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How to Secure Web APIs?

API is a well-structured web technology that helps applications communicate. It creates a channel between applications for sharing data and functionalities. APIs render database’s access to clients. And through this access, the developers both legitimate and hackers, are able to get into the system and retrieve information and data stored in it.

Securing API tends to be a huge concern for enterprises. Hackers have reportedly used them to crack a number of websites. They create a path between database and clients. And if not coded properly they can pave ways for hackers into the system.

APIs seem to be an easy path for hackers to launch an attack on web based applications. The problem does not underlie in the API itself. Rather the weaknesses lie in its code.

Although they are prone to attack, there are few simple strategies that can help make APIs more secure. Applying these strategies will help organizations to mitigate the risk of data theft and security breaches before publishing an API.

The strategies to secure APIs against threats and risks are discussed below.

  • Validate Parameters

Applying strict parameters to validate incoming data against threats is simple yet effective in securing your data. Not only will it help you prevent your data from injection attacks but also help you publish a resilient web API. One should apply hand-build schemas and white lists to constrain incoming data as per understanding of the application.

Depending on the content structure, XML or JSON schema descriptions can be applied to build constraints against the input. The schema language is highly effective in creating a restrictive content model which makes it easier to secure data.

  • Explicitly Scan Threat

Explicitly scanning attack signatures can help identify SQL injection or script injection attacks which tend to follow common patterns.

Also, consider other attack forms such as a denial of service (DoS). You can use network infrastructure to identify DoS attacks. Large messages, complex data structures, and heavily nested data can catalyze DoS attacks.

You should also apply Virus inspection to identify and mitigate potentially risked content.

  • Apply SSL/ TLS

Use SSL/ TLS to strengthen defense against mal-content. Using cryptography is an effective to protect data transmission between a client and a server. Ensuring SSL/ TLS protocols in developing APIs can improve the integrity of data and prove effective in making APIs secure.

  • Apply Stringent Authorization and Authentication

Make sure you implement and manage user’s and app’s identity separately. Keep practical factors like IP address, device, access time, location etc in consideration while authorizing the connection.

0Auth, a rather complex protocol, is increasingly becoming a widely used technology to secure authorization. It limits access to HTTP and thence secure APIs against unwanted access.

APIs offer great opportunities to enterprises. It helps integrating applications and systems instantly. But on the other hand, if not protected, hackers can use it to steal or harm your important data. Organizations that implement simple security measures can minimize the risks of intrusion greatly.


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