As businesses increasingly rely on APIs for seamless integration and data exchange, the risk of API attacks has surged. Understanding the types of API attacks, their consequences, and how to implement robust security measures is crucial in safeguarding your valuable data and systems. Are you prepared to face this growing threat?

Key Takeaways

  • API attacks are on the rise and organizations must take proactive steps to protect their data, services, finances, and reputation.
  • Security vulnerabilities can be exploited by malicious actors so a “zero-trust” approach with strong access control measures is necessary.
  • Ensuring your enterprise is following all API security best practices can help mitigate potential threats and risks.
  • Bot management software, like Kasada, provides advanced bot detection, behavior-based protection, and global threat intelligence for comprehensive API security solutions.
  • Kasada’s API protection stands out from the rest because it aims to not only stop malicious bots but also counter the mindset of the attacker.

Understanding API Attacks and Your Security Risks

API attacks are attempts to exploit Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) for malicious purposes, such as gaining unauthorized access to sensitive information or disrupting services. Given the rising trend of APIs being exploited as pathways for malicious attacks, implementing robust API security measures is a necessity to protect your enterprise from potential harm.

Types of API Attacks

API attacks can manifest in various forms, including some common API attack types:

  • DDoS attacks: attempt to overwhelm an API’s memory by initiating numerous connections simultaneously, increasing the attack surface and potentially causing service disruptions.
  • Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) attacks: adversaries intercept the communication between an API endpoint and a client, enabling them to steal confidential information or modify transmitted data.
  • Injection attacks: malicious code is injected into an API request, allowing attackers to execute unauthorized commands or access sensitive data.
  • Data exposure: sensitive data is exposed through vulnerabilities in the API, such as improper access controls or insecure data storage.

It is important for developers and API providers to be aware of these attack vectors and implement appropriate security measures to protect against them.

Injection attacks represent another prevalent form of API assaults where malevolent entities insert code like SQLi (SQL injection) and XSS (cross-site scripting) into software for unauthorized access. Excessive data exposure, on the other hand, occurs when sensitive data is left exposed on the server, allowing unauthorized access to the information.

Authentication hijacking is a more targeted attack that attempts to circumvent or break the authentication methods employed by a web application, potentially leading to data breaches and privacy violations. Attackers can exploit vulnerabilities in authentication mechanisms to gain access, gain unauthorized access to secured resources, and compromise user accounts.

The Role Bots Play in API Attacks

Like any use of malicious automation during any type of attack, bots are leveraged for their blend of ease of use, sophistication, and cost-effectiveness. Bots allow adversaries to launch API attacks at scale. Carrying out malicious actions far faster than a human could. If APIs are not protected against automation it leaves them vulnerable to attackers’ favorite tool.

Consequences of API Attacks

API attacks can lead to serious outcomes including compromised data, interrupted services, and damage to your organization’s reputation. For instance, during a Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) attack, a hacker can intercept session tokens issued by a session token issuing api, providing them with access to the user’s account and potentially exposing a large amount of sensitive and personal information.

API breaches can have a considerable financial impact, particularly in the financial services industry. Research indicates that vulnerable APIs can cost organizations up to $75 billion annually in losses due to disruption. The exploitation of API vulnerabilities can lead to:

  • Unauthorized data access
  • Interception
  • Manipulation
  • Disruption of services

These consequences can result in financial losses and damage to a company’s reputation.

API Security Vulnerabilities

An empty office with people working at desks.

API security vulnerabilities refer to weaknesses in an API that could be potentially leveraged by malicious entities to access sensitive data or carry out unauthorized activities. One potential weakness in API security lies in authentication and authorization, where API calls utilize access tokens to verify non-human “users”, but these tokens may be compromised due to various factors. Organizations should adopt a “zero-trust” approach to cyber security and follow an api security checklist. An important priority must be placed on developing and enforcing strong access control measures.

Another considerable factor contributing to API security vulnerabilities is the improper validation of input. Traditional vulnerability scanners are often unable to detect common logical vulnerabilities in APIs, including injection, logical workflow, and parameter attacks during automated security audits. Without proper Transport Layer Security (TLS) implementation, malicious actors have the potential to intercept and modify the data passing through the API, jeopardizing the confidentiality and integrity of the exchanged information, especially when they transfer sensitive data.

Recent API Breaches Underscore API Risk

The spotlight has been put on the significance of robust API security measures due to recent high-profile API breaches involving:

  • Optus
  • 3Commas
  • Beetle Eye
  • Dropbox
  • Twitter
  • FlexBooker
  • Texas

These breaches have exposed vast amounts of sensitive user records, resulting in data leaks, financial loss, reputational harm, and internal HR repercussions.

The consequences of API breaches can be far-reaching, impacting not only the affected companies but also their customers, partners, and even regulators. Organizations must prioritize API security by:

  • Implementing authentication and authorization protocols
  • Utilizing encryption
  • Monitoring API usage
  • Employing bot management software to protect automated threats targeting APIs.

Why API Security Incidences are Becoming More Common

The widespread use of APIs has given attackers increased opportunities to exploit vulnerabilities and compromise authentication controls, leading to data exfiltration and other disruptive activities. There has been a notable increase in the number of unique attacks reported in recent years, as well as an increase in attack traffic. Furthermore, a large percentage of attacks occur over authenticated APIs, indicating that attackers are specifically targeting these entry points through malicious API requests.

The increasing reliance on APIs has made them a prime target for attackers, who are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their methods. Advanced techniques such as AI-driven threat detection, machine learning algorithms, and blockchain are being used to exploit APIs. The lack of proper tools to secure APIs and the increasing ubiquity of APIs contribute to their vulnerability.

Attacks are increasingly easier to conduct at scale. Through the use of automation bot operators are able to launch affordable and sophisticated attacks. This combined with the widespread use and reliance on APIs makes them a prime target for automated attacks.

Typically, attackers employ methods such as brute force attacks, API abuse, and man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks to exploit APIs. The combination of these factors, coupled with the increasing number of APIs used by organizations, has contributed to the rise in API security incidents.

The Challenges with Securing APIs

It’s so complex to secure APIs because of their increasing number and unique security needs. Traditional security technologies, such as web application firewalls (WAFs), are limited in their ability to protect APIs from risks stemming from business logic flaws. Security incident event management (SIEM) tools, while useful for aggregating data from security technologies, cannot detect abnormal activity in APIs without a dedicated API security tool.

Monitoring APIs is essential for understanding the movement of data between applications and amplifying the number of locations that security teams need to keep an eye on. Unfortunately, traditional security technologies are often ill-equipped to address the complexity and layered nature of APIs, as well as their unique security requirements, including visibility, effectiveness against API sprawl, and detection of business logic attacks.

To overcome these challenges, organizations must adopt specialized API security tools and strategies that focus on the unique requirements and vulnerabilities of APIs. These tools should provide continuous monitoring, high-fidelity alerts, bot management software, and protection against a wide range of API attacks to secure the ever-expanding API landscape.

Strengthening API Security with Bot Management 

Bot management serves as a necessary layer of defense to secure enterprise APIs by:

  • Identifying and blocking malicious traffic
  • Offering advanced bot detection
  • Providing behavior-based protection
  • Ensuring API security
  • Preventing credential stuffing
  • Preventing content scraping
  • Utilizing global threat intelligence

Bot management software employs various techniques to detect and prevent malicious traffic. Kasada’s bot management software works by detecting the malicious automation used by attackers. Kasada deploys hundreds of sensors to collect hidden traces of this automation. The solution uses this data to identify and block malicious automation. While ensuring the data collected by sensors has not been tampered with, limiting false positives.

Using a highly obfuscated code the data collected is hidden from attackers attempting to reverse engineer the protection. Kasada goes one step above and adds a layer of security with the sensors used to detect the automation changes between each request. This ensures that even if an attacker can reverse engineer Kasada’s code, what they gain will have already been outdated, which means Kasada has eliminated motivation and repeat attacks are out of the question.

Kasada for API Security: How Kasada Stands Out

Kasadas proactive adaptive detection mechanisms adapt as quickly as the malicious attackers do. At Kasada, we pride ourselves on our solution consistently staying one step ahead of all malicious threats. Other solutions take a reactive approach, allowing bots a window of opportunity to access your infrastructure before being blocked, by then the damage is done. Kasada’s API protection does not offer up this window of opportunity to attackers leaving your enterprise vulnerable. Instead, Kasada’s solution blocks malicious automation before it can even gain access and create harm. Others also remain static, meaning a bypass created once can potentially work for months. Kasada’s agile architecture allows defense updates to be rolled out in minutes, providing protection that adapts as quickly as attackers.


API attacks pose significant risks to businesses, and their growing prevalence underscores the importance of implementing robust security measures. By understanding API attack types, their consequences, and potential vulnerabilities, enterprises can take steps to secure their APIs and protect their valuable data. Employing specialized API security tools, such as a bot management solution like Kasada, is essential in mitigating API risks and staying ahead of the evolving threat landscape. Partner with Kasada to enhance your enterprise’s protection and security today.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are API attacks?

API attacks are malicious attempts to exploit security vulnerabilities in APIs, enabling unauthorized access to systems or networks and allowing attackers to disrupt business operations or steal data, money, or credentials.

What is an API breach?

An API breach occurs when malicious actors exploit vulnerabilities in an API to gain unauthorized access to sensitive data, disrupt services, hijack the system, inject malicious code, or launch Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. Such activities can be used for stealing data, manipulating user sessions, and causing disruption.

What is an API in cyber security?

API security ensures that the Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) used to facilitate communication between software applications are secure and protected from potential attacks. It involves protecting APIs from vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and malicious intent by implementing access control, rate limiting, and other security measures.

What are some common types of API attacks?

Common types of API attacks include DDoS, Man-in-the-Middle, injection attacks, and data exposure, posing a risk to the security of systems and user data.

What are the potential consequences of API attacks?

API attacks can lead to data breaches, service outages, and damage to an organization’s reputation, resulting in serious financial and reputational consequences.

Want to learn more?

  • Why CAPTCHAs Are Not the Future of Bot Detection

    I’m not a robot” tests are definitely getting harder. But does that mean more complex CAPTCHAs are the right path forward to outsmart advancing AI and adversarial technologies?

  • The New Mandate for Bot Detection – Ensuring Data Authenticity

    Can the data collected by an anti-bot system be trusted? Kasada's latest platform enhancements include securing the authenticity of web traffic data.

Beat the bots without bothering your customers — see how.