API Security Best Practices: How To Secure APIs

by | Sep 28, 2021

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Organizations need to take API security seriously. With the growing demand for new applications and data transparency comes an increasing reliance on application programming interfaces (APIs). Companies need to easily communicate across systems and transfer information faster than ever before. As the sheer number of applications used by all businesses grows, so does the need for API security.

The most critical API security risks include:

– object-level corruption
– user-level and feature-level authorization
– excessive data disclosure
– resource shortages
– security misconfigurations
– inadequate logging and monitoring

These can have massive implications. For instance, one of the most significant security breaches recently involved API vulnerabilities. The Cambridge Analytica breach resulted in the exposure of over 50 million Facebook accounts that revealed sensitive user information. This breach is just one of the many occurrences attributed to incorrectly configured and insecure APIs.

To avoid future breaches, organizations need strategies and processes that implement security measures right from the start.

Depending on the business, there are different ways to ensure API security. Here are some best practices that will help you properly secure your APIs:

Best Practices to Keep Your APIs, Infrastructure, and Data Safe

1. Identify the risks

The first step in securing APIs is to pinpoint potential vulnerabilities. As your business grows, so does your use of APIs. Identifying areas of risk can get complicated. What you can do is take a closer look at the entire API lifecycle. Some APIs are software artifacts, so they go through the whole lifecycle, including maintenance and cease of use. It is essential to look at every part of the lifecycle to ensure security.

2. Use authentication tools

When it comes to making your APIs secure, authentication tools for access control are crucial. OAuth is a powerful tool for controlling API access and authorization. It has a token-based framework where users can access information without their credentials being revealed.

Developers and even third-party services can use tokens to establish identities and provide proper access to specific data sets.

3. Use data encryption

The importance of data encryption cannot be stressed enough. All information, especially sensitive user information, must be encrypted using a method such as Transport Security Layer (TLS). Data packets should require signatures to guarantee that only authorized users can decrypt and read them.

4. Implement rate limiting

Prevent a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack by putting rate limits on how often your API can be called. DDoS is a malicious attempt to destroy the regular traffic of the target server, service, or network by flooding the target or its surrounding infrastructure with a large amount of Internet traffic. When done to an API, it can affect its performance and availability.

5. Use a service mesh

A service mesh provides a significant point of security reinforcement for API traffic. It optimizes how all moving parts work together, which involves authentication, control access, and other security measures to ensure your APIs are safe.

6. Implement a zero-trust policy

In the traditional network or connection sense, what is inside is trustworthy, and what is outside is not. However, this doesn’t apply anymore, especially with developers and other stakeholders not necessarily on-premise. Therefore, security should shift its focus depending on users, level of access, resources, and data.

Make APIs Secure

APIs have become the preferred way of allowing systems to communicate with one another. Companies need to take their API security seriously. Although the idea of pulling data from one software and sending it to another is not new, the constant change in the development process and the high velocity of building new apps pose many threats to API security. One simple mistake or one wrong configuration is a recipe for disaster.

As APIs continue to grow, the goal is to prevent them from growing vulnerable. These practices may not be a foolproof plan in keeping your APIs secure, but they can go a long way in making your API security ironclad and tough to penetrate.

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