Bad bots are coming at APIs! How to beat the API bot attacks?

API or Application Programming Interface is a de facto building block for modern-day applications, necessary for both building and connecting applications and websites. But APIs are poorly protected and have become one of the prime targets for attacks, especially bot attacks.

75% of login attempts from API (Application Programming Interfaces) endpoints are malicious – according to perimeterx. Hackers systematically use bots for malicious login attempts.

How can you protect your APIs from bots and bot attacks? Keep reading to learn effective ways for API bot detection and protection.

Why are APIs at risk of bot attacks?

APIs allow developers to access, reuse and integrate functionalities assets and data with greater ease, ushering agility, speed, and efficiency into development. This has led to an increasing dependence on APIs by organizations that are now deploying more and more of these to aid their digital transformation initiatives. However, APIs are often exposed to the risk of bot cyberattacks such as DoS and DDoS attacks, content and pricing scraping carding attacks and account takeovers, etc.

In 2020, 98% of organizations saw attacks against their applications/ websites, and 82% reported these to be bot cyberattacks. Several organizations face at least one DoS/ DDoS attack or some form of injection or attribute manipulation incidents every month.

Why is the risk of bot cyberattacks on APIs so high and common?

  • 40% of organizations reported that more than half of their applications are exposed to third-party services or the internet owing to APIs.
  • Bot-based API attacks are easier to orchestrate as botnets are readily available for hire.
  • Traditional detection and prevention techniques such as rate limiting, signature-based detection, blocking protocols, etc., are found wanting against highly complicated API bot attacks.
  • Malicious actors are leveraging. Organizations find it difficult to distinguish between human and bot activities and between good and bad bots, severely limiting their ability to protect APIs against bot attacks.
  • API requests do not go through the traditional route of browsers or native app agents; they serve as a direct pipeline with access to resources and functionalities. This makes APIs lucrative targets for attackers.
  • Often, developers use standard/ generic rulesets for APIs without keeping the business logic in mind. This opens the APIs to business logic vulnerabilities often exploited using bots to wreak havoc.

How to protect your APIs from bot attacks?

Collect intelligence and build a baseline of normal behaviour

To effectively protect API from bots, you need to establish what is acceptable, normal behaviour and what is anomalous behaviour. To this end, your security solution must monitor API traffic and gather intelligence through fingerprinting, behavioral, pattern and heuristic analysis, workflow validation, global threat feeds, network response times, etc. These insights must be combined with the internal and external reputation feeds to build a baseline of what is considered human and bot behaviour and, in bot behaviour, what is good and bad behaviour.

This process must be continuous because the digital landscape is rapidly evolving; attackers are constantly leveraging sophisticated technology to ensure bots can mimic human behaviour. You need to continuously recalibrate what is acceptable and malicious behaviour vis-à-vis API security.

Continuously monitor API requests

Granularly monitor all API requests against the baseline model. The process of bot detection in APIs needs to be intelligent (using self-learning AI, deep analytics, and automation) and flexible to ensure agility, speed, and accuracy in real-time bot activity detection. Continuous monitoring and logging are equally important.

Deploy instant bad bot mitigation techniques

To protect APIs against bots, you cannot stop with real-time detection; you must be able to block bad bots from gaining access to APIs and mission-critical assets that APIs often expose. To this end, intelligent API bot management solutions work instantaneously and intelligently against the most complex and stealthiest bad bots.

Intelligent API bot management tools determine whether to allow, block, flag, or challenge incoming API requests based on real-time insights and signals. Combined with a solid false management system, this helps to minimize false positives and false negatives. In other words, they help build up the friction for bad bots and malicious actors to access APIs, not legitimate traffic, and good bots.

Implement zero-trust architectures

Adopt a zero-trust architecture wherein every user must prove their identity and be given access based on their roles and only to the extent necessary to perform necessary actions. Unlimited, unchecked permissions and privileges are detrimental to API security, especially against bot cyberattacks such as credential stuffing and brute force attacks. Implement role-based, robust access controls, strong password policies, and multi-factor authentication.

Customize rulesets

Tailor your rulesets based on contextual intelligence to prevent exploitation of business logic flaws and other vulnerabilities in APIs by bots. Also, enlist the help of certified security experts to custom-build security policies accurately.


To effectively protect APIs from bot attacks, leverage AppTrana’s API Protection, an advanced, comprehensive, and risk-based API-specific security solution. It ensures anti-bot security for your APIs through positive security policies, API-specific bots, and DDoS mitigation policies.

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