What is API Security?

Blog | Posted: 31-01-2023
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A cover photo with the title 'What is API Security And Why Organisations Need It'

What is API Security and Why Organisations Need It


What’s an API?

APIs, or Application Programming Interfaces, are a way for different software applications to communicate with each other. They define a set of rules and protocols for how data should be exchanged between the applications. In web development, APIs are used to access the functionality and data of a web app from a different programme or website.

APIs are important for modern web development because they allow for the creation of more dynamic and interactive web applications. They enable developers to easily access and utilise data and functionality from other sources, such as social media platforms, weather services, and payment processors. This allows for the creation of more robust and feature-rich applications with less development time.

[Download your free API security checklist here]

Why are APIs a security risk?

Since APIs provide access to the underlying data and functionality of a web app, they are also a security risk, providing a potential attack vector for malicious actors. For example, if an API lacks proper authentication and authorisation controls, an attacker may be able to access sensitive data or perform actions on behalf of another user. Additionally, APIs can also be vulnerable to common web attacks such as SQL injection and cross-site scripting (XSS).

This is why it’s important for developers to properly secure their APIs to protect the data and functionality they provide access to, including implementing secure authentication and authorisation methods, input validation, and encryption. Monitoring and testing for vulnerabilities is also important to identify and address any security issues that may arise.



What is the impact of an API hack on a organisation?

An API hack can have significant impacts on a business, and we see the usual suspects in the list, including:

  • Data breaches: If an attacker gains access to an API, they may be able to steal sensitive information such as customer data, financial information, and intellectual property. This can lead to loss of customers’ trust and legal repercussions.
  • Reputation damage: A security incident involving an API can lead to negative publicity and damage to the company’s reputation.
  • Financial Loss: A security incident may result in loss of revenue, legal and regulatory fines, and increased operational costs.
  • Downtime: If an attacker can take down an API or the system it’s connected to, it could cause significant disruption to business operations and could result in loss of customers.
  • Legal liability: A company may be held liable for any damages caused by a security incident involving their API, whether it be financial loss or loss of personal information.
  • Compliance violation: If a company is handling sensitive data such as healthcare or financial information, a hack could result in violation of compliance regulations.

Overall, an API hack can have serious consequences for any organisation, both in terms of financial loss and damage to reputation and customer trust. So, it’s crucial for companies to take API security seriously and implement best practices to protect their APIs from attacks.



How can organisations protect themselves from an API attack?

Here are eight steps that businesses can take to protect themselves from API attacks:

  1. Implement secure authentication and authorisation methods: Use secure protocols like OAuth and OpenID Connect to authenticate and authorise API users and use access tokens to control access to resources.
  2. Input validation: Validate all input passed to the API to ensure it conforms to the expected format and does not contain any malicious code.
  3. Encryption: Use HTTPS to encrypt all communications between the API and clients to protect against eavesdropping and man-in-the-middle attacks.
  4. Use an API Gateway: An API Gateway acts as a reverse proxy for API requests and provides features such as authentication, rate limiting, and caching to protect against common API attacks.
  5. Monitor and log API activity: Use monitoring and logging tools to track API activity and detect any suspicious activity.
  6. Regularly update and patch the API: Keep the API and the underlying systems updated with the latest security patches to protect against known vulnerabilities.
  7. Conduct regular Penetration testing: Regularly conduct penetration testing to identify and remediate vulnerabilities in the API and the connected systems.
  8. Train employees on API security: It’s important to educate employees on API security best practices and raise awareness of the risks associated with APIs.

By implementing these security measures, organisations can reduce the risk of API attacks and protect their sensitive information and operations from potential breaches.


[Download this as a free PDF checklist here]


It’s important to keep in mind that API security is an ongoing process and it’s necessary to regularly review and update security measures to adapt to new threats and vulnerabilities.

But all this requires the right skills and tools, without which you might be left feeling a little daunted. Understandably so.

About ThreatX

ThreatX is an API and web application platform, which focuses on detecting API attacks such as: DDoS attempts, BOT attacks and API abuse. It analyses suspicious behaviour and identifies malicious traffic, whilst employing automated responses to block the traffic instantly. The ThreatX platform also collects crucial information for future attack prevention. With the backing of a 24/7 in-house SOC team, response times to real-time threats are greatly reduced, saving security teams time and money.

About Delve

Delve is a technology podcast, where your host, Lance Williams, is joined by guests to tackle technology topics that need exploring, unpacking and in some cases, de-mystifying in our brave and boundary-less IT world. Available on all podcast platforms, please subscribe and tune in each month as Lance interviews special guests from the cybersecurity world and beyond.