API security software

If you’re a complete newbie in API integrations, pause here and go to read our previous articles on the role of APIs in software development, the most secure APIs to select from (GraphQL, REST, etc.), or tips to choose a reliable API integration partner. However, if all that rings a bell to you, then you come here to learn about API integration security, and that’s what we’re going to discuss today, accounting for the alarmingly increasing cases of API attacks.

Well, let’s get it clear from the beginning: while APIs are an excellent means of connecting all the systems within one place and reaching business efficiency, they’re vulnerable to malicious risks, including data exfiltration, sensitive data exposure, and account takeover, which, according to Statista, are the key concerns around securing a web API.

So, what is API security then? That’s a cybersecurity approach used to protect your digital ecosystem from the different kinds of malicious threats. Why is API security important? Usually, to secure an API means safeguarding it from unauthorized users and preventing data leakage and user privacy violations. But that’s what lies on the surface. Think of the identity fraud results: GDPR and HIPAA penalties, reputation risks, loss of customers and finance. If you want to avoid all that, read on to learn the web API security best practices.

Top security measures for APIs

To protect APIs from cybercriminals’ attacks, start with understanding the basic protocols behind securing API integration.

Authentication and authorization protocols

Your first step in securing an API is to limit the service access only to the permitted (authorized) users. The identity check and access guarantee are done through authentication and authorization protocols correspondingly: OAuth 2.0 and OpenID Connect (OIDC) are the key ones here. 

How do they work? Thanks to these protocols, the server is entitled to verify the person logging into the system and let them access a certain part of software functionality.

Secure data transmission

The second basic measure to implement for API security in software is data encryption. It’s essential to make your transfer from the client to the server secure. To implement it, rely on Transport Layer Security (TLS) or Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocols. 

In fact, the latter is the predecessor of the former, so they both work on mitigating data interception risks throughout transmission. Due to encryption, the data looks like a mess of characters, which is impossible to read and use for malicious purposes.

API security best practices

Now that you know the basics, we can discuss securing web services best practices in more detail.

Effective logging and monitoring

Tracking and analyzing all the logs in your system is already part of the answer to the question of how to secure API. Hence, ensure your API is correctly set to identify and record any abnormal user activities. Such tools as Splunk or ELK Stack can be a great help in this regard. 

Whatever solution you choose, remember that it’s not sufficient to authenticate users. You should also enable your API system to process the users’ requests to access resources and monitor their actions.

Regular security audits and penetration testing

Remember what we’ve told you about API’s security protocols? Well, to test them at work, you need to implement API security testing, which aims to identify any API vulnerabilities at the different stages of development and timely troubleshoot them. 

The process involves regular security audits, which are designed to inspect your API's infrastructure, codebase, and compliance with security standards, and penetration testing to simulate cyberattacks and check the API’s resilience to them.

Strong authentication and authorization checks

Among the numerous securing web API best practices, we’d like to place a separate emphasis on authentication and authorization. Why? In the worst scenario, the weaknesses in user verification and access grants may result in a full system compromise. Therefore, these are the defence mechanisms that should be taken seriously.

Let’s start with authentication. The task is to guarantee the system access only to legitimate users. This can be done through multi-factor authentication, leverage of short-lived access tokens, or token blacklisting. Choose one method for one type of resource at a time. 

Now, a few words about authorization. In this case, it’s turn to determine what information and functionality scope the user will get access to. To make this method work robustly, you’ll rely on an OAuth server. With its help, the user will get permission to limitedly access resources without sharing their identity (short-lived tokens are used instead of passwords).

Encrypting data in transit and at rest

When we think of data exchange between the server and the API endpoint, there are two states, where we can find data—in transit and at rest. The former indicates the continuous movement of data across the network, while the latter implies the result of this process—its storage on a disk. To make this information transfer safe, it should be encrypted—converted into an unreadable format—as one of the REST API security best practices.

Implementing rate limiting

Another question for you to ponder over is how to secure API calls. The answer is to set the limitations for the number of API requests the user can make within a given moment. This measure will queue the API calls to be processed with more diligent control and prevent malicious attacks. The easiest way to put it into practice is by using API gateways, such as AWS and Kong.

Using API gateways

Our final advice to safeguard your APIs from fraud threats is to apply API gateways. This means selecting a gateway with a high-level filtering potential to block suspicious users, treating each API request with a proper check, and even gathering logging and other business metrics. 

Get your API integrations built securely with Patternica

To enjoy the fruits of API integration, you first need to create a safe environment for its building, testing, and implementation. It should be much easier with our list of top API security measures and an explanation of key concepts. However, you can gain more by ordering our custom API integration and development services.

Make your company’s reputation a priority, and choose Patternica to ensure the safety of your APIs and show that you care about users.

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