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API attack

(also API security breach, API exploitation)

API attack definition

An API attack, also known as an API security breach or API exploitation, is a type of cyber threat where attackers exploit vulnerabilities in application programming interfaces (APIs) to gain unauthorized access, manipulate data, or disrupt services. APIs are sets of rules and protocols that allow different software applications to communicate with each other. Since APIs often handle sensitive data, they become attractive targets for cybercriminals.

See also: brute-force attack, firewall, man-in-the-middle attack, SQL injection, XSS

API attack examples

  • Data breaches: If an API is improperly secured, attackers can exploit it to gain unauthorized access to sensitive information such as user data and confidential business information.
  • Denial-of-service (DoS): Attackers can overload an API with requests, causing it to become unavailable to legitimate users.

Comparing API attacks to other cyber threats

API attacks can be compared to other types of cyberattacks, such as SQL Injection or Cross-site scripting (XSS), in the sense that they all exploit vulnerabilities in systems to perform unauthorized actions. However, API attacks specifically target APIs, which are essential components of modern web and mobile applications.

Pros and cons of using APIs


  • Integration: APIs allow different software applications to communicate, making them integral for creating interconnected systems.
  • Automation: They enable the automation of tasks by allowing systems to interact with each other without human intervention.


  • Security risks: APIs can pose significant security risks if not properly secured, leading to potential data breaches or service disruptions.

Avoiding API attacks

  • Regularly review and update API security measures to guard against potential vulnerabilities.
  • Implement rate limiting to protect against DoS attacks.
  • Use a secure API gateway to manage and monitor API usage.