Today’s developers want to know the API security best practices. Here, you can learn all about them.
APIs are everywhere. Through the power of APIs, applications of all sizes get to come together, share data, and perform desired functions. Essentially, you can think of APIs as the middlemen who keep things ticking over nicely. Without them, developers simply wouldn’t be able to build new interactions between the applications that everyday people and businesses use, which would make life much less fun (and productive).
Because APIs have grown so much in terms of importance, it’s led to companies adopting more of them than ever before. For example, research found that 40% of the largest companies now have more than 250 – yes, 250 – internal APIs. This is huge, and it highlights the vital role that APIs play in the world of technology.
Although APIs are great, more APIs generally means more potential security problems. This is why API security should be at the top of your agenda this year, especially if you have many APIs currently being used. Through efficient API security, you can then secure API vulnerabilities and prevent them from being exploited by cybercriminals (who, sadly, are growing in numbers year by year).
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So, what are the API security best practices that you need to know about? Below, you can find a simple breakdown of them all and start making improvements to your API security in record time.
1. Use an API Management Platform
Firstly, you need an API management platform with high-quality API management tools. This way, you can take important steps like implementing zero-trust APIs, which are great for mitigating potential API attacks. In simple terms, a zero-trust API is an API that can only be accessed by trusted users and devices within an organization, which makes it extremely difficult for cybercriminals outside to interfere. That’s barely scratching the surface, though, as the other API management tools available to you will help transform your API security for the better.
2. Always Use an API Gateway
Next, make sure you always use an API gateway.
What exactly is an API gateway? Think of it as a security guard that sits between your backend services (e.g., apps) and the people who use them. When a user submits a request, the API gateway (your security guard) will then accept the request, process it based on your pre-defined policies, gather the relevant data, and then provide it to the user.
The key benefit here is that you get to experience maximum protection from:
- DoS (denial-of-service) attacks
- Parameter tampering
- Cross-site scripting (XSS)
There are also other types of API attacks that you get protection from, such as injection attacks. In case you didn’t know, an injection attack is when an API is sent malicious commands through a user input field, which can then lead to all kinds of problems for companies. Thankfully, this is why API gateways exist — to stop these malicious attacks while keeping companies and end users safe. After all, the last thing you want to experience is a harmful API security breach that leads to financial damages that you might not be able to recover from.
3. Implement API Rate Limiting
As the name suggests, API rate limiting is when you put a set limit on the number of API calls a user can make per second. For example, your team of developers might want to make it so that users can only make a maximum of 5 requests every minute before they are automatically prevented from making any more.
Through rate limiting, you can:
- Ensure the maximum performance stability of your APIs
- Prevent DoS attacks (which rely on overwhelming APIs with more traffic than they can handle.)
Really, API rate limiting is a no-brainer, which is why you need to put rate limits in place if you truly want to bolster your API security moving into the future.
For further inspiration on this, look at a company like Meta (the creators of Facebook). Currently, Meta instructs app developers that their individual users can make more than 200 calls per hour on their apps, but only providing that the total number of calls doesn’t surpass the app maximum. For instance, if your app has 1000 users, you’d be rate-limited to 200,000 calls per hour.
Encryption is vital for your overall API security — and here’s why.
Through HTTPS and Transport Layer Security (TLS), data exchanged between two different systems (for example, a server and a user) is automatically encrypted.
When users are engaging with your applications, it’s likely that there’s sensitive data involved, such as private user information. Naturally, both you and the user won’t want this data to be intercepted and stolen by third-party cybercriminals, which is where encryption comes in to put a stop to this happening.
Even if the data is intercepted, it’s encrypted, meaning it can’t be read and is, therefore, useless to the individual or group that intercepted it. Essentially, it’s a little bit like stealing a bank card only to find that the bank card’s numbers have been replaced by strange symbols that are impossible to decipher. Sure, you have a bank card — but it’s impossible to get any money from it.
Over recent years, countless companies around the world have started to outsource their cybersecurity. One of the main reasons they do this is so that their APIs can be monitored by third-party companies. Not to mention, third-party cybersecurity companies will usually help you with important security steps that you can take when it comes to your APIs, such as changing passwords that are too easy to guess.
If you’ve recently spent time worrying about your API security, you now know what you need to do in order to improve it moving forward. By following the API security best practices discussed in this very guide, you’ll be able to take your API security to a whole new level.