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Safeguarding your APIs from assailants and information breaches

Several enterprises are working to modernize their current applications, integrating secure applications across their environments to keep up the pace with enterprise demands. Sophisticated application development is reliant on Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), which facilitate services and products to interact with one other and harness one other’s data and functionality to assist enterprise operations. APIs are business critical – the most widespread web apps and services that are hallmarks of innovation are executed on APIs. While APIs assist enterprises achieve several strategic and operational objectives, streamline and simplify software development and enhance user experience, they are not risk-free. Because APIs connect services and transfer all variations of information and data, this includes sensitive and confidential data, APIs are susceptible to attacks that might have the outcome of expensive data/information breaches. 

APIs are leveraged for communication and data transfer 

An API can be defined as tech that is driven by an assortment of pre-defined rules that facilitate software apps to interact with one another. The API functions as a middleman between machines, apps or services that wish to connect with one another for a particular task or activity. APIs leverage defined protocols to facilitate developers to develop, connect, and integrate applications swiftly and at scale. 

How do APIs function? 

An API functions leveraging a call request-data transfer format. In a client application-web service situation, a client application initiates an API call (or request) to recover information. This request undergoes process from an application to the web server through the API’s Uniform Resource Identifier (URI). After obtaining an authentic request, the API (the intermediary or middleman) makes a call to the web server. The server sends the requested data in its reply to the API, and the API transfers the information to the application that initiated the API call (for request). 

An API functions much like a waiter or waitress who functions as a middle man between the chef in the kitchen and a client in a restaurant. When a client places an order with a waiter, the waiter conveys the information regarding the order to the chef. The chef reacts to the order information by prepping the order and providing it to the waiter. In this situation, the client represents the initial API call, the waiter represents the API and the chef in the kitchen represents the server. When the chef (i.e. the server) furnishes the data to the waiter and the waiter furnishes the data to the client, this act signifies the transfer of data. Provided the exchange of data, this procedure must stay secure.  

API Security 

API security consists of protection of the APIs than an enterprise owns and leverages. Correctly secured APIs develop an extra layer between the data being transferred and the server. APIs might be harnessed to swiftly authenticate users who log in to sites leveraging their social media profiles, for instance. This login strategy reduces the time and energy it takes for the user to join or create a profile on every website that needs a login to view info or take part in their community. APIs also safeguard sensitive payment details by enabling users to pay for products on the internet without revealing any confidential or sensitive financial information to the eCommerce shop through the leveraging of trusted third-party payment processing. 

While APIs provide massive advantages, which includes enhanced efficiency for businesses and an improved online and application and user experience for end-users, they are also a target for attacks. Malicious actors realize how lucrative it can be to target APIs, as they direct traffic to an enterprise’s most valuable data and services. And APIs are a challenge to secure as conventional security tooling can’t safeguard APIs. 

Enterprises also have a ton of APIs for which they are lacking in visibility, also referred to as shadow APIs, and older APIs they should have decommissioned, also referred to as zombie APIs. Enterprises cannot secure or handle what’s invisible to them. Aspect of API security is finding out APIs that fall within this category and correctly managing them to reduce risk. 

Secure APIs against attacks and breaches 

Securing APIs against attacks is crucial for enterprises as API usage appreciates and the attack surface expands. Typical attacks against web APIs include credential stuffing attacks, account takeover attacks, API call request manipulation, distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, and man-in-the-middle attacks. APIs that are compromised, hacked into, or abused might have far-reaching impacts like information breaches, data exfiltration, or slow and even completely disrupted service. 

Enterprises must make investments in implementation of API security best practices like API evaluation (prior to production) to detect issues that might facilitate a malicious actor to take advantage of a vulnerability. To reduce the risks existent in APIs, an enterprise should take six actions to safeguard their current APIsL 

  • Detect APIs throughout the enterprise to prevent the risk of shadow or zombie APIs 
  • Leverage fine-grain access controls for every API to verify users and prevent broken user authentication 
  • Implement encryption strategies to make sure that data is transferred securely 
  • Implementation of a rate limit for the number of API requests to mitigate PI abuse
  • Ensure collaboration between developer, information technology (IT) and security teams 

Enterprises that inventory and handle their APIs are on the right track, however, it’s not adequate. Each enterprise has those unknown or forgotten APIs. Implementation of robust access controls is crucial as APIs furnish an entry point to enterprise assets, which includes private and sensitive data. Without cryptographical measures encrypting data in transit, data transferred leveraging an API is at risk for alteration and unauthorized utilization. Flagging when a provided user is making too many API requests will assist in prevention of brute-force attacks or service disruptions. 

The harm to reputation caused by an API breach or a leaky API can be expensive, and real dollar expenses, in the shape of privacy violation fines, can also be very painful. Enterprises seeking to successfully handle and secure their APIs require that security to be a shared accountability across several groups, particularly developers and security teams. 


APIs ought to be secured leveraging security best practices. API management platforms are beneficial, with compatibility for authentication and authorization. However they cannot discover all APIs in an enterprise and they can’t identify runtime attacks. Additional API security tooling that monitors API activity within real-time – by user and by API – is essential to safeguarding APIs. 


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