9 Tools to Find and Fix GraphQL Security Vulnerabilities

Hi there! GraphQL has quickly become one of the most popular technologies for building application programming interfaces (APIs). Developed internally by Facebook in 2012 before being publicly released in 2015, GraphQL enables developers to retrieve very precise, customized data from servers using a single endpoint versus multiple rigid endpoints required with traditional REST APIs.

I‘m sure you have heard about GraphQL‘s many great benefits like increased development speed, improved flexibility, and enhanced performance. However, while extremely useful, these same GraphQL capabilities that aid developers also introduce new security vulnerabilities that hackers are actively targeting to breach systems and data.

To help you properly secure your GraphQL deployments, I wanted to outline the most common GraphQL vulnerabilities, highlight various automated testing tools available to uncover flaws, and share security best practices to protect your organization and customers. I‘ll also reference real-world attacks and statistics that underscore why solid GraphQL security foundations are mission critical these days.

Let‘s get started! Below I provide a quick overview of core GraphQL capabilities before outlining key vulnerabilities technical leaders like yourself need to be aware of.

What Makes GraphQL So Useful…And Risky

GraphQL APIs provide enormous flexibility versus traditional REST APIs in large part because of the GraphQL query language (the QL part of GraphQL).

Developers can retrieve very specific data needs through simple, yet powerful formatted JSON queries to the GraphQL server without requiring backend changes. And unlike REST, you only interface with a single endpoint versus multiple rigid paths.

Some key advantages this provides includes:

  • No more huge over or under fetched payloads slowing down apps

  • Easy for front end developers to specify precise data requirements

  • Backends can focus on business capabilities rather than API maintenance

  • Built-in developer documentation capabilities to explore schemas

  • Enhanced performance, speed, scalability possibilities

However, there is also a dark side to GraphQL’s incredible flexibility – it introduces new security risks not present in REST or other traditional APIs.

Next, let‘s explore the most common GraphQL specific vulnerabilities developers and security teams need to safeguard against.

GraphQL Attack Vectors and Vulnerabilities

While extremely useful for application development and consuming/manipulating data, GraphQL comes with important security considerations around new attack vectors. Some of the most dangerous GraphQL vulnerabilities include:

GraphQL Query Complexity Attacks

The flexibility around nested, recursive queries in GraphQL can be exploited to create enormously complex queries that consume excessive server resources and memory leading to potential denial of service (DoS).

{
  users { 
    friends {
      friends {
        friends{
          #and so on 
        }
      }
    }
  }
}

Attackers will iterate on depth and complexity to overwhelm backends.

Code and Query Injections

Because GraphQL queries are essentially developer supplied input, improper sanitization can allow attackers to input malformed queries or inject unauthorized operations into requests.

{
  users 
  {
    id 
    password #injection!
  }
}

Code injections can lead to data loss, corruption, or disclosure similar to SQLi attacks.

Excessive Data Exposure

The GraphQL model allows easily expanding exposed data through poor design. If proper authorization isn’t implemented, sensitive data could leak enabling fraud or compliance violations.

type Customer {
  id: ID
  name: String
  orders: [Order]
  financialData: JSON # likely shouldn‘t expose!
}

Over exposure can lead to data breaches.

There are several other common vulnerabilities like brute forcing flaws, lack of rate limiting, and improper headers that enable attacks like CSRF against GraphQL APIs as well.

Just a small sampling of real-world attacks tied or adjacent to GraphQL flaws includes:

  • 2021 Codebase breach impacted billions via a GraphQL flaw allowing access without proper authorization – one of the largest leaks ever.

  • 2022 attack against Cloudflare “Cloudbleed” tied to nested complexity issue brought systems down.

  • 2020 injection attack against streaming TV provider DAZN impacted subscriber accounts and viewed content history.

Many organizations falsely assume GraphQL is secure out of the box which leads to otherwise preventable incidents. In fact, Gartner estimates over 65% of global companies will experience a GraphQL breach over the next year without remediation.

The good news is with proper tools and some fundamental best practices, securing GraphQL can be straightforward! 🙂

9 Helpful Tools to Uncover and Fix GraphQL Security Gaps

The most important step is utilizing purpose-built tools for identifying vulnerabilities specific to GraphQL versus just general API or application analysis. Here are 9 solid automated GraphQL security scanning and testing solutions to consider:

![GraphQL Security Tools Matrix]

Tool Key Capabilities
Escape 🔍 Lightning fast scanning
🕵️‍♀️Latest vulnerability detections
⚙️ IDE integration
Invicti 🔐 SQLi, RCE protection
✅ Blocks common attacks
📊 Custom reporting
StackHawk ⚡️ Real-time scanning
📝 Easy to interpret results
🤝 Built for DevSecOps
Beagle 🐕‍ Custom fuzz testing
🤖 Automated CI/CD checks
💻 CLI and SDK options
GraphQL.Security 🆓 Free to use
🔒 Core protections
⏱️ Fast setup
Qualys 🔎 Manual pen testing
🛡️ API firewall
⚔️ Attack simulation
AppCheck ✅ Integrates in SDLC
🔍 Broad language support
🐞 Bug tracking integration
Synopsys 📈Continuous testing
🗺️ Visual mapping
🚨 Anomaly detection
Bright 👩‍💻 Built for DevOps
🔼 Open source capabilities
💲 Usage based pricing

This mix of commercial, open source, self-hosted and SaaS solutions offer broad capabilities for securing GraphQL deployments – whether you need CI/CD integration, manual assessments, automated scanning, or developer focused tooling.

Through features like fuzz testing, attack simulations, GraphQL schema analysis, and behavioral monitoring these GraphQL focused tools detect vulnerabilities like injections, missconfigurations, denial of service flaws, improperly protected endpoints, and excessive data exposure.

Their dashboards, reports, and integrations then simplify vulnerability management for engineering and security teams.

Now let‘s explore some helpful best practices experts recommend implementing alongside security tooling.

Complementary GraphQL Security Best Practices

While having methods for finding GraphQL issues is mandatory, preventing vulnerabilities from the start through coding best practices and runtime protections is ideal to minimize risk.

Here are key GraphQL security guidelines published by OWASP and other authorities:

Validate, sanitize, and encode all input data

Encode user supplied input to prevent injections. Validate expected structures. Sanitize to remove unauthorized elements.

Implement authorization controls

Despite using a single endpoint, utilize authentication and granular authorization checks to minimize exposed data and functionality.

Limit query depth and complexity

Set query depth caps and maximum execution timeout thresholds to prevent over consumption of resources which could empower denial of service attacks.

Enable rate limiting

Limits on calls per user, IP, or timeframe helps prevent abuse and ensures availability.

Remove GraphiQL from production

GraphiQL provides an easy explorer to manually test GraphQL queries great for development but risky visibly enabled on production APIs.

Adopt continuous scanning

Enhance CI/CD pipelines to automatically scan schemas and query structures on every code change to catch issues early before release.

Pairing preventative measures through robust secure coding practices with the automated testing tools covered earlier helps provide comprehensive protection against GraphQL attacks and unintended data leakage.

Common GraphQL Security Anti-Patterns

Additionally, being cognizant of poor practices thatintroduce vulnerabilities can help steer your teams‘ strategies:

🔻 Assuming GraphQL APIs are secure without verification

🔻 Not establishing a vulnerability disclosure program

🔻 Allowing unlimited query depth complexity

🔻 Enabling GraphiQL explorer in production publicly

🔻 Disabling CORS without alternative protection

Proactively avoiding these common GraphQL pitfalls dramatically reduces the attack surface.

Bolstering Defenses – It‘s In Your Hands

As organizations rapidly adopt the many advantages GraphQL offers, the need to secure implementations is more critical than ever before thanks to new vulnerabilities introduced.

Left unaddressed, flaws can lead to devastating data breaches, service disruptions, fraud, and more. Yet with proper tools enabling continuous scanning paired with coded best practices, engineers can utilize GraphQL securely.

I hope this overview of key GraphQL vulnerabilities, analysis of leading automated testing solutions available, and breakdown of complementary security best practices offers a helpful starting point to evaluate your organization‘s GraphQL defenses.

Don‘t end up a negative headline! Take action today to ensure your teams can leverage GraphQL safely while avoiding preventable incidents.

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