All you need to know about API security in 2021

Web API security is the application of any security that applies to web APIs and includes API privacy and access control, along with the detection of attacks on it through reverse engineering

Neeraj Dana
Neeraj Dana

Web API security is the application of any security that applies to web APIs and includes API privacy and access control, along with the detection of attacks on it through reverse engineering. Irrespective of what an application targets, be it, consumers, employees, partners, or otherwise, a mobile app or a web app, which are the client sides of an application, interacts with the server-side via an Application Programming Interface (API). In simple words, we can say that Application Programming makes it easy to create client-side mobile app development servicesby the developer.

What is Web API Security and How do API work?

API developers often encounter security vulnerabilities because it relies on web technologies. APIs are very highly susceptible to attacks because Web APIs expose the underlying implementation of a computing system, which further expands the attack surface area. Web APIs, unlike web applications, provide consumers with much more flexibility. API security standards are less focused on the APIs one consumes and are provided by other parties, through an analysis of outgoing API traffic can also reveal valuable insights.

Some significant attacks while implementing API:

An Application Programming Interface (API) allows applications to communicate with one another and provides a way for developers to build software applications while also enabling the extraction and sharing of data in an accessible manner.

APIs can be used to facilitate cyberattacks due to vulnerabilities like weak authentication, lack of encryption, logical flaws, and insecure endpoints.

Some of the major attacks that usually happen are:

Man-In-The-Middle (MITM)

An intruder intercepts the traffic between communicating parties by relaying and blocking the communication that includes API exchanges to obtain sensitive information.

API injections (XSS and SQLi)

In this, a malicious code is inserted into a vulnerable software program,  to stage an attack such as cross-site scripting (XSS) and SQL injection (SQLi).

DNS Hijacking

This kind of hijacking which is also known as DNS redirection is a type of an attack in which DNS queries are unexpectedly redirected to malicious sites. This kind of a hijacking is also used for phishing, in which victims are targeted, and attackers attempt to trick them into revealing sensitive information like their payment credentials.

API Security for SOAP, REST and GraphQL:

APIs can have several types, and sometimes, it's style affects how API security standards are applied to it. For example, before web APIs, the standard style in use was SOAP Web Services (WS) which is applied at the message level using digital signatures and encrypted parts within the XML message itself. Decoupled from the transport layer, SOAP has the advantage of being portable between network protocols though this type of message-level security has fallen out of favour.

REST which is also known as Representational state transfer became the more common API security style over the past decade, and it is often assumed by default when the term “web API” is used. An essential aspect of the REST style of APIs is that HTTP URIs uniquely identify it's resources. This aspect of predictable REST APIs, has inspired a generation of access control methodologies in which rules are associated with the URI (resource) being accessed or at least the pattern of the URI being accessed.

The rules of access control are often based on a combination of the HTTP verb and the HTTP URI patterns. For middleware security solutions, this has been practised in particular, because these enforce access control rules that are decoupled from the web API implementations themselves by sitting in front of them or acting as agents.

In a GraphQL which is a substitute for REST, API, all resources are accessed through a single URI (e.g., /graphql). The existing web API secure access control systems and infrastructure often are not designed for this type of API traffic. It suffices can thus be said that API providers need to consider what will be best suited to each new set of requirements when choosing their approach.

How to secure API and why:

Cyber attackers are shifting their focus from their targets which are tradition, to focusing their energies on APIs due to the current rise of it. A new target has been provided due to the widespread adoption of APIs throughout the world and it hasn’t been thoroughly exploited yet.

Rapidly, APIs are becoming targets for malicious exploitation. In a recent report by a European security firm called Edgescan, it was discovered that while 81% of all vulnerabilities in 2018 were network vulnerabilities, 19% of all the exposures were associated with web applications, APIs, etc. APIs should be treated with the same level of seriousness that is offered to other businesses-critical applications, by the security teams. API endpoint security measures should be regarded as an essential aspect of the process of development, and not as an afterthought.

API Security Best Practices:

Some API security best practicesare:

●   Apply strong authentication and authorization

●   Enhance visibility into APIs

●   Validate parameters

●   Use quotas and rate-limiting

●   security in the complete API development life cycle is included

●   Practice user education

Integration of API security into the entire API development life cycle must take place, as without an all-inclusive, approach, maintaining the security of your APIs can be difficult.

APIs is a great technology that empowers enterprises to create dynamic applications which are future-centric. However, though they can be a double-edged sword, with the correct methodologies and policies, these risks can be mitigated.

Article Credit :
Manan G.

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