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API Security Essentials for Enterprises – Part 1

With the rising perception of cyber threats in today’s internet-driven world, every organization needs to have a carefully thought-out API security strategy. Broadly speaking, there are three essential methods used today to ensure API security: basic authentication or identification, advanced OAuth 2.0 authorization, and encryption along with JSON Web Tokens. A combination of these can help protect API resources from unwanted entities— humans or otherwise within an organization. Let’s look briefly at each method.

Basic Authentication – Using API keys, this exercise is typically performed as the basic defense measure. Given as a randomized, unique key to developers, API key provides or refuses access to API resources.When a breach of terms of use is detected, it can switch off access to APIs. In spam filters, for instance, an API key blocks access when it detects the blog’s feedback-feature is misused by spammers. An API key can also help to monitor requests and provide analytics as an added advantage.

Advanced authorization with OAuth 2.0 – While API keys can restrict access to entities with the key only, this method cannot accurately determine who that entity is. An open standard for authentication, Open Authorization (OAuth 2.0), serves that purpose. OAuth 2.0 provides a temporary, token-based authentication to secure access to API services in a secure fashion.In an unprotected environment, an API key can \not be stored. Since OAuth 2.0 token is only temporarily valid, however, it can be stored in a less secure environment like a mobile phone. Even if a hacker gains access to the token, because it expires quickly, his chances of exploiting it are slim. Websites (or apps) that provide access to API resources through third-party services such as Google, Yahoo, and Facebook are a common application of OAuth 2.0.

Keep watching this space for more.

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