7 API Security Best Practices to Consider

An application programming interface (API) is a platform on which applications communicate. APIs are widespread and play a vital role in many modern software architectures.

API security is the practice of preventing or mitigating attacks on APIs. APIs are vulnerable to attacks that aim to break the application or phishing to obtain sensitive data.

APIs have many vulnerable points. These include broken authentication, rate limiting, and unauthorized code injection. Vulnerabilities like these can threaten the performance of your application and the integrity of your data. Fortunately, there are best practices you can use to ensure reliable API security.

1. Authenticate

Whether you’re working with REST, SOAP, or GraphQL, API authentication is vital. Authentication is the process of verifying a user’s identity before they can access a system.

Authentication has gone from having only passwords to multi-factor authentication (MFA) processes. MFA ensures that a user completes more than one verification check before accessing their account.

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The most common MFA is two-factor authentication, which greatly reduces threats. Requires additional authentication methods, such as a code sent to a phone number or email account.

The two-step process reduces the chances of someone gaining access to a system. If they don’t have access to the second authentication password, they won’t have access.

2. Leverage OAuth

OAuth it’s a powerful way to control API security. It is an open protocol that ensures the authorization of web, mobile and desktop applications in a simple and standard method.

It is a token-based authentication framework that controls access to the API. OAuth allows third-party access to information without exposing the user’s credentials.

3. Validate input

Data validation involves verification of incoming data types. The practice helps protect against attacks such as code injection or cross-site scripting.

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You must create data validation checks on all endpoints. These checks include validation of the syntax and value of the data received by the API.

Some common input validation methods include:

  • JSON and XML validation schemas
  • Regular expressions
  • Data type checking
  • The range of minimum and maximum values ​​for the numbers
  • Minimum and maximum lengths for chains

Input validation prevents your API from accepting malicious data into your system. The Django REST framework has great features to help validate your API input.

You can test your API with input fuzzing. Fuzzing tests random data against the API until it detects a security issue. A secure API will return an error message if it is fed non-standard data.

4. Usage speed limit

Rate limiting is a way to protect the server when there are too many requests. Prevents the server from overworking and shutting down.

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Rate limiting protects your application from attacks such as Denial of Service (DoS). As APIs get more users, they are more prone to these types of attacks. DoS attacks affect the performance of your application or even crash it.

With rate limiting, users can only access a certain number of requests per scheduled hour. The API blocks user access until the next session if they exceed the set limit.

For example, you can set the request limit for a news website to 1,000 requests per hour. When a user exceeds this limit, they won’t see any new items in the app feed. Requests will resume when the time limit has passed.

Fee capping is also useful when you want to monetize the API. You can have categories for users with different rate limits. This can encourage people to pay more if they need to make a larger number of requests.

5. Filter data

APIs should only share the required data. You can test your API using random data to check what type of data it returns. Make sure it doesn’t expose security information, such as API keys or passwords.

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Provide enough endpoints for different types of data. This will allow users to access the specific information they need and avoid getting irrelevant data from the database.

There are several ways to filter data in an API call. The easiest is to use URL parameters. You can perform basic filtering by filtering on property names.

However, parameters can only filter for exact matches. If you need to provide more complex matches, you will need to provide alternate methods.

6. Use an API gateway

An API gateway can provide enhanced security, monitoring, and general API management. It serves as a central point for all API traffic. The gateway sits between the users and the backend of the application.

man with t-shirt written safety on the back

An API gateway authorizes and authenticates traffic. You also have control over how you use the APIs. A gateway identifies vulnerabilities in the network, components, drivers, and the operating system.

The gateway camera reports API weaknesses and detects data breaches. They can also alert on vulnerabilities, identifying points where security threats are likely to emerge.

7. Prevent code injection

Protecting your API against code injection failures is vital. Code injection involves passing data to an interpreter from an untrusted source. This can be through a command or a database query.

Cyber ​​attackers can send malicious data to manipulate the API interpreter. The data can be commands to manipulate the system. Likewise, they can consult sensitive data without going through the necessary authorization.

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API vulnerabilities, such as bad data validation checks, increase the chances of attacks. As a developer, consider having the following checks in your code:

  • Limit the number of characters allowed, using regular expressions, for example.
  • Have a standard data format.
  • Specify the type and amount of data expected.

Code injection prevention can help create a trusted cybersecurity framework. Attackers will have a hard time manipulating or extracting data from your application.

Why consider API security best practices?

With the increasing use of APIs, cyber threats are becoming more common. It is vital to monitor, test, and manage the security of your API. This practice ensures the security of your data and software.

You should prioritize API security along with application-wide security measures. Identify vulnerabilities and address them using appropriate security controls.

Taking advantage of API security optimizes the performance of your application. Helps identify and mitigate security breaches without expensive tools or software. It also identifies system vulnerabilities, therefore preventing future attacks.

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