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May 16, 2024

How API Security Relates to Cloud Protection and Why It Matters


Cloud protection is a shared responsibility between providers and customers. Providers are responsible for securing the underlying infrastructure. Meanwhile, customers are responsible for securing their own data and configuring cloud services properly. One of the ways a customer’s responsibility manifests itself is in API security.

Hillstone Networks reminds organizations not to take API security lightly. APIs are critical to a properly functioning cloud. But they also introduce additional opportunities for threat actors to get through. Successful cloud protection requires securing every part of the environment – including the APIs that make cloud applications work.

The Basics of APIs

APIs (application programming interfaces) function as digital messengers carrying information between applications. An API is that which facilitates communication between one app and another. Applications can exchange data through an API freely. But if an API is inherently insecure, it poses a very real security threat.

4 Common API Threats

The seriousness of a given threat depends on a lot of factors. We will not get into those here. Rather, it is more important to talk about the most common threats in the API space. Here are four of them:

1. Weak Authentication

Weak authentication mechanisms invite threat actors to attack applications in the cloud. Such mechanisms include things like rudimentary passwords and access without having to go through authorization controls.

2. Injection Attacks

Improperly secured APIs are an open invitation to certain types of injection attacks. Something like an SQL attack would inject malicious code via API calls to gain unauthorized access.

3. Insecure Transmission

Insecure APIs are susceptible to insecure data transmission. This type of threat needs very little explanation from us. When data transmissions are not secure, everything from user credentials to financial information is at risk.

4. No Rate Limiting

Rate limiting is a tool designed to prevent overwhelming an API with data requests. When rate limiting is not utilized, DoS and other strategies meant to overwhelm applications are easily deployed.

Think of an API as being similar to a physical courier tasked with transporting cash from one location to another. If that courier is seen as vulnerable in any way, his risk of being attacked goes way up. The same holds true for APIs in cloud environments.

Only as Secure as Your APIs

Here at Hillstone Networks, we take the position that your cloud is only as secure as your APIs. If cloud protection really matters, it will be reflected in API security. Secure APIs make for secure applications. And secure applications take away targets that threat actors would otherwise exploit.

Here are some of our best tips for practicing solid API security:

  • Implement strong authentication and authorization mechanisms. These include multi-factor authentication and zero trust policies.
  • Program API calls to thoroughly validate and sanitize data. This helps prevent injection attacks.
  • Encrypt sensitive data during transmission (in both directions) and while at rest. Encryption slows down threat actors and makes their success questionable.
  • Implement rate limiting to prevent the number of requests exceeding what an API can reasonably manage.
  • Conduct routine penetration testing to ensure that APIs are not vulnerable. Where vulnerabilities are identified, address them immediately.

All these strategies are underpinned by constantly monitoring API activity. Threat actors are very creative, so APIs should be constantly monitored for suspicious patterns and other anomalous activities.

Hillstone Networks takes cloud protection seriously. As such, we believe it is imperative that organizations always practice proper API security. APIs do not have to be a security risk, but they can be if an organization does not recognize their threat potential and deal with it accordingly.