Application Programming Interface or API is a software intermediary that allows software products to connect with one another. In simpler terms, an API is a part of a server that receives requests for data transmission and sends responses. Therefore, an API involves two or more systems interacting with each other and is susceptible to compromise by hackers. This is why API security is important. Moreover, most vulnerability scanners are not effective when it comes to scanning API vulnerabilities.
Although API security is crucial, people tend to overlook it. In 2018, Facebook faced a cyberattack because of a vulnerability in the Facebook Developers’ API. In fact, this attack exposed the data of over 6.8 million users and affecting 1500+ apps. This is a classic example of what an API vulnerability is capable of doing.
Now that we’ve established API security is important, let’s look into some of the security practices you can adopt to enhance it.
Top 8 API Security Practices
1. Prevent OWASP API Security Top 10
Open Web Application Security Project or OWASP is an online community for application improvement. Since API security is significantly different from website security, they created this top 10 list dedicated to API.
- Broken Object Level Authorization
- Broken User Authentication
- Excessive Data Exposure
- Lack of Resources and Rate Limiting
- Broken Function Level Authorization
- Mass Assignment
- Security Misconfiguration
- Improper Assessts Management
- Insufficient Logging and Monitoring
To enhance security, you need to prevent these OWASP Top 10 security threats.
2. Data Validation and Infrastructure
Data validation is basically ensuring data is useful and correct. Maintaining the integrity of data is important. For doing so, you can use JSON or XML Schema validation. Apart from that, make sure not to accept data that is too big or any added content. Finally, always go through the data received from consumers.
Infrastructure is also important for security. You need to see to it that you employ up-to-date software and a good network.
3. API Firewalling
An API firewall is one of the essentials of API security. It is a security gateway that controls the entry and exit of all API calls. An API firewall can check message size, identify SQL injections, block intruders, etc. There are typically two layers in the firewall. The first layer is more basic and it is in DMZ. On the other hand, the second layer is more advanced and is in LAN.
4. API Gateway
An API gateway provides an extra layer of protection. It enhances the authorization mechanism. It can also reduce the load on the backend mechanism and also prevent misuse. Gateways can also monitor all APIs by default and provide threat protection from hackers.
Encryption is an important aspect of API security. You need to make sure all exchanges are encrypted or encoded so that hackers cannot decode the original data. You can do so using Transport Layer Security or TLS, the successor protocol of SSL. Both of these protocols are used for encrypting information during a data transfer.
6. Security Audits
Security audits are a very popular security practice, and are not limited to just API security. Security audit reports help you identify any vulnerabilities in the API definition. Audits can be manual or automated. Moreover, it is better to employ security experts to conduct security audits.
7. OAuth And OpenID Connect
OAuth is an authorization protocol. It authorizes apps to use the information of users without having them enter said information manually. OAuth exchanges the security credentials of the user with a unique access token. This access token is a randomly generated string. Therefore, it is more secure to use this string to authenticate, rather than using the user credentials.
OpenID Connect, on the other hand, is an extra layer of protection. It allows users to verify the identity of end-users and receive information regarding authentication.
8. Security Experts
You can manually implement all these security measures and make sure there are no vulnerabilities in your website. However, this sounds very tedious and difficult. Moreover, you require a lot of technical knowledge to do it. This is why it is better to leave it to the experts. There are so many security solutions firms, like Astra Security, who are leaders in the space.
It is very important to secure an application if you’re using API. Neglecting API security can land you in a great deal of trouble. This is because it is very easy for hackers to exploit a vulnerable API definition. Ultimately, a hack or data breach will lead to a great loss for your business. There are a few security measures you can follow to implement API security. This post will walk you through them one by one.