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Detecting and Mitigating API Abuse: Strategies for Safeguarding Your Systems

In today’s interconnected digital world, application programming interfaces (APIs) play a pivotal role in facilitating seamless communication between different software systems. Given their importance, they also attract the attention of cybercriminals seeking to exploit vulnerabilities and otherwise abuse APIs. In fact, according to Gartner, by 2025 50% of data theft will be due to unsecured APIs.

Successful exploitation of APIs can result in data breaches, service disruptions, and compromised systems, posing significant risks to businesses and their customers. This article will explore the strategies to detect and mitigate API abuse, empowering organizations to safeguard their systems and protect their valuable data.


Understanding API Abuse

API abuse refers to malicious actions directed at APIs to gain unauthorized access, extract sensitive information, compromise the integrity of data, or overload the system to cause service disruptions. Attackers exploit various vulnerabilities such as inadequate authentication, injection attacks, and application DDoS to carry out their malicious activities. Detecting and preventing API abuse is crucial to maintaining the integrity and security of your digital ecosystem.

Strategy 1: Implement Strong Authentication and Authorization Mechanisms

Enforcing robust authentication and authorization mechanisms is a fundamental step in preventing API abuse. Implement strong API key management and enforce the principle of least privilege, ensuring that each API key has limited access to only the necessary resources. Utilize industry-standard protocols like OAuth 2.0 to handle authorization securely and avoid relying solely on simple API keys.


Strategy 2: Discover and Monitor API Traffic Patterns

Undiscovered API endpoints (i.e. shadow APIs) are a hidden danger that can be exploited to gain backdoor access to a system, so having the ability to discover all API endpoints across your applications is crucial. Once detected, monitoring API traffic and usage patterns is essential for the early detection of suspicious activities. Employ comprehensive API discovery and monitoring tools to track API requests, identify unusual patterns, and detect potential abuse. Anomalous traffic spikes, repetitive requests, and unusual API endpoints are red flags that warrant immediate investigation.


Strategy 3: Implement Rate Limiting

Rate limiting is an effective technique to mitigate application DDoS attacks on APIs by restricting the number of requests a client can make within a specific time frame. Implementing rate limits helps control the flow of API requests and prevents overload, ensuring a fair distribution of resources to legitimate users while deterring abusive ones.


Strategy 4: Employ Web Application Firewalls (WAF) and API Gateways

Leveraging Web Application and API Protection (WAAP) and API gateways can significantly enhance API security posture and governance. WAAPs inspect incoming API requests, filtering out potentially harmful traffic based on predefined security rules to identify applications attacks (e.g. SQLi and RCE). API gateways act as intermediaries between clients and backend servers, providing an additional layer of security and allowing for centralized control and monitoring.


Strategy 5: Regular Security Audits and Penetration Testing

Regular security audits and penetration testing are critical for identifying vulnerabilities and weaknesses in your API infrastructure. Engage security experts to simulate real-world attacks and assess the effectiveness of your security measures. Address any identified issues promptly to reinforce the resilience of your systems.


Edgio’s Advanced API Security Capabilities

Edgio’s new API Security solution discovers and safeguards enterprise APIs from evolving threats. By integrating seamlessly with developer workflows, it enhances application performance and accelerates release velocity.

With the exponential growth of APIs in microservices and cloud native architectures, many enterprises lack visibility into their API landscape. Edgio addresses this challenge by using machine learning (ML) to inspect application traffic patterns, ensuring the discovery, management, and security of API endpoints.

Delivered as part of a holistic Web Application and API Protection (WAAP) solution, Edgio’s ML-powered API discovery capabilities enable easy onboarding of API endpoints using OpenAPI specifications. Once onboarded, Edgio’s API Security provides multiple capabilities that strengthen API security posture including enforcement of encryption, API rate limiting, and other controls, ensuring consistent security practices and reducing the risk of unauthorized access or data breaches from hidden API endpoints.

Furthermore, Edgio offers a positive security model through API schema validation, ensuring improperly specified API requests are blocked. This prevents errors and exploitation from attacks like SQL injection, while also filtering out malicious API calls to protect application performance.

As a part of Edgio’s Dual WAAP, the solution empowers DevSecOps to test and validate API schema changes in production efficiently. This decreases the risk of blocking legitimate traffic and speeds up the mean time to resolution (MTTR) when a vulnerability is discovered by enabling rapid testing, as well as deployment of rule changes network-wide (in under 60 seconds).


Wrapping Up

As APIs continue to play an integral role in modern software development, the risk of API abuse grows exponentially. By proactively implementing robust security measures, organizations can effectively detect and mitigate API abuse, safeguarding their systems and protecting sensitive data from malicious actors. A multi-layered approach, including strong authentication, comprehensive monitoring, rate limiting, and regular security audits, is essential to ensure the integrity, availability, and confidentiality of APIs. As the threat landscape evolves, staying vigilant and continually updating your security strategies is vital to maintaining a robust defense against API abuse.

Edgio now offers an advanced API Security solution, leveraging ML and integrated features to provide robust protection against API abuse and emerging threats. This enables enterprises to maintain a secure and high-performing digital ecosystem, mitigating the risk of API threats and data breaches.

Talk to one of our security experts today to discover how Edgio can help safeguard your entire digital ecosystem and uphold the trust of your customers.