Minimize Vulnerabilities: 3 Ways to Ensure Your Next API Integration is Secure
October 11, 2023

Ash Arnwine

The modern software ecosystem is filled with APIs. And it is easy to understand why. APIs foster connectivity, expand functionalities and innovation, and empower developers to increase productivity without compromising on quality. So it is easy to understand why 98% of developers said they view APIs as a key contributor to helping themselves and their teams get their work done. However, with the rapid increase in API usage also comes an increase in malicious actors targeting APIs as a gateway to customer and company data. That's why ensuring that your API integrations are safe is no longer simply a technical requirement, it is a responsibility that developers and organizations cannot take lightly. Here are three ways to ensure that your next API integration doesn't leave you, or your users, vulnerable.

1. Authentication: Ensuring Only the Right Entities Access Your Data

While this may seem somewhat obvious, a secure API integration starts with a robust authentication process. Authentication is the process by which an API confirms the identity of a user or system trying to access its data or functionalities.

Things such as token-based authentication limit credential sharing or authorization access falling into the wrong hands. Some token-based authentication mechanisms commonly used for APIs are OAuth 2.0, JWT, API tokens, Refresh tokens, and more.

Rate limiting ensures that a single user cannot flood the system with requests, which is typically a sign of a potential attack or system misconfiguration. And whenever you're handling sensitive data, always make sure that multi-factor authentication (MFA) is installed. This requires providing multiple forms of identification, such as a code sent to your phone or an authentication app, making it significantly more difficult for users trying to gain unauthorized access.

Along with all of this it is critical for developers to ensure they are rotating API keys regularly to minimize the potential of long-term unauthorized access.

2. Continuous Monitoring

Monitoring and analyzing API usage are a crucial component of a best-in-class API security strategy. Real-time monitoring can provide insights into potentially suspicious activity and can help developers proactively detect potential breaches before they can get out of hand.

Whether it is through automated services or manual logging, ensuring that you have a cohesive view of API activities enables quick identification of potential security incidents. Login activity, usage trends, and behavioral activity are all ways to identify potential suspicious activity. Set thresholds for API usage and trigger alerts when activity outside of your parameters is identified.

Make sure your team, as well as any third-party APIs are conducting regular vulnerability scans and anomaly detections. Anomaly detections are great at spotting things such as Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks while conducting regular vulnerability scans on APIs help not just identify potential threats, but can also be incredibly useful for finding potential weaknesses, misconfigurations, and outdated components. Meaning you can get ahead of malicious actors and fix possible threat vectors before they can even become a problem.

3. Compliance Certifications

If you're working with APIs, it is not enough for your organization to be compliant, your APIs must be as well. Compliance certifications assure that companies and technology partners are adhering to established and agreed upon security standards and practices. These certifications not only provide a baseline of trust for both developers and end-users, they also ensure that best practices need to be followed at all times, as failure to comply with these laws and certifications can result in hefty fines.

It is critical for developers to understand the use case that they are building for. Who will be using these features and applications? What industries are they in? Where are they located? For example, if you're building a solution that will be used by healthcare providers and professionals, then adhering to HIPAA is a must. If your users reside in California or Europe, then CCPA and GDPR are certifications that you need to be on the lookout for.

As our world becomes more interconnected and the usage of APIs continues to climb, ensuring the security of API integrations should be a mission critical component of the software development process. By focusing on robust authentication methods, continuously monitoring API activity, and understanding the importance and necessity of compliance certifications, developers can ensure that the APIs they love are no only efficient, but secure.

Ash Arnwine is Director of Developer Relations at Nylas
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