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API Security: Best practices to ensure secure API

By CIOReview | Thursday, December 15, 2016

Application and web security is an essential element for every organization. As more and more applications are moving into cloud networks, they are being exposed to new threats in spite of having a standard security system mounted on the walls of cloud environment. Hackers and malicious intruders are easily gaining access to enterprise applications as back-end systems become more procurable through cloud and mobile networks. The problem is usually with developers because they build applications using application programming interface (API) without security in mind, therefore, exposing both the application and the underlying data to risks.

Take the case of recent Snapchat data breach, which affected nearly about 4.6 million users worldwide because of unsecure APIs. Developers these days completely rely on APIs, as it offers required building blocks and tools to develop software applications effortlessly. Today, API has culminated into one of the biggest security concerns worldwide. Though it offers third-party software development kit for developers to build applications swiftly and effortlessly, it is also plagued with crucial security problems. However, with the appropriate guidelines and security measures organization’s can ensure that their API deployments do not pose any security issues.

Identify the risks of API

During development phase, while writing a code using APIs, developers work with the intention of making the feature set as vigorous as possible, overlooking security. Challenges emerge because of the integration of various components that are linked to front-end and back-end systems, which makes it easy for hackers to access sensitive information. Besides, intruders think one step ahead, they assess various ways to penetrate into the network for nefarious purposes. However, recognizing the threats by looking out for common attack pattern using intelligence and carrying out thorough testing along with proper documentation of API by security experts could help in securing the API.

 Re-use Existing Codes Judiciously

One of the added benefits of API is that it allows developer to use third parties to write add-on apps for a platform. In this scenario, developers must have complete knowledge on incorporating third party API securely and validate entire responses exhaustively. Developers are fond of reusing the codes available on the internet, especially codes to call a function of a specific API. Hackers wait patiently for such opportunities and ravenously try to dig out such system vulnerabilities. However, with proper modification of codes that is within context, testing the code efficiently, and by avoiding plagiarism enterprises can strengthen the API security.

Better Code give rise to Safer APIs

Since poorly written code or deployed APIs can pave the way for hactivism, enterprises must give sufficient time for developers to read and understand the documentation of API carefully and learn to implement APIs effectively. Some of the best practices to secure the APIs include avoiding the usage of undocumented APIs, securing the encrypted keys that are used for access and authentication, and averting hard-coding of encrypted keys in the configuration files and other scripts. With this enterprises can handle risks associated to integrity, confidentiality and accountability as they are the security loop holes to an enterprise’s resources.

Robust Authentication and Authorization

As APIs are connected with other piece of software, securing the code becomes more important. Enterprises these days are drifting away from traditional security systems and advancing towards multistep authentication with a mounting demand on biometric systems like finger print scanner and many more. Once the authentication is completed next is authorization, where users must surpass authorization and seek permission to access various enterprise data. Some information should be accessible to everyone like companies general blog and some require privacy such as payroll related data.  By using the encryption methodology from inception to deletion enterprises can ensure safety of the business-resources.


API usage is increasing day by day, encouraging businesses to develop more dynamic applications. Given their benefits, API deserves more attention and security from those leveraging it. However, as they reap benefits out of these capabilities, enterprises need to be aware of potential security gateways and seal them. With these best practices and secured implementation enterprises can prevent intruders and enhance security of the APIs.

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