API security: 12 essential best practices to keep your data & APIs safe

June 16, 2022  |  Nahla Davies

This blog was written by an independent guest blogger.

If you don’t think API security is that important, think again. Last year, 91% of organizations had an API security incident. The proliferation of SOAP and REST APIs makes it easy for organizations to tailor their application ecosystems. But, APIs also hold the keys to all of a company’s data. And as data-centric projects become more in demand, it increases the likelihood of a target API attack campaign. 

Experts agree that organizations that keep their API ecosystem open should also take steps to prevent ransomware attacks and protect data from unauthorized users. Here is a list of 12 tips to help protect your API ecosystem and avoid unnecessary security risks. 


The best place to start when it comes to any cybersecurity protocol is encryption. Encryption converts all of your protected information into code that can only be read by users with the appropriate credentials. Without the encryption key, unauthorized users cannot access encrypted data. This ensures that sensitive information stays far from prying eyes. 

In today’s digital business environment, everything you do should be encrypted. Using a VPN and Tor together runs your network connection through a secured server. Encrypting connections at every stage can help prevent unwanted attacks. Customer-facing activities, vendor and third-party applications, and internal communications should all be protected with TLS encryption or higher. 


Authentication means validating that a user or a machine is being truthful about their identity. Identifying each user that accesses your APIs is crucial so that only authorized users can see your company’s most sensitive information. 

There are many ways to authenticate API users:

  • HTTP basic authentication
  • API authentication key configuration
  • IdP server tokens

OAuth & OpenID Connect

A great API has the ability to delegate authentication protocols. Delegating authorizations and authentication of APIs to an IdP can help make better use of resources and keep your API more secure. 

OAuth 2 is what prevents people from having to recall from memory thousands of passwords for numerous accounts across the internet and allows users to connect via trusted credentials through another provider (like when you use Facebook, Apple, or Google to log in or create an account online).

This concept is also applied to API security with IdP tokens. Instead of users inputting their credentials, they access the API with a token provided by a third-party server. Plus, you can leverage the OpenId Connect standard by adding an identity layer on top of OAuth. 

Audit, log, and version

Without adequate API monitoring, there is no way organizations can stop insidious attacks. Teams should continuously monitor the API and have an organized and repeatable troubleshooting process in place. It’s also important that companies audit and log data on the server and turn it into resources in case of an incident. 

A monitoring dashboard can help track API consumption and enhance monitoring practices. And don’t forget to add the version on all APIs and depreciate them when appropriate. 

Stay private

Organizations should be overly cautious when it comes to vulnerabilities and privacy since data is one of the most valuable and sought-after business commodities. Ensure error messages display as little information as possible, keep IP addresses private, and use a secure email gateway for all internal and external messaging. Consider hiring a dedicated development team that has only necessary access and use an IP whitelist and blacklist to restrict access to resources. 

Consider your infrastructure

Without a good infrastructure and security network, it’s impossible to keep your API secure. Make sure that your servers and software are up to date and ensure that regular maintenance is done to consolidate resources. You should also ensure that third-party service providers use the most up-to-date versioning and encryption protocols. 

Throttling and quotas

DDOS attacks can block legitimate users from using their dedicated resources, including APIs. Restricting access to the API and application organizations can ensure that no one will abuse your APIs. Setting throttling limits and quotas is a great way to prevent cyberattacks from numerous sources, such as a DDOS attack. Plus, you can prevent overloading your system with unnecessary requests. 

Data validation

All data must be validated according to your administrative standards to prevent malicious code from being injected into your API. Check every piece of data that comes through your servers and reject anything unexpected, significantly large, or from an unknown user. JSON and XML schema validation can help check your parameters and prevent attacks. 

OWASP Top 10

Staying up on the OWASP (Open Web Application Security Project) Top 10 can help teams implement proactive measures to protect the API from known vulnerabilities. The OWASP Top 10 lists the 10 worst vulnerabilities according to their exploitability and impact. Organizations should regularly review their systems and secure all OWASP vulnerabilities. 

API firewalling

An API firewall makes it more difficult for hackers to exploit API vulnerabilities. API firewalls should be configured into two layers. The first DMZ layer has an API firewall for basic security functions, including checking for SQL injections, message size, and other HTTP security activities. Then the message gets forwarded to the second LAN layer with more advanced security functions. 

API gateway management

Using an API gateway or API management solution can help save organizations a lot of time and effort when successfully implementing an API security plan. An API gateway helps keep data secure with tools to help monitor and control your API access. 

In addition to streamlined API security implementation, an API management solution can help you make sense of API data to power future business decisions. Plus, with the help of creative graphic design, many API management solutions and gateways offer a simple UI with easy navigation. 

Call security experts

Although cybersecurity positions are popping up worldwide, many organizations are having difficulty finding talented experts with the right security credentials to fill in the security gaps. There are ways to attract cybersecurity professionals to your company, but cybersecurity can’t wait for the right candidate. 

Call the security experts at AT&T cybersecurity to help you manage your network and API security. Plus, you can use ICAP (Internet Content Adaptation Protocol) servers to scan the payload of your APIs. 

Final thoughts

As digital tools and technologies continue to evolve, so will hackers’ attempts to exploit crucial business data. Putting some basic API security best practices in place will help prevent attacks in the future and contribute to a healthy IT policy management lifecycle. 

The best way to ensure that your APIs are safe is to create a company-wide mindset of cyber hygiene through continuous training and encouraging DevSecOps collaborative projects. However, organizations can secure their digital experiences and important data by following these simple tips to enhance their API security. 

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