API Endpoint - What is and How to Secure?
APIs make it possible for us to exchange data/information of diverse types, including the critical business data. But, do you know the point where this data is actually exchanged?
Well, API endpoint is the answer to the above question. A crucial entity of the API environment, an endpoint could be called the entry-point for digital data transfer/exchange.
Read this article to its detailed meaning, examples, its role in API security, and many other related aspects.
API Endpoint: A Quick Overview
Let’s say, a certain application/software sends a data-fetching request to your API. Then, the digital node/position you have got this request/call for is what we call API endpoint.
Structure-wise, it’s the URL referring to the path/location of the application/software with which an API call has to interact with to fetch the response against the API call made by the customer or API client.
To have better clarity on the subject, let’s take the help of a simple example.
Suppose you write a letter to your cousin and mention that you need the $1,000 for a summer camp. Now, to ensure the letter's receipt by your cousin alone, you need to mention the address correctly. You need to give the apartment details and pincode. Without these details, the postman won’t be able to deliver your letter.
In this example, when compared with the API ecosystem, you are the API client and your cousin is the API server. The letter is the API call and your cousin’s address is endpoint. It is essential to have a predefined API endpoint in order to complete such a request. Otherwise, an API call and API have no meaning.
Importance of API Endpoints
In the past decade, we have witnessed a huge surge in the demand and supply of API. More and more businesses are banking upon APIs to improve the scalability as it’s the API that allows a software company to grant third parties an opportunity to develop need-based applications.
However, one can make most of the hired or outsourced APIs only if they have a valid API endpoint. API endpoint guides an API all through its journey.
As the path could otherwise be uncertain on a server, the API endpoint prevents excessive wandering for the API by helping it locate it efficiently. It tells the location/path of the resource as well as how/where to fetch it for the API.
In its absence:
- There will be a lot confusion about what needs to be fetched and from where
- Timely responses won’t be generated
- The odds of wrong responses are higher
- The application will have higher latency
How it Works?
API endpoint’s working is linked with its functionality, directly. API-based software is an integrated system and is based on two operational fronts. The first front is a client that makes API calls and the second front is a server that accepts API calls and processes them to generate a response.
The server side is the destination for locating the API endpoint using the URL featuring the request’s metadata. Endpoints API methods like PATCH, GET, POST, or DELETE are used for request processing.
As mentioned above, every API will be delivered with an endpoint. Its details are mentioned in API documents so that API users can use them easily. But, how would you recognize them? How do these endpoints look in real life?
Let us take YouTube’s API endpoint example. One can easily embed the YOUTUBE videos on any other website or web application. To make this happen, you can use an API end-point.
Using this endpoint, you can fetch a list of videos matching the pre-defined parameters.
Endpoint vs. API
Because they are closely linked, it’s obvious to get confused between these two. No problem; let us clarify the details for you.
An API endpoint refers to the pre-defined rules guiding two applications/software to exchange information. Its location where API calls reach. API uses an end-point to reach the desired destination and fetch the response.
Testing API endpoints
First and foremost, it is a must to test API endpoints. In the context of web APIs, the most commonly used APIs are REST API which uses HTTP API methods such as POST, PUT, DELETE, and GET.
Let’s test REST API endpoints with filter stream endpoints. This Twitter-based endpoint generates an endpoint like:
POST - https://api.twitter.com/2/tweets/search/stream
Now, say you need to stay informed about Twitter’s presence on Salesforce and want to get an update of every tweet posted directly on your Salesforce account.
To make this happen, you need to pre-define the filtering norms.
By defining the filtering criteria, you’ll get apt tweet updates. One is allowed to apply the filtering norms as rules that can be built using operators. For instance, using from: Twitter API operation allows you to see the tweets of a particular account only.
For quick and seamless endpoint testing, there are multiple tools available online. For instance, cURL is an HTTP-supportive command-line tool permitting requests like send data, get data, and make requests possible. All in all, API end-point testing is possible provided you have the right knowledge and tools for the same.
You can test API endpoints using a free open-source service - GoTestWAF
How to secure API endpoints?
API is what a user needs to access or fetch data/information from a specific application/software. If an API and end-points are not secured, users might end up accessing a malicious response and, after that, there will be no end to their misery. Depending upon the vulnerability, they can become a victim of data theft or DDoS attack. Hence, API security experts suggest protecting both APIs and API endpoints.
Some of the most viable methods of API endpoint protection are as mentioned below:
- Use a high-end security platform for your APIs
It takes a lot of effort and technologies to protect an API and API endpoint. Instead of procuring all those resources from various platforms and double-up your efforts, it’s wise to take the help of a comprehensive API security platform like Wallarm.
Whether you want to protect API token endpoints or API gateway endpoints, Wallarm makes it possible. The platform offers solutions like Cloud WAF, API Threat Prevention, API Authentication, API Testing, and many more under one roof.
As the platform is capable of handling all sorts of APIs, one can safeguard REST API endpoints, SOAP API endpoints, and others in one go. Its protection profile is vast and can keep vulnerabilities like OWASP Top 10 dangers, bots, and L7 DDoS. As it provides constant monitoring and testing, it’s hard for any vulnerability to thrive.
- Always use a one-way password hashing technique
For improved security, API security experts suggest storing the endpoints of API with one-way password hashing. This is a type of asymmetric encryption technique and provides better protection as compared to symmetric encryption that follows a plain-text pattern.
- Use HTTPS URLs
In the case of web end-points, you have the freedom to use HTTP or HTTPS protocol. For better protection, HTTPS is preferred as it’s more secure.
- Bring rate limiting into action
Rate limiting is a great practice to adopt for API endpoints. With this technique, you can limit the API calls and keep the incidences of the bot and DDoS attacks.
- Validate the inputs
Before accepting any input, it’s crucial to validate the inputs. It helps in early threat detection and ensures that data is in an inaccurate format.
The Final Say
The digital interaction point for API calls, the API endpoint is crucial for a successful API call. They make the existence of API fruitful. Without them, APIs have no meaning and won’t be able to suffice their purpose.
While you put your focus on API security, don’t ignore end-points. Test API endpoints for any vulnerability with the help of Wallarm and protect them using the above-mentioned techniques. Secured API and its endpoints lead to the development of utterly secured applications/software.
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