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Apps and Software

10 Things 2022 taught us about API Security

By Musa Nadir Sani Free Mp3 Download

In retrospect, 2022 represented a turning point in how APIs are used, managed, and secured. There was a massive positive shift in how many, how often, and the overall API traffic recorded in 2022. Organizations became more comfortable relying on APIs for their business needs, culminating in an 82% increase, up from 89 in July 2021 to more than 162 in July 2022.

The quick and steady rise in the adoption of APIs and their critical role in the race to modernize applications, fuel interoperability, and, in turn, efficient functionality has understandably led to them becoming a popular attack vector for threat actors. Particularly for large-scale organizations. They are 3 to 4 times more likely to experience an API insecurity incident when compared to much smaller organizations. API insecurity incidents result in a staggering $41 to 75 billion loss to organizations yearly. Further amplifying the need for better security practices when it comes to APIs.

API Security can be defined as the process of protecting APIs from attacks, abuse, and misuse. 2022 was thus the year that saw a deeper focus on API security by developers, cyber security professionals, and API managers alike. In a bid to win the war against threat actors trying to exploit APIs, developers, security professionals, and API managers have adopted several best practices to secure their APIs:

  • Authentication
  • Encryption
  • Data validation
  • Firewalls
  • The use of throttle limits and quotas
  • API gateway management tools and techniques
  • dedicated API security platforms purpose-built to detect today’s API attacks

Of course, achieving 100% security with APIs is impossible.

Here are ten (10) things 2022 taught us about keeping our APIs safe:

1. Zero Trust might be the way forward:

Zero trust can be defined as a security framework that requires all users, internal or external to an organization’s network, to be authenticated, authorized, and continuously validated for security configuration before being granted to or keeping access to data and applications.  Zero trust shifts the focus of security, moving network defenses from wide, static network perimeters to focusing more narrowly on subjects, enterprise assets (devices, infrastructure components, applications, virtual and cloud components), and individual or small groups of resources.

2. Start early:

Adopting a security-conscious approach when building APIs and the applications that use them ensures you cover up most potential lapses that may occur. This involves testing your API security at every stage of the developmental process, helping you save costs in the process, and ensuring your APIs remain highly functional and secure.

3. Use OAuth2:

Open Authorization version 2 (OAuth2) is a standard that enables a website or app to obtain resources from other web apps on behalf of a user. OAuth2 helps you outsource your authorization needs to a safe and secure third party. This thus allows you to focus on other aspects of your API security.

4. Flexible APIs can offer better security:

API flexibility is useful during input validation. Considering it is almost impossible to properly predict and/or simulate the millions of ways an API can be used, making APIs as flexible as possible during the building process is important. This ensures they remain functional regardless of the query run on them, thus upholding their availability.

5. Use an API gateway:

An API gateway is a tool for managing APIs that operates as an intermediary between clients and a group of backend services. It functions as a reverse proxy, receiving all API requests and gathering the necessary services to fulfil them before returning the appropriate response.  An API gateway in your environment helps you easily manage your API traffic.

6. Encrypt for your eyes only:

Encryption obscures data so that only those with authorization can read it. In technical terms, it involves converting plaintext (human-readable) into ciphertext (encrypted). API encryption can be achieved through TLS, either through a conventional one-way TLS or a more secure mutual two-way TLS.

7. Version your APIs:

Versioning your APIs is as simple as labelling each API you build using progressive numerical values. This allows you to track functionality and vulnerabilities with each API, thus making it easier to implement better functionality and security features in the future.

8. Employ a specialist, or specialists:

More times than not, the best way to secure anything is to employ a specialist or a team of specialists. In the case of APIs, having a dedicated team of security specialists with the sole responsibility of securing APIs goes a long way. The dedicated team would be involved in securing your APIs from inception till they are no longer of use without compromising on the functionality of your APIs.

9. Audit and log your API requests:

Logging your APIs comes in handy in the case of an incident. Having a dedicated team on the side to monitor and audit said logs helps ensure an efficient troubleshooting process to reduce errors. This effectively ensures that an organization has the correct data needed to improve its API security in the case of a cyber-attack.

10. Deploy runtime security:

Companies with many protections in place (WAFs, gateways) still suffered API breaches in 2022. T-Mobile (a 2023 API breach), Optus, and Coinbase were just a few of the companies that made headlines with API breaches, and the Log4j vulnerability is also rooted in APIs. Companies adopted dedicated platforms for runtime protection of APIs in big numbers, but we expect 2023 to be a watershed year for adoption.

Conclusion

While 2022 saw a massive rise in API traffic and API attack traffic, many lessons were to be learned. The lessons centered on the need for specialists, early adoption of API security practices and dedicated platforms, the use of OAuth2, encryption, versioning, and API gateways, and building more flexible APIs alongside adopting Zero trust practices and auditing and logging API requests for future references.

About the Author:
Musa
Musa

Musa is a certified Cybersecurity Analyst and Technical writer. He has experience working as a Security Operations Center (SOC) Analyst and Cyber Threat Intelligence Analyst (CTI) with a history of writing relevant cybersecurity content for organizations and spreading best security practices. He is a regular writer at Bora. His other interests are Aviation, History, DevOps with Web3 and DevSecOps. In his free time, he enjoys burying himself in a book, watching anime, aviation documentaries and sports, and playing video games.

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