts that address the growing API risks enterprises face. Prior to co-founding Noname Security, Shay was a Sr. Software Engineer at Facebook and R&D Team Lead at ironSource. Before his civilian career, he spent 4 years as a Cyber Software Engineer at the Israeli Intelligence Corps.

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