8 API attack types

8 API attack types

An API attack is abusive or manipulative usage or attempted usage of an API, commonly used to breach data or manipulate a commerce solution.

What is an API Attack

An API attack is abusive or manipulative usage or attempted usage of an API, commonly used to breach data or manipulate a commerce solution.

The growth of APIs (application programming interfaces) is more important than ever. It can lead to malicious traffic growth, consequently. According to Gartner By 2022, API abuse will move from an infrequent to the most frequent attack vector, resulting in data breaches for enterprise web applications. It is extremely important to acquire a clear idea of these threats. We will dive into more technical terms in order to have a structured clear idea of the different API attack types.

Click If you’re looking for a guide about how to secure REST API instead.

Broken Access Control

An access control policy ensures that users cannot act outside of their intended permissions. Failure leads to information disclosure, modification, or destruction of data. When we are looking for this kind of vulnerability, sometimes we can tamper with parameters (for example, id parameters) and get a successful attack. Depending on the specific vulnerability, the consequences can be devastating. The worst-case scenario is when an unauthorized user has access to a privileged function. This can give them the ability to modify or delete contents on the website, or get sensitive data on users.

DDoS attack

A distributed denial of service attack can make an Api endpoint unreachable or derail it. Online ecommerce systems will be open to IDA (inventory denial attacks).

SQL Injection Attacks

SQL injection attacks are methods for inserting SQL queries into the input fields through the SQL database underlying the system. These defects can then be misused if forms enable users to query the database using SQL statements directly.

Man in the Middle (MITM)

A “Man in the Middle” attack means exactly what it means; an attacker discreetly alters, relays, and intercepts messages and requests between two parties to obtain sensitive information. A hacker can act as a man in the middle between a session token issuing API and an HTTP header and a user. If the hacker could intercept that session token, it would grant him access to the user’s account, which can lead to (possibly) a ton of sensitive and personal information.

Excessive Data Exposure

Web applications frequently process and transfer sensitive data, such as credit card information, passwords, session tokens, private health information, and more. An information exposure occurs when this data is left exposed on the server for anyone to access.

This happens when the API does not filter the response before it reaches the client (a failure of the developer to handle the data correctly).

Improper Assets Management

An improper asset occurs when there is more than one version of an API and the developer forgets to delete the first one, or in another scenario, for example, a testing API endpoint is left connected to the production environment. Proper and updated documentation is highly important since APIs tend to expose more endpoints than traditional web applications. Good management of the inventory also plays an important role in reducing issues with old or vulnerable API versions.

Unencrypted Communications

Transport Layer Security (TLS) is one of the simplest and most elementary API security protection methods. TLS encrypts the data exchange between the client and the server, so you can avoid a man in the middle attack. Poodle, discovered in 2014, is a famous attack against TLS. Poodle falls back to SSL 3.0 (a downgrade security protocol) to reveal information encrypted by SSL.

Broken User Authentication

API authentication is a critical service that identifies and authorizes clients to access applications. Broken authentication refers to a weakness in two mechanisms: improper session management and credential management; both of them enable attackers to use stolen authentication tokens, or to brute force or use stolen credentials in order to gain unauthorized access to applications.

Having a good understanding of which type of attack can occur in our business is the first step to a robust API; the second step will be how to secure RestAPI. 

Try to adopt a “Zero-trust” philosophy and focus on strong access control policies. 

Today, networks are no longer simple; they are more complicated to manage and monitor. Test your API with DAST (dynamic Application Security Testing) or with other specific products for API security.


After the Instagram API breach, Facebook or META (if you prefer the vintage name) stated that “a number of” celebrity phone numbers and email addresses had been accessed by “one or more hackers” exploiting and abusing a flaw in its API.

It’s important to understand the common attack types to be prepared to step ahead and secure yourself.

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