We live in such a connected world that it becomes overly frustrating when things don’t work together. Picture the numerous programs, applications, and software as an example. We all know that they play significant and distinct roles in collecting, analyzing, and presenting sets of data in a manner easily understandable by humans.
If the information available on each of these platforms isn’t digestible all across, it becomes exceedingly tedious, time-consuming, and costly to transfer the data from one channel to the next. However, if you successfully integrate these individual programs, software, and apps, data becomes an easily transferable digital asset that requires only a few clicks to complete the operation.
An API is the piece that bridges that data transferability gap! In this blog post, we’ll discuss:
- What an API is
- The value APIs hold in businesses
- How APIs can be vulnerable to cyberattacks
- How API management platforms can come in handy
- The benefits of Broadcom’s Layer7 API Management suite
Let’s dive right in!
What is an API?
API is an acronym for Application Programming Interface. It’s an intermediary element that enables two applications to understand and communicate with each other. Put otherwise, API is the missing piece of the puzzle that, once solved, enables information to flow seamlessly between apps.
For example, when you use an app on your mobile device, it connects to the internet and remits your data to a server. The server then collects, analyzes, and interprets the information to perform the necessary action before sending it back to your mobile device. The app then interprets the data from the server and presents it to you as readable information. And true to your guess, all this is possible thanks to APIs.
Here’s a more relatable example; let’s assume you go to a restaurant to have your favorite food, snack, or drink. At your table, you’ll find a menu with all the items you can have. But you can’t go to the kitchen to serve yourself, can you? You’ll need to give a waiter your order, who will then take it to the kitchen to submit your order and return it in the form of food. APIs function in a similar fashion. Think of the waiter/messenger as your API and the kitchen your central server. The former must remit the information (order) to the latter, which collects, analyzes, and interprets the information to complete the intended action (serve you food). Makes sense, right?
How are APIs Critical to Business?
Having seen a real-world example of how APIs can improve connectivity among unrelated programs, let’s switch focus to see how APIs can enhance business environments and processes. Here are the top four benefits of introducing APIs to your business activities:
The automation of business processes is, arguably, the best thing to have occurred to organizations in a long time. Thanks to automation, companies can perform better, faster, and more efficiently, leading to boosted staff morale, customer satisfaction, and higher profit margins. But for all that to happen, APIs are needed. The fact is APIs are a crucial enabler of business process automation.
Thanks to APIs, companies can build integrated systems or applications that can communicate with each other to automate mundane tasks and achieve much more than they would if they worked independently. API automation can help your business save on costs, time, and effort that would have otherwise been spent on manual tasks.
Do you enjoy creating business solutions and coming up with novel ideas and practices never seen or heard of before? Well, that’s about to get even better when you invest in this awe-inspiring technology for your business. Thanks to API’s modular infrastructure, you can effortlessly streamline new ideas and strategies without needing major structural modifications. For instance, creating and developing new business models is an easy and efficient process with APIs, which eliminates many obstacles and barriers.
Superior Digital Experience
By empowering your developers to create solutions across multiple channels and applications, APIs can open doors for better and more engaging digital experiences for employees, partners, and customers. APIs can help deliver digital services like automated data collection, customization, and integration. What’s more, as API management tools grow in popularity, we can only expect that it will unlock more digital capabilities to further streamline business processes.
Improved User Experience
Without APIs, a customer would experience a lot of lag time, repetitive actions, and fragmented processes. Thankfully, APIs automate and integrate virtually every business process, enabling companies to provide a vast array of services quickly. From mobile apps to stored credit card information and calendar synching, APIs help to make all that possible and improve the customer experience. Customers have come to expect an immediate, omnichannel experience that only APIs can provide.
Understanding API Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities
Although APIs are essential for business efficiency and offer many benefits, they don’t come without risks. Since APIs involve the transfer of sensitive data sets, it’s no surprise that they can be vulnerable to cyber threats and hijacks. Below are a few different types of cyberattacks that APIs can be exposed to:
This is a type of cyberattack where the perpetrator gets in the middle of the conversation between two parties and impersonates both of them, intending to steal their sensitive information. They usually ride on the fact that businesses rely on APIs to transmit tons of data between systems for quicker and easier processing. The best way to mitigate this risk is to upgrade to an HTTPS protocol that supports end-to-end encryption and a more secure connection between servers and computers.
CSFR stands for cross-site request forgery attack, and it occurs when a cybercriminal completes malicious activities like transferring funds or compromising business emails without the user’s knowledge. You can prevent such an attack by leveraging server-generated tokens embedded in HTML as hidden fields. The tokens are then sent back to the server each time a user tries to access the API platform, and only authenticated sources gain access.
SQL injection occurs when a cybercriminal sends untrusted data, i.e., SQL statement, to the API interpreter as part of the command or request. The attacker intends to inject flawed data into the database to execute unintended commands or compromise/steal classified information.
If your API infrastructure still uses unsecure default configurations, open cloud storage, ad-hoc configurations, misconfigured HTTPS headers, etc., you may be vulnerable to this type of cyber attack. Of course, the most basic approach to preventing this attack is to review your API components and disable all default configurations.
XSS or cross-site scripting attack occurs when the cybercriminal injects a malicious script into the exposed app, tricking users into revealing their session cookies. The attacker’s intention is often to bypass the access controls and compromise their interaction with the application.
Securing Your APIs
API management platforms are a company’s only solution to preventing or minimizing cyber attacks as they’re excellent in controlling access and monitoring API activity in real time. Below are some of the most critical API management platforms must-haves for enhancing security as well as other critical capabilities.
API developers leverage a collection of software functions to define, test and debug APIs. Such tools also come in handy when generating documentation and governing usage through access controls and usage policies. What’s more, these tools often feature a visual development atmosphere that helps developers generate code faster and connect multiple stakeholders to work on a joint project.
Reporting and Analytics
To help businesses understand how APIs are performing, most API management solutions should include a dashboard to monitor and report API usage and load. The reporting should capture critical business activities, and events like the number of data units returned, completed transactions, the volume of transferred data, the amount of compute time, and so on. With this data, administrators can analyze historical occurrences and point out any irregularities that may lead to cyber breaches.
In the process of the system’s server collecting user requests, forwarding them to the back-end services, and transmitting responses back to the users, it’s not uncommon that it may crash or develop security vulnerabilities. Good news: API gateways come in handy in maximizing efficiency and reducing downtime, so the server keeps running as expected.
Broadcom’s Layer7 API Gateway is a critical API management tool that plays an influential role in connecting systems, transforming legacy, and consistently improving security and governance to your APIs. And the best part? Layer7 is incredibly flexible, scalable, and performance-guaranteed. It connects your most critical data across on-premise or cloud environments alike.
A&I Solutions Can Help
A&I Solutions proudly partners with Broadcom to provide highly scalable, efficient, and secure API solutions to enable our clients to adapt and capitalize on the changing IT landscape. Broadcom’s Layer7 API Management suite provides full lifecycle API management, so businesses can manage web services, web APIs, and web microservices all from a single platform with an easy-to-use visual interface. Contact us and let us help you transform your business with Layer7 API Management, an industry-leading API management solution that delivers API security without sacrificing user experience. Schedule a demo with us to learn more!
- On March 15, 2021
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