The emergence of cloud computing architectures has caused enterprises to rethink the way applications are scaled. Impetuses were put on companies to get away from deploying full-stack applications via infrastructure such as virtual machines and instead adopt a microservices approach by creating APIs composed of multiple interoperating services.
By 2023, over 50% of B2B transactions will be performed via real-time APIs versus the traditional means. – Gartner
The market for APIs is growing, and so is the threat landscape. While API gateways play a vital role in API management and API delivery, they provide a variety of core functionality for API security. It might be tempting to adhere to API gateway alone to meet security objectives. However, addressing the emerging risks of APIs requires various new sophisticated techniques outside the scope of conventional API gateways.
First, let’s understand the handshake between API and API gateway.
What is an API?
API, the acronym for Application Programming Interface, is a way for computer programs to interact with each other by acting as a middleman similar to a traffic control system in busy cities that ensures transit between different areas goes seamlessly.
What is an API gateway?
In a typical microservices architecture, an API gateway is an instruction and protocol management tool that handles requests from clients and decides which microservices to route them onto to get a response back.
Think of it as a kind of traffic cop or switchboard, ensuring that requests are delivered to the right places so they can be handled properly on their way to getting a response.
And with microservices, the need for efficient API gateways has to be there. Major cloud vendors realized API gateways could also provide a convenient way for companies to get their cloud services up and running.
What API security entails?
API security requires the implementation of strategies and procedures that can help one mitigate the security threats of their API. This includes ways to prevent explicit and implicit management failures, as well as code failures.
To keep the APIs secure, a plan should be in place, which should contain audit standards, change control systems, management processes, access control measures, etc.
While API gateways give developers a more visible security layer for application programming interface (API) calls, there is still room for improvement. If a gateway fails to adapt with its resources, vulnerability management becomes an incredible challenge.
As per Gartner, by 2022, API abuses will move from an infrequent to the most-frequent attack vector, resulting in data breaches for enterprise web applications.
But why is API gateway security not good enough?
Let us not mix API gateways with API security as the former, with its access control feature, is often part of API security. Developers make sure that apps work correctly and do what they’re designed to do, but attackers are the ones who find clever ways to turn applications into weapons. As the OWASP API Top 10 Security document concludes, API security threats include numerous vulnerabilities accompanying traditional web application attacks.
Since the services that support APIs are now worth millions of dollars, hackers will try to find new ways to get unsecured keys and break into them. The three key drivers could be:
- Sophisticated attacks leveraging a valid API token can successfully target application business logic and data layer vulnerabilities.
- The cyber-attacks get mileage from a valid API token to attack an application’s business logic or data layer can be successful, as they are designed and engineered to target vulnerabilities that allow API usage.
- The main hindrance with API gateways is that it can only monitor endpoints. Still, it does not fully describe the full API schema (RESTful API and the ways of API interaction) of what services it makes available for consumption.
On top of these, three common risks that might risk API security are:
Lacklustre approach toward APIs count
The lack of information about the total number of public, partner, private and composite APIs prevents security teams from comprehending an API’s real exposure and risk.
Hackers vs. developers
Hackers use tools and have even more sophisticated methods for breaking into APIs at a developer’s level. They can take advantage of subtle mistakes to map the API, understand its structure, and find vulnerabilities in the code itself.
Who cares about our small business API?
Smaller companies always lack the security that large organizations have and are more at risk than larger ones because they can’t provide the necessary measures to secure their data fully.
WAAP – A solution to secure your APIs
WAAP (Web Application and API Protection) is essential because traditional security tools such as firewalls and gateways cannot always provide the defense you need to prevent API attacks.
Consider that traditional Web Application Firewall solutions are designed to protect against malicious activity done on a per-request basis. This means they won’t stop all forms of phishing, including spear-phishing attacks.
The hacker uses information provided by the victim via email to promote an attack directly inside the company’s environment. WAAP ensures that APIs are shielded and don’t lead to security exposures. WAAP solution is centered on four key capabilities:
- DDoS protection
- Next Gen Web Application Firewall (WAF)
- Bot management
- API protection
By monitoring all internet traffic coming into applications with a WAAP solution, a business can detect malicious activity and ensure that only trusted customers are making legitimate transactions on the platform.
The WAAP solution utilizes a fully managed and risk-based application security approach to managing web applications that protect from abnormal activities on cyber threats aimed at manipulating the transactional process.
We understand that API security should go beyond traffic policy enforcement and HTTP headers. It should provide fine-grained policies under your control, allowing you to safeguard your API from the ground up, ensuring secure operations.