How to expose your APIs securely

Are you worried about exposing your APIs securely? With the proliferation of APIs in recent years, hackers and cybercriminals have taken a keen interest in discovering how they can exploit poor API security. Even without bad actors getting involved, poor API security can lead to accidental data leaks, damaging your company’s reputation and destroying customer trust. 

But fear not. You can do plenty to ensure you have comprehensive, reliable API security in place. Our recent research into the state of API security examined 13 best practices that companies are carrying out to achieve API reliability and security. At the top of the list is getting authentication and authorization right. 

Understanding API authentication and authorization 

API authentication is the process of verifying the identity of the client attempting to make a connection. It’s a crucial method of controlling the data transmitted using your APIs. 

Authorization is the process of verifying which applications, files and data that person can access.

Authentication and authorization are fundamental to robust API security, as they control who can access what. Authorization practices are well understood, with organisations commonly using open authorization standards to classify the data resources under their APIs. 

However, the same cannot be said for authentication. 

Getting to grips with authentication

The traditional username and password approach to authentication could be better. Passwords can be leaked, and users are often irritated by the need to enter them repeatedly. Both in API security terms and from a user experience perspective, it simply won’t suffice. 

Yet how do organisations move beyond usernames and passwords securely? Many small- and medium-sized enterprises we discussed this with have turned to token-based authentication as their solution. This provides the potential to enhance security and automate elements, such as the expiry and re-allocation of tokens after set periods.

Larger organisations are also turning to Zero Trust methodologies to support the security of their authentication and authorisation practices. These commonly include:

  • Continuous unit and integration testing and monitoring of datasets and APIs. This ensures that authentication and authorization are effectively in place across all the potential doorways to data
  • Applying no distinction between users inside or outside an organisation’s network. This enables individuals and devices trying to access an API to be continuously validated.

The benefits of Zero Trust best practices in API security terms are clear, particularly for highly regulated industries such as healthcare and finance. They enable organisations to implement the highest levels of access control and security. 

That said, building a Zero Trust network from the ground up in a medium- or large-scale organization is highly technical and often challenging. Organisations must deal with an ever-expanding and changing landscape of devices and users while also racing to market first. It’s too easy for a Zero Trust strategy to be undermined by human error and a lack of attention to the high-quality, standardised implementation of authentication and authorization. 

The result is inadequate security – precisely where the organisation was at when using usernames and passwords. 

API management to the rescue 

An API management tool can address these issues. Providing an abstracted layer on top of an organisation’s APIs can add an extra level of security assurance and create a separation of concerns. 

The API management platform oversees authentication and authorization. This enables internal teams to focus on the business logic of their APIs rather than getting caught up in security concerns. It’s a neat, simple and cost-effective solution. 

Find out more about authentication and authorisation with Tyk or book a personalised demo to see just how easy it can be to tick API security off your list of things to worry about.