are shifting to a digital environment as it is where the future is headed. It seems the environment is in a frenzy, but if you look closely, the changes in the digital environment worldwide multiply, but not at an astronomical speed. While it is slower than anticipated, security still needs to keep up in protecting web apps and APIs. 

Why is this so? Although not all industries and organizations are at the same level of digital adoption and decentralized setup, they use the online environment to boost their reach and performance.

SEE: Why Businesses Need To Go Lean With Cybersecurity

Moreover, the pandemic has encouraged an increased reliance on online tools and digital platforms to keep businesses moving. However, organizations cannot depend on standard tools to secure decentralized applications because they were not created for such a setup. Therefore, the technology requirements are different, and the needs are not the same. 

New challenges for security posture

There is an increasing number of requirements enterprises have to meet to sustain their security posture. But, unfortunately, the traditional tools most organizations usually deploy cause problems rather than provide solutions.  

As more enterprises move towards decentralization, it becomes more apparent that securing web applications and APIs needs a consolidated approach. 

Why is there a need for a consolidated approach?

Many enterprises think that using separate security applications is more effective. But that can be a nightmare for security officers to monitor. In the case of online access, web apps need the APIs to connect a website’s front-end to the site’s back end, which holds all the functionalities and data of the site. While there is a relationship between web apps and APIs, they are not similar, and these differences can lead to severe problems with security. 

A few years back, companies were concerned with protecting a single web application since there were minimal transactions. One transaction means one server request. However, the situation today is different. A website can receive several requests to various microservices in any given second. It makes security provision more complicated as each small web app needs protection, with each one having its particular structure. 

This situation is what makes individually protecting each web app and API challenge. For example, an enterprise has five web apps and API tools and uses about ten different tools to secure them. Rather than be cost-efficient, the enterprise is wasting money. While enterprises still use several legacy apps, the new security tools must protect both the legacy apps and the modern tools such as web apps and APIs. 

Changes are happening in the online and digital environments; thus, enterprises and industries must have new technologies for intelligent web application and API protection (or WAAP) to check the web traffic’s signature and intent.  

Considering the importance of web application and API protection (WAAP), new rules exist for securing them. 

  • Shift to security tools that can fight the intent of the attack, not the particular threats
  • The security program should have usability, where the user-friendly and intuitive interface shows all the functionalities and controls of the security solution. 
  • You need real-time reactions to real-time attacks. Your WAAP solution should include the speed of visibility to react to an attack quickly and the speed of control for remediation across physical boundaries or locations. In addition, the solution should have real-time visibility for automated and manual workflows.

A more robust WAAP security tool

WAAP is a set of cloud-based services specifically developed to protect APIs and web apps. They are far more advanced than web application firewall (WAF), which mostly only monitors SQL injections and cross-site scripting.

A WAAP security tool is an expanded WAF capable of integrating, observing, and taking action intuitively when needed. Although it should be automated by default, with real-time statistics and logs, it can integrate with the other apps the enterprise uses and all the DevOps toolchains.

As WAF is no longer enough to fulfill the website security compliance requirements, the way to address the issue is to use a consolidated platform that includes WAAP functionality with management, analysis, and orchestration interface that provides for strategically distributed API security control for every exposed API. 

Attacks on APIs and web apps

APIs and web apps are vulnerable portals to enterprise data. Once they are breached, attackers know that they have hit their goal. In 2020, according to Statista, the U.S. had 1,001 data breaches affecting over 155.8 million individuals, mainly due to inadequate data security and lack of in-house expertise.  

OWASP lists the top attack methods that enterprises and security officers should know.

Generally, the attacks include the following:

  • Injection attacks using several forms such as cross-site scripting (XSS) and SQL injection (SQLi)
  • Broken authentication 
  • Exposure of sensitive data, including financial information, personal health information, and personally identifiable information.
  • Absence of rate-limiting and lack of resources
  • Deficiency in logging and monitoring 
  • Misconfigurations in security
  • Unpatched older versions of APIs.

Aside from the above, more modern forms of attacks fielded by cybercriminals include:

  • Bot attacks – flooding web pages with massive requests through API or web app.
  • Distributed denial of service – attacking microservices and APIs to disable data exports, search pagination, and database queries.
  • Account takeover – using credential stuffing and malicious bots to target active user accounts to cause account lockouts, service disruptions and prevent customer access to the service. 
  • Brute force attacks – sending repeated requests to gain input parameters or valid credentials, such as user login information to test the app’s authentication and enumeration of web server directories and user profiles.
  • Server-side request forgery – tricking an API or web app into sending a request to a backend service using the server’s hosting network to get information from the service and send it to the hacker.

Conclusion

As you can see, APIs and web apps are highly vulnerable to cyber-attacks because they must be available to all users all the time. With the increased reliance on the online environment today due to the pandemic and the resulting hybrid workplaces, securing web apps and APIs is now urgent. Research showed that about 20 percent of breaches in the past year were through remote workers.

SEE: How using the purple team approach helps in addressing cybercrime

Therefore, the most viable solution right now is to use a consolidated approach. Employ a more robust cloud-based security program bundle that includes WAF, DDoS protection, runtime application self-protection, bot management, web app protection, API protection, client-side protection with attack analytics. 

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Posted by Charlie