Security APIs in Retail: Critical Role, Challenges and Solutions

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The domain retail sector is in a paradigm shift of digital transformation, with an anticipated 25% of global retail poised to migrate online by 2025. APIs facilitate digital-first shopping experiences in this evolving landscape, allowing retailers to swiftly adapt and enhance their systems. They empower retailers to extend services like online orders with in-store pickups, curbside delivery, and personalized online shopping recommendations, catering to remote customers’ preferences. Particularly during recent transformative times, these capabilities have proven essential.

APIs are a retail game-changer, seamlessly connecting retailers, partners, and customers to deliver real-time customized offers. These APIs impact every retail domain value chain activity, from inventory management to payments, by providing vital data and driving customer engagement through rewards programs. This connectivity revolutionizes the shopping experience, optimizing operations and enhancing customer satisfaction.

Role of APIs in Retail Value Chain

APIs enable seamless data flow and process optimization, fostering efficiency and agility across the retail value chain.

Retail Value Chain Activity How APIs Make a Difference
Customer Service Facilitate instant support via chatbots and virtual assistants, ensuring swift issue resolution. Integration with CRM systems empowers agents with a holistic view of customer interactions, elevating service quality. Real-time feedback analysis through customer and sentiment analysis APIs enables continuous service improvement.
Distribution Streamline distribution by connecting retailers to suppliers and logistics providers, ensuring punctual deliveries. Inventory management APIs improve order fulfillment, preventing both stockouts and overstock issues. Real-time tracking and visibility across the distribution network enhance supply chain efficiency, reducing shipping errors and enhancing overall performance.
Invoicing Automate and streamline invoicing, reducing errors and expediting payment collection. Integration with accounting and financial systems guarantees precise invoice recording and reconciliation. Real-time access to invoicing and payment status enhances transparency and fosters trust in B2B transactions for suppliers and customers.
Compliance Aids in maintaining data protection compliance by securing the transmission and storage of sensitive customer data. Compliance management APIs offer monitoring and reporting tools for regulatory adherence. Integration with legal and compliance databases ensures retailers stay updated on evolving regulations, facilitating adaptation to changing compliance requirements.
Marketing Empower retailers to create precise, targeted campaigns through customer database and analytics integrations. Integrating social media and advertising platforms ensures that personalized content reaches the right audience. Email marketing APIs streamline campaign automation, tracking, and analysis, boosting marketing ROI and enhancing customer engagement.
Human Resources Enhance talent acquisition by connecting with job boards and applicant tracking systems. They simplify onboarding and offboarding processes through payroll and benefits system integrations, reducing administrative tasks. HR analytics APIs offer valuable insights, enabling data-driven decisions regarding training, retention, and compensation strategies to optimize workforce performance.

While mobile and web apps can securely communicate using APIs, exposing public APIs to external users has brought advantages and increased retail security challenges.

API Security Risks

The shift to microservice-based structures offers benefits but makes these external APIs enticing targets for hackers. They exploit vulnerabilities like direct access bypassing security controls, excessive user permissions, and logic flaws in APIs, potentially gaining unauthorized access to sensitive data. Unlike web pages with limited endpoints, REST APIs expose a broader application interface, seen as a programmatic gateway into backend functions, making robust security measures imperative.

According to Gartner, 90% of web-enabled applications attack surface area APIs. Gartner also predicted that 2022 APIs would become the ‘most frequent attack vector.’

Challenges in API Testing

Under-secured APIs provide hackers direct access to critical backend data and systems. While challenging to detect, these vulnerabilities offer attackers various avenues for exploitation, such as broken object-level authorization, broken authentication, excessive data exposure, inadequate resource and rate limitation, and broken function-level assignment. Protecting against these API weaknesses is crucial for robust security.

API attack techniques are distinct and closely tied to an application’s behavior, contrasting with generic methods. Detecting and thwarting emerging threats like the OWASP API Top-10 necessitates a profound comprehension of the specific application, an aspect missing in current-generation technologies such as SAST, DAST, IAST, WAF, RASP, API-GW, IDS/IPS, or NGFW solutions. The existing products often lack the architectural capability to comprehensively understand the application, making them insufficient to safeguard against business logic API attacks.

Test automation in API testing plays a crucial role in addressing API attacks, particularly those targeting the application’s business logic. Through automated testing, security experts can simulate real-world attack scenarios, leveraging their deep understanding of the application’s behavior. By continually testing for vulnerabilities and employing techniques like fuzz testing, security scans, and penetration testing, automated API testing helps detect and prevent API-specific attacks, ensuring a more robust defense against OWASP API Top-10 threats. Computerized tests provide a consistent and proactive approach to identifying and mitigating vulnerabilities, even in cases where traditional security technologies may fall short due to their generic nature.

Why Cigniti?

Cigniti is recognized for API Testing Services in the 2023 Gartner® Hype Cycle for APIs

Cigniti’s Test Automation services for APIs eliminate possible errors, detect defects early, and ensure quality through the application development cycle. However, Automated Testing is a strategic decision requiring a scope of work and an execution plan. If performed without a plan, Automation can be chaotic.

Need help? Contact our API Security experts in Retail to learn more about the challenges and solutions of API Security in the Retail Domain.


  • Cigniti Technologies

    Cigniti is the world’s leading AI & IP-led Digital Assurance and Digital Engineering services company with offices in India, the USA, Canada, the UK, the UAE, Australia, South Africa, the Czech Republic, and Singapore. We help companies accelerate their digital transformation journey across various stages of digital adoption and help them achieve market leadership.

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