Securing your REST API is slowly becoming as important as the API itself. While these REST APIs are a mere architectural network, they play a crucial role in structuring apps requiring the use of a modern web framework. Also referred to as a RESTful web server, a REST API plays a vital role for programmers while developing applications that would allow communication over the internet or other networks.
Popular platforms like GitHub use REST APIs to allow users to log in and make changes to the git repository. However, REST API is merely a set of architectural constraints and offers minimum security from the prevailing API online threats and abuse. Therefore, it is crucial while structuring a REST API to follow necessary security measures that could mitigate data breaches and API security issues.
Common REST API security concerns
Since REST are a mere architectural front, they rely on the use of SQL injection, cross-site scripting attacks, LDAP injections, XXE (XML Entity), and NoSQL. These injection attacks are most commonly caused due to a lack of input validation giving the malicious actor an advantage to inject harmful data within the API. This transferring malicious data often occurs embedded within a form or a query or command. This results in several security issues such as unauthorized access, escalation of privilege data leaks, and more.
Denial of service attacks or DoS attacks often feature a threat actor sending a heavy bulk load of messages to either the server or the network requesting to establish requests consisting of invalid return addresses. These large number of server requests and the bulk load of messages are capable enough to render the REST APIs nonfunctional.
Exposed sensitive information
Lack of encryption, while data is in transit or rest, is one of the critical reasons sensitive information remains exposed and vulnerable. Any application that remains unable to secure information exposes it to data theft. Since REST APIs are a part of every web application, this sensitive information may often comprise credit card information, session token, health information, passwords, tokens, and more.
Man-In-The-Middle attacks (MITM) feature a threat actor silently intercepting a stream of communication carrying sensitive information between two interacting systems. For instance, a threat actor might place itself between a user's browser and an API issues token sessions in an HTTP request, allowing the threat actor to access the user's account from his computer. A typical MITM attack occurs in either the deception or the interception stage. The attack is primarily the result of a lack of TLS encryption within an API.
Broken Access Control
Access control, also commonly known as authorization, is a standard method deployed by web software to allow limited access to functions and contents. Any REST API missing or having inadequate access control could allow a threat actor to gain unauthorized control to user attacks, alter sensitive information, or change access privileged settings.
Broken authentication problems are becoming a leading problem within APIs primarily because they are publicly available and how their endpoints work. Most authentication issues occur due to vulnerable or insecure security measures allowing theta actors the leverage to steal sensitive information, leverage account takeovers, or conduct identity thefts. Often, these attacks might also feature a threat actor stealing JSON web tokens, API keys, and passwords with the aim of taking over multiple accounts.
Best Practices to ensure REST API security
With a plethora of REST API security issues lurking online, programmers must implement security while designing them. While it is possible for users to mitigate these issues through endpoint security tools such as VPN, antimalware software, etc, programmers need to implement adequate security measures. Fortunately, eight commonly recognized vital principles should remain a part of REST API designing for securing information within computer systems which are as follows:
Integrate the least privilege
Any entity should only have access to the required set of permission to perform authorized actions. However, this permission can be added or revoked as per need.
The economy of mechanism
The design must be as simple as possible. All the relevant component interfaces and their interactions should occur in the most straightforward method possible.
The open design principle highlights the importance of building a system in an open manner to eliminate the possibilities of any secret or confidential algorithms.
Separation of Privilege
While granting permission to an entity mustn't entirely be based on a signed condition; instead, it should be due to a combination of conditions based on the type of resource.
Least Common Mechanism
This principle outlines the risk of sharing state among different components. The most common issue is that if one shared state gets corrupted, it could deteriorate all components depending upon it. Developers integrate network security tools to enable this mechanism.
The idea behind this principle is to ensure usability. It, therefore, means that any security principle in any way should not become a hindrance to user experience.
It's crucial that the system validates access rights to all the users to ensure that they are allowed to perform their desired functions and are not reliant on cached permission matrices. If the access level given to a user is revoked without it being reflected in the permission matrix, there could be a security violation.
A user's default access level to any resource within the system should remain "denied" unless they have been explicitly granted a "permit" to it.
By following these best security principles in building REST APIs, developers can mitigate threats to data breaches and other security incidents.
Since the use of APIs relying on REST is increasing, ensuring security measures within them is crucial. Otherwise, a lack of security could lead to several threats and vulnerabilities, ultimately damaging a user's experience and the reputation of the company using the API and the one who designed it.
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