Everything You Need to Know About API Security in 2022

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Everything You Need to Know About API Security in 2022

 

The demand for Application Programming Interface (API) solutions continues to increase as enterprises adopt to digital transformation initiatives. APIs are a critical component of any software architecture, making them an essential and accessible feature in modern software development. We’ve already seen how the adoption of APIs can simplify the integration and communication between applications and systems. But, with this growing prominence comes increased risks—especially when it comes to security.

There are various security threats associated with APIs, including data tampering, data leakage, and reverse API endpoint access. In this post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about API security in 2022.

 

What is API Security?

Any best practice security that is applied to online Application Programming Interface’s (APIs), which are widely used in modern applications, is known as API security. Web API security covers API privacy and access control, as well as the detection and rectification of API attacks using reverse engineering and the use of API vulnerabilities as outlined within the OWASP API Security Top 10.

The client-side of an application (such as a mobile app or web app) communicates with the server-side of an application through an API, regardless of whether it is aimed at customers, staff, partners, or anyone else. Simply put, APIs make it simple for developers to create client-side applications. Furthermore, APIs enable microservice architectures.

APIs are often well documented or simple to reverse-engineer because they are frequently made available over public networks (accessible from anywhere). APIs are very vulnerable to Denial of Service (DDOS), making them desirable targets for criminals.

An attack can involve avoiding the client-side application in an effort to interfere with another user’s use of the application or to access confidential data. The goal of API security is to protect this application layer and to deal with any consequences of a bad hacker interacting directly with the API.

 

Why API Security Must Be a Top Priority?

The past few years have seen a rapid rise in API development, driven by the digital transformation and the crucial role that APIs play in both mobile apps and the Internet of Things (IoT). Due to this expansion, API security has become a major worry.

Gartner estimates that, “by 2022, API misuse will be the most-frequent attack vector resulting in data breaches for enterprise online applications,” based on their research for how to build an effective API security strategy. Gartner advises using, “a continuous approach to API security across the API development and delivery cycle, incorporating security [directly] into APIs,” in order to defend oneself against API attacks.

APIs require a focused approach to security and compliance because of the crucial role they play in digital transformation and the access to sensitive data and systems they offer.

 

What Does API Security Entail?

Since you are responsible for your own APIs, the focus of API security is to protect the APIs that you expose, either directly or indirectly. API security is less concerned with the APIs you use that are offered by other parties, but it is still a good idea to analyze outgoing API traffic whenever you can as it might provide useful insights.

It’s also crucial to remember that the practice of API security involves several teams and systems. API security tends to include identity-based security, monitoring/analytics, data security, and network security concepts like rate limitation and throttling.

Access Control Rate Limiting
OAuth authorization/resource server Rate Limits, quotas
Access rules definition and enforcement Spike protection
Consent management and enforcement

 

Content Validation Monitoring & Analytics
Input/output content validation AI-based anomaly detection
Schema, pattern rules API call sequence checks
Signature-based threat detection Decoys
Geo-fencing and geo-velocity checks

 

API Security for SOAP, REST and GraphQL

APIs are available in a multitude of form factors. An API’s design can occasionally have an impact on how security is applied to it. For instance, SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) Web Services (WS) was the prevalent form prior to the advent of web APIs . XML was widely used during the WS era of service-oriented architecture, which ran from 2000 to 2010, and a large range of formal security specifications were widely accepted under WS-Security/WS-*.

Digital signatures and sections of the XML message that are encrypted are used to implement the SOAP style of security at the message level. With its separation from the transport layer, it benefits from being portable across network protocols (e.g., switching from HTTP to JMS). However, this kind of message-level security is no longer widely used and is largely only found in legacy web services that have endured without changing.

Over the past ten years, Representational State Transfer (REST) has become the more common API security method. When the term, web API is used, REST is frequently taken for granted by default. Resources are identified by HTTP URIs in a way that is crucial to REST-style APIs. The predictable nature of REST APIs led to the development of access control approaches in which the URI (Resource Identification) being accessed, or at the very least its pattern, is linked to the rules that must be followed.

A combination of HTTP verb (GET/PUT/POST/DELETE) and HTTP URI patterns are frequently used to construct access control rules. Rules can be enforced without insight into and, more critically, without the capacity to comprehend the payload into these API transactions by determining which data is being accessed through the URI. This has proven useful, especially for middleware security solutions that implement access control rules independently of the web API implementations themselves by sitting in front of them (such as gateways) or serving as agents (e.g., service filters).

GraphQL is a developing open-source API standard project and yet another form of API style. Front-end developers enjoy GraphQL because it gives them the power to tailor their searches on what best suits their apps and context because they are no longer limited to a specific range of API methods and URI patterns. GraphQL is on its way to dominating web APIs because of this increased control and other advantages like non-breaking version updates and performance improvements.

Although both REST and GraphQL API formats will continue to coexist, GraphQL is becoming a more popular option. In fact, the infrastructure for web API access control is in danger of being disrupted due to its popularity. The key difference between GraphQL requests and the widely used REST pattern is that GraphQL requests do not specify the data being retrieved via the HTTP URI. Instead, GraphQL uses its own query language, which is often included in an HTTP POST body, to identify the data requested.

All resources in a GraphQL API can be accessed using a single URI, such as /graphql. Infrastructure and access control mechanisms for web APIs are frequently not built for this kind of API traffic. It is increasingly likely that the access control rules for GraphQL will need to access the structured data in the API payloads and be able to interpret this structured data for access control. It should go without saying that API providers must decide which strategy would work best for each new set of needs.

 

API Security for Cloud, On-premises, and Hybrid Deployments

API Security middle

API providers can now secure APIs in a variety of ways thanks to the technological advancements of cloud services, API gateways, and integration platforms. Your choice of technology stack will have an impact on how secure your APIs are. For instance, many divisions within big businesses might create their own applications using unique APIs. Large firms also wind up with several API stacks or API silos as a result of mergers and acquisitions.

When all of your APIs are housed in a single silo, the technology used in that silo may be directly matched to the API security needs. These security configurations ought to be portable enough to be retrieved and mapped to different technology in the future for portability’s sake.

However, for diverse settings, API security-specific infrastructure that works across these API silos is often advantageous when establishing API security policies. Sidecars, sideband agents, and of course, APIs that are integrated across cloud and on-premises installations can all be used for this interaction between API silos and API security infrastructure.

 

Layers of API Security

The scope of API security is broad, as was previously described. To provide a high level of protection, there must be many levels, each focusing on a different aspect of API security.

 

API Discovery

What you don’t know about, you can’t secure. There are numerous barriers that restrict security personnel from having complete access to all APIs made available by their company. You have API silos first, which were covered in the section before. API silos reduce API visibility by having separate governance and incomplete lists of APIs.

The rogue or shadow API represents another barrier to API visibility. Shadow APIs occur when an API is created as a component of an application, but the API is only understood by a small set of developers and is regarded as an implementation detail. Security personnel is usually unaware of shadow APIs because they cannot see the implementation specifics.

Finally, APIs have a lifecycle of their own. An API changes with time, new versions appear, or an API may even be deprecated but still function for a short time for backward compatibility. After that, the API is forgotten about or eventually fades from view since it receives so little traffic.

API providers and hackers are competing to find new APIs since they can quickly exploit them. You can mine the metadata of your API traffic to find your APIs before attackers do. This information is gathered via API gateways, load balancers, or directly from network traffic and fed into a customized engine that generates a list of useful APIs that can be compared to API catalogs that are accessible through an API management layer.

 

OAuth and API Access Control

The user—and maybe the application that represents the user—must be identified to limit API resources to only the users who should be permitted access to them. This is often done by mandating that client-side applications include a token in their API calls to the service so that the service may validate the token and retrieve the user information from it. The OAuth standard outlines how a client-side application first acquires an access token. To support diverse processes and user experiences, OAuth specifies a wide range of grant types. These numerous OAuth processes are thoroughly described in this developer guide for additional information on OAuth 2.

It is possible to apply access control rules based on an incoming token. For instance, a rule can be used to decide if the user or application should be permitted to make this specific API call.

A policy enforcement layer must be able to apply these rules at runtime. The rules are defined and managed using policy definition tools. These guidelines consider the following qualities:

  • The user’s identity and any associated attributes or claims
  • The OAuth scopes for the application and the token’s associated application
  • The information being accessed, or the query being made
  • The user’s preferences for privacy

Processes and integration are needed in a heterogeneous environment to regulate access consistently across API silos.

 

API Data Governance and Privacy Enforcement

Data travels through APIs, therefore leaks can occur. Because of this, API security also must look at the structured data entering and leaving your APIs and impose specific rules at the data layer.

The enforcement of data security by examining API traffic is particularly well suited for this purpose since data is arranged in your API traffic in a predictable fashion. API data governance enables you to instantly redact data that is structured into your API traffic in addition to [yes/no] type rules. The practice of redacting particular fields that might include data that a user’s privacy settings specify should be kept secret from the requesting application is a typical illustration of this pattern. Since GraphQL does not identify resource IDs via URIs, applying data-level access control enables you to support it.

There are several advantages to separating privacy preference management and enforcement from GraphQL service development. Software created in-house has a high total cost of ownership and might be slow to change. Rarely do the interests of the Node.js developer and the person in charge of enforcing privacy laws overlap. However, giving business analysts and security architects their own tool to create this level of access control speeds up the digital transition. Additionally, by making GraphQL services and REST APIs more adaptable to changes in fine-grain data governance, this decoupling future-proofs the investment in both.

 

API Security to Be Continued

As we’ve explored, APIs are a critical pathway for data and functionality. With this growing importance, we’ve also seen the growing risk of security threats. Security, therefore, needs to be a top priority. We’ve now explored the different areas of API security, but what are the threats that API security is designed to mitigate?

We’ll be discussing this within part two of this article.

5 ways to secure your enterprise mobile app

5 ways to secure your enterprise mobile app

ways-to-secure-your-enterprise-mobile-appNowadays, there is a substantial increase in the usage of mobile applications and the exponential growth of internet-connected devices in enterprises. Generally, Enterprise mobile applications foster workers and processes by allowing mobile computing across wireless networks and mobile devices. Enterprise mobile applications are considered emerging technology but can be challenging for organizations.

With the advancement in digital technologies, cyber threats have also increased. Cybercriminals are constantly searching to find vulnerabilities in a company’s IT infrastructure. There can be some loopholes within an application that may lead to the infiltration of hackers. To protect your business, it’s necessary to have the top-notch security of your mobile application. This article will discuss ways to secure your enterprise mobile application.

What is an enterprise mobile application?

An enterprise application is a program that can help to improve certain aspects of an enterprise. For instance, it can help to automate the company’s repetitive tasks and with the company’s communication. These applications are used in the context of mobile apps brought/created by individual organizations for their employees to carry out operations required to run the organization. An enterprise application is expected to be used by the employees of that organization only.

If you have been keeping up with the news, you must hear about the ongoing issues regarding cyber threats. It includes hackers and malicious individuals who steal or exploit sensitive information from enterprises for their profit. They perform this by infiltrating the system through the entry point and Enterprise mobile applications. We’ll see how an organization can protect these Enterprise mobile applications. But first, let’s see some of the common reasons that can compromise security.

Common reasons that can compromise mobile app security

ways-to-secure-your-enterprise-mobile-app1Many reasons can compromise security in enterprise mobile applications. Hackers can find loopholes in your application due to the lack of security knowledge in a new language or technology and a small security budget. Here are some common reasons that could allow hackers to get into the application and insecure your organization and your user’s data.

  • Lack of secure data storage
  • Missing authentication
  • Bad encryption
  • Weak server-side security controls
  • Absence of binary protection techniques
  • Malicious code on the client-side
  • Weak implementation of hidden fields

As advanced technologies exist, attackers try to invent new ways to breach. The critical aspect is creating, using, and implementing a secure environment for applications. Let’s discuss some tips to secure enterprise mobile applications.

5 ways to secure your enterprise mobile application

Here are the approaches that you can use as best practices to protect your mobile applications and sensitive enterprise data.

1. Harden the endpoint- Mobile application security starts with the device, and every mobile operating system from Android to iOS requires a different approach to harden the device. Recent iOS and Android vulnerabilities have exposed mobile users to attacks, such as XcodeGhost and Stagefright. Apart from mobile OS flaws, IT must take on a never-ending succession of app fixes and updates. IT administrators should check mobile devices and applications and ensure that the latest updates and patches have been applied to protect mobile applications from hackers.

The most effective method to manage iOS devices is through an enterprise mobile management (EMM) or mobile device management (MDM) product or devices. The relatively lower prices of Android devices make them critical to global organizations. The Android version you should use in an enterprise is Android for Work (A4W). It encrypts the device and separates professional and personal applications into two different profiles.

2. App authentication

Implement multi-factor authentication to prevent unauthorized access and malware attacks. The three essential factors for authentication are

  • something a user knows, such as a PIN or a password.
  • something a user has, such as a smart device.
  • something a user is, such as a fingerprint.

The proper authorization and authentication measures can help the application know who the user is and validate them before sharing the data. It adds a security layer within the application along the login process. Apart from using strong authentication processes, it’s recommended to use Single Sign-On (SSO) to protect your applications. This technique helps users sign in to different applications using a single password.

3. App Wrapping

It’s a mobile application management strategy allowing developers to add an extra security layer to applications. Adding the extra security layer doesn’t change the application’s core functionality. It helps to protect business data without changing the functionality and look of the application. The app wrapping procedure requires a thorough knowledge of application SDK so that the admin can deploy an API using which the policies can be set. The elements that ensure the security of an application include copy/paste protection, corporate authentication, data wipe, jailbreak detection, and application-level VPN runtime integrity check.

4. Strengthening the operating system

During the development phase, strengthening the operating system can reduce security-related issues. Application developers should understand how apps can be deployed and updated for each mobile operating system and the distribution rules imposed by each app store and manufacturer. These rules have mobile data security implications; all mobile operating systems require apps to be signed but differ based on who issues the signing certificate and how that impacts the application permissions. The best practice is to educate developers. For an app development company, it is required to consider and follow robust security guidelines.

5. Encrypt mobile applications and servers

With threats like man-in-the-middle attacks and snooping attacks over cellular or WiFi networks, IT administrators should ensure that all communication between app servers and mobile applications is encrypted. Robust encryption that uses 4096-bit SSL and session-based key exchanges can prevent the most determined attackers from decrypting communications.

Moreover, OT should confirm that data at rest is also encrypted. Network and device encryption prevents data and security breaches and eventually improves applications’ security. There is a need to ensure that the application goes through two security checks, Static Application Security Test (SAST) and Dynamic Application Security Test (DAST).

Final Words

This article has discussed a few best practices to secure enterprise mobile applications. Therefore, an organization should understand the evolving state of cybersecurity and mobility while implementing security tips to protect their applications and data. If you are looking for the best solution to protect your application and data, Protected Harbor is highly recommended to bring value to your business. With our expert tech team, we strive to satisfy our clients. Modern-age solutions include 99.99% downtime, remote monitoring, protected phones, desktops, and cybersecurity. Take the step forward and move towards a safer future with Protected Harbor today!

What is API security, and why does it matter?

What is API security, and why does it matter?

The process of preventing or mitigating attacks on APIs is known as F. APIs serve as the foundation for mobile and web apps. As a result, it’s vital to safeguard the sensitive information they send.

An API is a software interface that determines how different pieces of software interact with one another. It regulates the kind of requests between programs, how they are made, and what data formats are utilized. APIs are being used in the Internet of Things (IoT) and website applications. They frequently collect and process data or allow the user to submit data processed within the API’s context.

Google Maps, for example, is powered by an API. Google Maps can be embedded into a page by a web designer. When users use Google Maps, they are just using a prewritten API given by Google, rather than code that the web designer built piece by piece. API security includes both your APIs and those you use indirectly.

Web API security entails user and program authentication to secure sensitive data and prevent malicious conduct. Web API security is critical to the success of web applications and for safe communication in your company. This article walks you through the procedures to secure the security of your APIs.

Types of API Security

API security has grown increasingly critical, especially with the rise of IoT. Users, APIs, and the apps and systems they interact with exchange critical and sensitive data. Hackers can use an insecure API to get access to a computer or network that is otherwise secure. Let’s take a look at commonly used API security types.

 

API Gateway Security

api security

An API Gateway is a critical component of an API security architecture because it acts as a focused server that regulates traffic. This functionality can also detect potential vulnerabilities, potentially exposing your APIs.

The process of defining API security involves four steps. The first step is to determine the security goals. Next, you need to identify testable implementation constraints and complete the verification. During this step, you need to ensure that the security measures are sufficient to protect your API from threats. The third step involves identifying new assets and goals. And the fourth step is the security strategy to implement the controls that will protect your API.

When you develop a sample API, incorporate security controls into the code. These controls will prevent unauthorized users from modifying or intercepting the messages. Another step is to enforce the security policy in your API. You should use application-level security measures and check your code for vulnerabilities. For example, use OAuth to protect your API against external attackers. However, this is not enough. It’s imperative to follow data privacy regulations.

 

Restful API security

REST APIs support HTTP and Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption. TLS is an internet security standard that verifies that data delivered between two systems (a server and a server, or a server and a client) is encrypted and unaltered. This means that a hacker attempting to steal your credit card information from a shopping website will be unable to view or modify your information. If a website’s URL starts with “HTTPS,” you know it’s secured with TLS (HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure).

REST APIs also use JavaScript Object Notation (JSON), a file format that makes data movement between web browsers easier. REST APIs don’t need to keep or repackage data because they use HTTP and JSON, making them much faster than other APIs.

 

Web Application Security

Web application security is the practice of defending websites and online services from various security risks that take advantage of flaws in the application’s code. Content management systems (e.g., WordPress), database administration tools (e.g., phpMyAdmin), and SaaS apps are common targets for online application assaults.

Organizations that fail to safeguard their web applications are vulnerable to attack. This can lead to data theft, strained client relationships, canceled licenses, and legal action, among other things.

 

Why does API security matter for businesses?

Many organizations use APIs, but do they adhere to API security best practices? If not, this may be one of the most overlooked security risks. These services are not limited in the number of resources they allow, which opens up the door to brute force attacks. Additionally, APIs can expose users’ sensitive information to attackers who take advantage of weak authentication processes. It usually takes 200 days before a company becomes aware of a breach – and it usually takes an external party to discover it.

Developing API security is an important step in securing your application. This requires you to adhere to best coding practices and implement proper security practices. Some common vulnerabilities make your system prone to attacks, such as user-level authentication, weak encryption, storing critical secrets on disk, and not applying security updates and patches. So, it is vital to protect your business against these problems.

In addition to good coding practices, API security can also be compromised if a user uses unsecured public Wi-Fi, as these networks are the perfect environment for hackers. The security of your API depends on how you secure it, so be sure to use a secure VPN to prevent such problems. If you are using public Wi-Fi, your software must have a VPN for security.

 

Why is API important?

It is vital to protect your business against security issues. There are several ways to do this. For example, you should check your APIs periodically to ensure that they are secured against malicious code. You can test the security of your APIs with a tool like Sqreen. These tools are free and can be used by any business. A security expert can recommend the best practices to secure your APIs. If you don’t want to worry about security, use a security tool to protect your application.

In addition to keeping the data of your customers safe, APIs also help companies protect themselves from identity theft. There are many different types of attacks that can target an API, and each one has its own unique set of risks. For example, two-factor authentication is the best way to protect your APIs. It can prevent unauthorized transactions and can also prevent bots. Then, it would help if you used a security solution that protects your business.

The key to protecting your APIs is a comprehensive security strategy. Your security team should consider your business’s API access. It should be able to handle unauthorized access and protect sensitive data. It’s essential to know how APIs work. You can also implement a firewall by integrating the security solution into the API.

 

How to implement API security?

To protect your APIs, you need to consider all possible threats. Your APIs should be protected against attacks that might be malicious. By doing this, you’re preventing the attackers from using sensitive data. Moreover, it’s essential to encrypt your APIs as they may become vulnerable to attack from external sources. You need to ensure that every API you offer is encrypted and password-protected so that there’s no way for hackers to access them.

Verification
To secure your API from ill-usage, you need to validate users’ identities. You can verify user identity by using a unique API key. To prevent this, you can also verify their identity through the server. To prevent DNS, routing, or IP spoofing, you must implement an authentication protocol to avoid possible attacks. The best way to ensure this is to integrate authentication into your API security framework. If you do not, it’s impossible to guarantee your API will be secure.

Authentication
It is essential to the security of your API. Authentication ensures that your APIs are only accessible to people with the proper credentials. By ensuring that only trusted users can access your data, you can increase the trust of your APIs. This is important for several reasons. For one thing, authentication keeps unauthorized users from damaging your data. And when the user wants to change the API, they need to verify that the user is indeed you.

Limit Access
A good API security policy is not just a matter of setting limits. It also ensures that the APIs are secure. An attacker will not be able to get access to sensitive data if they are not logged in. A good security plan will prevent this from happening. It will also protect your APIs from brute force attacks. It would help if you did not allow people to access your stored data. Object-level authentication will ensure that your users are authenticated.

 

Conclusion

APIs are expected to become the leading attack vector shortly because they are an attractive target to attackers.

Taking proactive actions to safeguard your API design is the only method to protect your API from attackers.

Following an API Security checklist, such as the one outlined in this post, is the best method. You can also partner with one of the leading security services providers, and they can take care of this for you.

Protected Harbor secures your business using OWASP and similar resources, making sure you’re safe from the most common vulnerabilities at all times. Protected Harbor partners with the clients understanding their requirements and then successfully implementing the ways you might need to safeguard your API against common threats. There’s still a lot to learn about API security, but this is a fantastic place to start. Secure yourself today.

 

API Security Checklist

A checklist to help you plan and carry out your testing strategy:

  • Create a separate test environment for your API whenever possible so you can test without breaking production.
  • Create functional tests for the happy path first, then automate them with your preferred toolchain.
  • Using the same tools, create negative tests for edge scenarios that lead to security concerns. Begin with testing authentication as a first quick victory.
  • Create detailed documentation for all access control techniques, such as roles, in your APIs. Create test users with a variety of permissions and access to secret resources. Then create test scenarios in which these users try to access unlawful resources. Keep in mind that authorization is just as necessary as authentication!
  • Don’t think of your API as if it were a black box. Discover the kind of issues that your back-end architecture is susceptible to (such as mass assignments, SQL injections, etc.).
  • Create test cases with input exceeding boundaries. Additional attributes, going outside established constraints, and command or SQL injections are all examples (if necessary).
  • Keep an eye on all error responses for signs of internal information leakage.
  • Include security tests in the performance testing process to guarantee that any unusual behavior under stress does not compromise security.