Why API Security is Important for Organizations Today
This is the era of digital business, and companies all across the world seem to be vying with one another to make the most of digital technology. Small companies also are eager to be part of this trend, since it’s the need of the hour. In this context, every single aspect of digital security or cybersecurity is of critical importance for any business organization. Today we discuss one of the very relevant aspects of digital security, namely API security.
API (Application Programming Interface) is something that is intimately connected with the development and deploying of applications. In fact, the API is central to the new development model in which it has become very inexpensive and easy for enterprises to develop or buy applications that earlier would take them months or millions to develop or acquire.
The API works as an intermediary or a digital gateway that enables systems as well as applications to communicate and share data in a simple and easy manner. This is why APIs are central to the development and deployment of applications. But then, in the cyber world, everything that we use -every device, every application, every technology- would come its share of security risks. This applies to APIs also. They provide cybercriminals an easy entry into enterprise networks and systems. In recent times, there have been many reports of API-related vulnerabilities being exploited by cybercriminals to launch massive cyberattacks. Many big companies and many established digital platforms were successfully targeted by cybercriminals who were looking to exploit API vulnerabilities.
Unsecured APIs have led to cyberattacks that have impacted many big business enterprises in a big way in the last few years. Big names like Facebook and SnapChat feature in the list of such firms. Hackers used Facebook’s developer APIs to breach personal data of around 50 million users in 2018 while the SnapChat attack in 2014 was also on account of unsecured APIs. Enterprises all over the world have suffered on account of attacks executed by exploiting API vulnerabilities. The attacks have caused financial loss plus reputation damages and have even had a direct impact on the shares, even for many big companies.
What’s to be done?
API vulnerabilities are thus proving to be security headaches for companies big and small. So, then what’s to be done? How to reduce the number of API-based attacks and save businesses from financial and reputation-based damages?
Well, for any kind of cybersecurity strategy to work out, it’s important for a company to have a clear understanding of the size and nature of the risk involved. This applies to the case of attacks via API as well. A company should have a clear understanding of the nature and size of attacks that could happen via APIs.
To reduce the chances of API-based attacks from happening, to ensure minimal damages due to such attacks, companies must keep track of each and every API across their networks. This, of course, is no small thing; there would be lots of APIs to take care of and hence it is definitely a challenge to any enterprise. Many companies today don’t have clarity regarding the number of APIs in their network.
Regular penetration testing also helps detect and identify vulnerabilities, if any, in the APIs. Another very effective protection technique is having secure authentication and authorization controls as regards APIs. It has to be ensured that only legitimate users access APIs in an enterprise network. API compromise can be prevented to a great extent by ensuring rotation of API keys and getting users to regenerate the keys regularly. Proper encryption of all data using SSL/TLS, using machine learning for automated meta data scanning, user profiling using machine learning, proper detection and flagging of anomalies, effective system and network monitoring etc are effective techniques to ensure maximum protection from API-based threats and attacks. Using advanced cybersecurity solutions and applying them to the API layer could be very helpful.