Every organisation is facing a multitude of security challenges. These range from getting the basics right, like ensuring the correct firewall is in place, to higher-level challenges, such as API security and data privacy.
One of the greatest challenges facing organizations these days is a comprehensive approach to API security. With an expanding number of APIs in use, and added complexity arising from service oriented architecture (SOA,) the cloud, and containers/Kubernetes, enabling full life-cycle API security is an enormous challenge that’s often made harder by false security perceptions.
With the rapid growth of APIs in recent years, there has been a corresponding increase in hacking attempts and other malicious behaviour. Last year recorded a 321% increase in overall API traffic and a 681% increase in fraudulent traffic according to a recent study. These statistics show how vulnerable APIs can be – hence the need for comprehensive API security to protect these vital connectors.
To keep your APIs secure from hackers, it’s important to have a complete understanding of how they work and what you can do to protect them. There are many different types of APIs – RESTful APIs, SOAP APIs, GraphQL APIs – each with their own set of vulnerabilities that need to be accounted for when designing your API architecture. They also require runtime protection to defend against bad actors.
However, you have many options for increasing your API security. This article explores popular tools and resources to tackle this growing priority.
Tools required for API Security Testing
SoapUI is a free API and popular SOAP and REST functional testing tool. It has a user-friendly graphical interface that’s simple to navigate, and its enterprise-class functionality make it simple to build and run automated functional, regression, and load tests. It maintains multi-environment support, CI/CD pipeline integration, and GUI test builder.
Salt provides security for the APIs at the heart of every modern application across their entire lifecycle. Using a cloud-scale big data engine powered by their AI and ML algorithms, the Salt platform automatically detects APIs and exposes sensitive data, identifies and prevents attackers, tests and scans APIs throughout the build phase, and gives remediation insights learnt in runtime to help dev teams improve their API security posture.
Acunetix is a web vulnerability scanner that can be used to find security issues in web applications and APIs. It can detect SQL injection vulnerabilities, cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities, insecure direct object references, as well as other common issues such as broken access control. One of the things that makes Acunetix stand out from other tools is its coverage of OWASP’s top 10 web application security risks.
The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) maintains Zed Attack Proxy (ZAP), a free, open-source penetration testing tool. It is an easy-to-use integrated penetration testing tool for finding vulnerabilities in web applications. ZAP sits between the tester’s browser and the web application, intercepting and inspecting communications transmitted between the two, modifying the contents if necessary, and then forwarding those packets to their intended destination. It can run as a standalone application or as a background process.
Postman is an API development and usage tool. Postman improves collaboration and simplifies each step of the API lifecycle to build better APIs faster.
Postman currently supports more than 20 million users and provides a comprehensive suite of tools for speeding up the API Lifecycle, from design to testing, documentation, mocking, and discovery.
Teams may organize, categorise, reuse, and share API requests and examples in Postman collections, allowing for collaboration, automated testing, and request chaining. Postman comes with a wealth of video lessons and comprehensive documentation. It also has a thriving community, with many users sharing APIs, collections, and workspaces to aid others in training and development.
JMeter by Apache
Apache JMeterTM is a free, open-source Java application that was created to test a wide range of apps, servers, protocols and measure performance.
Apache JMeter allows request chaining and may be used to test both static and dynamic resources, as well as web dynamic applications. It can be used to simulate a heavy demand on a server, set of servers, network, or item in order to test its strength or examine overall performance under various load scenarios. Apache JMeter and can handle a wide range of applications, servers, and protocols.
Karate is an open-source test-automation framework that integrates automated API testing, performance testing, and mocking in one package. Although it is written in Java, it does not necessitate sophisticated programming abilities.
Karate also supports service virtualisation, which allows it to create mock servers that may be used to replace web services in integration tests. Karate has the ability to run tests in parallel for enhanced performance and speed and generate HTML results.
Swagger, developed by SmartBear Software, is a set of API developer tools for teams and individuals that enables development across the whole API lifecycle, from design and documentation to testing and deployment.
Katalon Studio is a powerful and comprehensive API, web, desktop, and mobile testing automation solution.
Katalon Studio makes deployment simple by combining all frameworks, ALM connectors, and plugins into a single package. It stands out among the top API tools for its ability to combine UI and API/Web services for many systems.
What Practices Are Helpful to Test and Secure APIs?
As noted earlier, API security testing is very important. According to IBM and the Ponemon Institute’s Cost of a Data Breach Report 2021, the global average cost of a data breach climbed by a concerning 10% in 2021, to $4.24 million, up from $3.86 million in 2020.
Organisations must adopt these practices to test and secure APIs:
- API security testing should be done as soon as possible. By performing API security testing in the early stages of development, developers can quickly identify vulnerabilities and take corrective actions before going live with their applications.
- API security testing should be done regularly. Regularly scan your APIs for vulnerabilities so that you can continuously monitor the health of your application and make sure it meets compliance standards.
- API security testing should be done before release. It’s easier to find issues during development than after release because once an application goes live, there is too much at stake if any major vulnerabilities are discovered.
- Remember that API security testing alone, however, will not fully protect your APIs. You also need to deploy runtime protection for your APIs, since even with full testing, no one can identify all vulnerabilities in APIs in pre-production.
About the Author: John Iwuozor is a freelance tech writer with proven expertise in the tech niche. This includes Data Science, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing (NLP), Computer Vision, Image Recognition, IoT, Programming Languages, SaaS, and Cybersecurity. He is also a regular writer at Bora.