Steps to Create a Safe Environment for APIs

Steps to Create a Safe Environment for APIs

API or Application Programming Interface is a set of tools and protocols that are used to develop application software. APIs are used across several modern applications like mobile applications, applications for IoT devices, and embedding public and 3rd party APIs as external services into an existing application.

From the security viewpoint, dependency on APIs is a double-edged sword. APIs enable integration with cloud services and scale businesses easily. However, APIs also increases the risk of a cyberattack by opening up access points through which an attacker can penetrate your environment.

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5 steps to create a safe environment for APIs

1. Validating user inputs

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Validation of user inputs before passing them through another system is crucial for protecting against common attacks. The server needs to validate parameters and payloads against a specific set of expectations. For instance, ensuring that the input is treated as the appropriate data type or verifying the incoming content-type header, etc.

This optimization can protect against external security attacks and save unnecessary load on your system. Let’s take an example of a Node package system. It is known that an NPM package can be only 212 Characters and all ASCII. You can quickly return if the lookup is out of those criteria.

2. Protect your data

Your data is vulnerable when it is in the transaction as well as when it is at rest. You should consider encrypting sensitive data before sending it, storing and also use encrypted connections (TLS) to protect your data in transit.

You should never include your keys or other sensitive information in your URLs or query parameters. If you want to send secrets for authentication, then you try including them in a header, whereas other sensitive information can be sent as an encrypted payload.

3. Establish an authorization policy

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You should establish an authorization policy that allows users and apps to gain access to specified methods and resources. You can easily determine who is allowed access to create and POST data to the database, who is granted read-only access to GET data, and other roles and responsibilities. Not everyone should have access to everything. You must provide access to resources only as it becomes necessary.

4. Log and Handle errors

HTTP status codes that are issued by the server are designed to give further details on the nature of the response. It is helpful to have accurate and informative error codes and messages during debugging. However, you need to establish a policy for handling and logging errors consistently so that you do not unintentionally reveal implementation details or provide clues into how your server or database operates.

Research has shown that the average time to detect a breach is over 200 days. Logging error messages can also alert the team to unusual activity and hint about a breach that has occurred.

5. Test and monitor APIs

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It is never the right approach to simply rely on your system’s design or implement it as the main method of security. Frequent auditing can help identify vulnerabilities and alert you when something goes out of control. You can also employ white hat testing methods to test your API and fortify your system’s resilience.

Conclusion

Establishing protocols and methods that were deemed best by experts traditionally have now become outdated as new vulnerabilities appear and new technologies emerge. Having an API security mindset puts a spotlight on potential vulnerabilities and risks during development. Creating a safe environment for APIs will minimize the exposure of current and future services.

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