API security refers to the products and practices that are employed to prevent the misuse of or malicious attacks on application program interfaces (APIs).
Today, APIs are widely used in programming web-based interactions. This makes them a target for cyberattacks, making basic authentication such as passwords and usernames not strong enough to ensure their security. In their place, the basic authentication has been replaced with different forms of security tokens as discussed in these API tutorials.
APIs connect services with each other and transfer data. Hacked or exploited APIs lead to data breaches leaving financial and personal data, for example, exposed. Hackers can use such data for their own gain, causing a lot of damage to the people and enterprises that own the data. This makes it very important to ensure that APIs that you own or use are secure.
It is also important to know that APIs transfer multiple types of data, and therefore the implementation of API security has to be specific to both the API and the data they transfer.
APIs can be accessed over the internet just like any other URI that has sensitive data attached to it. This makes APIs an easy target for cyberattacks.
Some common API vulnerabilities include:
- SQL Injection
- Distributed denial of service
- Cross Site Scripting (XSS) Attacks
- Cross Site Request Forgery (CSRF) Attacks
- Man in the middle attacks
- Common API Security Practices
Using APIs securely requires that one uses a trusted environment with good policies for both authorization and authentication. There are a number of common API security practices, that you can use to ensure the security of your APIs.
- Tokens: A token can be assigned to secure identity and then used to control access to both resources and services.
Encryption and Signatures: To ensure high levels of security, make sure that your data is encrypted using methods such as TLS and then require users to use signatures when decrypting and modifying the data.
- API Gateway: Using an API Gateway (an API gateway is the main point of API traffic enforcement) allows you to easily authenticate traffic while at the same time controlling and analyzing how your APIs are put into use.
- Using Quotas and Throttling: Quotas are used to determine the number of times an API can be called. They also track the call history of an API. When you have more calls to an API, it might mean that the API is being abused or there is a programming error such as the API being called in an endless loop. Having throttling rules set in place will protect your APIs from such issues.
- Identifying Vulnerabilities: It is very important to understand how your system works by using an up to date operating system and keeping up with your drivers, network, and API components. If you know how the system works, it will be easy for you to identify any weak spots that hackers might use to get access to your APIs. You can also use sniffers to detect any security issues and keep a track of data leaks.
Your API users might also be a security threat. To minimize the threat, make sure that they have all secured their webpages with SSL/TLS. These protocols are important communication security measures that encrypt and authenticate all the transmitted data.
Any enterprise or even an individual can improve their API security by making sure that they have created a trusted and safe environment with comprehensive authorization and authentication policies.
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