Application Programming Interface (API) has been an elusive terminology for a lot of people with a non-IT background. An API is the intermediary software that enables two applications to communicate with each other.
This communication can take many forms, ranging from just collecting some information, to actually performing some task or function on behalf of the user. The rapid pace at which digital technologies have made their way in our daily lives, API security is becoming increasingly vital.
Another element which drastically adds to this complexity is the ever increasing number of APIs that could simultaneously be involved in a particular workflow or process. In such complex situations, it can become increasingly difficult for cyber security professionals to maintain the right balance between functionality and robust security.
In some workflows or processes, a generic identity of the user or initiator may suffice. In other, more complex workloads though, it may be necessary to retain the unique identity of the user that has generated the communication between any two or more APIs.
The preservation of identity, and its effective management within the realm of APIs, is growing with every passing day. In case any malicious actor gains un-authorized access to a user’s identity, it can be used to not only breach an application, but also move laterally across the enterprise network to all the sub-domains accessible to that compromised app.
Another reason that underscores the importance of effective identity management within APIs is the ability of a bad actor to elevate user privileges, and consequently initiate a chain reaction impacting not only the compromised app itself, but possibly other applications as well.
However, cyber security experts are of the view that Information Security specialists need to strike a balance between an API’s functionality, end user experience, and robust cyber security preferences.
Lastly, it is extremely important for organizations to map the identity preferences of each critical API within the enterprise ecosystem, and even the critical external parties. Once those preferences for identity management have been defined for APIs, it is then vital for security experts to setup identity masking mechanisms, to the best extent possible.
That way, even if some bad actor does get hold of a user’s identity, it would not pose a serious threat to the API’s security, or that of any other API(s) linked to that particular chain. With a proper identity masking / protection mechanism in place, APIs will continue to expand the envelope of possibilities when it comes to innovative applications.