10 API Security Best Practices

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Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) provide a way for application developers to reuse the information and functions of any other application within their own. APIs simplify the coding process and help enterprises produce applications more quickly.

With the rise of mobile utility apps in the last decade, APIs experienced exponential growth. And, this decade won’t be any different. However, this rise also brings potential security vulnerabilities and loopholes. With the increase in demand, it has become challenging to maintain security standards for APIs since developers tend to be more focused on the functionality of the applications than the security.

Negligence with API security can cause massive repercussions, especially if the application’s user base is too high. For example, the famous Cambridge Analytica Scandal was caused by a security loophole in Facebook’s API.

The most critical API risks are data overexposure, lack of resources, no security configuration, insecure user-level authorization, and broken objects. Clearly, it is essential to ensure the security of the API so that application user data remains safe and the application is secure and trustworthy.

Here are ten best practices to ensure APIs are shielded and do not lead to critical security exposures.

1. Know About the Latest Security Risks

To keep APIs secure, developers must know the latest tricks and techniques used by cybercriminals to infiltrate a system. This information can be gathered by online sources like malware security blogs, newsletters, and security news portals.

By following the latest online attacking trends, developers can configure their APIs accordingly to make them capable of thwarting the latest attacks. Therefore, following trusted sources like OWASP top 10 API vulnerability list certainly helps keep you updated.

2. Use Strong Authentication and Authorization

Many publicly available APIs have a major issue of zero or insignificant authentication and authorization. Many APIs are the entrance to the database of the organization, so it is essential to strictly control the authentication and authorization so that the database is not exposed. For authentication, developers can use a powerful token-based tool known as OAuth. It is a framework that authorizes the information to be shared with a third party without disclosing the user credentials.

3. Encrypt the Data

Encryption is an essential step for security purposes. All data must be appropriately encrypted using a solid technique such as Transport Layer Security. Developers must make sure that the encryption is architected so that only authorized users can decrypt and modify the data.

4. Identify Vulnerabilities in the API

To make an API effective against security threats, it is essential to know which parts of the API cycle are insecure and vulnerable to security risks. It might be pretty challenging to comprehend this, as a software organization might use thousands of APIs at a time. The best way to identify a vulnerability is by rigorous testing. The vulnerabilities must be identified in the initial development phase so that rectifying them becomes comparatively easy and quick.

5. Remove Information Not Meant to Be Shared

The developer who created the API may often forget to remove sensitive information like keys and passwords before making the API publicly available. It is essential to remove all such information before making an API public. Cyber attackers can use this sensitive information to reach the core of the API or the application and modify it without letting the API users know anything about it.

6. Place Rate Limits

If an API becomes popular, the chance of a malicious attack, such as a DDoS attack, becomes higher. A DDoS attack is carried out by continuously calling until the server crashes. The best way to contain the malicious attacks on a popular API and control the issues that affect its performance is to set rate limits. A rate limit determines how many times an API can be called. Placing the rate limit would also throttle the unauthorized connection.

7. Validate Parameters

Validating the parameters would ensure that the incoming data is not causing any harm to the API. To validate the parameters, create a strict schema that describes permissible inputs to the system and pass the incoming parameters through them. By validating the parameters, the developers can control the malicious attempts to call the API, and only those who follow the verified schema would be allowed to use it.

8. Use API Gateway

API gateways are the primary medium to control and manage API traffic, i.e., routing the client requests. It is recommended to use a robust API gateway to decrease security risks. A good API gateway would allow the organizations to authenticate traffic and control and analyze how the API is being used.

9. Develop a Threat Model

A threat model is specifically designed to identify and evaluate the security risks in an API. It would analyze API calls and raise any suspicious attempts to access the API. A threat model can be used for automating the continuous cycle of assessing and preventing API vulnerabilities.

10. Know The Bottom Line

APIs have become an integral element in creating modern applications, especially for smartphones and modern IoT devices. Since using an API means pulling the information from the outside source to your application, it poses a significant security risk. Too often, APIs, particularly the publicly available ones, are developed with the functionalities in mind, not the security. With the use of APIs peaking, organizations must take API security more seriously and dedicate effort to ensure end-to-end security.