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5 Steps to Improve Your API Security Strategy

December 14, 2023 No Comments

by Mosopefoluwa

APIs are the fundamental components of today’s software. They allow programmes to share information and resources seamlessly, boosting productivity and creativity. However, this ease of use has a significant downside, as APIs are frequently the focus of cyberattacks. It is crucial to strengthen your API security strategy to protect your company’s data, reputation, and the trust of your customers. Application Programming Interface (API) security refers to the processes, protocols, and tools used to prevent abuse of or unauthorised access to APIs. Its fundamental goal is to protect the privacy, security, and accessibility of the information and services it provides.

“Bad actors targeting APIs have moved beyond traditional “one-and-done” attacks such as SQLi and XSS. Their focus now is on finding vulnerabilities in the business logic of APIs. Your APIs are unique, so the attacks have to be as well. It takes attackers days, weeks, or even months to probe and learn your APIs, and they use “low-and-slow” techniques that stay under the radar of traditional security tools.”

An estimated $75 billion was lost in monetary damages in 2022 due to API breaches and incidents. The average cost per breach was $4.35 million, which doesn’t include the up to $1.19 billion in fines and penalties that could be levied. This article highlights essential steps to enhance a business’ API security strategy, outlining how to reduce the risk of security breaches and protect sensitive information.

The following five steps can be taken to enhance your organisation’s API security strategy.

Implement Authentication and Authorisation

APIs are not used alone but incorporated into other parts of the software ecosystem. Strong authentication is the first step, as it requires confirming people’s identities to establish their credibility. Businesses nowadays are moving away from single-factor authentication methods like passwords and instead relying on multi-factor authentication strategies incorporating biometric technologies like fingerprint recognition. After a user has been authenticated, they must pass an authorisation check before granting access to certain data types. To ensure that only authorised users and programs may use your APIs, set up a secure authentication system like OAuth 2.0 or API tokens. Use RBAC to restrict access to only those users and programs who can carry it out. It is essential to regularly check and adjust access permissions to reduce the likelihood of privilege escalation.

Enforce Zero Trust

Users, programs, data, and devices within a conventional security model’s perimeter are presumed to be reliable. In contrast, modern distributed applications use on-premises, hybrid, and multiple cloud infrastructures; hence, a Zero Trust solution is necessary to account for this reality. The concept of a trustworthy “insider” no longer applies in this setting, nor does the conventional security perimeter. When it comes to security, the Zero Trust paradigm treats everything in sight as suspect and makes it so that authentication and authorisation must be confirmed before any action can be taken. In essence, it rejects the idea of inherent trust and instead insists that users constantly demonstrate their identity and permission to use the system.

Use an API Gateway for Central Governance

The API Gateway is the backbone of your security strategy when protecting APIs. It’s where all your protective policies and governance are codified and applied consistently throughout your API landscape. An API Gateway that has been given sufficient capacity can detect and prevent attempts at unauthorised access due to its innate knowledge of the accessible paths and actions. The first step in your strategic approach should be to set up an API Gateway and require all client access to your APIs to go through it. This can be attained by setting up a firewall to route all traffic to API endpoints through a single or more API gateways. By requiring all API queries to go through the gateway, you can add a uniform layer of security to all your APIs and reap the benefits of centralised monitoring. The benefits of deploying an API gateway include better management, monitoring, and security for API traffic.

Use Encryption

Encryption is a cornerstone of data security because it provides a layer of protection both in transit and at rest for sensitive information. Using end-to-end encryption can increase the protection of data within your organisation. This state-of-the-art technology ensures that information is encrypted from beginning to finish, from client to server. Ensure that HTTPS (TLS/SSL) encrypts all sensitive data sent between your APIs and users. Use robust encryption algorithms like AES-256 when storing critical information. Always use the most recent version of SSL/TLS certificates.

Monitoring, Auditing and Logging

Keeping a close eye on your API traffic is crucial for ensuring the smooth running of your API infrastructure and finding any anomalies. Monitoring not only helps you avoid security issues, but it also improves the general efficiency of your API. Put in place thorough logging to monitor API activity and security incidents. Use a Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) solution to monitor API traffic and spot any odd behaviour. Prepare for any potential security breaches by setting up real-time alerts.

Conclusion

APIs are the backbone of progress and efficiency in modern software development. However, they are targets of cyber-attacks. Safeguarding your business’ APIs is essential to securing your company’s data, brand, and customers’ faith. You can improve the security of your API if you follow the steps outlined in this article. Security is a continuous process, and a strong API security posture requires constant vigilance in the face of ever-evolving threats.

Mosopefoluwa is a certified Cybersecurity Analyst and Technical writer. She worked as a Security Operations Center (SOC) Analyst, creating relevant cybersecurity content for organizations and spreading security awareness. Volunteering as an Opportunities and Resources Writer with a Nigerian based NGO she curated weekly opportunities for women. She is also a regular writer at Bora

Her other interests are law, volunteering and women’s rights. In her free time, she enjoys spending time at the beach, watching movies or burying herself in a book.  

Connect with her on LinkedIn and Instagram 

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