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API Management 6 min

How can you secure APIs?

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Peter Postma
api security
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APIs are everywhere these days. If you want to allow different environments, systems, applications, or workloads to communicate with each other, you can achieve this through APIs. The fact that APIs provide communication between various internal and external applications makes them vulnerable to attackers. A major reason for this is that APIs often have direct access to critical systems such as databases.

In addition, the extensive testing of APIs and the recording of user rights is less standardized than in the deployment of applications. This means it is critical for organizations to have adequate security measures in place for APIs. In this text, we explain the dangers that APIs are exposed to, how you can secure APIs, and what role API Management can play in this.

What is API Security?

API Security is a matter of implementing security solutions for application programming interfaces (APIs). This includes defining and enforcing API privacy rights and access control to the API. In addition, API Security plays a role in preventing, registering and resolving attacks on APIs.

API Security is vital, as increasing volumes of sensitive information are passing through those APIs. Hackers have preyed on that information and are following advanced methods to work out how to place a hack. This means you need insight into your APIs and a way of securing them adequately.

API Security increasingly significant

According to Gartner, security executives are increasingly concerned about the vulnerability of APIs, especially considering that many APIs are not adequately managed or protected. It is therefore vital, explains Gartner, to set up a proper API Management Platform. This is needful advice, as the research firm expects that by 2025, fewer than 50% of APIs will be managed adequately. One factor here is that the number of APIs is growing so rapidly that it will exceed the capacity of the API Management tools.

Ten best practices for securing APIs

As with many forms of security, the securing of APIs starts with a number of basic conditions. These conditions are especially important if APIs are exposed not just internally, but also publicly.

1. Awareness

API security, like any other form of security, is firstly a matter of awareness. A point to note is that the CISO or security department generally pays little attention to APIs, as it is often outside their scope. On the other hand, developers are not always aware of the dangers of APIs —  whether their own or the external APIs they communicate with. It is important to build APIs according to the principle of security by design.

2. Inventory of APIs

It is important to continuously inventory the stack of APIs and check whether they are all actually used. The next step is to bring all APIs together into an API Management Platform. This is the only way to manage and secure the APIs.

3. Access Control

Authorization and authentication are necessary to secure APIs. Problems arise particularly when APIs are initially developed for internal use but later exposed publicly. Again, an authentication that is identical for each API is just as vulnerable as the password ‘12345’. Everyone, not only developers but also the CISO, should be aware that APIs are the gateway to a company’s most critical information.

4. Restrict rights

Start from the principle of least rights. This means that users, processes, programs, systems and devices have only the bare minimum of rights to access or make changes to APIs.

5. Use encryption

Encryption can play a major role in API Security. Use Transport Layer Security (TLS) for this. This is especially relevant for companies that regularly share sensitive data.

6. Remove information that does not need to be shared

As we mentioned, an API is, in principle, a tool for developers. During the design phase, APIs often contain information (such as passwords or instructions to fellow programmers) that must be removed before the API goes live.

7. Don’t share more data than necessary

Many APIs share too much information. It may be that the volume to the API is too large after a request, or the API shares too much data about its own endpoint. Make sure APIs only pass on the information that is needed to complete the desired function.

8. Check and validate the input

Never let input via an API ‘flow’ directly into an endpoint or application without first checking and validating this data.

9. Use rate limiting

Define a hard threshold for the number of requests per day per API. This can prevent denial-of-service attacks.

10. Don’t forget the firewall

An example of this would be a web application firewall that is able to secure the API Communication.

The role of API Management in API Security

API Management enables organizations to expose APIs to external parties and internal developers. With an API Management Platform, developers can utilize their data and services to the fullest advantage. API Management provides the key functions for the successful and secure implementation of APIs within an organization.

Azure API Security

The management platform ensures that APIs do not exchange data without controls. Validation and other forms of management are possible. In addition, to strengthen the API, the administrator can define security rules that govern the communication between APIs. All in all, Azure API Management is a reliable, secure and scalable method of exposing APIs through the Microsoft Azure platform. It includes all essential tools for authentication and authorization. Azure API Management provides a central interface to manage all APIs. The APIs can be monitored and errors recognized in time. It provides an authentication and access control mechanism and verifies security when the APIs are used.

Mulesoft API Security

The Mulesoft platform offers multi-layer protection against attacks. It protects every API, together with the data. Mulesoft API Management removes vulnerabilities at the network edge when attack patterns are detected on the API Gateway. It strengthens the API Security by configuring access rights. It protects sensitive data to reduce the risk of compliance issues and maximizes API availability.

Boomi API security

Boomi’s API Management platform addresses security at three levels: network, application and platform. This triple security approach ensures that data is never exposed to unauthorized parties, the data remains safe during communication between applications or APIs, and the data is always accessible to authorized persons. The Boomi platform is designed with security as a priority.

API Security WSO 2

WSO2 offers numerous options for API security in accordance with the latest OWASP standards and DDOS prevention measures. WSO2 also offers a comprehensive Identity and Access Management (IAM) solution that allows IT departments to maintain full control over access to data sources.

Conclusion

API Security is an ongoing process. Technology does not stand still for one moment, nor do the threats that an API is exposed to on a daily basis. API Security, therefore, is not a one-time exercise. It is a continuous process that must ensure that the API and the underlying technology are always up-to-date. A sharp focus is required to ensure that malicious parties such as hackers or students are kept out.

Carefully planned security offers a solution. This is provided by Yenlo’s Connext Platform (available as a Platform-as-a-Service concept).

Would you like to know more about API Security? Or perhaps you are interested in finding out how secure your APIs are? Request an API Sanity Check or schedule an appointment directly.

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