Application Programming Interfaces (API) security gains prominence in the ones that you own and develop and those that you use for your organization. API is a part and parcel of various services that make our lives easier – from Internet of Things (IoT) to microservices used for building cloud-native apps. When you think about fast-paced development, secure connection, and effective services, API comes to mind.
The Importance of API Security
As its importance rises with the services offered, API is used by every other business, big or small, individuals, etc. They provide both ease of connection and quick transfer of necessary data whenever needed. However, as important as their functions are, equally vital is the risk of vulnerabilities from APIs that are broken or hacked. Exposed APIs have played an unfortunate role in data breaches, loss of sensitive data in healthcare, financial, and other personal uses.
Data takes different forms, as mentioned above, which means that they require different levels of protection and compliance standards. This will also influence your API security strategy. How your API connects you to the internet and how this information is visible to others should be your prime concern.
Web API security is majorly concerned with how data is transferred over the internet through APIs. Access levels are delegated with the use of OAuth (Open Authorization) standard which gives third-party access to all resources without using credentials. Basically, when you share a video from Facebook to Whatsapp, the quick transition is thanks to this open standard. Now, moving to the types of web API security offered, we have two categories – REST API and SOAP API security.
REST vs. SOAP API security
REST or Representational State Transfer and SOAP or Simple Object Access Protocol are two commonly offered types of API implementation.
REST APIs have the provision for TLS encryption and make use of HTTP. Transport Layer Security (TLS) ensures that an internet connection is kept private and constantly checks the data transferred between two systems. Such data transfers could happen between servers, server and client, etc and are maintained in an encrypted and unchanged format. It ensures that when you enter sensitive information onto a website, like credit card information, no third party can access or change it.
SOAP APIs make use of Web Services Security which have a set of rules for maintaining confidentiality and using authentication. With a combination of XML-based encryption and signatures, and SAML tokens, they implement authorization and authentication. They also support standards from two main international bodies – World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS).
What makes SOAP APIs advantageous over REST APIs is the better security measures they offer. Hence, organizations that use sensitive data go for this option, and those preferring better management style prefer REST APIs.
Increasing API Security
1.Encryption and signatures
The importance of encrypted data is not lost on anyone using HTTPS and TLS. Use a combination of encryption and signatures at the right places for enabling access to verified users. Only these users should be able to see the decrypted data and modify them, nobody else.
2.Use quotas and set rules for throttling
Defining a set of rules for throttling ensures that you’re protecting your website from unwanted spikes and Denial of Service (DoS) attacks. Also, making use of quotas for your APIs allows you to limit the number of times it can be called and track the history later.
Sudden and unnecessary attempts at calling the API can be a sign of a brutal force or DDoS attack. It may even uncover programming flaws, such as an endless loop that keeps calling the API.
These are your key to making and protecting trusted identities from which different levels of access can be controlled. Resources can then be allotted on the basis of the access level provided with the help of these tokens.
4.Enforce using API gateways
API gateways can work as the security guard for incoming traffic by both verifying and controlling it. This will also provide data on API usage that can be analysed later for flaws or improvements.
5.Keep looking for loopholes
The search for vulnerabilities, no matter how disappointing it is, should continue. Always keep an eye on the important aspects of your network – the operating system, drivers, API components, etc. Keep reviewing your security strategy, conduct pentesting regularly, and ensure that you use sniffers for finding out security issues.
There are other management rules and tips that you can follow to ensure optimal security like basic authentication (with username and password) or OpenID Connect (works on top of OAuth).
Beyond this, every system varies, and if you feel like you need help in finding out your threats and vulnerabilities, we at Astra Security are not far away!