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Post By Admin Last Updated At 2023-07-24
Twelve (12) API Security Practices to boost your business

An API enables software programs to communicate with one another through the management of requests and their resolution. Thanks to the advent of cloud computing and the move away from monolithic programs to micro services, they have emerged as a crucial component in the modern digital world.

Presently, millions of developers and hundreds of thousands of businesses use more than 24,000 public APIs worldwide.

What is API security?

APIs provide users, programs, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices access to private data and other network resources. However, without strong security, they are extremely susceptible to a wide range of assaults that can result in network penetration and data breaches.

In order for API requests to be completed while the service is busy, they must be authenticated, approved, validated, and cleaned up. The characteristics of API security differ from ordinary web servers, which only need to safeguard a few basic ports and requests in current applications and services because they have many API endpoints that employ various protocols and request formats.

Why is API security important?

As more companies make data and services accessible through APIs, these vectors become a more appealing target for software attacks and data theft.

Insecure APIs are a serious threat. They are frequently the part of the network that is most exposed, vulnerable to DoS attacks, and simple to reverse-engineer and exploit. For instance, API flaws in online services provided by Coinbase, Experian, John Deere, and Peloton may have exposed user information or made fraudulent transactions possible.

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Most common API security risks

When creating an API and whenever one is modified, the following security issues should be taken into consideration:

  • Broken object-level authorization. When a request has the ability to access or change data that the requestor shouldn't have access to, such as when tampering with an identifier in the request to get access to another user's account, BOLA happens.

  • Broken function-level authorization. This happens when the principle of least privilege (POLP) isn't applied, which is frequently the outcome of too complicated access control measures. As a result, an attacker is able to access endpoints meant for privileged accounts or execute sensitive commands.

  • Broken user authentication. Similar to BOLA, an attacker may assume the identity of another user on a temporary or even ongoing basis if the authentication procedure was hacked.

  • Excessive data exposure: Frequently, API answers to a request return more information than is necessary or relevant. The data can be easily reviewed and could potentially expose sensitive information, even though the user may not see it.

  • Improper asset management. In rush to release new or updated APIs, thorough documentation is sometimes skipped during API development and deployment. As a result, there are exposed and ghost endpoints and a poor grasp of how to use and implement older APIs.

  • Lack of resources and rate limiting. When there are no limitations on the type or volume of requests, API endpoints are often accessible via the internet and vulnerable to DoS and brute-force attacks.

  • Injection flaws. If request data isn't properly parsed and validated, a hacker may be able to access it or run malicious instructions without permission by using a command or SQL injection attack.

  • Mass assignment. Software development frameworks frequently have the ability to mass assign all the data from an online form into a database or object with only one line of code, eliminating the need to write endless lines of form-mapping code. This functionality is known as mass assignment. If this is carried out without defining the permitted data, numerous attack paths are made available.

Here are 12 quick tips for protecting your APIs against security threats.

1. Encryption

Be secretive. For either internal or exterior communications, nothing should be left in the open. Your data will be encoded using encryption. Sensitive information will be considerably less likely to fall into the wrong hands as a result of this.All communications between you and your partners should be encrypted using TLS (the SSL replacement), either one-way (standard one-way TLS) or, better yet, two-way TLS. To prevent the use of the weakest cipher suites, use the most recent TLS versions.

2. Authentication

Do not converse with strangers. To put it simply, authenticity is reality. It indicates that something—or someone—is who they claim to be. Verifying a user's identity online is the process of authentication. It essentially removes the mask of anyone who requests access to your data.

As a result, you should always be aware of API calls. There are various techniques for authentication:

  • HTTP User ID and password are required for basic authentication. An API key, which is a specific identifier specified for each API and known to the API Gateway, is required for authentication using an API.

  • A token produced by a server for an Identity Provider (IdP). The most widely used protocol that supports this approach is OAuth 2.

To make it more difficult to hack your system, you should at the very least utilize an API key (asymmetric key) or basic access authentication (username/password). However, if you want to ensure that your APIs are securely protected, you should think about adopting OAuth 2.

3. OAuth & OpenID Connect

Give everyone their duties. Both an excellent API and a good manager delegate responsibility. You ought to assign third-party Identity Providers (IdPs) the responsibility of authorizing and/or authenticating your APIs.

What is OAuth 2?

It is a wonderful system that spares you from having to remember 10,000 different passwords. You can login using the credentials of another provider, such as Facebook or Google, rather than creating an account on each website.

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The same procedure applies to APIs: the server used by the API provider to administer authorizations is a third-party server. The customer gives a token issued by the third-party server rather than their login credentials. The consumer is protected because they don't provide their credentials, and the API provider isn't concerned about authorization data security because it just receives tokens.

OAuth is a popular protocol for delegation that is used to transmit authorizations. You can add an identity layer on top of OAuth 2.0, which extends OAuth 2.0 with ID tokens, to further secure your APIs and provide authentication.

4. Call security experts

Don't be reluctant to enlist some assistance. Bring in some security professionals. To assist you with scanning the payload of your APIs, use knowledgeable antivirus systems or ICAP (Internet Content Adaptation Protocol) servers. It will assist you in keeping your systems safe from any harmful data or code.

You can utilize a variety of security APIs to safeguard your data. They can integrate two-factor authentication, create passwordless login or time-based one-time passwords, send push alerts in the event of a breach, protect against malware and viruses, stop fraud, notify you if a password is a well-known hacker password, add threat intelligence, and provide security monitoring, among other things.

The fact that some of these antivirus programs are free to use is the finest part. Others provide recurring plans. Although more security is offered by premium programs, you can choose the level of security you require.

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5. Monitoring: audit, log, and version

Grab people. Monitoring your API's activity on a regular basis can be beneficial. Be on the lookout, just like that overprotective parent who likes to know everything about those around their child.

Why do you do this? In the event of an issue, you must be prepared to troubleshoot. On the server, you should audit and log pertinent data, and maintain that history for as long as it is practicable given the capacity of your production servers.

Make use of your logs as resources for debugging if there are any problems. Keeping accurate records will aid in keeping track of things and make anything questionable more obvious.

Monitoring dashboards are another highly advised tool for keeping track of your API usage.

Don't forget to include the version on all APIs, preferably in the API's path, so that you can offer working APIs in several versions and retire or depreciate one version in favor of another.

6. Share as little as possible

Be suspicious. To be too cautious is acceptable. Keep in mind that protecting your data is essential.

Try to be as brief as you can in your responses, especially in error messages. Limit email content and subject lines to fixed, non-customizable texts. Keep an eye on your IP addresses because they can reveal places.

If at all possible, use IP Whitelist and IP Blacklist to limit access to your resources. The number of administrators should be kept to a minimum, access should be divided into distinct roles, and all interfaces should conceal sensitive data.

7. System protection with throttling and quotas

Increase your speed. To protect the bandwidth of your backend system in accordance with the capacity of your servers, you should limit access to your system to a specific amount of messages per second. Less can be more.

To prevent someone from abusing the system or any API in particular, you should additionally restrict access by API and by the user (or application).

When properly implemented, throttle limits and quotas are essential to preventing assaults from many sources that overwhelm your system with requests (DDOS, or Distributed Denial of Service Attack). A DDOS can prevent authorized users from accessing their own network resources.

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8. Data validation

Be picky and decline any unexpected gifts, especially if they are quite large. Check everything your server will accept. Check the content that customers submit you and be sure to reject any additional or excessively large data. To avoid SQL injection or XML bombs, use JSON or XML schema validation and double-check that your parameters are what they should be (string, integer, etc.).

9. Infrastructure

Network and stay current. An effective API should depend on a secure network, infrastructure, and current software (for servers and load balancers) to be reliable and always take advantage of security updates.

10. OWASP Top 10

Ignore wasps. The OWASP (Open Web Application Security Project) Top 10 is a list of the ten worst flaws, ranked by how easily they may be exploited and how much damage they can cause. In addition to the aforementioned recommendations, make sure all OWASP vulnerabilities have been fixed before reviewing your system.


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11. API firewalling

Create a wall. Some believe that constructing a wall would be the answer to all immigration issues. At least for APIs, this is true! You should divide the security of your API into two layers:

The first layer is in the DMZ and has an API firewall to implement fundamental security measures, such as checking the message size, preventing SQL injections, and any security based on the HTTP layer, which blocks attackers before they can do any damage. The transmission is then forwarded to the second layer, which is a LAN with sophisticated data content security procedures.

The harder you make it for online criminals to access your information, the better.

12. API Gateway (API Management)

Entrance to heaven. It takes time to set up and keep up all of the aforementioned mechanisms. To save money, time, and resources while accelerating time to market, you should choose an advanced and high-performing API Management solution with all these choices rather than trying to reinvent the wheel. Your traffic can be secured, controlled, and monitored with the aid of an API Gateway.

An API management solution can assist you in quickly securing your APIs as well as in making sense of your API data to make crucial technical and business decisions.


I hope by the time you read this blog post's conclusion you have adequate knowledge about API security issues and how they are used in the IT sector. Through the Mulesoft Online Course provided by OnlineITGuru, you may learn from real-world specialists about API Security Issues and Practices. Get in touch with our support team right away and sign up for a free demo session.