How to Secure Your API Gateway Against Common Attacks, Such as DDos and SQL Injection

API gateway security is a serious concern, given that at least 95% of organizations experienced a breach within the last 12 months. Shockingly, despite the heightened attacks and incidents, 35% of organization leaders still lack a proactive strategy for software gateway security. If unchecked, this trend can culminate in immense business risks, including stalled innovation, dwindling customer confidence, and disruption of any digitization plans. 

With that realization, what’s the best way of securing your API gateway solutions from prevalent attacks like DDoS and SQL injection? And why is it necessary to implement continuous logging and API gateway monitoring? Keep reading to discover more in this article. 

Common security threats to API gateways 

Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) have become common in the modern business landscape. Besides enhancing better integrations, they can drive automation, efficiency, superior customer experience, and new revenue models. But the popularity of these interfaces has also made them susceptible to an array of security threats, such as: 

DDoS attacks

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks happen when the application programming interface gateway is flooded with enormous traffic, making the solution unavailable to accept client requests. This type of attack can occur in the following ways: 

  • HTTP flood attack: Also known as Layer 7 DDoS attack, this breach happens when the hacker overloads your interface with voluminous HTTP requests, exhausting the system’s memory, CPU, and bandwidth resources. 
  • SYN flood attack: This happens when a hacker sends several TCP SYN packets to your middleware. This creates connections that hinder the system from processing legitimate client requests. It targets your network layer, making it unavailable to perform legitimate user requests.  

DDoS attacks on your local API gateway can have various ramifications, including immediately affected availability and slower response. And when users are frustrated due to poor service, the reputation of a business is likely to take a toll as well. Other effects include IT infrastructure damage that might extend to software corruption, data breaches, or computer hardware failure. 

SQL injection attacks 

Your API system integration can also be exploited via SQL injection attacks, where the hacker sends corrupted SQL statements to the interface like standard requests. Typically, the attack leverages your system’s validation input to grant access to the bad guys, who can target the backend database with arbitrary SQL commands. 

Here is how a typical SQL injection attack happens on an application programming interface: 

  • The hacker identifies any vulnerabilities in your system, such as outdated configurations or poor code.
  • The hacker formulates corrupted SQL statements, which may include commands for extracting, deleting, or modifying backend data. 
  • The bad guy bypasses the input validation protocols implemented to submit the corrupted SQL statements.
  • The execution of the corrupted SQL commands is now complete.

Just like DDoS attacks, SQL injection breaches can result in damaging effects that will hurt your business. For instance, the consequences of cybercriminals gaining unsupervised access to your sensitive business data can be unsurmountable. Even if they don’t take control of the entire business operations, they can delete the data, sell it, or modify it to render it useless. 

Techniques for securing an API gateway 

As abstract layers, application programming interfaces require gateways to aggregate software microservices for centralized consumption monitoring and analytics, performance balancing, and elimination of round-trip requests. Still, there are various API gateway types built with inherent security features, such as the Tyk Gateway. 

That said, here are the best practices for API gateway software security: 

Leverage HTPPS communication 

The first security measure you should implement is configuring client-interface communication transmission in HTTPS. This creates a reliable authentication protocol that blocks illegitimate access with compromised credentials.  

Limiting requests is important

Cybercriminals often channel unnecessary excessive middleware requests to attack your system. The best way to mitigate this is by limiting the rate requests your gateway can accept simultaneously over a specific duration. A common way of doing this is through size constraining, a process that blocks request payloads exceeding the set size. 

Set up an API-led connectivity 

Multiple API gateway connections can also help you mitigate security vulnerability by minimizing the exposure of internal endpoints to external networks. These simple restriction measures prevent external parties from gaining unwarranted access to the system. 

Keep track of deprecated APIs

Another security measure that you can take to secure your gateway is proactively managing deprecated APIs and putting them to rest. This is important because outdated middleware versions don’t always have the same security features as their successors, making the hacker’s job easier. You can manage the interface using an innovative gateway that gives you visibility into its usage. 

Securing API gateways against DDoS attacks 

Securing your API gateway actions against DDoS attacks is critical, especially if you’re going to prevent unnecessary downtime. Proactive steps that you can take to achieve this include leveraging the following: 

  • A Content Delivery Network (CDN): caches content closer to the client to reduce the server payload, making it easier to spot DDoS attacks.  
  • A Web Application Firewall (WAF): helps safeguard your system integration against malicious traffic by blocking suspicious requests. 
  • A third-party protection service: you can seek the services of a third-party DDoS protection company to boost the security of your system, especially if you’re using a free API gateway. 

Securing API gateways against SQL injection attacks

As noted earlier, employing security mitigation measures against SQL injection attacks helps deter cybercriminals from accessing and manipulating business information stored in the backend database. Steps that you can take to achieve this include: 

  • Leveraging parameterized querying: unlike concatenating commands, parameterized SQL queries allow user requests to be passed separately, mitigating SQL injection attacks since all inputs are treated as parameters. 
  • Validating input data: authenticating and validating all data streams to ensure they follow a given format or type helps you sanitize commands that may include corrupted SQL queries. 
  • Through Object Relational Mapping (ORM) tools: these tools can map data between sources and applications, enabling users to issue commands without writing SQL queries. With this approach, you can prevent any form of SQL injection exploitations.  

Monitoring and logging for API gateway security

Typically, most application programming proxies are built with inherent security features, including monitoring and logging. API gateway monitoring is handy for meticulously tracking, analyzing, and recording client queries. This includes calls and responses, enabling the client to easily debug multi-point failures when security threats arise. 

API gateway monitoring techniques 

There are three prevalent monitoring techniques post after API gateway deployment: 

  • Pings: you can ping your application programming interface remotely to verify whether HTTP requests are conveyed to the system as intended. 
  • Health checks: entails leveraging a remote computer to issue commands to the middleware and evaluate its speed and response rate. You can also examine the content to determine if the API is not working correctly. 
  • Reacting to a system’s state: involves the application programming interface responding to its state to function using pre-configured metrics or protocols. 

Monitoring and logging tools for an API gateway 

You can use the following tools to monitor your API gateway performance: 

  • Datadog: includes log management and infrastructure monitoring features that help you validate the performance of your API integration from multiple locations. 
  • Better Uptime: runs location-centric checks at 30-second intervals to monitor various aspects of your API, including SSL and HTTP. 
  • Splunk: offers comprehensive logging and monitoring functionalities to collect, index, and flag malicious actions in your system. 
  • AWS CloudWatch: built for applications that run on AWS to enable clients to enable users to monitor the resources of their cloud infrastructure. 

Logging and monitoring are proactive approaches that allow you to identify malicious activity patterns in your IT infrastructure. These patterns can signal a compromise whereby mitigation measures can be established to prevent it from happening. Moreover, meticulous records of logging data can help engineers follow exploitation paths to the source and resolve compromises swiftly. 

Protect your API gateway today 

Implementing these security measures safeguards your API gateway solutions by validating incoming traffic to ensure they are authentic and validated. In return, this protects all the sensitive business data that runs through the API and linked systems against cyber exploitation. 

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