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API Security Essentials for Enterprises – Part 2

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.

ISON Web Tokens (JWT) along with encryption – This is an open standard based on JSON to generate access tokens validating and approving a number of specific claims. A JSON Web Token (JWT) is a URL-safe method mainly used during single-sign-on (SSO) browser-based sessions. It helps to establish a secure flow of API services between a client and server pre-identified and authorized. It provides increased security of the API when used in conjunction with encryption. A token’s legitimacy can only be established when the decryption key is used by an authorized client.  A token with information on authentication and predefined expiry time, JWT holds user-defined claims that have been digitally signed. Its portable nature can be used to provide access to multiple backend resources.

Although API security requirements can be largely addressed by these methods, it may not be advisable to use them in isolation. SSL (or TLS), for example, has become a basic hygiene technology to deliver good results for any authentication method.With an organizational policy framework in place, the approach to security must be holistic. Starting with the security of infrastructure— such as servers running on stable, regularly patched OS versions, carefully configured security groups, environment-wide VPC isolation, and role-based access control— your policy framework must incorporate rules for robust account security, software security, employee access, and data security. In order to ensure a secure development environment is maintained at all times, your response policy for security incidents must be pre-documented with measures in place to prevent and mitigate attacks.Finally, API security audits and testing should be continuously incorporated as ongoing exercises to enhance quality and efficiency API development.

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