Top 7 REST API Security Strategies to Protect Your Endpoints | spcilvly


In today’s REST API driven landscape, most APIs are REST based and widely used by web applications. These APIs are like versatile tools for sending and receiving information online. However, their widespread use exposes them to various security threats and challenges.

What strategies can be employed to protect the integrity and reliability of REST APIs, regardless of the client or environment in which they operate?

Table of Contents

What is REST API?
7 Key Strategies to Strengthen REST API Security
Limit HTTP verbal operations
Use TLS (HTTPS)
Authenticate each user
Restrict access to resources
Use speed limiting
Validate input parameters
Frequent API security testing

What is REST API?

REST, short for Representational State Transfer, is an architectural style that defines constraints and principles for designing networked applications. REST APIs, in turn, are the practical embodiment of these principles related to communication between clients and servers.

At the heart of REST is simplicity. RESTful APIs use standard HTTP methods such as GET, POST, PUT, and DELETE to perform predefined sets of operations on resources. These resources can be data, services or any information that can be represented digitally.

REST APIs are known for their flexibility in data format, supporting JSON, XML, plain text, and more. They allow developers to create reliable, easy-to-use systems that interact seamlessly with various devices and platforms.

However, this flexibility and openness exposes REST APIs to many security threats. As cyber threats evolve, it becomes increasingly crucial to implement API security strategies to protect these vital endpoints.

7 Key Strategies to Strengthen REST API Security

1. Limit HTTP verbal operations

REST APIs allow applications to perform different HTTP verbal operations. Attackers can intercept and exploit your applications using some HTTP verbal operations. For example: GET, PUT, DELETE and POST, among others. One of the best REST API security practices is to limit these insecure HTTP methods.

In some cases, it may not be possible to avoid use. In such cases, you must develop and enforce strict policies. Verbal operations that are not in the allowed list should be rejected. You should evaluate these unsafe verb operations with strict authorization policies. This way, only authorized users can delete, add, or modify resource collections.

2. Use TLS (HTTPS)

REST APIs use HTTP requests to access and use data. Attackers can compromise keys, authentication parameters, and data in transit during client-server communications. You can avoid this by enabling secure HTTP or HTTPS connections.

Deploy the latest version of TLS/SSL certificates to protect your data in transit. Also, purchase TLS from a trusted certificate authority (CA).

3. Authenticate each user

You should validate each user to ensure you know who is calling your APIs. Attackers easily access your API resources and data when you don’t verify users.

You can use any of the following to authenticate users:

  • Username and password
  • API keys
  • JSON tokens
  • access tokens

Make sure you implement strong password policies. Store passwords securely. Implement multi-factor authentication to ensure strong REST API security.

Consider using OAuth2 if you offer single sign-on (SSO). SSO allows users to verify themselves through third parties such as Google, Microsoft, and Azure. Users do not have to register from scratch. And there is no need to maintain login/logout or save passwords.

OAuth2 is an authorization protocol that allows users to secure access to resources. It works using access tokens. Although it does not directly handle authentication, it helps in the process.

4. Restrict access to resources

This is one of the best ways to protect API endpoints at rest. When users have sufficient access to API resources, it can prevent various API attacks.

Use pagination when APIs return large volumes of data. With pagination, you limit the data that clients can access in a single request. Otherwise, attackers can cause crashes and downtime by requesting all resources in a single request.

Create content security policies (CSP) to prevent unauthorized access. Define what types of content are allowed in your REST API. The server should reject such requests outright if there are discrepancies between the allowed and requested content types. Doing so can prevent different lethal attacks, including XSS attacks.

5. Use rate limiting

Another important strategy is to use rate capping. Without speed limitation, users can submit voluminous requests in short periods of time. These floods of requests cause the API to become unresponsive. The API is no longer available to genuine users.

With rate limits, users cannot exceed the defined number of requests within a specific time period. If they do, your access to the API will be temporarily blocked. Rate limiting helps prevent certain types of DDoS and DoS attacks, brute force attacks, etc.

6. Validate input parameters

REST APIs pass information from the client to the server using

  • Path
  • Request body
  • Consultation
  • Header parameters

You must validate the inputs of each parameter before reaching the application logic/server. This is critical to protecting the REST API. Use strong input validation controls and reject all requests that fail these tests.

Consider these three main validation practices:

Implement positive security models: This approach focuses on defining hard limits for API input using Swagger files (OpenAPI Specifications). Whitelists allowed input values ​​or patterns, ensuring that only valid data is processed and effectively blocks non-compliant data.

In AppTrana WAAP, DevSecOps teams have the ability to perform vulnerability scans on APIs and request positive security policies for each individual API endpoint.

Validate data attributes: Ensure that the input data matches the expected criteria by validating the type, format, range, and length of the data. This protects against common security issues, such as injection attacks, and maintains data integrity.

Use validation libraries: Take advantage of validation libraries and frameworks available in modern programming languages ​​(e.g. Django validators for Python, Express validator for Node.js). These simplify input validation, cover various scenarios, and support custom validation rules.

7. Frequent API Security Testing

Consistently perform security assessments for your APIs, including activities such as penetration testing, vulnerability scanning, and code reviews, to detect and rectify potential security issues.

When using the Indusface Infinite API ScannerYou can access unlimited scans, covering manual penetration and revalidation testing, all under a single license.


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