Tyk and OWASP Top Ten Threats

Last updated: 9 minutes read.

The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) provides a top ten threat awareness document compiled by security experts. For more details on the OWASP project visit https://www.owasp.org. Below are the top ten threats and how Tyk guards against them. For further details please visit our blog

1 - Broken Object Level Authorization (BOLA)

Broken Object Level Authorization (BOLA) can occur due to a lack of access control to API resources. This vulnerability allows attackers to manipulate or bypass authorization mechanisms, typically by tampering with resource identifiers to gain unauthorized access to specific resources or data. BOLA is a critical security concern as it can lead to data breaches and unauthorized actions within a system.

It is the responsibility of the API to handle this form of attack since it can access and understand the data needed to make authorization decisions on individual objects within the application database.

2 - Broken Authentication

Authentication is a vital aspect of API security. Failure to do so, as noted by OWASP, leads to Broken Authentication posing a significant risk to both API providers and data.

Tyk provides the following features and authentication mechanisms:

  • Prioritize secure methods, like mutual TLS, over basic authentication wherever feasible.
  • API owners can integrate external Identity Providers (IdPs) supporting methods like OpenID Connect, OAuth 2.0 or JSON Web Tokens.
  • Single Sign-On can be used for a centralized and trusted authentication source. API operators can choose from common authentication methods such as OAuth 2.0, LDAP, and SAML.
  • Dynamic Client Registration, enables third-party authorization servers to issue client credentials via the Tyk Developer Portal. This streamlines Identity Management, eliminating the need to manage credentials across multiple systems.
  • Tyk’s default authentication setup disallows credentials in URLs, reducing the risk of inadvertent exposure through backend logs.
  • Tyk Gateway can be configured to enforce a minimum TLS version, enhancing security by blocking outdated and insecure TLS versions.

3 - Broken Object Property Level Authorization (BOPLA)

REST APIs provide endpoints that return all properties of an object in the reponse, some of which could contain sensitive data. Conversely, GraphQL API requests allow the clients to specify which properties of an object should be retrieved.

From a REST API perspespective, it is the responsibility of the API to ensure that the correct data is retrieved. The Gateway can provide additional security measures as follows:

  • Body transformation plugins can be used to remove sensitive data from the response if the API is unable to do so itself.
  • JSON Schema validation to validate that an incoming data payload meets a defined schema. Payloads that do not adhere to the schema are rejected.

For GraphQL APIs, the gateway can be used to define the GraphQL schemas, limiting which properties of an object are queryable. Furthermore, access can be controlled to specific properties by configuring field-based permissions. Subsequently, the visiblity of a schema’s properties can be controlled for different consumers of the GraphQL API.

4 - Unrestricted Resource Consumption

APIs can become overwhelmed if the resources upon which they rely are fully consumed. In such situations, an API can no longer operate, and will no longer be able to service requests, or potentially even be unable to complete those currently in progress.

As an APIM product, Tyk Gateway can be configured to use the following out-of-the-box functionality when handling API traffic for legitimate users:

For Denial of Service (DoS) attacks it is recommended to use specialist 3rd party services to prevent DoS attacks from reaching your infrastructure.

5 - Broken Function Level Authorization (BFLA)

To prevent Broken Functional Level Authorization (BFLA), requests to REST API endpoints must be authorized correctly. This involves validating client permissions against the requested resources. Requests from clients with insufficient permissions must be rejected.

Tyk offers several measures to assist with protection from BFLA threats:

  • Establish path-based access rights: Policies are predefined sets of rules which grant access to particular APIs. These can include path-based permissions, which restrict access to particular paths and methods within an API. Clients can be assigned one or more policies which the Gateway will validate when it receives a request.
  • Access Control: Tyk has plugins that control access to API endpoints. They are known as allowlist and blocklist and can be configured via the Endpoint Designer of an API Definition. Both plugins grant and deny access to API paths and methods, but do so in different ways, which makes them mutually exclusive. When the allowlist plugin is used, only the marked paths and methods are allowed, all other paths and methods are blocked. This can be perceived as deny by default since it provides the least privileges. The reverse is true for the blocklist plugin, only the paths and methods marked as blocklist are blocked, all other paths and methods are allowed. It is recommended to use the allowlist approach, since it is the most restrictive, only allowing marked endpoint paths and paths.
  • CORS: This functionality allows the Tyk Gateway to limit API access to particular browser-based consumers.

6 - Unrestricted Access To Sensitive Business Flows

This involves attackers understanding an API’s business model, identifying sensitive business processes and automating unauthorized access to these processes. This can disrupt business operations by preventing legitimate users from making purchases for example. Attackers manually locate target resources and work to bypass any existing mitigation measures.

These business flows are application specific, being unique to the API’s backend systems. Subsequently, the API owner is responsible for addressing the security issues posed by this threat. Furthermore, to discover points of exploitation and test IT security breaches, pentesting is recommended.

The APIM can be used to protect sensitive endpoints using authentication and authorization. Tyk recommends considering splitting Admin APIs from client facing APIs. This allows authentication and authorization checks to be defined and managed by different governance models, thus establishing clear role models.

Furthermore, the APIM can validate authentication and authorization by scope to ensure that the client has the correct credentials before the upstream API processes the request.

7 - Server Side Request Forgery (SSRF)

Server Side Request Forgery (SSRF) is a security vulnerability in web applications where an attacker can manipulate a server to make unauthorized requests to internal or external resources, potentially leading to data leaks or remote code execution. This can allow an attacker to probe or attack other parts of the application’s infrastructure, potentially compromising sensitive information and systems.

This is application specific and is largely the responsibility of the API. However, Tyk Gateway can assist with this form of attack through JSON schema validation for incoming payloads. For example, a schema could contain a regular expression to reject localhost URLs. These URLs could be used by an attacker to perform port scanning for example.

8 - Security Misconfiguration

Tyk offers several mechanisms to help protect an API from Security Misconfiguration exploits:

  • Use response header manipulation to remove or modify API sensitive information.
  • Use response body manipulation to remove or modify parts containing sensitive information.
  • TLS to ensure that clients use the right service and encrypt traffic.
  • Mutual TLS with both the clients and API to ensure that callers with explicitly allowed client certificates can connect to the endpoints.
  • Error Templates can be used to return a response body based on status code and content type. This can help minimize the implementation details returned to the client.
  • CORS functionality allows the Tyk Gateway to limit API access to particular browser-based consumers.
  • Policy Path-Based Permissions and the allowlist plugin can be used to prevent clients from accessing API endpoints using non-authorized HTTP methods. For example, blocking the use of the DELETE method on an endpoint which should only accept GET requests.
  • Environment variables can help standardize configuration across containerised deployments.
  • For GraphQL APIs:
    • Schema Introspection ensures that the Tyk Dashboard automatically uses the schema of the upstream GraphQL API and can keep it synchronised if it changes.
    • GraphQL Schema Validation prevents invalid schemas from being saved. This catches errors such as duplicate type names and usage of unknown types.
  • Third-party Secret Storage to centralise configuration of sensitive data such as passwords. This data can then be dynamically referenced by Tyk configuration files, rather than being hard coded.
  • Users can can write their own custom plugins in a variety of languages, either directly or through gRPC calls, to implement their requirements.

The Ops team should also take reponsibility for monitoring the APIs for errors and patching accordingly. Regular Penetration Tests should be scheduled to ensure the security of published services. Tyk, through our Professional Services or Partners, can assist in the process.

9 - Improper Inventory Management

Tyk offers the following features to support improper inventory management:

  • Versioning allows newer versions of APIs to coexist with the older versions, facilitating deprecation and sunsetting.
  • Sunsetting allows versions to be configured with an Expiry Time, ensuring that a version is not accessible after the expiry date.
  • Key expiry ensures that access to an API is short lived, with a per key configurable Time to Live (TTL) for which a token remains valid before it expires. The implementation of key expiry, with a configurable Time To Live (TTL), mitigates the impact of compromised tokens by narrowing the window of vulnerability. Setting a TTL reduces the time frame during which a compromised token could be exploited, enhancing overall security.
  • Tyk Developer Portal catalogs APIs and facilitates granting access to them. Integrated with a CMDB it can help keep documentation updated.
  • Tyk Analytics can help identify the stagnant APIs and used stale APIs.
  • Tyk Pump can ship metrics needed for analytics into Tyk Dashboard and other systems.
  • Third-party Secret Storage can be used to centralise and protect sensitive configuration data such as passwords, rather than exposing them as plain text in Tyk configuration files.

In addition, it is best practice to consider any definition of done to include corresponding documentation updates.

10 - Unsafe Consumption Of APIs

Attackers may identify and target the third party APIs/services used by an API. This can lead to leaked sensitive information, denial of service, injection attacks etc.

It is the responsibility of the API to provide protection against these attacks. However, if the organization uses the Gateway as a forwarding proxy to third party APIs, then the following features could be used:

  • JSON Schema validation to validate that an incoming data payload meets a defined schema. Payloads that do not adhere to the schema are rejected.
  • TLS to ensure that clients use the right service and encrypt traffic.
  • Versioning allows newer versions of third party APIs to coexist with the older versions, facilitating deprecation and sunsetting.