The Best Way to Combat Bot-Based API Attacks

PUBLISHED ON November 14, 2022
LAST UPDATED Nov 14, 2022

When defending APIs against botnet attacks, the goal is to make it too inconvenient and expensive for threat actors to continue their attack while simultaneously buying enough time to fix the application so that it’s no longer vulnerable. This is accomplished by detecting and blocking as many malicious IP addresses as quickly as possible so that threat actors eventually run out and can’t use them against you.  

 When leveraging a botnet, attackers do everything they can to avoid creating patterns that can be detected. However, analyzing the HTTP request can uncover giveaways – identification markers or data points – that can be correlated to understand the full scope of an attack. By matching multiple data points within an HTTP request, it is possible to detect malicious activity with a high degree of certainty and significantly reduce false positives. APIs allow you to have stronger assumptions of what the machine-to-machine interaction should look like. So, if there is behavior that simply doesn’t make any sense or you detect OWASP Top 10 threats like SQL injection or attempts to exploit known vulnerabilities, then it can be simply blocked.  

Tracking and interrogating to identify bots 

When it’s unclear whether activity is malicious, then a multi-disciplined approach is needed. Real-time behavioral profiling looks at large volumes of contextual data, monitoring every request live from every user to characterize their behavior and map their intent. By seeing more transactions, the system can recognize a broader pattern much faster and automatically craft a complex behavioral signature to block the attack in real time. In addition to behavioral profiling, advanced threat engagement techniques, such as IP fingerprinting, interrogation, and tarpitting, help shed light on the “user’s” intent.  

Organizations also need DDoS protection to help shoulder some of the burden of the infrastructural load as well as access to experts who watch bot activity on a global scale and can help put API activity in perspective.  

ThreatX vs. bots 

The ThreatX Platform protects APIs from all threats, including bot attacks, DDoS attempts, API abuse, exploitations of known vulnerabilities, and even zero-day attacks. Rather than relying on a single, significantly risky event or a known signature, ThreatX identifies and blocks more threats, more accurately by analyzing behavior from multiple vantage points. In this way, ThreatX can correlate several behaviors back to one attacker and identify behavior that is suspicious but wouldn’t be flagged by other security solutions. 

ThreatX scans all inbound API traffic in real time. When it recognizes attacker behavior indicative of an API attack, ThreatX flags and watches that user. This real-time monitoring enables ThreatX to execute advanced threat engagement techniques, such as IP fingerprinting, interrogation, and tarpitting. When a series of user interactions indicate a certain risk threshold has been met, ThreatX blocks the user in real time.  

Modern threats, modern solutions 

Ten years ago, a vulnerability in a web application may have never been discovered by an attacker who had to manually test each and every path in search of a way in. The same can’t be said for an API. Botnets allow attackers to work faster and more effectively, distributing and automating the attack across hundreds of thousands of individual bots. If there is a vulnerable API, a threat actor will find and exploit it – unless you can stop them first.  

To learn more about bot-based API attacks, watch our recent Live Q&A: Malicious Bots in Modern Threats

To learn more about how ThreatX can help protect again bot-based attacks, request a demo


About the Author

Bret Settle

Bret has served in multiple executive roles for Corporate Express/Staples and BMC Software and has extensive knowledge of the software development and security products industries. Bret has been responsible for enterprise security in multiple roles and has been an innovator throughout his career and has a proven track record of building and developing high performing organizations and dynamic cyber security teams.