4 Tips to Help Keep Your APIs Safe

October 31, 2023
4 Tips to Help Keep Your APIs Safe

Are APIs safe?

In today’s digital landscape, the seamless exchange of data through APIs, middleware, and integration has become the lifeblood of businesses. Ensuring the security and reliability of these vital components is paramount. Let’s delve into four indispensable tips for safeguarding your APIs.

  1. Manage Authentications

Securing APIs demands a deep understanding of user access and system authorisation, extending beyond basic security measures. A growing menace in the cyber landscape is “credential stuffing,” a tactic where malicious actors inundate APIs with fraudulent requests using stolen email addresses and passwords.

As more businesses shift to web apps for customer interactions, cybercriminals are redirecting their focus towards the APIs powering mobile applications. Prolifics’ integration and cybersecurity consultants, advocate a strict multi-factor authentication as a defence against credential stuffing. In high-risk sectors such as healthcare or finance, additional security is vital, including the use of complex, lengthy passwords.

However, even adding phone numbers as an extra layer of security falls short, thanks to evolving cybercriminal technology. The Open Web Application Security Project’s recent API Security Top 10 report highlights issues with incorrect implementation of authentication mechanisms, enabling attackers to compromise authentication tokens and assume other users’ identities temporarily or permanently.

  1. Check Authorisations

With many businesses operating hundreds of APIs, it’s increasingly challenging to monitor who or what has access to critical information. Attacks on APIs are intricate, making detection difficult due to the overwhelming volume of requests, with each closely resembling the others.

API attacks tend to be highly targeted, often following API specifications. To address this, meticulous scrutiny of each request’s authorisation to access specific resources is necessary. Enterprises should understand and clearly define each service’s responsibilities in sanitising and securing data as it traverses through microservice architectures.

Authentication is often managed, but proper authorisation mechanisms are overlooked, exposing businesses to security threats. Object-level authorisation checks should be considered in every function accessing data sources via user input, as recommended by the OAS report.

What enterprise integration technologies can assist with API authorisations?

  • IBM DataPower Gateway –a critical software solution with a multitude of security features, guaranteeing the safety of your data during transmission and processing. These features encompass comprehensive authorisation checks. The precise methods and their deployment, however, may differ based on the configuration and integration of IBM DataPower within your unique IT environment. This adaptability ensures your data remains secure, regardless of your specific setup.
  • Microsoft Azure API Management- a robust software solution empowering you to efficiently manage APIs, ensuring secure data exchange and processing. This includes robust authorisation controls, though the precise mechanisms and implementation can be tailored to your specific needs. Azure API Management offers flexibility and customisation, adapting seamlessly to your IT infrastructure for reliable, secure, and controlled data transmission.
  • MuleSoft Anypoint API Manager- empowers organisations with robust API management. It ensures secure and efficient data exchange while providing adaptable authorisation controls tailored to specific requirements. Known for its flexibility and customisation, Anypoint API Manager seamlessly integrates into IT infrastructures, offering reliable, secure, and controlled data transmission solutions, whether you’re streamlining business operations or securing APIs.
  1. Organise Security Team Setup

Security teams should be strategically structured to involve the entire organisation, fostering cohesion. A well-organised approach is crucial to address API security challenges effectively. In a digital transformation era, system-wide visibility is imperative for security teams. Collaborative visibility tools that cater to development, DevOps, and security teams are essential.

Modern security tools which leverage AI and advanced threat-detection, ease the workload for security professionals, replacing legacy cybersecurity systems that required extensive training.

Many enterprises, who are in the early stages of a digital transformation need to be aware of ‘Shadow IT’ – as more outside services are allowed into the ecosystem. IT teams need to stay vigilant and ensure their choice of API software is secure from the get-go.

  1. Scrutinise Third Parties

Third-party providers introduce risks, even when businesses employ robust security practices. The landscape of security has evolved from traditional IT oversight, as divisions embark on their ventures, ushering outside services into organisations. Businesses must gain a comprehensive understanding of third-party access, using security questionnaires, integration testing, certification requests, and reports. Yet, even these measures may leave vulnerabilities.

An alarming example involves a vulnerable API linked to India’s national ID database, affecting over 1.1 billion citizens. In this case, a security lapse allowed an unauthorised entity to access the Aadhaar database, which raised concerns about the necessity for strict access controls, robust data governance protocols, and effective rate limits to protect sensitive data from cybercriminals.

A new player in the Advanced API Security Market- NoName Security

Manage and secure your APIs with the advanced cybersecurity capabilities offered by IBM and Noname Security. With an increasing reliance on APIs for seamless data exchange, ensuring their proper management and security is crucial. Discover, assess, and analyse your APIs to detect vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and abnormal traffic in real time. Prioritise and remediate potential issues intelligently to reduce costs and enhance security.

What we think: NoName security is an API security tool Prolifics are incredibly excited about- this powerful software can deliver highly secure APIs fast, ensuring that your attack surface shrinks considerably to eliminate blindspots in your API landscape. The feature-set is vast but two things we enjoy about NoName is:

  • The ability to locate, catalogue and then track every API in your portfolio regardless of their API types (HTTP, REST, SOAP, GraphQL etc.)
  • The powerful real-time attack management using AI and ML detection to identify data leaks, tampering and data-policy violations.

In conclusion, securing your APIs, middleware, and integration processes is multifaceted and demands a proactive and collaborative approach. By fortifying authentication, prioritising authorisation checks, fostering collaboration across security teams and diligently monitoring third-party access, can enhance your API’s security and protect your organisation’s valuable data assets.

With only 55% of security professionals testing their APIs for security vulnerabilities and with 1 in 13 cyber incidents occurring because of insecure APIs, ensuring the right process, paired with the right software is essential.

Remember, the journey to API security is ongoing, and staying updated on emerging threats and evolving best practices is crucial in this ever-changing digital world.

To discuss your API landscape, test your APIs or to implement an API-first architecture, reach out to a Prolifics integration specialist for an introductory call.