Are Businesses Prepared to Fight Bot Attacks on APIs?

Vinugayathri Chinnasamy
Senior Content Writer   Indusface

According to a new report, API attacks exploded in 2021 as malicious bots continued to invade the internet. Compared to last year’s data collection, there was an increase of 41% in attacks on Internet-connected systems.

Media companies (up 174%) and financial services companies (683 million bot attacks) have seen increases in malicious bot attacks from January to June.

Much like a rusty old iron door leading to an unknown area, APIs as an attack vector, can open access to sensitive areas within a company and expose vulnerable areas to hostile entities.

The writing is on the wall: businesses’ digital transformation is unprepared. 

When businesses move quickly for digital transformation and leave their doors open, they could be leaving themselves vulnerable to cybersecurity threats.

The Microsoft Power Apps vulnerability exposed almost 38 million records on a single server publicly accessible by anyone.

Proper bot management solutions are a must to address automated bot threats. It sounds simple; however, only a few companies have proper bot management solutions in place. Businesses are still not up to the mark to keep bot attacks at bay with bot management solutions with over two-thirds of all cloud breaches are now due to attacks on misconfigured APIs.

Also, with the rise of Bot-as-a-Service, cybercriminals can outsource bot attacks, which gives them plenty of time to focus instead on strategically outsmarting detection methods, finding new flaws to exploit, and breaching sensitive data.

What Is a Bot Attack on APIs, And Why Is It the Most Significant Online Risk?

Emerging ‘serverless’ architectures for switching to digital business transformation through IoT devices, applications, and APIs could become juicy targets for malicious digital cyber-attacks.

A bot attack is a cyber-attack using automated code from a machine on the web to manipulate, defraud, or disrupt a website or application and its end-users.

During bot attacks on APIs, malicious threat actors create a direct demand pipeline for target application resources on an API service or server by sending automated programs that look like actual human activity.

What is a Botnet?

A botnet (also known as a zombie) is a group of computer programs hijacked and controlled to commit automated malicious activities.

You may most likely know this already, but cybercriminals can create an army of bots, which they control, to launch DDoS attacks and other malicious attacks that will mainly be used to flood an application or website and steal data.

Although many botnets have many different infected devices involved, the actual number is usually between a few thousand and over a million bots.

How Does Botnet Work?

  1. The first step in creating a botnet is to distribute malicious code to as many devices as possible that can be controlled remotely so that there are enough bots capable of carrying out the attack.
  • The second step involves infecting the device with a virus that will connect it to the central server.
  • The third and last step is where the botnet attack is launched.

Gaining admin rights, the hacker could access private information and potentially use this information for malicious purposes, such as gathering and stealing user data, reading, and writing system data, keeping tabs on browsing activities, and so forth. Possibilities are immense and DDoS attacks, Account Take Over (ATO) and launching brute force attacks,  are the key drivers.

Three Ways Hackers Make APIs Fall Prey to A Security Breach

  1. Malware is secretly downloaded to your device. When you visit one of these malicious sites, you’re in danger of falling victim to it, which can have terrible consequences for your digital business or personal life.
  2. Email is a channel that opens the doors to your business to create an open line of communication. Though, in some cases,  that channel opens the door for something much less innocent than what you had in mind. Sometimes malicious software hides behind seemingly trustworthy messages like invitations and documents offering updated news on a project you’re working on or perhaps instructions for a conference call.
  3. Another way that a business can be hacked is by searching for unprotected devices and accessing them through weak passwords.

Three Common Symptoms of Bot Attack on APIs

  1. Consistent HTTP (GET and POST) flood attacks, usually from a session or browser.
  2. A rise in server errors (404s or authorization etc.).
  3. A specific ID address or API token utilizes a great amount of bandwidth to use a single application

The Effective Formula for Success in API Bot Mitigation

One size does not fit all in mitigating bot attacks on APIs.

It is also important to note that the cyber threat is a complex issue that involves challenges across different dimensions, and it is unrealistic for businesses to deploy separate tools for each threat.

So, What Are the Effective Ways to Detect and Mitigate Bot Attacks? 

  1. Analysis of Bot Traffic: Before mitigation, it is crucial to analyze bots. Behavior and pattern analysis, coupled with real-time traffic alerts, allows you to detect bot attack traffic effectively. The approach looks at every visitor who enters an application and checks if they are who they say they are by cross-checking their signature behavior with a database.
  2. Apprehend the bot to block: Apprehend a bot’s true identity by reading its header information and stream of web requests with WAF to instantly block any malicious behavior.
  3. Utilize Bot Detector: Utilizing bot detecting tools, CAPTCHA libraries can be used to create and validate a variety of practical challenges to prevent downloads or spambots.


Things have changed for the worse.

Just as the business world has seen significant changes and developments, cybercriminals have evolved with the times too. Sophisticated attacks can easily be carried out that endanger your API, and specialized protection mechanisms will have to be implemented.

Botnet detection and removal have become an increasingly pressing issue for the online world in 2022, following some severe attacks that could prove catastrophic to us all.

Detection of bot traffic is the key to responding well. Be sure to leverage new bot attack mitigation technologies to your advantage to keep track of suspicious activity that could be the work of bots.

Vinugayathri Chinnasamy

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