API Security Best Practices To Protect Your Data

7 minute read | 24 Oct 2023

By Boomi

Today’s digital environment is full of fraud, hacking, and other cyberattacks on sensitive data. The growing use of APIs for data exchange has introduced new security challenges. This blog focuses on the critical importance of API security and offers insights into best practices for protecting your data. By providing practical guidance, we aim to help you fortify your digital defenses and create safe, well-protected APIs. API security is not optional in a world rife with data breaches and attacks. It’s a necessity.

What Is API Security?

An API (Application Programming Interface) serves as a set of protocols, routines, and tools that enable different software applications to communicate with each other. API security refers to protecting these interfaces from potential threats and vulnerabilities.

APIs are pivotal in modern data transmission and communication, bridging diverse systems and allowing them to exchange information seamlessly. They are the behind-the-scenes foundation of how everyone interacts with technology on a daily basis. APIs empower businesses to integrate services, access third-party functionalities, and foster innovation.

However, the widespread use of APIs has also made them a prime target for cyberattacks. Organizations use the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) standards to address these challenges. These are a set of security methodologies and best practices advocated by the OWASP online community.

OWASP standards offer guidance on safeguarding APIs against common vulnerabilities like injection attacks, authentication issues, and data exposure. This ensures data confidentiality, integrity, and availability in today’s interconnected digital landscape.

Why API Security Is Important

API security is crucial for many reasons, across all business sectors.  For instance, in the healthcare sector, it safeguards Personally Identifiable Information (PII), ensuring patient privacy and compliance with regulations like HIPAA. APIs often handle confidential information and trade secrets, making their protection critical to maintaining competitive advantages and safeguarding sensitive data.

Beyond data, API security extends to protecting the underlying infrastructure, preventing potential attacks that could sabotage operations and damage an organization’s reputation. Ensuring API security is not just a good idea. In some instances, it’s a legal requirement.

Compliance with industry-specific regulations such as FedRAMP, SOC 1 and SOC 2, and PCI DSS is mandatory, and robust API security is indispensable in meeting these standards. Failure to comply risks legal consequences and jeopardizes trust with customers and partners. API security is the linchpin that upholds data privacy, corporate integrity, and regulatory adherence.  Simply put, your organization cannot function without good API security.

Common API Security Threats

API security threats come in many different forms. Here are some of the most common ones.

Injection Attacks

Injection attacks occur when malicious code or data is injected into an application through an API, exploiting vulnerabilities to execute unauthorized commands. For example, SQL injection involves manipulating input to access or modify a database, potentially exposing sensitive information.

Stolen Authentication/Authorization Vulnerabilities

These vulnerabilities arise when attackers access legitimate user credentials or tokens, enabling them to impersonate authorized users or access privileged resources through the API. Stolen tokens or passwords can lead to unauthorized data access or manipulation.

Cross-Site Forgery (CSRF)

CSRF involves tricking users into unknowingly executing actions on a different website with their authenticated credentials. Attackers can use CSRF to perform malicious actions on an API on behalf of an authenticated user without their consent, potentially compromising data or performing unauthorized activities.

Denial of Service (DoS) Attacks

DoS attacks overwhelm an API by flooding it with excessive requests or malicious traffic, causing the service to become unresponsive or unavailable. This disrupts legitimate access and can lead to service downtime or degradation.

Insecure Data Storage and Transmission

Insecure data storage and transmission refer to vulnerabilities in how an API stores or transmits data. This includes failing to encrypt sensitive data by not adequately securely storing credentials, making it easier for attackers to intercept and misuse sensitive information during data transfer or storage.

Seven API Security Best Practices

Knowledge about the types of threats your organization faces from poor API security is only half the battle. You must know how to address these threats through API security best practices.

  1. Implement Strong Authentication. Strong authentication involves verifying the identity of users or applications accessing the API. This can include using API keys, tokens, or Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA).
  2. Use Proper Authorization Controls. Proper authorization controls, such as Role-Based Access Control (RBAC), ensure that authenticated users or systems have the appropriate permissions to access specific resources through the API. Regularly reviewing and updating these permissions is crucial to maintaining a secure API environment and preventing unauthorized access.
  3. Input Data Validation and Sanitization. Secure data transmission involves encrypting data in transit, ensuring that sensitive information is protected while being sent between clients and the API. Using protocols like HTTPS secures the data flow.
  4. Rate Limiting. Rate limiting restricts the number of API requests a user or application can make within a specific timeframe. This helps mitigate the risk of Denial of Service (DoS) attacks and prevents API abuse.
  5. Implement Security Logging and Monitoring. Security logging and monitoring involve capturing and analyzing activity logs related to API access. This practice helps identify and respond to suspicious behavior or potential security breaches quickly enough to mitigate these threats.
  6. Patch Management and Updated Software for APIs. Regularly updating and patching the API’s software and dependencies is essential to address known vulnerabilities and maintain the system’s overall security.
  7. Secure API Keys. Storing API keys securely prevents unauthorized access. Best practices here include rotating keys regularly, revoking access for compromised keys, and restricting key access to only what is necessary for each application or user.

Centralizing API Security

Another key feature of API gateways is their ability to centralize security. They serve as central hubs for security policy management, streamlining the implementation of protective measures across all APIs. By creating a centralized location for API security, these gateways ensure uniform and rigorous protection, guarding against unauthorized access and emerging cyber threats.

Acting as an intermediary layer, API gateways orchestrate the secure data flow between external clients and internal services. They also efficiently consolidate and enforce essential security measures, making them indispensable safeguards that empower organizations to maintain flexibility and agility while fortifying their cybersecurity posture.

The resilience of your digital operations hinges on effective security practices. Protect your users’ data confidently by choosing Boomi, the most secure integration and API management platform. With robust encryption, authentication, and access controls, Boomi ensures that your data remains safe and compliant, empowering you to focus on innovation and growth while safeguarding your most valuable asset – customer trust.

To see how Boomi can help with all your integration and API management needs, request a demo today!