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Secure APIs for Better Cloud Security

July 7, 2020

A secure API is an important part of cloud security, but what exactly is it and how does it work with the rest of available security features? In this post, we will explore the basics of an API, how it can create security vulnerabilities and important best practices that will help you avoid problems.
API Security

What is an API?

Essentially, an Application Programming Interface (API) is a piece of software that serves as an intermediary that allows different applications to communicate. It has become an essential tool for web developers who want to share data and information. With API security, certain routines and protocols are put into place in order to regulate communications and protect data. If the API isn’t secure, this can create opportunities for malicious actors to gain access.

Common API Implementation Methods

Representational State Transfer (REST) uses HTTP and supports TLS authentication to access data and carry out communications on remote computers. It is designed to simplify the way data is transferred over browsers and doesn’t require that any data is retained or repackaged.

Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) is one common approach for implementing APIs. This method relies on XML Signature, XML Encryption, and SAML tokens to manage messaging and security issues. It does require more overhead, but it also provides better security, which makes it a great choice for businesses that need more comprehensive security or have to consider compliance standards.

API Security Threats

It is common practice for APIs to document their structure and how they are implemented. If this information falls into the wrong hands, it can provide a roadmap for how to mount a cyber attack. Businesses with insecure endpoints, weak authentication, lack of encryption, and flaws in business logic can also inadvertently create insecurities that make attacks possible.

Different Types of API Security Attacks

Code Injection. With this type of API security attack, a hacker will actually inject malicious code into the software program. This code can be used to delete information or attack the end user’s browser.

Man in the Middle (MITM). This attack involves a hacker who is able to enter the system and intercept or alter the information as it is being relayed. Hackers can use this method to intercept a session token in the HTTP header and gain access to a user’s account, which can reveal personal data such as credit card and login information.

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS). With a DDoS attack, the goal is to bombard the system with requests for information and connections. Essentially, this overwhelms the system by eating up all the available resources, eventually leading to a website crash.

Security Best Practices

When it comes to API and cloud security best practices, there are there major components to consider:

  1. Authentication. You want to be able to clearly verify the identity of the end-user.
  2. Authorization. This is used to dictate which resources a verified user can access. No one should be able to gain access to tools and operations that don’t align with their role and responsibilities.
  3. Encryption. All data, whether it is in transit or being stored should be fully encrypted. If your system experiences a MITM attack, the hackers won’t be able to interpret the information. Encrypt all sensitive information in transit.
  4. Logging and Monitoring. Inbound and outbound traffic monitoring for history.
  5. Protect critical APIs with Firewalls ( Layer 3 firewall and Web Application Firewall).
  6. Deny communications with known malicious IP addresses.
  7. Regularly review and reconcile user access
  8. Isolate systems storing or processing sensitive information.
  9. Run automated vulnerability scanning tools. Automating your security scans can help create a proactive approach to security.
  10. Securely store configuration values. You could use a Secret Store to store all the sensitive configurations of your API software.
  11. Ensure regular automated backups
  12. Create an incident response guide so that there is a clear plan of action when issues need to be addressed.
  13. Create an incident scoring and prioritization procedure.
  14. Conduct regular penetration testing.

Cloud security is an essential component that allows users to take full advantage of cloud technology without creating vulnerabilities. API security is a key part of any comprehensive security strategy. That is why it is important to understand how APIs work, how hackers seek to exploit them, and why types of best practices can keep data safe and secure. For additional information and help with cloud security and validation, contact the experts at prancer. We specialize in providing customers pre-deployment and post-deployment multi-cloud validation framework for your Infrastructure as Code (IaC) pipeline that supports continuous compliance in the cloud.