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Benefits of API security testing

By :
5 minutes, 24 seconds read

Cybersecurity is a growing concern amid businesses from all quarters. It has become even more crucial amid COVID-19 pandemic when many businesses relying solely on the online medium for business transactions. Organizations all over the world have lost nearly 1$ trillion due to cyberattacks in 2020. Data security breaches, payment hacks, and security risks can cripple your business and ruin your brand image. Hence, it has become business-critical to get your apps tested thoroughly for any security loophole.

Why API security testing?

Application Programming Interface or API, as the name suggests, is the intermediating software or application that allows two endpoints to communicate with each other. Each time, we use an app like social networking app, gaming app, or any other application to send or receive the message, our action passes through a programming interface that connects sender and receiver.

That means securing the data sent to the receiver through an API is very important. Hackers may extract the data and use it in their illegal acts. Ensuring the security of an API before, during, and after the production of any project through testing is what we are going to discuss in detail under API security testing.

Developers use security tests to ensure their applications and web services are 100% safe from unwanted attacks and are not disclosing any sensitive information to the hacker. API Security tests pass through various types of security checks. Each of them has been designed to detect certain vulnerabilities. One security test with multiple security scans gives you the guarantee of your service and you can get assured that your services are well-protected against malicious attacks.

API Security Testing is the only way to ensure that any web service is protected from foreign attacks or not before communication is established between the two endpoints.

Let us highlight the Benefits of API security testing:

  1. Tester can detect error without the user interface

The main advantage of API security testing is that the tester can easily access the application without the user’s involvement. Under this testing system, testers can detect the error at an early stage without running the software application. This is beneficial because it helps QA rectify the error before it impacts the Graphical User Interface.  

  1. Removes vulnerabilities

API testing is done under extraordinary conditions and inputs, which protects the application from unlawful code. API testing adds connecting limits to the software and removes any type of vulnerabilities.

  1. Less time-consuming than functional GUI testing

API testing consumes less time as compared to functional GUI testing. Under GUI testing, developers poll all webpages elements so it takes time. API, on the other hand, requires less coding, and so deliver faster results. A team of engineers analyzed the test results and found that 3000 API test results consumed 50minutes whereas 3000 GUI test consumed 30 hours. 

  1. Testing cost is reduced

As we just said, API testing requires less code than GUI so we can expect to get faster results. The faster results mean, less time, and overall, less testing cost. Early error detection reduces the manual testing cost as well. 

  1. Does not depend on Technology 

API Security Testing uses XML or JSON languages consisting of HTTP requests and responses. These languages do not depend on technology and are used for development. That means testers can use any core language while using automated API testing services for an application.

With so many benefits of API security Testing, the demand continues to rise and so is the challenge to close security holes that may impact the safety of the corporate and customer data. Businesses need to make sure that their API testing does not create any security problem and is flawless.

We are here with some of the best practices for API security testing:

  1. Think out of the box 

It is generally seen that developers work on one small set of services while testing to make that particular set as strong as possible. The problem these days is, front ends and back ends are connected to so many components that Hackers can easily find out one or the other way to enter the software; so developers need to think out of the box to fix this issue. 

  1. Open communication between a tester and a developer can solve the problem

Communication has been a challenge. It can be used as a solution when an open channel of interaction between the testers and developers is established to reduce the defects making the API security testing process easier and faster. 

  1. Thorough check-up of add-on software

The easy usage of API often creates problems. One popular usage is that allows third parties to write add-on apps. Mobile solutions and social media platforms, like Facebook, Instagram, depend on others to add value to their platform. Hackers grab those opportunities and try to get maximum information from such systems or platforms.

  1. Take standards judiciously

Suppliers work on standards to improve API security, but not all follow these standards. The Internet Engineering Task Force’s OAuth is an open authorization standard, that gives clients secured restricted access to system resources without highlighting their credentials. Most Internet users use this standard to log into third-party websites via their Microsoft, Google, Facebook, or Twitter accounts.

The problem comes when the standard is based on HTTP, which already has errors, and APIs add extra feasibility for hackers in such cases.

  1. Try to get authorization and authentication on the front end

Developers tie APIs into other elements of the software. To secure any code, developers need to adopt a strong approach. The process starts with authentication, which checks to see if a person is the same as he or she says they are. Enterprises have moved from simple password systems to multistep authentication emphasizing biometric solutions like fingerprints. Once the authentication process is done, they move to the authorization check to get access to more information.

  1. Don’t forget to check data on the back end

Developers work hard to protect the data on the front end but hackers are smart and they find their way to attack your system. Businesses must incorporate another checkpoint on the back end. If any hacker accesses confidential data, it should have value only when he or she moves the data to their systems. In simple words, we can say, if you miss any criminal on the front end, you still have a chance to catch him or her on the back end.

These are some of the API testing best practices that every business should adopt to close the security holes that may impact their application in the future.

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12 Tips To Secure Your Mobile Application

Cyber attacks and data theft have become so common these days especially when it comes to mobile applications. As a result, mobile apps that experience security breaches may suffer financial losses. With many hackers eyeing to steal customer data, securing these applications has become the number one priority for organizations and a serious challenge for developers. According to Gartner’s recent research, Hype Cycle for Application Security, investment in application security will increase by more than two-fold over the next few years, from $6 billion this year to $13.7 billion by 2026. Further, the report stated, “Application security is now top-of-mind for developers and security professionals, and the emphasis is now turning to apps hosted in public clouds,” It is crucial to get the fundamental components of DevOps security correct. Here are the 12 tips to secure your mobile application: 

1. Install apps from trusted sources:

It’s common to have Android applications republished on alternate markets or their APKs & IPAs made available for download. Both APK and IPA may be downloaded and installed from a variety of places, including websites, cloud services, drives, social media, and social networking. Only the Play Store and the App Store should be allowed to install trustworthy APK and IPA files. To prevent utilizing these apps, we should have a source check detection (Play Store or App Store) upon app start.

Also read, https://andresand.medium.com/add-method-to-check-which-app-store-the-android-app-is-installed-from-or-if-its-sideloaded-c9f450a3d069

2. Root Detection:

Android: An attacker could launch a mobile application on a rooted device and access the local memory or call specific activities or intents to perform malicious activities in the application. 

iOS: Applications on a jailbroken device run as root outside of the iOS sandbox. This can allow applications to access sensitive data stored in other apps or install malicious software negating sandboxing functionality. 

More on Root Detection- https://owasp.org/www-project-mobile-top-10/2016-risks/m8-code-tampering

3. Data Storing:

Developers use Shared Preferences & User Defaults to store key-value pairs like tokens, mobile numbers, email, boolean values, etc. Additionally, while creating apps, developers prefer SQLite databases for structured data. It is recommended to store any data in the format of encryption so that it is difficult to extract the information by hackers.

4. Secure Secret Keys:

API keys, passwords, and tokens shouldn’t be hardcoded in the code. It is recommended to use different techniques to store these values so that hackers cannot get away quickly by tampering with the application. 

Here’s a reference link: https://guides.codepath.com/android/Storing-Secret-Keys-in-Android

5. Code Obfuscation

An attacker may decompile the APK file and extract the source code of the application. This may expose sensitive information stored in the source code of the application to the attacker which may be used to perform tailored attacks. 

It is better to obfuscate the source code to prevent all the sensitive information contained in the source code.

6. Secure Communication:

An attacker may perform malicious activities to leverage the level of attacks since all communication is happening over unencrypted channels. So always use HTTPS URLs over HTTP URLs.

7. SSL Pinning:

Certificate pinning allows mobile applications to restrict communication only to servers with a valid certificate matching the expected value (pin). Pinning ensures that no network data is compromised even if a user is tricked into installing a malicious root certificate on their mobile device. Any app that pins its certificates would thwart such phishing attempts by refusing to transmit data over a compromised connection

Please refer: 

https://owasp.org/www-community/controls/Certificate_and_Public_Key_Pinning

8. Secure API request & response data

The standard practice is to use HTTPS for the baseline protection of REST API calls. The information sent to the server or received from the server may be further encrypted with AES, etc. For example, if there are sensitive contents, you might choose to select those to encrypt so that even if the HTTPS is somehow broken or misconfigured, you have another layer of protection from your encryption.

9. Secure Mobile App Authentication:

In case an application does not assign distinct and complex session tokens after login to a user, an attacker can conduct phishing in order to lure the victim to use a custom-generated token provided by the attacker and easily bypass the login page with the captured session by using a MiTM attack.

i) Assign a distinct and complex session token to a user each time he/she logs on successfully to the application. 

ii) Terminate the session lifetime immediately after logging out. 

iii) Do not use the same session token for two or more IP addresses. 

iv) Limit the expiry time for every session token.

10.  Allow Backup 

Disallow users to back up an app if it contains sensitive data. Having access to backup files (i.e. when android:allowBackup=”true”), it is possible to modify/read the content of an app even on a non-rooted device. So it is recommended to make allow backup false. 

11. Restrict accessing android application screens from other apps

Ideally, your activities should not give any provision to the opening from other services or applications. Make it true only when you have a specific requirement to access your flutter screens from other apps otherwise change to android:exported= ”false”

12. Restrict installing packages from the android application

REQUEST_INSTALL_PACKAGES permission allows apps to install new packages on a user’s device. We are committed to preventing abuse on the Android platform and protecting users from apps that self-update using any method other than Google Play’s update mechanism or download harmful APKs.

Conclusion: 

Mobile Apps have become more personalized than ever before with heaps of customers’ personal data stored in them every day. In order to build trust and loyalty among users and prevent significant financial and credential losses for the companies, it is now crucial to make sure the application is secure for the user. Following the above-mentioned mobile app security checklists will definitely help to prevent hackers from hacking the app.

About the Author:

Raviteja Aketi is a Senior Software Engineer at Mantra Labs. He has extensive experience with B2B projects. Raviteja loves exploring new technologies, watching movies, and spending time with family and friends.

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