21 March 2024

Testing your APIs

In the world of software development APIs, short for Application Programming Interface, act as a bridge between different software applications facilitating communication and interactions.

An API encompasses the rules, protocols, and tools to enable integration and interoperability between different systems. APIs can be at the core of a digital transformation project however, exposing them comes with some risks.

Due to the role they play, APIs are frequently targeted by attackers looking to exploit vulnerabilities for financial gain, to steal data, or gain access to other systems. For example, a successful attack against an API can disrupt an essential business function such as payment processing, leading to monetary loss, data loss and reputational damage.

What is API Penetration Testing?

Scoping the pen test determines the testing requirements and attack surface design. API penetration testing involves simulating real-world attacks to uncover vulnerabilities within an API. Testers analyse responses to various requests, using tools to identify security flaws. Vulnerabilities that are identified through the testing exercise are assessed and prioritised based on risk profiles.

Whilst the OWASP API security Top 10 serves as a valuable resource and is a solid foundation for API pen testing, it is crucial to delve deeper into potential vulnerabilities. Beyond the typical use case scenarios, API pen tests may encompass an expanded attack surface to identify both known and unknown vulnerabilities.

Some examples of common critical and high-risk vulnerabilities discovered in APIs include -

  • Domain Email Spoofing – exploiting this vulnerability will allow attackers to impersonate legitimate email addresses associated with the API, opening the opportunity to undertake phishing attacks or unauthorised access to sensitive information.
  • Apache HTTP Server Byte Range DoS - someone can exploit this vulnerability to create a denial-of-service (DoS) attack on an Apache HTTP server, causing service disruption or resource exhaustion, thereby impacting the availability of the API.
  • Sensitive Data Exposure: APIs may inadvertently expose sensitive information such as user credentials, personal data, or confidential business information. Exploiting this vulnerability can lead to data breaches and compromise the confidentiality and integrity of the system.
  • Injection Attacks – Insufficient input validation or sanitisation in API endpoints can allow attackers to inject malicious code or commands for the execution of arbitrary commands, the manipulation of data or gaining unauthorised access to databases.
  • Broken Authentication - Weak authentication mechanisms or flawed session management in APIs can lead to unauthorised access to resources or user accounts. Attackers may exploit this vulnerability to impersonate legitimate users, escalate privileges, or gain unauthorised access to sensitive data.

In conclusion, API penetration testing plays a vital role in ensuring the security and integrity of software systems. Through testing organisations can identify and address vulnerabilities proactively to mitigate risks and improve their cyber security posture.

Contact our experts for more information on API Penetration Testing.

Introducing our new lead consultant

We are pleased to announce a new addition to our team with the arrival of Mike Maclean as Lead Consultant. With 25+ years of experience working in the field of information security he has worked in a range of industry sectors including energy, manufacturing, telecommunications, and media. Mike is passionate about cyber security and its role in enabling organisational performance and resilience. He is constantly seeking to learn and innovate in this fast-changing and dynamic domain. Our customers will be able to draw on Mike’s in-depth governance, strategy, risk, and compliance experience over the coming months.

In his time at organisations such as Genesis Energy, Fonterra, Vodafone, and GE Money he managed and delivered projects focussed on cyber security strategy, cyber risk management, infrastructure security, standards, and compliance, to name a few.


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