An Application Programming Interface (API) is a set of definitions and protocols for building and integrating application software. APIs let your product communicate with other products and services without having to know how they’re implemented. This simplifies app development, saving time and money. When designing new tools and products, or managing existing ones, APIs give you flexibility, simplify design, administration, and use.
Some well known APIs include Google Maps, Amazon, and YouTube. These APIs allow web designers to integrate and embed products into their website. For example, the web designer may want to show the customers where their office is located; they can embed Google Maps to show their location on a Google Map embedded in their own website. YouTube APIs are one of the most common APIs, allowing designers to embed any video from YouTube on their website. APIs essentially allow organizations to keep their own branding while also using another service or product more capable of a certain task.
Additional Reading: OWASP Top Ten
What does this mean for an SMB Owner?
Knowledge is power seems appropriate when it comes to API visibility. Application developers and users need to know which APIs are being published, how and when they are updated, who is accessing them, and how are they being accessed. Understanding the scope of one’s API usage is the first step toward securing them.
API access must be controlled or else it may lead to inappropriate exposure. Ensuring that the correct set of users/applications have appropriate access permissions for each API is a critical security requirement that must be coordinated with identity and access management (IAM) systems.
In some environments, as much as 90% of the respective application traffic (account login/registration, shopping cart checkout) is generated by automated bots. Understanding and managing traffic profiles, including differentiating good bots from bad ones, is necessary to prevent automated attacks without blocking legitimate traffic. Effective complementary measures include implementing whitelist, blacklist, rate-limiting policies, CAPTCHA, as well as geofencing specific to use-cases and corresponding API endpoints.
Vulnerability exploit prevention
APIs simplify attack processes by eliminating the web form or the mobile app, allowing a bad actor to more easily exploit a targeted vulnerability. Protecting API endpoints from business logic abuse and other vulnerability exploits is a key API security mitigation requirement.
Data loss prevention
Preventing data loss over exposed APIs for appropriately privileged users or otherwise, either due to programming errors or security control gaps, is also a critical security requirement. Many API attacks are designed specifically to gain access to critical data made available from back-end servers and systems.
It’s important to stay up to date with the tools and software your business uses. Ensure you are made aware of new vulnerabilities within your API -based infrastructure and services. Subscribing to a cybersecurity Newsletter can help you stay on top of these emerging security threats. Check out CyberHoot’s Newsletters and sign up for free monthly updates. Being aware of the security threats you face is the first step in securing your systems.