With the rapid evolution of technology, the need for robust cyber-security has heightened. Ensuring the security of APIs is, therefore, a primary requirement in today's age, to safeguard them from the prying eyes of tech-savvy hackers.
There are various approaches to secure APIs. Here are six important security best practices to ensure surefire API security.
1. Implementing a robust user authentication system
It is essential to pay attention to the entire user authentication process. If the whole process is not done in a secured manner, hackers can take over the accounts even without accessing the passwords. Installing an authentication library is not enough; you should double-check or triple-check authentications to improve the all-around security.
2. Incorporating stringent access control
In modern times, applications are mostly built as microservices. It means that you would have more and more front-end applications connected to the API. Some microservices might also need to read or write data from and to the API. Depending on the microservices your API needs, it should only access those endpoints and not the whole API.
- 3. Safeguarding against injection attacks
Injection attacks are among the most favorite techniques used by hackers, especially OS command injections. APIs sometimes have to execute commands that come from the underlying OS. There might be many reasons behind this which we will discuss later. You might be using an application that does not reveal its API but can be used as a command tool. Using the user input as a parameter can make you vulnerable to OS command injection attacks. So ensure never to call OS commands from your API. And in case you have to, then validate the user input before sending it. You might also put a limit to the values accepted.
- 4. Limiting the data sent to UI
Usually, the whole data set is sent to the front end, filtered, and then the required information is displayed to the user. It might be an easy and time-saving option, but it has the potential of exposing user data to hackers. They can easily compromise an account and then open the developer's tool console to get the data. Only the requested information must be sent from the backend to the front end to prevent this.
- 5. Rate limiting
Attackers might find the DNS name or IP address to your API and perform a DOS attack on it. It will crash the API, and in case the hackers continue with this, your application will be down for a long time. The solution here is to implement rate limiting on your API to protect it from DOS and brute force attacks.
- 6. Implementing secure headers and CORS
It is important to define secure HTTP headers that ensure API security; and also implement Cross-Origin Resource Sharing (CORS). The CORS settings will define who all are allowed to communicate with the API. For APIs serving only front-end applications, it is essential to use CORS and talk to the API. It is a simple yet powerful mechanism to prevent attacks.