Security for everyone

8 Tips For API Security


Security for Everyone


API security is crucial in protecting the application programming interface from threats that may compromise data or disrupt services.

Here are 8 API Security tips every organization must implement

1. Implement a Secure Authentication and Authorization Protocol

The initial phase of an API security strategy involves validating the identities of users and granting them the appropriate permissions. Access points represent the primary target for potential attacks, as malicious actors endeavor to capitalize on vulnerabilities within the API's authentication procedures in order to acquire both temporary and enduring access to user accounts.

There are several approaches to enhance authentication and authorization security:

  • Implementing basic authentication through usernames and passwords, with the condition for strong and complex password requirements.
  • Employing unique API keys for each connecting application, allowing for distinct identification.

2.  Restricting Data Exchange

One effective method to reduce API security vulnerabilities is to minimize the extent of exposure. For a product to function, data is exchanged among APIs, between APIs and applications, and between APIs and users. This data may include access tokens, user information, XML data, CSV data, JSON code, and more.

As the volume of data shared across nodes increases, the level of risk exposure also rises. The principle of least privilege in cybersecurity emphasizes the need for the lowest level of access privilege required, restricts unnecessary permissions, and minimizes security risks, providing protection against unauthorized access to sensitive information and data leaks. Monitoring data transmitted between applications, APIs, and users is essential to identify potential security vulnerabilities and enhance security by imposing restrictions on shared data.

3. Always Employ HTTPS

An HTTP connection is not a secure means to protect your data and can be exploited by malicious actors to steal information.

In contrast, an HTTPS connection encrypts a significant portion of the data, enhancing security.

To ensure that data traffic flows securely to the other end, using an SSL certificate will make it more difficult for malicious actors. Here is a resource where you can find a method to use a free SSL certificate:

Let's Encrypt is a free service provided by the Internet Security Research Group (ISRG), offering free X.509 certificates and working for internet security. This service automates the establishment of encrypted connections for web servers, aiming to reduce the use of unencrypted HTTP, and it is supported by major web browsers.

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4. Enforce a Zero-Trust Policy

Zero trust is a methodology that assumes no user, API call, or network can be automatically trusted.

Enforcing a zero-trust policy involves developing and implementing policies and procedures, and deploying and using tools and technologies to authenticate, authorize, and continuously validate all users, devices, and services before granting access to applications and data.

Zero trust offers several benefits, including reducing the attack surface, limiting the blast radius of attacks, and facilitating rapid recovery from attacks.

Overall, enforcing a zero-trust policy is a valuable investment for organizations of all sizes to improve their security posture and reduce risk.

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5. Adhere to the OWASP API Security Recommendations

The most common API vulnerabilities in OWASP API security are listed and regularly updated; ensure that these vulnerabilities do not exist in your applications. Following these items will bring you closer to API security. The OWASP top 10 updated in 2023 are as follows:

  • Broken Object-Level Authorization (BOLA)
  • Broken Authentication
  • Broken Object Property Level Authorization
  • Unrestricted Resource Consumption
  • Broken Function Level Authorization
  • Unrestricted Access to Sensitive Business Flows
  • Server-Side Request Forgery (SSRF)
  • Security Misconfigurations
  • Improper Inventory Management
  • Unsafe Consumption of APIs

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6. Use rate limit

Using rate limitations on API calls holds significance for both service providers and end-users. It's a critical measure to shield against automated attacks and ensure the continual quality of service.

For example, you can determine how often specific API calls can occur. This plan should be in line with the usage scenarios of your API and should be compatible with your business requirements.

7. Monitor and Alert on Anomalous Activity  

Establish a mechanism for tracking user actions and notifying you when unusual behavior is identified like repeated unsuccessful endeavors to reach a specific access point. This proactive approach aids in the early identification and mitigation of malevolent actions, averting potential larger problems.

You can use different methods and tools to monitor abnormal activities and receive notifications:

  1. Log Monitoring and Analysis: Logs are used to detect abnormal activities and identify issues.
  2. Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) Solutions: Monitor security events, analyze them, and generate notifications.
  3. Network Traffic Monitoring and IDS/IPS: Used to monitor abnormal activities on the network.
  4. User Behavior Analysis Tools: Monitor user behaviors and detect abnormal actions.
  5. Custom Alert and Monitoring Systems: Track specific actions and detect unusual situations.
  6. Vulnerability Scanning Tools: Conduct vulnerability scans.

You can choose the appropriate method based on your organization's needs.

8. Employ a Web Application Firewall (WAF) 

A web application firewall, often abbreviated as WAF, is a virtual security tool or cloud service. Its primary purpose is to safeguard organizations by focusing on the application layer. It accomplishes this by filtering, monitoring, and scrutinizing the traffic, specifically HTTP and HTTPS, that flows between web applications and the broader internet.

You can choose one of the WAF solutions such as Cloudflare WAF, Akamai WAF, ModSecurity, etc.



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