API Security Best Practices: Protecting Your Organization’s Digital Strategy

API security is a crucial aspect of any organization’s digital strategy, but it can be challenging to implement and maintain. In this blog post, we will share some best practices for API security.

We will cover 10 areas of focus for API security, such as secure design, data security, authentication and authorization, and security operations. Here are some key points from each area:

  • Secure design: Use standards like OpenAPI Specification to design and document your APIs, and use schema validators to check for common issues. However, don’t rely on them to catch all the flaws, especially business logic vulnerabilities.
  • Data security: Use encryption selectively and only as required by regulation. Transport protection (TLS) should be enough for most cases. Avoid sending too much data to clients and relying on them to filter it. Use rate limiting and behaviour analysis to protect your data from scraping and inference attacks.
  • Authentication and authorization: Continuously authenticate and authorize your API consumers using modern protocols like OAuth2 with security extensions. Avoid using API keys as authentication, as they are easily compromised or abused.
  • Input validation and filtering: Validate and sanitize all the inputs to your APIs, including parameters, headers, cookies, and body. Use positive or negative lists to specify what is allowed or denied. Prevent injection attacks by using parameterized queries and escaping user input.
  • API protocols and data formats: Choose the appropriate protocol and data format for your APIs based on your use case and performance requirements. Be aware of the security implications of each choice, such as XML external entity (XXE) attacks for XML or GraphQL introspection for GraphQL.
  • Network security: Enable encrypted transport (TLS) to protect the data your APIs transmit. Use IP address allow and deny lists if you have few API consumers. Use dynamic rate limiting to prevent abuse and denial of service (DoS) attacks.
  • API mediation and architecture: Mediate your APIs using mechanisms like API gateways to improve observability, monitoring, and access control. Use mediation to enforce traffic management, authentication, and authorization policies. Augment your mediation with API security tooling that can provide context and behaviour analysis.
  • Logging and monitoring: Define what elements must be logged for your APIs, such as request and response details, error rates, latency, etc. Incorporate non-security logging requirements for troubleshooting and performance analysis. Embrace automation for logging configuration using infrastructure-as-code approaches. Embrace cloud technology for scalable storage and analytics of log data.
  • Runtime protection: Use purpose-built API security tooling that can analyze API telemetry, detect anomalies, identify attacks, and block malicious requests. Don’t rely on traditional network security tools like WAFs or IPSs that are not designed for dynamic APIs. Don’t rely on rate limiting or traffic management alone to stop attacks.
  • Security operations: Account for multiple personas and work streams in your organization that need access to API-related data. Create API-centric incident response playbooks that define roles, responsibilities, procedures, and tools. Integrate your API security tooling with your SIEM or SOAR platforms to streamline workflows.

We hope you found this blog post helpful and informative. If you want to learn more about or engage our team in implementing API security best practices on your digital assets, you can reach out to CyberPlural-MSSP.  Stay tuned for more updates on API security trends and tips!

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