API Security Best Practices

API Security Best Practices

If you are a business person or even a person with sensitive data, then you understand how cyberattack rates are on the rise. As a result, there is a need to upgrade and secure data and crucial information, ensuring it doesn’t land in the wrong hands. That is why this guide gives an in-depth analysis of all API practices to put in place to enhance security. Keep reading for more useful insights.

What is an API?

Better known as an application programming interface, API is a technology that enables two software systems to collaborate. A good example is Google, which connects with other applications to generate information based on what the user is searching for from the Google app. The connection is made possible through API.

API security, therefore, is all about preventing unwanted access or possible attacks on APIs to enhance data security.

For mobile and web apps, API operates and a backend framework, hence, the need to protect data at all costs.

Factors Contributing to API security implementation

While data security is a major concern when dealing with API security, you will realize that as a software developer, the following factors play a significant role in API security implementation.

  • Cloud Computing

Since most of the cloud-based apps and services rely on API to interact with each other while exchanging information, if the API isn’t well-secured, there could be data leaks that can cause a major drawback.

  • Digital Transformation

Big and even small businesses are on the move to implement online operations and digital technology practices to deliver their services. As a result, they use APIs to bring different systems together for easy operation. While this is a perfect move for business owners, there are potential risks associated with the integration because of data transmission via APIs, hence the need for API security best practices as described in this guide.

  • Easy to Bypass Security Measures

Many organizations depend on the best security solutions created specifically for web applications to identify possible API threats and secure their systems. Since API security weaknesses are unique, it becomes hard to detect and secure possible gaps and weaknesses in the API systems. This means that unwanted parties can easily bypass the set security measures and exploit the systems, hence the need for API security best practices.

Forms of API Attacks to look out for

  • Stolen Authentication

Stolen authentication is all about accessing the API by hijacking an authorized user’s identity. A good example is when the authentication key lands in the wrong hands and it’s used to access the resources with bad intentions yet appearing legit. Besides, cyberattacks can effectively guess the set passwords, or if the authentication process is simple, they can easily break and access the system, thus doing harmful activities.

  • Man-in-the-Middle Attack

These forms of attacks happen when an attacker captures the API response or request between the API and the end user. As a result, the attacker can access and steal crucial information such as payment information or even login details. Again, the attacker can choose to adjust the response to suit the activities they intend to perform on the system.

  • Denial-of-Service Attack

Better known as DoS, these forms of attacks affect the server’s resources with API requests to perform actions such as crashing, breaking, or slowing down the system’s functioning. In most cases, these forms of attacks arise from several malicious sources all at once.

  • Code Injections

APIs that have authentication and validation gaps are prone to code injections. The hacker or attacker simply sends a script to the server through an API request. The script then performs an activity (either deletes data, exposes information, sends a false request, or simply harms the internal system of the app). The SQL injection code is used to perform all these activities on the SQL database, hence the name code injection.

Even though the risks are quite dangerous, it doesn’t mean that APIs should vanish. It is all about monitoring the system’s performance and putting in place API security measures, as described in the next section.

Top API security practices

At this point, you already understand the basics of API and why you need a secure system for smooth service delivery. Therefore, put in place the following API security best practices and enjoy the outcomes.

Best practices for API security

  • Put in place the access control

With some organizations, it is a must for third parties to have access to internal data and systems via APIs. In such scenarios, put in place the access control to manage when, what, and who performs different activities on the data, such as deleting, updating, or creating.

To achieve this, you can set the APIs behind the API gateway, web application firewall, or a firewall via a reliable protocol like HTTPS. This creates a protection baseline that helps scan for injection or signature-based attacks.

  • Encrypt requests & responses

Another API security practice to consider is encrypting all network traffic (all API requests & responses) since they might contain confidential data. Therefore, All APIs must have the HTTPS prompt.

  • Authenticate and authorize

Another perfect practice to enhance API security is to identify all devices and users of a particular system to control API resource access. This happens on the client-side application, where the client inputs the API token for easy access to the system.

You can opt to use either JSON web tokens, OpenID Connect, and OAuth 2.0 tokens for easy API authentication to evaluate access control rules and authorization access & roles via specific API resources.

Should the user want to add a comment or simply read a blog, you can use the POLP permission to ease the processes.

  • Share only relevant information

In most cases, API responses have a whole record of data instead of just the required fields, all depending on the client application to choose what the user accesses. While it is practical, it is a form of lazy programming in one way because it helps attackers access more API information and resources.

Therefore, make sure the system provides responses with only the required information to finish a specific request.

  • Data validation

Do not assume that the system is capable of cleaning and validating API data promptly. Instead, create your personalized routine for cleaning and validating the data on the server side to avoid possible cross-site request forgery attacks and standard injection flaws.

Some of the best debugging tools you can use when observing API data include Chrome DevTools and Postman.

  • Conduct regular security tests

Apart from just testing APIs during the development stage, it is essential for the security team to be updated with the security of the system, ensuring all the functioning is in place and that the system is behaving as it should be.

Above all, the system should have the plan to deal with all forms of notifications arising because of threat detection and any other security concern showing an API attack.

  • Protect All APIs

Leaving some of the APIS unprotected is a high form of risk associated with API attacks. While most APIs are meant for internal use, many people overlook the need to put in place proper API security measures, making the API exposed to varied attacks, and this can affect the entire organization. Therefore, make sure all APIs are well-protected to be sure of tight security ensures in place.

  • Call security experts/use antivirus

When you feel the need to ask for help, do so without hesitating or using some help. For instance, you can use ICAP – internet content adaptation protocol or experienced antivirus systems servers to help you scan to prevent or detect any suspicious information or code interfering with the systems.

The security APIs can help you with the following:

  • Preventing fraud
  • Offering a platform for security monitoring
  • Malware and virus protection
  • Sending push alerts in case of a breach
  • Integrating 2-factor authentication
  • Giving you password alerts (when the attackers access your password)
  • Creating a one-time password / passwordless logging-in option.

One thing you will love about antivirus systems is the fact that most of them are free to use, while others have monthly subscription plans (for more protection). It all depends on the security option you need.

Want to implement best API security practices? Connect with our API development company– Aalpha information systems.

Written by:

Muzammil K

Muzammil K is the Marketing Manager at Aalpha Information Systems, where he leads marketing efforts to drive business growth. With a passion for marketing strategy and a commitment to results, he's dedicated to helping the company succeed in the ever-changing digital landscape.

Muzammil K is the Marketing Manager at Aalpha Information Systems, where he leads marketing efforts to drive business growth. With a passion for marketing strategy and a commitment to results, he's dedicated to helping the company succeed in the ever-changing digital landscape.