Effective security measures are paramount while building an application programming interface (API). However, locking down an API with stringent security mechanisms leads to decreased productivity because APIs are designed to aid developers to carry out varying tasks with ease.
To resolve this challenge, API providers must find a balance between complicated system dependencies and strong protection capabilities against digital threats. That being said, the following are five security measures that help API teams find the perfect balance.
Industry-standard authorization mechanisms like OAuth/OpenID Connect and Transport Layer Security (TLS) are essential because a vulnerable API could potentially be the gateway that cybercriminals exploit to gain access to an organization's database.
Protection Against Injection Attacks
With the threat of injection attacks taking various forms such as SQL, RegEx, and XML, APIs should be designed with an awareness mechanism to avoid such attacks. Furthermore, monitoring of APIs after deployment should be carried out to ensure that the production code is not exposed.
Monitoring Unencrypted Data
APIs play an important role in the encryption of sensitive data through the entire transition process, and after it reaches the point of consumption. API providers must go beyond basic security mechanisms and utilize trace tools for debugging issues, enforce data masking, and leverage tokenization for PCI and PII data.
Countermeasures against Malicious Requests
Public APIs have to constantly assess incoming requests and determine whether it can be trusted. Moreover, even when APIs deny access to a suspicious request, the malicious user can resend requests or replay a trusted user request until it is accepted. APIs must, therefore, deploy countermeasures such as rate-limiting policies, HMAC authentication, or a short-lived token facilitated OAuth to combat these brute force attacks.
Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) Data
As a security measure, API keys for authorized access are often sufficient. However, keys may be compromised if they are sent through URI as sensitive data, including API keys and passwords, which may become vulnerable to attacks when URI details are displayed in browsers or system logs. API teams can send keys as a message authorization header or use the HTTP POST method to avoid exposure of sensitive data.
An API designed with an awareness of digital threats coupled with scalable data protection policies imposed across the organization can aid in effective protection against potential threats.
See Also: Cyber Security Review Magazine