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API Security Should Be a Top Priority for Businesses

API Security Should Be a Top Priority for Businesses

Published: November 25, 2022
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APIs are key to the future of digital transformation. They are already at the heart of many organizations’ digital strategies, enabling them to compete and thrive in today’s world of globalization. This makes API security an important topic, and rightfully so — since it’s become one of the biggest security concerns in recent times!

What is an API?

‘Application Programming Interfaces’ or ‘APIs’ are pivotal to the digital experience. An API offers a way for two or more software components to communicate with each other – a software interface offering a service to other software. 

One of the main use cases is to share the same backend between web and mobile clients. Another is to share data between business partners or integrate with third-party data providers. 

APIs are the web’s infrastructure economy; the hidden third party helping businesses to meet customers’ needs and seamlessly deliver services. 

Why APIs drive digital transformation

APIs are central to enterprise digital transformation efforts. By connecting disparate systems and presenting a unified view of core business data, APIs enable more impactful and efficient digital service offerings. In addition, they provide the means for real-time access to various data sources and consumption models for today’s modern end-user, putting enterprises in a position to meet rising customer demand for more personalized, flexible, and creative solutions.

As an API provider, you have the tools to shape your business and deliver your products far more effectively. You can reach a wider audience than ever before and present a more valuable offering to customers — all with fewer resources.

APIs present ample growth opportunities for a variety of users, from software developers to organizations. Businesses can utilize the power of APIs to innovate at speed, leveraging valuable user data.

Banks have an enhanced security responsibility to ensure that API transactions are secure. One option to significantly reduce the attack surface is a banking-grade security architecture. Such an architecture drastically improves API security and promotes better application design in the long term.

How to protect APIs against cyber attacks

As the use of APIs has exploded, so have the attempts by cybercriminals to attack them, and in some sectors, breaches can have severe consequences. Those wanting to abuse APIs can employ sophisticated tactics. Therefore, staying on top of API security should be a priority in every organization’s cybersecurity efforts.

Businesses must carefully consider their security model when planning APIs. Without the right measures in place and a sound understanding of how these solutions are intended to be used across the business, there may be gaps in the security architecture, and data can become vulnerable. 

The unauthorized access to or deletion of sensitive or confidential data could cause irreparable harm to a company’s reputation and financial state, as user trust may be eroded and new customers lost. Due to the potential financial repercussions that arise from API vulnerabilities, internal audits and penetration testing ought to be carried out frequently enough to ensure such vulnerabilities are identified and addressed before they become apparent.

Why you need identity to protect APIs

API security has matured over the years, and best practices have moved away from relying on API keys. Token-based authentication is the norm, but too often, a significant concern is overlooked: identity. 

An identity focus is critical for fully-evolved APIs to mitigate risk and prevent vulnerabilities. But how do you encapsulate identity with APIs and make it useful? APIs that utilize OAuth and OpenID Connect can take advantage of claims, an advanced form of trust. In addition, tokens such as JWTs can delegate platform-wide trust.

API Security Best Practices at a Glance

Securing an API is a complex task requiring several different policies. When securing an API, consider the following:

  • Use an ingress controller (or an API gateway) to protect all services of an API.
  • Perform coarse-grained authorization at the perimeter and leave the fine-grained decisions to the API.
  • Design tokens carefully and exchange them if required to fulfill the principle of least privilege.
  • Rely on standard protocols and use extensibility features to implement a zero-trust architecture.

With APIs becoming one of the most frequent attack vectors of cybercrimes, it’s essential to build a solid foundation based on best practices for protecting your APIs. This will allow you to develop the system when needed and adopt emerging technologies to mitigate new threats.

Conclusion 

APIs form the web’s infrastructure, and they help businesses meet customer needs and drive business opportunities. However, for organizations that take insufficient care with API security, these rewards are loaded with risks. While APIs present ample opportunity for growth, organizations are responsible for ensuring the safety of API-enabled services. They must ensure that data breaches aren’t made easier by the presence of APIs in an app’s software architecture. 

Therefore, API security needs to be a top concern, and it plays an important role in overall cybersecurity. With companies and their digital services becoming more connected and smarter than ever, vulnerabilities and risks of security breaches are also rising. Even if minor, API attacks can easily lead to severe consequences.

Robust API security will protect you and your customer base and open up more doors in terms of usability, scalability, and integrations. However, there are so many layers to consider that it can feel overwhelming, especially for a journeyman programmer who focuses on a single domain, such as the website frontend or backend services. Therefore, outsourcing the nitty-gritty implementation of security standards can help developers focus on what they’re good at. 

The API economy will continue to grow, and securing APIs must be considered and prioritized in the broader cybersecurity context. Implementing a robust token-based architecture will help achieve a high API security level.