5 Best Practices for API Security

24 December 2019 Writer: Lera Nesterovich 327 views

It’s hard to imagine any development without new data, information, and knowledge; therefore, AI algorithms are not an exception here. We would have neither smart cities nor houses without ongoing data flows. Even AI might be just an unrealistic future without these intelligent systems, having the needed information for a corresponding development.

Could you imagine your life without communication connectors, various transmitters, or APIs? In other words, it’s life without these comfortable and fast ways of getting and exchanging data: Facebook, Twitter, weather forecasts, hotel booking, online payment, and other forms of API-based services. All these points are available due to databases given by providers.

As new marketing firms are creating useful features and enterprises are expanding their outreach with new products, companies worldwide use APIs as an effective tool for generating revenue and increasing their sales. For instance, world-famous companies and corporations like Mercedes, Twitter, or Google have made up and developed different API types for their high profitability. 

Nevertheless, APIs dispose of some vectors that may serve as weak spots for hackers. There Are three main attack groups: identity, MITM (via mediator), and parameter. Besides, all of them have additional vectors for the attack that are implemented within them.

Moreover, the US and all EU countries have put data protection laws into action that impose penalties for any companies that avoid to comply with or failing these rules. Therefore, measures to provide API safety are compulsory. API practices that are presented below will help to keep aligned with these rules and serve as an effective instrument to avoid a security breach. Though they’re not that exhaustive, they’re widely introduced and used to ensure API safety.

5 API Security Best Practices

Multifactor Authentication (MFA)

In order to gain access to your system, a person should be aware of your password and username. As these data are easy to generate automatically and repeatedly, this type of authentication is considered to be weak. What’s more, in case of any breach, you won’t even be able to detect the perpetrator.

On the contrary, multifactor authentication, known as MFA, requires SMS, voice activation, or push notifications to deliver a token, meaning that a user is protected on the basis of digital key authentication together with the UN and PW. Moreover, it’s just one of the diverse levels that are responsible for your API safety.

OAuth2

It represents the industry-standard protocol of access authorization, which appears to be a basis for other protocols. For instance, it serves as the underlying architecture of UMA 1.0, IndieAuth, and so on. Here are some other benefits:

  • • It protects all account credentials like password, UN, etc.;
  • • OAuth2 eases the process of API authentication and authorization;
  • • It most likely limits access to particular resources rather than gives carte blanche for an unlimited time period.

Pay attention that OAuth2 is nothing else but a framework; so, operations here differ from OpenIDConnect. The latter gives an opportunity to be informed of users, who request access, supposing to be federated identity. The best practice here is to authenticate the user and thereafter authorize access.

Digital Signatures

These are a special method of API security. In particular, this technology is similar to a fingerprint with digital encryption. It confirms that the data is unique and not tampered with.

Of course, using digital signatures does not give an absolute guarantee of your application programming interface security, but if you use them together with other encryption methods (such as digital certificates), they make the identification process more complex. It should be understood that attempts will still be made; however, you can try to complicate them.

Quotas, Throttling, and Speed Limits

Introducing these methods is another way to prevent the crushing of your system (it is about DDoS attacks). All huge worldwide concerns use quotas, throttling control, and speed limits for their APIs.

API quotas are designed to limit the total percentage of API calls that occur for a certain period of time. Another throttling task is to limit the API user to a certain number of requests at a time. For instance, the Sears API Throttling limits a user to a certain amount of information that he can request for one API call per minute. In addition, they set the speed limits at which users are not able to enter more than 500 requests per day.

As said before, these ways help to guard against the attacks and allow honest users not to use complicated technologies, which can slow down API using by others.

Find and Check Your Weaknesses

There is nothing in the world that stays stable and invariable forever. Both in a physical or digital world, things are becoming outdated and people have a sad tendency for theft and demolishing.

Thus, you need to test your security system regularly, including your backend (drivers, OS, web), application layers, and the API itself, for instance, vulnerability of identification and authorization system, injection problems, data security, and operational issues in general.

You must secure your APIs constantly, just as well as another part of your IT system. There is no doubt that those are the straight channels in your system, regardless of the fact it’s narrowed down to the limited part.

ML and Al are getting more complex, and it can be used both for good and bad cause; so, smart cybersecurity devices are getting more popular.

Technological innovations will continue to evolve; therefore, the best practices which were described earlier will do.

But you still have to maintain regular due diligence and assure security within your API structure in order to make sure you and your users keep and share data safely.

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