In the modern business world, applications are the vehicles for getting stuff done. This has become even more apparent as mobile technology enables us to be more productive in more places than ever before. But despite all the buzz about security in the mobile world, surprisingly little has been said about API security.
As the gateways that enable developers to interact with applications on a technical level, APIs represent a very real opportunity for enterprise attacks. With that in mind, how can we better manage this vulnerability?
A Standard for Security
Managing APIs can be a tricky process depending on the application and scale of the environment. Fortunately for us, management systems exist to streamline the processes involved in the API life cycle. They accomplish this is by giving us a standard way to build, deploy and monitor our APIs. Protocols provide a similar standard for operating securely within these systems.
In fact, you can consider these standards as a sort of foundation upon which we can ensure compatibility, dependability and security. For example, by utilizing authentication protocols such as OAuth2, we can make sure API users are who they say they are. As recently discussed by CSO, the looming API economy and the growth of big data have made it more important than ever to prioritize these protocols in an effort to enhance API security. As we look for new management systems or simply reevaluate our current solutions, understanding the importance of protocols is the crucial first step toward securing our APIs.
Evaluating an API Management System
When it comes to protecting an API, perhaps no area is more important than governance and compliance. As creators of these interfaces, we are obligated to provide comprehensive protection for any sensitive data accessible through them. In order to do this, we must rely on effective use of protocols to ensure identities, encrypt transmissions and maintain visibility over the entire scope of the API landscape.
In light of this, it's a good idea to keep the following in mind when evaluating an API management system:
1. Choose the Right Protocol for the Job
When transmitting data through an API, using the most secure protocol isn't always the best choice. Hear me out on this one. If your API is exposing non-critical, non-sensitive data, you may be better off using Basic Auth because it's convenient and cost-effective. On the other hand, OAuth2 may be more appropriate for strictly governed information.
2. Expand Your Perspective
When taking advantage of the myriad benefits of an API management system, it's often too easy to take the path of least resistance and rely on system defaults. For example, many systems make user authentication an easy affair, which is great news, but let's not get complacent. In light of the ever-evolving methods of cyber attack, it's always a good idea to look for ways to secure all potential vectors. In the case of user authentication, consider taking a look at ways your system can also authenticate the app itself.
3. Focus on the Data
Data is, after all, the focus of our security efforts. As such, your API management system should provide heightened transparency for all data involved with your APIs. This includes protocols for data encryption, transmission and authentication. By bringing clarity to the protocols securing your API interactions, your security strategy will inherently be more flexible and effective.
In the end, if we truly value enterprise security, we must ensure that our APIs and the systems we use to manage them are using the best security practices. A good management system with effective protocol use will go a long way towards achieving that goal.