API Security Best Practices To Safeguard Sensitive Data

About this Article

The use of APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) is now commonplace because more people are using various technological solutions. As a result, API security is a bigger problem than ever in creating apps.

SaaS businesses typically have 350 integrations, compared to significant SaaS businesses like Slack, Zoom, and Shopify, which have over 2,000 connectors. Application Programming Interfaces (API) make life simpler, which is fantastic for developers and end users.

However, there is a persistent worry about API security, particularly for open APIs that demand third-party logins. The pressure on developers to complete their work under arbitrary time constraints raises questions about quality standards. So how can businesses use the API ecosystem while ensuring that their data is protected from hackers?

How? By utilising API security best practices. The top four security best practices will be discussed in this post as a way of protecting your APIs against malicious assaults.

Describe API security

API security is the process of defending APIs from risks and assaults. Today, every company and website has hundreds, if not thousands, of integrated APIs, many of which hold private or sensitive data, making it essential.

The following procedures are put in place for effective API security protections;

  • The queries that the API processes come from legitimate, reputable sources.
  • All of the requests that are being handled are valid.
  • Neither the answers nor any of the encryption can be broken.

Your API implementations will probably use either SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) or REST (Representational State Transfer), two widely used web service access protocols, depending on your company and the type of data involved.

Because SOAP is standardised, it doesn’t require HTTP and contains built-in error handling. REST is quicker, easier to learn, and doesn’t need expensive equipment. But by design, SOAP APIs are also more secure. To learn more about these two communication protocols, see this SOAP vs. REST comparison article.

API Cyberattacks and their Types

Because they typically include documentation about their structure and creation, APIs are vulnerable to attacks. In their efforts to acquire confidential data, hackers can use this to reverse engineer APIs. The most frequent assault types are listed below.

The DDoS Attacks

Distributed Denial-of-service (DoS) attacks are the most common kind. The attack is carried out on an API by overwhelming its memory through thousands of attacks, which result in the API slowing down and ultimately crashing the web server. Another way this happens is hackers send a vast amount of information in each request instead of thousands of requests.

Stolen Authentication

The quickest approach to gain access to user data might be through compromised authentication. Hackers gain access to the API by stealing a legitimate identity. The authentication token is typically taken and then used improperly. Cybercriminals will also get around poor authentication if the token isn’t used to obtain access.

Man-in-the-Middle Attack

A man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack takes place when a hacker is able to eavesdrop on the communication between the end user and the API. When neither one-way nor end-to-end encryption is in use, this typically occurs. Private data, such as login credentials, may frequently be taken as a result of these aggressive attacks.

Best Practices of API Security

After discussing the significance of API security and the kinds of cyberattacks to anticipate, let’s discuss some of the best practices for API security to safeguard your users.

Use strong user authentication

Lack of or subpar authentication is the main reason for API security breaches. Authentication provides evidence that someone is who they claim to be, much like having a company explain its LLC founding purpose precisely to demonstrate its authenticity.

Your APIs must be secured because they are the gateway to a company’s database. Utilizing one-way, strong user authentication lowers the security risk associated with lost user authentications.

Multi-factor authentication or, even better, a trusted authorisation method like OAuth is the best way to achieve strong user authentication. Either approach restricts access to online services to only authorised users.

Encrypt Every Bit of Data, whether Online and Offline

To defend against numerous assaults, the most frequent of which being MITM attacks, it is imperative to encrypt data. These occur when criminals gain access to private data, including login passwords, credit card numbers, account information, and other personal data, as previously mentioned. To prevent theft, data transmissions between API servers must always be properly secured.

Statistics show that 33% of all Americans have experienced identity theft, with credit card fraud being the most frequent type.

The Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol, an improved version of the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocol, should be used to encrypt all communications between businesses. While one-way encryption is an option, two-way encryption is significantly more effective and secure.

Consider WhatsApp. The application ensures that every chat is end-to-end encrypted, demonstrating its high level of security. With this level of security, people will find WhatsApp appealing.

Data encryption is therefore crucial, but it’s always good to have extra security. Utilizing credit protection services is another means of preventing ID theft. Services for credit protection assist you in keeping an eye on your financial activity and making sure no fraud takes place. These services will aid in repairing your credit score if it has been negatively impacted.

Additionally, adding API Throttling and Rate Limiting can assist alleviate this issue.

Hackers are very interested in APIs since they include a tonne of private data. Sadly, this also leaves APIs open to DDoS assaults. A good place to start in preventing successful API attacks is by putting rate limits in place.

Decide at what point all requests will be declined. 8,000 requests per account per day, as an illustration.

Use throttling in addition to threshold restrictions. Throttling algorithms carry out additional safety measures and verify the validity of APR requests. Additionally, consumers will still have access to the API and you’ll prevent breaches even though throttling would make a user’s connection slower, which is frustrating.

With both in place, there is less likelihood that firm data will be compromised due to data breaches, as seen below.

Check out Retrace, an APM tool from Stackify, if you’re concerned about user experience due to throttling in addition to security. It provides the insights you need to maintain satisfied users and the security of their data while giving you visibility over the performance of all your applications.

Avoid Exposing Too Much Data

APIs frequently divulge more information than is required, and hackers can use that information. Making sure this doesn’t occur ought to be a top focus. To protect the information, end users should only receive answers that indicate whether their requests were successful or unsuccessful. This guarantees that APIs only deliver the necessary data. Anything more is simply playing into the hands of the hackers.

As a result, make sure your DevOps procedures check the type of data that your APIs share. Remove any irrelevant material as soon as you find it, leaving only the information that the end consumers will need.

Defend Your APIs Against Hackers

The bad news is that hackers cannot be stopped. not forever, at least. Fortunately, cyber security has advanced significantly, and if you take the appropriate precautions, your users will be best protected.

Your information will never fall into the wrong hands thanks to a solid API security approach. Additionally, securing your APIs completely can be achieved by following the aforementioned best practises for API security.

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