5 Misconceptions About API Security Testing for Mobile

API (Application Programming Interface) is one of the most critical links that connect mobile applications with other key microservices. Almost all mobile applications rely on APIs to connect with services and transfer data efficiently. However, with the rising popularity of APIs, the associated cybersecurity risks have also increased - fueled mainly by some of the common myths and misconceptions about API security testing for mobile applications. 

What is API Security Testing?

The use of Application Programming Interface has skyrocketed with the rapid adoption of cloud, web, and mobile apps. Accordingly, API security testing has had to move into a completely different phase owing to the complexity as well as time and resource limitations.

API testing involves testing the APIs directly, including their functionality, reliability, performance, and security. A critical part of integration testing, API testing is known to quickly and efficiently test the logic of the build architecture by utilizing the most advanced API security testing tools.

The presentation (or user interface) layer, the business layer, and the database layer for analyzing and manipulating data are the three distinct layers in a typical app. The most important layer, business, where all transactions between the user interface and database layers take place, is where API vulnerability testing is carried out.

Why Is It Critical To Test API in Mobile Applications?

Often when the API for an application fails, the conclusion is that the fault lies with the application. However, at times it is the API that has the bugs. Any data the API exchanges with a third-party application is ultimately sent back to the internet. Therefore, APIs can disclose private and sensitive financial, medical, and personal information, which can have severe financial and reputational consequences.

According to the most recent Salt Labs State of API Security report, around 95% of businesses have suffered at least 1 API security incident in the previous 12 months. Additionally, various companies—including Facebook, Experian, Starbucks, and Peloton—have experienced public API incidents in the past few years. 

APIs need more security against vulnerabilities than the present generation of application security approaches can provide.

5 Common Myths Around API Testing for Mobile Apps

We all work with APIs at some point—we create, market, sell, maintain, and use them. With so many views and perspectives, misconceptions can quickly surface, obscuring judgment and impeding the implementation of changes to the API delivery industry. Here are some of the most prevalent API testing myths. 

Myth 1: APIs Don't Need To Be Tested After They've Been Published

Even though an API has been made public, tests on it are not over. If it means anything, you should repeatedly test it with your specific and customized apps to ensure all the protocols are still in place. Since many things depend on how well an app works, you will need to test it again to make sure it works and is compatible. When an app's API fails, it is not always the app that is to blame. In some cases, API security is the root of the problem.

Reality Check:

The published API saves you time and effort and allows you to add functionality, but not testing it also exposes your system to inherent hazards. They won't stop putting your app at risk unless they are tested. Based on the interactions between the published APIs and your app, you can efficiently determine which APIs need to be thoroughly evaluated for adherence to security features.

Myth 2: SSL and OAuth Are Enough To Keep APIs Secure

Comprehensive security is never limited to a single layer, so it's essential to have multiple layers in place to stop hacking attempts and reduce single-point vulnerabilities. 

Suppose you rely too much on a single layer, like SSL as a transport security mechanism or OAuth as an authorization pattern, without thinking about network-level or data-level vulnerabilities. In that case, hackers will find it very easy to play along with the few mechanisms you've set up until they find a part of your system that isn't protected from exploitation.

Reality Check:

Just think about the bearer token exploit. Without SSL, the whole process of authentication is a lie. There are other common security flaws, but the main point is that you must use more than one method to protect your APIs. 

Using OAuth + SSL might be a big step in the right direction, primarily if you use something as old-fashioned as basic authentication, but it's still just one step. As part of your plans for deployment or maintenance, make sure you take the next one soon.

Myth 3: We Don't Need API Testing if GUI Testing Has Been Completed

Complex APIs have various layers of connectivity thanks to their numerous linkages and connections. Additionally, the dependence on sophisticated APIs has grown more than ever as modern mobile applications become more adaptable. It's a widespread misconception that since GUI testing has already been completed, the app's APIs don't need to be tested separately.

Reality Check:

GUI testing can only account for up to 10% of API test coverage and won't test the complete API logic. This is because GUI testing is not intended to test the application's integration. Therefore, the API must be independently evaluated to ensure a seamless user experience and flawless functionality. 

Myth 4: Having APIs Automatically Means Your Application Is Secure

Many businesses claim that their products are safe because they include API security features because they think that API security eventually equates to the best security. This is inaccurate, though. Merely having API security features does not naturally make your product secure or more secure than others. This is comparable to saying that your app includes antivirus or firewall functions but is still insufficiently secure.

Reality Check:

Security of your mobile app is more about developing comprehensively secure systems than just having a few specific features. You must demonstrate that a comprehensive security infrastructure securely backs the entire product. No matter how excellent the system or individual software components are, it would help if you made them function together to achieve security and ensure that your product is truly safe.

Good Read: Complete Guide on API Security for Mobile Apps


Myth 5: API Security is Simple

When we become complacent about our security, we expose ourselves to the possibility of an attack. An API may have a simple fundamental concept: providing an interface between programs enables them to work together and enhance security in many ways. APIs are an extension of the security technologies before them. This progress was required to ensure cyber security in a world that is becoming increasingly interconnected and complex.

APIs and API security are frequently underestimated by users, including security professionals, on the premise that they are easy. Giving APIs access to our most delicate systems is something that is often taken for granted, but it is of the utmost importance that you educate yourself about them as much as possible before using them.

Reality Check:

The less sophisticated your API security solution is, the less safe it is likely to be. So, you must ensure that your API security testing regime is more robust and covers most test cases. To do this, you can use tools like Appknox to test the security of your APIs and, in turn, your mobile app. You should also ensure that your company has an incident response plan to handle an API breach or any other security incident.


The only way to avoid the risk of thinking your API works when it doesn't is to test it ahead of time and show that it can handle the job efficiently. 

Simply put, every business should know how vital API security testing is if they want to keep their data safe and work to get rid of significant security threats. Having a prior idea about the prevailing misconceptions would undoubtedly give a head-start to businesses that genuinely wish to prioritize the security of their mobile applications and meet their customer demand effectively.

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Published on Aug 4, 2022
Abhinav Vasisth
Written by Abhinav Vasisth
Security researcher at Appknox.


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