API Authentication Challenges and Solutions: A Comprehensive Overview

There’s rarely any area of life that has not experienced advancements, all thanks to technology. Today, there are tons of applications that communicate with each other to deliver different forms of services. That’s where an API comes into play, an application language that creates an interaction to extract intended information in a readable format. 

According to industry statistics, it is estimated that the API authentication industry will be worth about $14 billion by 2027. That’s to show how important API authentication has become. In most organizations and businesses, API handles the business data, customer information, product information, and many more. 

The reason for the spiraling popularity and growth of API authentication is not far-fetched, it is the new Standard Operating Procedure for combating cyber-attacks. 

What Is API Authentication? 

In simple terms, API authentication is the fusion of technology and processes to verify the identity of users who intend to access an API. This relies on software protocol to ascertain the identity of users making the API call. An Application Programming Interface is an intermediate software, API authentication in practice serves as the intermediary between two networks, devices, and applications over the internet. 

Let’s say, for instance, an individual is looking for the closest Motel near him from his mobile device. He then types it into a search engine, which provides him with a list of the closest motels to him. When this happens, an API is the in-between the searcher and the search engine. 

Why is API Authentication Important? 

You are not alone if you are wondering why API authentication is important. On the surface, API authentication ensures that only verified and authorized users can access the API. This implies that the most important job of API authentication is to ensure that it prevents all forms of unauthorized access. 

That’s not all, we’ve seen a growing trend in how APIs have become a primary attack for cybercriminals. These bad elements have come to know how lucrative APIs are due to their sensitivity and the enormous amount of data they hold. In Q1 2023, the State of API Security Report stated that about 94% of businesses utilizing API experienced a breach. This data solidifies the prediction of Gartner in 2017 that by 2022, API would interest cybercriminals as their primary attack vector. 

5 Common API Authentication Challenges and Solutions

Authentication is important to the security and integrity of your APIs. Here are five common challenges and their solutions; 

  1.   Weak Authentication Mechanisms

You cannot approach API authentication with levity, or else your digital resources will be at the mercy of cybercriminals. There should be no room for weak authentication mechanisms as it will put your API at risk and even you out of business. 

This weakness is easily solved using strong authentication mechanisms such as OpenID Connect, JSON Web Tokens, or OAuth 2.0. Either of these authentication mechanisms will solve this challenge. 

  1.   Lack of Multi-Factor Authentication

In today’s world, you cannot just rely on passwords as a means to secure your resources. There’s a need for an extra layer through MFA. The reason for the security breach most APIs suffer is their non-implementation of MFA. 

It’s a bit careless to rely on APIs today without implementing MFA. There’s a need for an extra layer of security if you intend to sleep well at night knowing your API is safe. 

  1.   Poor Password Management

When passwords are easily predictable, that creates an issue of vulnerabilities. Due to predictable passwords, attackers can easily gain access to your APIs. It is in the habit of cybercriminals to look for accounts with easy credentials, this serves as their access to your resources. 

For your API security, you need to always educate and remind your users of good password management. Go the extra mile by implementing password policies. 

  1.   Brute Force Attacks

This is another challenge of API authentication. More often, APIs suffer brute-force attacks when the attackers aim to access the API using large numbers of randomly generated passwords. 

The solution to this is simple: implement rate limiting and use Captchas as a means of securing your API from all forms of brute force attacks. 

  1.   Man in The Middle Attacks

A Man in Middle Attack is not new, it’s a threat that organizations face often and this happens when the attacker positions between two users to hijack sensitive data. When it comes to APIs, the intent of the attacker will be to either monitor processes, steal sensitive data, or transfer funds. 

This solution to man-in-the-middle attacks on your API is simple: encrypt all communication between your APIs and clients using HTTPS. 

Final Thoughts

Authentication is the foundation of a secure API. This is why we encourage you to secure your API with strong and robust authentication mechanisms. You cannot afford to leave your API to become the playground of cyber criminals. 

Take advantage of the solutions we’ve provided. They will ensure that you are well ahead of the gimmicks and schemes of cyber attackers. 

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