2023 OWASP Top-10 Series: Introduction

In early June 2023, OWASP released the final version of the OWASP API Security Top-10 list update. At that time we published a “hot take” on this final version and followed that up with an in-depth look at the new risk ratings for 2023.

Today we’re kicking off a multi-post series in which we take a deeper dive into each of the new categories to understand the details, the impact and what you can do about it. But first we should probably set the table, to remind you about what the OWASP APIsec Top-10 2023 list is designed to accomplish and why it matters. This may be a bit remedial for many of you, but it’s always good to level set before diving into the deep end.

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The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) is a non-profit organization focused on improving the security of software. They provide valuable resources, tools, and guidance to help build secure web applications and APIs. They have chapters around the globe, and host a myriad of local and global events to help the community work towards that goal.

We all know that APIs have become an integral part of modern web applications, enabling communication and data exchange between different systems and services. And it should come as no great surprise to anyone that this increased reliance on APIs also introduces new security challenges and risks. Attackers can exploit vulnerabilities in APIs to gain unauthorized access, inject malicious code, steal sensitive data, or disrupt services.

The OWASP API Security Top-10 list is intended to cover the most critical security risks and vulnerabilities specific to APIs. It serves as a guide for everyone involved – from practitioners like builders, defenders and breakers to CISOs – in designing, developing, and consuming APIs.

By raising awareness about common API security risks and providing recommendations on how to mitigate these risks effectively, the OWASP API Security Project team aims to promote best practices and establish a baseline understanding of the key areas that need to be addressed to ensure the security of APIs.

The API Security Top-10 list matters because:

  • Awareness: It helps practitioners and organizations understand the common security risks associated with APIs, allowing them to proactively address these risks during the design, development, and production phases.
  • Risk Mitigation: By following the recommendations provided by OWASP, developers can implement appropriate security measures to mitigate the identified risks, reducing the chances of successful attacks and data breaches.
  • Compliance: Adhering to the API Security Top-10 list can assist organizations in meeting regulatory and compliance requirements related to data protection and security standards – such as Open Banking rules, data privacy laws like GDPR and CCPA, and PCI DSS.
  • Trust and Reputation: Ensuring the security of APIs is crucial for maintaining trust with users, customers, and partners. A security incident related to an API can result in reputational damage, financial losses, and legal consequences.
  • Industry Best Practices: The OWASP API Security Top-10 list represents a consensus among security experts and professionals regarding the most critical API security risks. By following these best practices, organizations can align their security efforts with industry standards.

The OWASP API Security Top-10 list was first released in 2019 (see here). This 2023 update, the 2nd release, was undertaken to address emerging threats and technologies. Practitioners and organizations should reference this latest version to stay up-to-date with evolving security practices to effectively protect their APIs.

That takes us back to the intent of this in-depth multi-post series we’re kicking off today. We hope these posts will help you better understand what the latest guidance is and how you can leverage it in your efforts to develop more secure APIs, and to better protect them once released.

So be sure to come back next week for the next installment!

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