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Application Programming Interface (API) Penetration Testing

Protect your API interfaces by identifying vulnerabilities that might compromise the confidentiality, integrity, or availability of your systems and the data they manage.

What is API Penetration Testing?

API Penetration Testing is a vital component in the security assurance of digital systems, focusing on Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). It ensures adherence to both internal and external standards while reducing the risk of cyber threats. This testing method verifies that users can perform only authorized actions and that the API implements strong protective measures, especially against attackers exploiting compromised accounts. The process involves identifying potential vulnerabilities that attackers, whether authenticated or unauthenticated, might exploit to:

  • Access sensitive information without authorization.
  • Conduct malicious activities within the API.
  • Compromise the security of other API users.
  • Illegitimately escalate access privileges within the API.
  • Threaten the stability of the API’s underlying infrastructure.

Suitable for APIs in various environments, including those interfacing with web and mobile applications, API Penetration Testing is designed to uncover vulnerabilities that pose risks to the confidentiality, integrity, or availability of the systems and data they interact with.

Why is API Penetration Testing Essential?

API Penetration Testing is critical for establishing a robust security framework for your APIs. It plays a vital role in maintaining the health and security of APIs, which are essential for the seamless operation of business processes and an integral part of effective risk management. This testing ensures the stability and security of key business services that rely on digital systems and technologies.

Organizations that heavily rely on digital systems, particularly APIs, for delivering their business services, must prioritize regular testing. This is particularly crucial for organizations whose business strategies involve utilizing cutting-edge technologies to boost performance and success. Securing their digital infrastructure, including APIs, is of utmost importance.

NeedSec recommends that all organizations dependent on evolving digital systems and APIs incorporate routine testing into their ongoing security assurance strategy to maintain and enhance their security posture.


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Frequently Asked Questions

What information is required to provide a quote/scope for an API penetration test?

The following information, at minimum, is required to scope a API security test:

  • The number and types of APIs to be tested
  • The complexity and functionality of the API endpoints
  • The volume of parameters or data fields within each API
  • Whether the test will be conducted with or without authentication (i.e., whether access credentials are known or unknown)

How long does it take to perform a API penetration test?

The duration required for a consultant to conduct a API penetration test varies based on the test’s scope. The time frame is influenced by several factors, such as the quantity and nature of the APIs being evaluated, complexity, parameters and total number of possible request types.

How much does a API Penetration Test cost?

The price for conducting a API penetration test is based on the number of days required to complete the specified scope of the project. To obtain a quote, your organisation must fill out a pre-evaluation questionnaire. Experts from NeedSec are on hand to assist you throughout this procedure.

Do you deliver API Penetration Testing to meet specific compliance requirements?

Testing can be conducted to satisfy various compliance requirements, such as PCI DSS, IT Health Check, ISO 27001, NHS Data Security and Protection Toolkit, Trusted Partner Network (TPN), PCI-DSS and SOC2, among others.

What types of API penetration can be performed?

NeedSec offers testing from both authenticated and unauthenticated viewpoints, representing attackers with varying levels of access and privilege, and simulates a range of threats, including internal and external ones. NeedSec conducts black, white, and grey box assessments to meet diverse client needs.

 Black Box: This testing mimics a real-world attacker with no prior knowledge of the systems in scope.

 Grey Box: Informed by some insights about the API, such as architectural diagrams, documentation, and credentials/access keys, this method allows for a more thorough assessment with less time spent on understanding the application’s functionality.

 White Box: Performed with full transparency to the client, this testing includes comprehensive details like source code, architecture, data workflow, etc. It provides an in-depth review of the application to pinpoint deeper security issues from both design and implementation angles.

Where feasible, NeedSec recommends the grey box approach to enhance the value of testing. This method often leads to greater depth and breadth in findings, offering more substantial insights for potential remediations and an overall improvement in security posture.

What industry standards are followed during API penetration testing?

NeedSec’s Application Penetration Tests are guided by various industry benchmarks, including the OWASP Application Security Verification Standard (ASVS), the OWASP Mobile Application Security Verification Standard (MASVS), the OWASP Web and API Top 10, the Open Source Security Testing Methodology Manual (OSSTMM), and the Penetration Testing Execution Standard (PTES). These standards ensure a comprehensive and up-to-date approach to security testing.

What types of APIs can penetration tests be performed against?

NeedSec can deliver all types of API penetration testing, including:

  • REST
  • SOAP
  • GraphQL
  • gRPC (gRPC Remote Procedure Calls)
  • OData (Open Data Protocol)
  • WebSocket


What happens at the end of an API penetration test?

Following each API security assessment, consultants from NeedSec will compile a detailed written report. This report will outline identified vulnerabilities, their associated risk levels, and suggested corrective measures. Beyond specific remedies, NeedSec aims to offer more comprehensive advice, where feasible, to assist clients in tackling underlying security issues that could be affecting other services as well.

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