API security

By CIOReview | Friday, March 17, 2017
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With the digital revolution, organizations are reshaping the business for addressing the modern requirements adopting API and cloud solutions. While APIs connect enterprises with mobile apps and a large community of developers, these APIs should be secure and saleable as well as reliable. Security being a crucial aspect in every business growth, the role of API security is also important.

Security Strategies

Authentication and authorization are the two common strategies that are adopted by organizations to deal with the ever evolving security threats in API. The modern API Security solutions streamline management, deployment, and operation of APIs, enhancing the security and regulatory compliance through authentication, and authorization. Gateways are also deployed within the networks to provide perimeter security and protect the enterprise by handling authentication and authorization, encrypting data, preventing threats and attacks and rate limiting traffic. Moreover, advanced strategies allows adoption of security standards from a wide array of authentication schemes, standards and token types to ensure that only valid users and applications get access.

Whereas, on the web, user authentication is generally implemented using a dialogue box that prompts for username and the password. Further enhancing the security, software certificates, and hardware keys are also used. After successful authentication, the system provides access to the resources that the user is allowed to view. API systems commonly use an access token that is passed with each request to an API, which is validated before processing the request.

Encryption and Signatures

API clients use encryption standards to secure the information transmitted. Once encrypted, the information will not be accessible to unauthorized users without the decryption key. Common encryption standards in the web is Secure Socket Line (SSL encryption), that encrypt HTTP messages that is sent and received by browsers or API clients. For enhanced security, signatures are also used, ensuring that the API request or responses have not been tampered during the data transmission.

Vulnerabilities to API

Due to the rapid increase in hackers and viruses, security vulnerabilities have become numerous today. The vulnerabilities categorized based on their target area includes,

  • Application Layer: Any problems in the hosting application server and the server related services can be a vulnerability
  • Operating system: Security threats to operating systems are numerous and always needs the best care.
  • Network Components: Network components are also vulnerable to both physical as well as cyber vulnerabilities.
  • API components: The API servers and other components are vulnerable if not protected with a proper solution.  

API Security Best Practices

Once the security vulnerabilities are identified and secured with various strategies, the security should be maintained by adopting efficient security best practices. Take a look at some of these important aspects in ensuring best practices.

  • Monitoring: Monitoring the applications for security issues is one of the most important aspects in maintaining the security. Always monitor the applications using vulnerability monitoring tools.
  • Awareness: Always utilize the resources as well as the tools to get an overview of the vulnerabilities.
  • Knowledge: Keep updated about the emerging threats and vulnerabilities. Invest in testing and research to understand the threats.
  • Prevention: Test and assess security early in the projects to maintain better security.