5 Tips to better API security

Application programming interfaces (APIs) are the unsung heroes of the connected virtual world. 

Why?

This software intermediary helps secure our online activities, such as logging in to social media accounts, sending emails, paying bills, booking aeroplane tickets, and sharing data from activity trackers. 

A study by Maximize Market Research showed that the value of the global API management market is projected to reach $9.1 billion by 2026 at a compound annual growth rate of 31.79%. 

In fact according to ReportLinker,, 2018 saw the global API management market hit $1.1 billion “on account of increasing demand for modern application programming interfaces (API).”

There is no doubt that technology has helped expand business in several ways, both visible and unseen. However, this digital economy explosion has piqued the interest of many cybercriminals. 

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) based in the USA reported that cybercriminals were able to gain access to sensitive taxpayer information through it’s “Get Transcript” application, where approximately access to 100, 000 tax accounts was granted. 

API security is an essential piece of your security strategy. 

In this blog post, we take look at five best practices to help boost API security for your organisation. Let’s get started.

1. Keep it small and simple. 

Take a look at what it would look like to adopt a simpler operating system. The more sophisticated your solution the more susceptible you are to online threats. 

It’s essential to incorporate the Representational State Transfer (REST) principles of interface design within your API. 

REST is famous for its simplicity and for building upon existing systems and features of the hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP). 

The proper implementation of your API in a RESTful manner calls for following a set of constraints. Once you set up an easy to use and discoverable interface, a developer who just joined your company shouldn’t find it too difficult to learn the ropes of a RESTful web application. 

2. Strengthen authentication and authorisation. 

It’s important to establish and boost your process of verifying the identity of a user. 

Did you know that weak authorisation is one of the most common issues faced when looking to apply API solutions?

READ: 5 Reasons your business needs multi-factor authentication

You need to ensure you authenticate both users and applications (or websites) as well as restrict access to your APIs whether or not the information stored in your system is critical. One of the most common processes of API authentication is the use of API keys which assigns a unique generated value to a first-time user. 

A survey conducted by API security company Akana, identified that the majority of respondents don’t pay much attention to security measures. In fact, nearly half of the interviewed firms used API keys, but only one in five companies couldn’t explain their procedure for limiting access to their APIs. 

3. Set rate limits. 

Setting an API limit is an important component of your API’s scalability. If a user submits unlimited API requests, you can expect your operating system to be overwhelmed. 

You may want your developers to lower the rate someone can request for data. If this isn’t acted on, users can abuse the API and end up destroying the API which will lead to a spike in traffic and result in unbearable lag times. This will reduce productivity and likely induce company-wide frustration. 

4. Deploy bot defence. 

To detect suspicious or unusual behaviour, you should keep an eye on your API access and traffic patterns.  

Cybercriminals have three access points to infiltrate an unprotected API: 

  • directly to the server, 
  • through your web browser
  • through a mobile app. 

Technology has allowed bot developers to adopt a more sophisticated technique to designing their bots, they’re now capable of bypassing detection tools. 

These same advancements have enabled your IT team to effectively detect and block bad bots through the integration of intricate algorithms and machine learning. 

5. Turn on SSL. 

Activate Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)/Transport Layer Security (TLS) at all times. It will be important for you to keep up to date when it comes to TLS developments as they change from time-to-time. SSL/TLS guides the API call to uphold the integrity of data exchanges between clients and servers, including valuable access tokens. You may opt to install trace tools, data masking, and tokenisation. 

Find the balance

API’s promise business opportunities and competitive advantage but at the same time presents very real risks to your business and its data. 

Adopting the steps we’ve outlined above will provide you with a roadmap toward a safer and more secure business. 

Are you looking for modern IAM solutions that don’t comprise the user experience? Why not download our eBook to help you. Simply click the button below to get started ?

A cybersecurity expert dedicated to protecting organisations against the digital risks associated with digital transformation.

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