API hacking has become a popular skill set for tech enthusiasts and security professionals alike. However, diving into the world of API hacking can seem daunting, with so many tools and concepts to grasp. This blog post aims to take you on a journey of exploration and discovery, clarifying the fundamental concepts behind API hacking and offering practical tips for success from previous articles I’ve written.
From understanding the anatomy of an API hack to learning the essential tools every aspiring hacker should know, you should find everything you need to get started with API hacking. Additionally, we will delve into ethical considerations and explore how to contribute meaningfully to the field.
Whether you are a beginner or an experienced hacker wanting to refine your skills, this post provides a roadmap for you to follow, breaking down the barriers to entry and unlocking the power of API hacking. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to master one of the most exciting and in-demand skills in tech today!
So if you are brand new to the concept of API hacking, then I highly suggest you check out my Beginner’s Guide to API Hacking. This guide will walk you through the basics of API security, from understanding the anatomy of an API to learning how to find and exploit vulnerabilities.
From there, I recommend you read my article on the five big mistakes beginners make when hacking APIs. This will help you avoid the common pitfalls that cause beginners to struggle and give you a deeper understanding of the key concepts.
If you like to read, check out my article on the five books every API hacker should read. These books are essential for any budding hacker and provide a wealth of knowledge, tips, and tricks. As with all fields, reading is an integral part of becoming an expert, so be sure to supplement your learning with the wisdom contained in these books.
Finally, check out my recommendations for three training resources you can use to improve your API hacking tradecraft. Book smarts are valuable… but practical experience is invaluable. Try your skills out and practice, practice, practice.
Toying with Tools
Once you have mastered the basics of API security, you can move on to exploring the essential tools and techniques used in the industry. I recommend you start with my article on how to exploit APIs with cURL. This will provide a foundation of knowledge that you can build upon going forward.
I also suggest you check out my API Hacker’s Guide to Payload Injection with Postman. This will teach you how to modify and inject payloads into API requests using Postman. It will also provide insight into API vulnerabilities related to the injection of malicious payloads.
You might also want to take a look at my recommendations on the seven essential Burp extensions for hacking APIs. This can help with fuzzing, parameter tampering, and brute-forcing… all essential for any aspiring hacker.
Who knows… if you get to like using extensions with Burp, you might advance into writing your own extensions. I got you covered there too, with my step-by-step guide to writing extensions for API pentesting in Burp Suite.
Of course, if you aren’t ready for that yet, you can learn how to use extensions like Autorize to automate your API hacking. You can combine that with my article on how to find access control issues in APIs to find some interesting authentication and authorization vulnerabilities that can lead to high crit reports.
With some experience with tooling under your belt, you can start thinking about the techniques you can use to find those vulns. One of my favorite articles is on how to craft rogue API documents for a target when they don’t exist. This technique has been so useful over the years, helping many people to find undocumented endpoints, parameters, and features that can be exploited in interesting ways. Never trust what the developer tells you… learn how the API actually works.
This is also a great time to start honing in on your security testing methodology. My article on how to leverage OWASP guidance to build your own security testing blueprint can be helpful. As is the article I wrote about building an API security testing checklist (with a twist).
Speaking of testing, if you are already in the software testing field, maybe in quality assurance (QA), I recommend you check out my three reasons why QA people should get into API hacking. And if you find yourself more developer-focused, then I suggest you read up on analyzing your existing API testing through a security lens.
Finally, as you pick up your stride and progress, I want you to look at my technique for exploiting Server Side Request Forgery (SSRF) vulnerabilities. Combine that with my article on how to use OAST to detect vulnerabilities in an API, and you begin to see how fun hacking APIs can be.
Your motivations on WHY you want to hack APIs are your own. But if it has anything to do with financial gain, an excellent place to start is to learn how to make money hacking APIs. Once you know where this field of work can take you in your career, you can begin to think about where to focus.
If you decide to go the bug bounty route, then make sure you check out my article on knowing when to give up on an API target. And if you decide to go the pentester route, make sure you read my article on the API pentesting pricing dilemma and how much effort and cost goes into doing it right.
In all cases, you’ll probably also want to check out my article on the rules of engagement when testing the security of APIs. Always ensure you are onside and in scope when conducting your security research.
Whichever career path you take up, you will end up talking to people in security triage when you want to submit a vulnerability report. Make sure you follow my guide on how to use GPG as a security researcher so you can communicate securely.
I also think it’s worth checking out my Guide to Reporting Vulnerabilities to Vendors, so you can build an empathetic mindset when working with vendors you hack. Even if it’s within your own company, how you act and react during the vulnerability reporting process matters.
API security is a field that requires ethical considerations. This means that hackers must be aware of the potential implications of their actions and be responsible for their actions. In my article on why API hacking is not a crime, I provide a framework of principles to guide your behavior in this field.
This is particularly important if you participate in bug bounty programs or provide pentest services to clients. Make sure you read up on the applicable laws and regulations so you understand your obligations.
Since we are talking about ethical considerations, for fun check out my article on my take if offensive artificial intelligence (AI) will be a problem for us as API hackers.
API hacking is a complex, fascinating field that offers hackers exciting opportunities to explore and discover. In this article, I have explored the key concepts behind API hacking and provided practical tips for getting started in the industry, pointing you to many of the articles I have written on the subject.
From understanding the anatomy of an API hack to learning the essential tools every aspiring hacker should know, you should now have all the information you need to get started. I hope this post has set you on a journey of exploration and discovery, breaking down the barriers to entry and unlocking the power of API hacking. Good luck!
P.S. Want even more resources to help you with leveling up your API hacking skillset? Then download my free PDF of the Ultimate Guide of API Hacking Resources. Enjoy!