If you are a watcher of classical movies (or have just been coerced into watching them by someone else), then you may recall viewing a switchboard scene where a row of employees are frantically trying to connect incoming callers to the appropriate department or individual within their organization. Although these situations generally provided some comic relief for the audience, they also highlighted a real-world issue that continues to exist—how to ensure that requests for communication access are properly routed to the intended recipient.
Having a well-defined and accessible point of entry for data communication is a perennial issue that today is played out in the cloud. However, communication in cyberspace today is between computers, or more accurately, between applications running on various computers. For enterprises, SMBs, and other entities operating in this environment, it is imperative to follow API management best practices not only to ensure that appropriate access is granted to authorized users, but also to ensure that attempts at unauthorized entry are thwarted.
The gatekeepers for API access are known as API endpoints. Let’s explore these important access points with special emphasis on how to balance accessibility to and security for your digital resources.
What Are API Endpoints?
The gatekeeper analogy provides a good API endpoint definition. That is, access to an API cannot be granted without making a request to the endpoint. However, endpoints in themselves are simply locations or addresses, such as URLs, where requests from APIs are made. Conversely, endpoints also are the points from where responses to requests come. This simplicity does not reflect the critical importance of API endpoints to your cloud security architecture, which can best be explained by looking at how they are used.
How Are Endpoints Utilized for API Management?
Why are API endpoints so important? For starters, endpoints provide access to your resources. Without them, APIs could not acquire needed data to perform properly, which may result in the interruption of your normal business operations or real-time losses, perhaps in sales. Additionally, endpoints ensure that APIs which interact with them are functioning correctly. For example, it is mandatory that the right format be used; otherwise, requests should not be honored.
The most important aspect of endpoints is that they are an essential element of your API management security structure, as they provide direct access to resources and must be protected. Fortunately, there are good guidelines to achieve API endpoint security as discussed in the next section.
How Best to Secure API Endpoints?
With the almost exclusive use of REST APIs today, the question of whether endpoints need to be protected is not moot. A more useful question is “How best to secure API endpoints?” Following guidelines that collectively help provide a robust security apparatus that does not stymie operations by limiting access, yet keeps your digital assets safe from cyber threats, is essential.
Guidelines for API Endpoint Security
✔ Only use HTTPS: It may seem incredible, but there are still unsecured APIs on the internet, even with the increase in the number and severity of cyberattacks. Be sure to utilize a hardened configuration and recent version of TLS to ensure privacy and integrity of your API.
✔ Leverage the principle of least privilege: Like many areas of security, ensure that users and services of your API only have access to the endpoints and resources required to perform their job. Aligning an API endpoint hierarchy by elements of access requirements can aid in this area.
✔ Apply strong authentication and authorization: This should be incorporated as an essential of API management, which may limit your options to your provider’s preference. However, many in the industry recommend Oauth2.
✔ Apply application rate-limiting: Rate limiting is a means of limiting the number of requests that a client can make or the size of data allowed. This can be useful to prevent unauthorized users or bots from impacting the performance or accessibility of your API.
✔ Validate request formats: This may sound simple, but if a request is made with errors in format, it may be an indication of an unauthorized access attempt. Even if it is not, legitimate users should be grateful for this level of security.
The guidelines listed above, collectively, provide a framework for strong API endpoint security, which is critical to cloud security. However, maintaining knowledge of the ever-increasing sources of cyber threats and the best solutions and tools to mitigate them is a daunting task for IT teams of any size organization. Therefore, the best way to protect API endpoints and the resources to which they provide access may be to seek guidance from an experienced digital transformation consultant.
If you are seeking a partner that will place as much or more emphasis on securing your digital assets as you do, then you should consider New Context. Not only do we have decades of experience in helping organizations transition to the cloud and securing their digital assets, we also utilize the best tools for managing APIs, including endpoints. If you want more information, contact us online, by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call: 1.888.773.8360.