Risks of Cloud APIs


An application programming interface (API) allows developers to establish a connection with services. These services can be cloud services and assist with updating a DB, storing data, pushing data in a queue, moving data, and managing other tasks.

APIs play an important role in cloud computing. Different cloud providers depend on various API types. Consumers debate on portability and vendor lock-in issues. AWS leads the market, holding its position as the de facto standard.

A cloud API is a special category of API which facilitates developers to develop services and applications which are needed for provisioning software, hardware, and platforms. It acts as an interface or gateway which may be indirectly or directly responsible for the cloud infrastructure.

Risk of Insecure APIs

Cloud APIs help to simplify many types of cloud computing processes and automate various complex business functionalities like configuration of a wide range of cloud instances.

However, these APIs need a thorough inspection of cloud customers and cloud providers. If a cloud API has a security loophole then it can create a number of risks pertaining to availability, accountability, integrity, and confidentiality. While the providers of cloud services have to be vigilant around securing their APIs, their mileage can differ. Hence, it is necessary to learn how you can assess the cloud API security. In order to evaluate cloud APIs, this report discusses several areas of concerns like what cyber threats do they exactly represent? How do the risks operate? How is it possible for companies to evaluate and protect these cloud APIs? Some of these areas where the customers have to be vigilant are as follows.

Transport Security

Generally, APIs are provided through a wide range of different channels. Those APIs which hold and store private and sensitive data require a greater level of protection via a secure channel like IPSec or SSL/TLS. Designing the tunnels of IPSec for a customer and CSP (cloud service provider) is often complex and resource-intensive; therefore many eventually select SSL/TLS. As a consequence, a can of worms is opened in the form of multiple potential issues. These issues include the management and production of legitimate certificates from an external or internal CA (certificate authority), problems with end-to-end protection, platform service, and their configuration conundrums, and the integration of software.

Authorization and Authentication

Most of the clouds APIs emphasize on authorization and authentication—hence they are major considerations for a lot of clients. One can ask the cloud service provider questions like the following.

  • How easily can they handle the attributes of two-factor authentication?
  • Are the APIs capable enough to encrypt the combination of usernames and passwords?
  • Is it possible to create and maintain policies for fine-grained authorization?
  • What is the connectivity for internal IMS (identity management systems) and their attributes along with those which are offered by the cloud service providers’ APIs?

Code practices

If your cloud API processes XML or JSON messages or receive user and application input, then it is integral to test them properly so they can be evaluated for routine injection flows, schema validation, input and output encoding, and CSRF (cross-site request forgery) attacks.

Protection of Messages

Apart from making sure that the standard coding practices are used, other cloud APIs factors can include encryption, encoding, integrity validation, and the message structure.

Securing the Cloud APIs

After a company analyzes the concerns which the insecure cloud APIs can cause, they have to think about what practices and solutions they can implement in order to safeguard them. Firstly, you have to assess the cloud service provider’s API security; request them to provide the APIs documentation which can include reports and assessment results of the existing applications that can help to highlight the best audit results and best practices. For instance, take the examples of Dasein Cloud API which offers a comprehensive case study pertaining to the cloud APIs with extensive and open documentation.

Additionally, other than documentation, clients can request their cloud service providers so they can operate vulnerability assignments and penetration tests for the cloud APIs. Sometimes, CSPs seek the service of other third-party providers to proceed with these tests. The final outcome is then shown to the clients with an NDA; this helps the client to assess the current cybersecurity of the APIs.

The APIs of the web services must be secured for the OWASP’s—Open Web Application Security Project—10 common considerations for security loopholes via the application and network controls. Additionally, they should be also protected for QA testing and development practices.

Several cloud service providers provide an authentication and access mechanism via encryptions keys for their customers to benefit from the APIs. It is necessary to safeguard these keys—for both the CSP and customers. There should be clear-cut policies to manage the production, storage, dissemination, and disposal of these encryption keys—they must be stored with the help of a hardware security component or a protected and encrypted file store can be used for them. Do not use the configuration files or similar scripts for key embedding. On a similar note, if keys are embedded directly into the code, then developers will have a tough time with updates.

Search for cloud security providers like Microsoft Azure and Amazon. They offer symmetric keys and authentication codes that run on a hash-based mechanism in order to provide integrity and refrain from spreading shared information between untrusted networks. If a third party intends to work with a cloud service provider’s API then they must abide by these considerations and view API security and protection keys as a major priority.

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