OWASP’s Top 10 API Security Threats List for 2023


As more organizations rely on the automation and scalability provided by web applications and connected services, application programming interface (API) security has become imperative. Last year alone, specific attackers targeted client APIs It has grown by 400%Demonstrating that organizations must take a proactive approach to securing these increasingly valuable services.

But given the rapidly evolving nature of API technology and the ever-increasing threat level, knowing where and how to start saving APIs can be difficult. Fortunately, organizations like the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) have been working hard to identify the most common and dangerous API security risks that businesses should prioritize.

What are the OWASP Top 10?

Known for its comprehensiveness and accuracy, the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) Top 10 It’s a detailed list, updated every one to two years, that highlights critical web application security risks businesses need to be aware of. OWASP is a non-profit community of tens of thousands of contributors dedicated to promoting software security through the creation of frameworks, tools, and educational programs.

Digital threats constantly evolve as each year passes. As a result, the OWASP list receives periodic updates based on specific data trends in API security that help prioritize countermeasures by developers and security professionals. Most recently, OWASP released an updated list of 10 API security threats to watch out for in 2023.

Starting at the bottom of the list, these are OWASP’s top 10 API security risks that organizations should be aware of in 2023, and specific steps that can be taken to mitigate them.

10. Use of Unsecured APIs

Insecure API consumption occurs when an application fails to validate, filter, or sanitize the data it receives from external APIs. This can lead to security vulnerabilities such as injection attacks or data leaks. As organizations increasingly rely on third-party APIs to provide critical functionality, ensuring secure consumption becomes even more critical to prevent attackers from exploiting these integrations.

Mitigation strategies:

  • Validate and clean up all data received from external APIs before processing or storing. This helps ensure that only valid and secure data is used in your application.
  • Implement input validation using permission lists and strict data type restrictions to prevent your application from processing potentially harmful data.
  • Use a secure API gateway to filter and track incoming API requests, adding a layer of protection against malicious traffic targeting your APIs.

9. Improper property management

Improper inventory management refers to the lack of control over the APIs used by an organization. This can lead to unauthorized access and increased vulnerability, exposing sensitive data to malicious parties. As the number of APIs used by organizations increases, monitoring their functionality, endpoints, and accessibility policies is critical to maintaining overall security for your API ecosystem.

Mitigation strategies:

  • Maintain an up-to-date inventory of all APIs in your organization, including their purposes, endpoints, and access controls. This will help you identify potential security gaps and ensure that all APIs are adequately protected.
  • Regularly review and update API documentation to ensure it accurately reflects the current state of the APIs. Clear and accurate documentation is essential for developers and security professionals to effectively understand and secure your APIs.
  • Deploy unused or deprecated APIs to reduce the attack surface. Removing unnecessary APIs reduces the chance for attackers to find and exploit vulnerable endpoints.

8. Misconfiguration of security

Security misconfiguration occurs when an API is not configured securely, which exposes it to various security risks. Examples of security misconfigurations include using default credentials, not turning off unnecessary features, or neglecting to apply security patches quickly.

Mitigation strategies:

  • Configure your APIs securely in the early stages of development.
  • Regularly review and update API configurations to ensure continued application of security best practices.
  • Employ automated tools to continuously monitor and remediate security misconfigurations.

7. Server-Side Request Forgery (SSRF)

Server-Side Request Forgery (SSRF) is a vulnerability that allows an attacker to use server-side requests that could lead to unauthorized internal resources or remote code execution. This can lead to exposure of sensitive data, disruption of critical systems, or even complete system compromise.

Mitigation strategies:

  • Validate and clear user-supplied input used in server-side requests. This helps ensure that only legitimate requests are made to your application and reduces the risk of SSRF attacks.
  • Limit the types of requests and inputs that the API can access. Implementing strict access controls can help prevent unauthorized actions and limit the impact of SSRF attacks.
  • Apply network segmentation and firewall rules to limit access to internal systems. You can reduce the chance of successful SSRF attacks by separating sensitive resources from public-facing APIs.

6. Unrestricted access to sensitive business flows

Unrestricted access to sensitive business flows occurs when an API fails to implement appropriate access controls, allowing unauthorized users to perform sensitive operations or access confidential data.

Mitigation strategies:

  • Implement strong authentication and authorization mechanisms for all API endpoints.
  • Apply the principle of least privilege by giving users the minimum necessary permissions to perform their tasks.
  • Regularly audit and monitor API access logs to identify and respond to potential security issues.

5. Broken Functional Level License

A broken functional level authorization basically refers to a situation where a normal user performs tasks that should be protected by administrators due to an unsafe direct object reference (IDOR) problem. This happens if the user hierarchy permission system is incomplete or not working.

Mitigation strategies:

  • Implement strong authorization checks on all API endpoints.
  • Use role-based access control (RBAC) to manage user permissions.
  • Regularly review and update access control policies.

4. Unlimited resource consumption

Unlimited resource consumption or denial of service (DoS) attacks occur when an attacker uses an API vulnerability to consume excessive system resources such as memory, CPU, or network bandwidth. This can cause the affected service to fail or be completely unavailable.

Mitigation strategies:

  • Monitor and limit resource usage.
  • Apply a price limit to control the number of customer requests.
  • Use caching to reduce the load on background processes.

3. Broken object property level license

Compromised asset-level authorization is a security risk that occurs when an attacker is able to access or modify assets that they should not have access to. This can happen if the API does not properly validate user permissions before granting access to object properties.

Mitigation strategies:

  • Implement proper access control checks for all object properties.
  • Check user permissions before granting access to object properties.
  • Use attribute-based access control (ABAC) to define granular access rules.

2. Damaged proof

Security issues arise if authentication protocols are inadequate or not implemented correctly. This leaves the door open for attackers to breach the API undetected. Authentication weaknesses can manifest themselves in a variety of ways, including poor password generation best practices, compromised password storage systems, and vulnerabilities in token-based authentication frameworks.

Mitigation strategies:

  • Enforce strong password guidelines.
  • Use secure password storage methods such as bcrypt or Argon2.
  • Implement Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) whenever possible.

1. Broken Object Level License

Broken Object Level Authorization (BOLA) vulnerabilities occur when a user is able to access other users’ data due to flaws in the authorization controls that ensure access to data objects. BOOLA vulnerabilities are often caused by insecure code practices, such as not properly validating user input or checking permissions before granting access to an object. This happens when the API uses overly permissive access controls or when API resources are not adequately protected.

Mitigation strategies:

  • Use arbitrary, universally unique identifiers (UUIDs).
  • Establish strong authorization protocols.
  • Use a zero-trust security framework.

Secure your APIs

Securing APIs requires a comprehensive approach that covers everything from authentication and authorization to control and resource management. By taking the necessary steps to secure your API and adopting security best practices, you can protect your applications and data from potential attacks while benefiting from an API-driven architecture.

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