Learn what changed in the new OWASP API Top-10 2023…

Checklist for Developers to Build Secure APIs 

(Based on OWASP API Top-10 Recommendations) 

June 6, 2023
API Security Developers Checklist

APIs were already ubiquitous in driving modern applications. However, the pandemic has further accelerated growth in innovation and expansion of digital services, making APIs even more widespread. In today’s world, rapid innovation would not be possible without secure APIs. 


Attacks on APIs are increasing exponentially. Gartner suggests API abuses are the most significant attack vector since 2022. Hence securing APIs is more critical than ever in the past. 


OWASP came up with a separate list of techniques used against API called OWASP API Top-10. A revision of the same is planned for 2023. Here’s a developers’ checklist to build Secure APIs based on techniques outlined in OWASP API Top-10. 

Broken object-level authorization

APIs tend to expose endpoints that handle object identifiers, creating a broad attack surface Level Access Control issue. Object-level authorization checks should be considered in every function that accesses a data source using input from the user. Checklist: 

  • Implement authorization checks for every object access. 
  • Do not rely on IDs sent by the client. Instead use IDs stored in session object. 
  • Check authorization for each client request to access database. 
  • Use random IDs that cannot be guessed (UUIDs). 

Broken authentication

Authentication mechanisms are often implemented incorrectly, allowing attackers to compromise authentication tokens or exploit implementation flaws to assume other users’ identities temporarily or permanently. Compromising a system’s ability to identify the client/user compromises API security overall. 

  • Validate every APIs for authentication needs. Any API left unauthenticated should be reviewed and signed-off by multiple owners. 
  • Use industry standard Authentication mechanism. Use standard authentication, token generation, password storage, and multi-factor authentication (MFA). 
  • Check all possible ways to Authenticate APIs and stick to one. Better off to implement a centralized auth module built at the API Ingress (API Gateway or API Management) 
  • APIs for password reset and one-time links allow users to authenticate and should be protected just as rigorously. 
  • Use short-lived access tokens. 
  • Use stricter rate-limiting for authentication and implement lockout policies and weak password checks. 

Excessive data exposure

Looking forward to generic implementations, developers tend to expose all object properties without considering their sensitivity, relying on clients to filter data before displaying it to the user. 

  • Review all API responses and adapt them to match the API consumers’ needs. 
  • Carefully define schemas for all the API responses. 
  • Never rely on the client to filter data! 
  • Do not forget API Error Responses; define schemas for errors as well. 
  • Identify all the sensitive data or Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and justify its use. 
  • Enforce response checks to prevent accidental leaks of data or exceptions. 
  • Monitor API response data response and exfiltration of sensitive data. 

Lack of resources and rate limiting

APIs do not impose any restrictions on the size or number of resources that can be requested by the client/user. Not only can this impact the API server performance, leading to Denial of Service (DoS), but it also leaves the door open to authentication flaws such as brute force. 

  • Must implement rate limiting at a user level. 
  • Tailor the rate-limiting to match needs of clients & API methods. 
  • Limit payload sizes. 
  • Add checks on compression ratios. 

Broken function level authorization

Complex access control policies with different hierarchies, groups, and roles, and an unclear separation between administrative and regular functions, tend to lead to authorization flaws. By exploiting these issues, attackers gain access to other users’ resources and/or administrative functions. 

  • Ideally maintain different authentication schemes for Admin functions. 
  • Deny all admin access by default. 
  • Allow operations only to users belonging to the appropriate group or role. 
  • Never rely on the client application to enforce admin access. 

Mass assignment

Binding client-provided data (e.g., JSON) to data models without proper filtering properties based on a safelist usually leads to Mass Assignment. Either guessing object properties, exploring other API endpoints, reading the documentation, or providing additional object properties in request payloads, allows attackers to modify object properties they are not supposed to. 

  • Do not automatically bind incoming data and internal objects. 
  • Explicitly define all the parameters and payloads you are expecting. 
  • Use the read-Only property set to true in object schemas for all properties that can be retrieved through APIs but should never be modified. 
  • Precisely define the schemas, types, and patterns you will accept in requests at design time and enforce them at runtime. 

Security misconfiguration

Security misconfiguration is commonly a result of unsecure default configurations, incomplete or ad-hoc configurations, open cloud storage, misconfigured HTTP headers, unnecessary HTTP methods, permissive Cross-Origin resource sharing (CORS), and verbose error messages containing sensitive information. 

  • Automate locating configuration flaws using scanners/pen-test tools. 
  • Disable unnecessary features in deployed packages/applications. 
  • Restrict administrative access. 
  • Implement strict authentication, redirects, CORS, and so forth. 
  • Define and enforce all outputs, including errors. 


Injection flaws, such as SQL, NoSQL, Command Injection, etc., occur when untrusted data is sent to an interpreter as part of a command or query. The attacker’s malicious data can trick the interpreter into executing unintended commands or accessing data without proper authorization. 

  • Never trust your API consumers, even if they are internal. 
  • Strictly define all input data, such as schemas, types, and string patterns, and enforce them at runtime. 
  • Validate, filter, and sanitize all incoming data. 
  • Define, limit, and enforce API outputs to prevent data leaks. 

Improper assets management

APIs tend to expose more endpoints than traditional web applications, making proper and updated documentation highly important. Suitable hosts and deployed API versions inventory also play an important role to mitigate issues such as deprecated API versions and exposed debug endpoints. 

  • Keep an up-to-date inventory of all API hosts. 
  • Properly retire old versions of APIs or backport security fixes to them. 
  • Limit access to anything that should not be public. 
  • Limit access to production data, and segregate access to production and non-production data. 

Insufficient logging and monitoring

Insufficient logging and monitoring, coupled with missing or ineffective integration with incident response, allows attackers to attack systems further, maintain persistence, pivot to more systems to tamper with, extract, or destroy data. Most breach studies demonstrate the time to detect a breach is over 200 days, typically detected by external parties rather than internal processes or monitoring. 

  • Log failed attempts, denied access, input validation failures, or any failures in security policy checks. 
  • Ensure that logs are formatted so that other tools can consume them. 
  • Protect logs like highly sensitive information. 
  • Include enough detail to identify attackers. 
  • Avoid having sensitive data in logs — if you need the information for debugging purposes, redact it partially. 
  • Integrate with SIEMs and other dashboards, monitoring, and alerting tools. 

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