5 Risks of API Integration and How to Mitigate Them

January 12, 2017 7:51 pm Published by
api integration

Source: Image by Wikimedia Commons

Application program interfaces (API) have created a powerful way for software applications to communicate and interact. At the same time, their ease of use and ubiquity increases security risks.

Here are five risks of API integration you should be aware of and how to reduce them.

The Evolving World of APIs

Like much of the tech world, the API ecosystem is constantly changing and evolving. As new ideas and approaches move to the forefront of industry standards, so do potential security problems.

Too often API security is not considered when evaluating whether new technologies should be used for a project. You only need to look at the widespread and growing adoption of the cloud. While it offers many benefits, because the data is off-site, it creates a new set of potential vulnerabilities. Physical security cannot be guaranteed, and hardware protection is limited due to the remote nature of the servers.

You can reduce the potential risk by ensuring consistent backups and using top-level server security protocols.

Developer Responsibility

If you are using APIs in your applications, much of the responsibility for security falls on your shoulders. This is partly due to the way APIs provide physical access, authentication and other features.

For the developer or company requesting API usage, security will always be part of coding. Creating awareness about security for developers encompasses handling authorization and authentication correctly, and stressing the importance of versioning and managing dependencies.

Since architecture design has veered over time from an internal model to become dependency centric, a new slate of potential vulnerabilities has blossomed. Delegation and federation, while useful for many situations such as OAuth, can also expose passwords or login data and create the potential for security breaches.

While API developers should use every security method at their disposal, security is best molded and shaped by the API provider when the service begins.

Lack of End-User Boundaries

APIs are not in and of themselves a security threat.

As soon as an API end user begins pulling data through requests, security becomes an issue. In an effort to encourage users and provide useful features, developers often do not provide enough boundaries to limit security problems from end users.

For example, if you only allow end users to create simple passwords, you create security problems that more complex passwords would prevent. This is especially true for mobile applications, where standard HTTP basic authentication is not the best option, requiring a different approach.

End users are not typically operating maliciously, but lack of security boundaries invites unforeseen problems.

Insufficient Coding

In a rush to finish a project or program, you may code just enough to make it functional without allocating enough time to evaluate and mitigate potential security problems.

Lack of type checking, improper error handling, vulnerability to SQL injections, and inefficient memory overflow handling are just some examples of insufficient coding that provides hackers with just enough information to sneak in and steal reams of data.

Certificate Validation Issues

For encryption to work properly, your SSL certificate should be validated. However, hackers can exploit this process with phony certificates and programs used to illegally grab passwords, user names and data. Circumvent invalid certificates by using accepted certification authorities to validate your certificates. You might also consider using key pinning to add an extra layer of protection.

API security has moved to the top of the list of major concerns for providers and developers alike. Be aware of these issues as you create new programs and apps using APIs. In their eagerness to encourage adoption and grow their API, providers may not always focus on security protection. You can mitigate API integration risks with proper planning and increased awareness.

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