CISOs Playbook to Harden Application Programming Interface (APIs) Cyber Security


Digital transformation initiatives of enterprises have resulted in higher adoption of APIs in their tech stack.

Irrespective of the immense benefits to enterprises, APIs expose business applications to various cyber risks and vulnerabilities

A recent report by Salt Security titled “State of API Security Report Q3 2022” suggests that nearly 61% of the survey respondents do not have any API security strategy or only have a basic plan in place. Moreover, the survey also highlights that nearly 94% of the respondents have witnessed security problems in the production APIs. SecOps teams need to be vigilant while managing the APIs to protect the IT infrastructure from various threats and risks.

Also Read: What Enterprises Need to Know About DevSecOps

Here are a few strategies that CISOs can consider to harden their application programming interfaces and cybersecurity postures:

API encryption

Enterprises need to encrypt their API codes to code internal and external communications. It is one of the most effective ways to protect sensitive information from malicious actors. CISOs should consider partnering with all the vendors to develop Transport Layer Security (TSL) to protect their organizations from various cyber-attacks. Enterprises can either establish one-way or two-way encryption protocols depending on their needs to harden the application programming interface. SecOps teams need to be equipped with advanced TLS versions to ensure enhanced encryption.

Authenticate the application programming interface requests

It is crucial for businesses to verify each and every API request that is raised to minimize the risks associated with them. SecOps teams need to scrutinize all the requests to pull off the mask and their malicious intentions before applying them. Enterprises should have a clear understanding of which user is requesting the APIs. Implementing basic HTTP authentication enables businesses to verify the user through a user ID and password. Businesses also can deploy an application programming interface key if the user requires a separate identifier configured for all API and known gateways. Moreover, organizations can adopt OAuth 2 protocol to generate a token through an identity provider server. CISOs should consider implementing an asymmetric API key or basic access authentication to harden the systems.

Also Read: Cybersecurity in 2022 – Addressing the Barriers to Passwordless Authentication

Build a resilient API firewall

CISOs should consider developing a resilient firewall that helps businesses to overcome data migration challenges. Enterprises can add a security layer of API firewall in the DMZ to manage basic security processes such as message size, SQL injections, and other security based on the HTTP layer. It is one of the most effective ways to identify and block intruders in the early stages of infiltration. After evaluating the message in the first security layer, it can be forwarded to the second layer. SecOps teams can add an additional security layer to the LAN with robust security protocols on data management. Adding effective firewalls will help enterprises to add additional security layers to harden the application programming interface.

Efficient gateway management

One of the most effective ways to secure APIs in the IT infrastructure is to develop and implement robust API gateway tools and management policies. CISOs can explore, evaluate and implement a robust API gateway that enables them to secure, manage and track the traffic. A robust API gateway management tool will help businesses to make more sense of the data gathered to ensure accurate technical and business decisions. According to the same report by Salt Security, respondents have witnessed a nearly 117% hike in malicious API traffic over the last year. SecOps teams that have API gateways integrated into the tech stack can minimize the malicious traffic.

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