What is API security?

API security is the protection of application programming interfaces (APIs) from cyberattacks. Along with web applications, APIs are the engines of digital transformation—but they are also highly vulnerable to attack. From SQL injections to server misconfigurations, there is no shortage of cybersecurity threats that can leave APIs exposed to harm, resulting in costly data breaches and sharp reductions in productivity. API security features such as API discovery and API abuse help mitigate these security risks, while working in tandem with other security mechanisms such as bot management and web application firewalls (WAF) to holistically protect all operating environments.

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What should an API security solution deliver?

As IT environments become more complex, so does securing all of the APIs that connect the essential components and facilitate client access.

Environments now span multiple clouds and application architectures, incorporate open source platforms such as Kubernetes, and serve more remote employees. The result is a new set of challenges in ensuring sufficient API security. In this context, a suitable API security solution can be cloud-delivered or on-premises, with functionality including but not limited to:

  • Protection for both monolithic and newer microservice-based APIs
  • Botnet mitigation to prevent API misuse and abuse
  • Integration with a WAF to thwart XSS attacks and SQL injections
  • Discovery and inventory of your APIs through automation
  • Security analytics and user behavior analytics including API abuse detection
  • API security against JSON- and XML-based threats and buffer overflows, as well as volumetric and layer 4-7 DDoS protection
  • Centralized and highly configurable management of security policies
  • A unified management portal with full visibility into security governance across clouds
  • Ultra-low latency and consistent protection for apps, no matter their locations
  • A proxy for application traffic, equipped with DNS and BGP redirection

To deliver these key API management and protection features, a modern API security platform may harness the power of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to continuously adapt to changing threats. Multiple points of presence (PoP) may also be implemented to support reliable performance and redundancy at the global level.

Why and how to improve your API security

Because they are automated by design, APIs are uniquely vulnerable to automated cyberattacks, such as ones that attempt to replay credentials stolen during data breaches (credential stuffing). Attacks leveraging programmable bots, not to mention DDoS campaigns, are also constant concerns.

The sophistication of these types of threats has only increased in tandem with the complexity of operational and security information environments. Essentially, companies are more reliant than ever upon:

  • Workloads deployed in multiple clouds, protected by a patchwork of disparate security tools corresponding to their respective environments.
  • New application architectures, such as those based on microservices, that require highly efficient API access and communication in addition to tight API security.
  • Self-service cloud management consoles, which require a different set of skills than legacy application and API security solutions.

More specifically, IT needs to not only enforce access control, authorization, and authentication to keep advanced threats at bay, but also ensure holistic protection in support of a consistent security posture across multi-cloud setups. API security solutions can now deliver this level of comprehensive, layered cybersecurity and more streamlined API management through a convenient cloud-delivered service with capabilities.

What to look for in an API security solution

Configuration across multiple clouds

API security solutions can minimize operational and infrastructural complexity by offering dashboards that make it easy to configure, scale, and maintain robust application and API security. Securing critical API vulnerabilities may be done via a unified self-service portal for all security administration and enforcement—in other words, a single pane of glass for policy control.

Protection for any API

With an API security platform, you may screen traffic to or from any connected application, whether it’s hosted in a public or private cloud, housed on-premises, or built on a monolithic or microservice-based architecture. So as your APIs evolve and support additional backend services and newly migrated applications, the API security platform can keep pace and apply the right protections to all of them.

Integrated WAF

The web application firewall (WAF) within an API security architecture is designed to shield apps and APIs from even the most sophisticated threats. Signature scanning helps identify known attacks and API vulnerabilities, while a positive security model can combat zero-day threats by permitting only the services fundamentally required by the environment.

Multi-layered DDoS defense

Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks come in multiple forms, including variants that convincingly mimic the behavior of legitimate requests. API security may incorporate Layer 4-7 DDoS mitigation to stop both volumetric attacks and more advanced Layer 7 campaigns attempting to exploit API security vulnerabilities. An always-on, high-capacity, global scrubbing network may provide further support for mitigation of DDoS attacks and ensure that only clean traffic is passed back to an organization’s infrastructure.

Bot mitigation and management

Their highly automated nature allows malicious bots to scrape information and overload APIs with junk requests. To keep bots in check, API security tools may implement real-time bot mitigation through signatures and device fingerprinting. Integration with SIEMs and collaboration platforms also allows for real-time dashboards and detailed reporting on bots and other API security threats.


Why you need comprehensive application protection across multi-cloud environments

Learn why comprehensive and layered API protection is essential in today's multi-cloud environments.

Citrix solutions for API security

Citrix Web App and API Protection delivers comprehensive, integrated, and multilayered API security. In addition, Citrix ADC and Citrix Application Delivery Management can further strengthen security through functionality such as API gateways with customizable parameters.

  • The API gateway in Citrix ADC provides a single point of entry for API calls. It can perform rate limiting, authentication and authorization, content routing, and additional tasks to ensure secure, reliable access to backend services via your APIs.
  • Citrix Application Delivery Management uses machine learning to thwart a variety of cyberattacks, including excessive client connections via API and attempted account takeovers. Analytics also make it easy to track issues like WAF and bot violations.
  • API security in Citrix Application Delivery Management’s ML-based analytics platform does not place excessive CPU or memory load on Citrix ADC instances, and its detection capabilities are fully, continuously available without having to make upgrades.