How to secure your API communication

Written by: Balasys

Created: 2020-02-06

In order to understand why API security is so important today, we need to understand how APIs work, and what they are good for.

In the life of any business, it is essential to provide secure and reliable services to their customers and partners in order to keep their financial, personal or other confidential data safe. With the ever-growing number of IoT and microservice providers and our heightened online security awareness, it is vital to make public-facing APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) more secure than ever before. But how can a company or a developer team make sure their API environment is hackerproof? Let’s dive into the details!

How does an API work?

In order to understand why API security is so important today, we need to understand how APIs work, and what they are good for. So, let’s start at the beginning.

Maybe it is easiest to explain how an API works if we use the analogy of watching TV. Imagine that you are at home, relaxing and watching TV, browsing the programs on each channel. You are most probably using a remote control to switch between these channels. An API behaves like this remote control. It shows you different buttons (endpoints), whose capabilities you are aware of, and by pushing them the remote makes the TV do what you intended. In a nutshell, the remote makes the actions of the TV accessible to you, and this is exactly what an API does. The users don’t understand how the API works and don’t need to understand it – they simply click on a button they want, and the software does the rest.

Maybe it is easiest to explain how an API works if we use the analogy of watching TV. Imagine that you are at home, relaxing and watching TV, browsing the programs on each channel. You are most probably using a remote control to switch between these channels. An API behaves like this remote control. It shows you different buttons (endpoints), whose capabilities you are aware of, and by pushing them the remote makes the TV do what you intended. In a nutshell, the remote makes the actions of the TV accessible to you, and this is exactly what an API does. The users don’t understand how the API works and don’t need to understand it – they simply click on a button they want, and the software does the rest.

how-to-secure-your-API-communication.png

What are API communication channels and what are they good for?

APIs use communication channels to collect certain data from the users in exchange for the functionality they offer as a service. There are various kinds of communication channels. For example, they could be a pop-up form, login platform, online payment service, integrated live chat, push notification, CRM system, social media share buttons or a custom-made monthly report. With the use of these channels and the information provided, the company can make sure that they offer personalized customer experience, support and developments. These channels are essential for the smooth operation and maintenance of the enterprise, because communication channels help them to collect payment for the service and market their solutions.

Why are API channels critical from a data security point of view?

As you can see from the above examples, API channels are used to transfer all kinds of information between the end-user and the company servers. These range from confidential contracts through credit card information to personal data such as names and email addresses. If these get into the hands of malicious actors who take advantage of a vulnerability, the acquired data can be used for their own purposes, such as initiating a money transfer, making online purchases or getting involved in illegal online activities in someone else’s name. If a data breach like this occurs, the hacked company can lose a significant segment of its customer base, not to mention the rapid collapse of its reputation and a potentially heavy financial penalty.

How can you make sure what type of data is passing through API channels?

In order to make sure that all data flowing through the API is correct and free from any malware, enterprises need to equip their API infrastructures with an API security gateway that protects not only the interests of the company but also the privacy of its customers. API gateways are empowered with many advanced security features that aim to hinder hackers from accessing managed data and ensure only proper requests can reach the server and database. Which functions can help organizations control information passing through the API?

  • Request and content validation
  • Authentication and authorization
  • Traffic encryption
  • Content filtering (anti-malware)
  • Traffic manipulation and transformation

How can we detect malicious activity in API traffic?

Preventing hackers from accessing confidential data and validating transferred content is just the first step towards reaching the adequate level of API security. What if you have done everything and some tricky malware or a malicious user still bypasses your first line of defense? With the following security features and measures, you can still detect malicious activity in API traffic before it does any harm:

  • Properly defined API-security policies
  • Security and audit logging, focusing on access requests and transactions
  • Monitoring encrypted HTTPs channels
  • Data modification

All the above-mentioned security features work in close cooperation with each other to prevent data breaches originated from phishing, XSS (Cross-site Scripting), or (D)DOS attacks, by monitoring, validating and analyzing data that is moving back and forth through the API.

Conclusion

All things considered, today no enterprise that handles personal, governmental or any other type of confidential data can neglect the topic of API security, because even the smallest level of ignorance could end up with them paying the consequences, big time. It is always better to be safe than sorry, which is why we advise organizations to consider API security in the first phase of their software development projects.

Due to their advanced security features such as authentication, log analysis, encryption, content filtering, and validation, API security gateways are perfect tools for ensuring data security and detecting malicious activity at an early stage. If you also agree that exposing yourself to API security issues is not a risk worth taking, try Balasys' Proxedo API Security, which empowers you with its first-class solutions to make your APIs impenetrable. Learn more here: https://www.balasys.hu/en/proxedo-api-security.html

Related Posts

Miért fontos az API-Biztonság?

Miért fontos az API-Biztonság?

2021-02-02

A digitális átalakulás korában kiemelt szerepet kap az ügyfelek, a cégek és a partnerek közötti gyors kapcsolattartás és adatcsere.

Complement web application firewalls and API management

Complement web application firewalls and API management

2020-10-29

A Proxedo API Security use case

What’s new in Balasys Zorp Gateway 7.0.5

What’s new in Balasys Zorp Gateway 7.0.5

2020-03-17

Key new features that have been added to the product since the 6.0. release