Welcome!

IBM Cloud Authors: Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Sematext Blog, Yeshim Deniz

Blog Feed Post

How to Harden Your APIs by Andy Thurai

The market for APIs has experienced explosive growth in recent years, yet one of the major issues that providers still face is the protection and hardening of the APIs that they expose to users. In particular, when you are exposing APIs from a cloud based platform, this becomes very difficult to achieve given the various cloud provider constraints. In order to achieve this you would need a solution that can provide the hardening capabilities out of the box, but that still permits for customization of the granular settings to meet the solution need. Intel has such a solution and it has been well thought out. If this is something you desire this article might help you foresee the many uses and versatility.

Identify sensitive data and sensitivity of your API

The first step in protecting sensitive data is identifying it as such. This could be anything like PII, PHI and PCI data. Perform a complete analysis of your inbound and outbound data to your API, including all parameters, to figure this out.

Once identified, make sure only authorized people can access the data.

This will require solid identity, authentication, and authorization systems to be in place. These all can be provided by the same system. Your API should be able to identify multiple types of identities. In order to achieve an effective identity strategy, your system will need to accept identities of the older formats such as X.509, SAML, WS-Security as well as the newer breed of OAuth, Open ID, etc. In addition your identity systems must  mediate the identities, as an Identity Broker, so it can securely and efficiently relate these credentials to your API to consume.

You will need to have identity-based governance policies in place. These policies need to be enforced globally not just locally. Effectively this means you need to have predictable results that are reproducible regardless of where you deploy your policies. Once the user is identified and authenticated, then you can use that result to authorize the user based on not only that credential, but also based on the location where the invocation came from, time of the day, day of the week, etc. Furthermore, for highly sensitive systems the data or user can be classified as well. Top secret data can be accessed only by top classified credentials, etc. In order to build very effective policies and govern them at run time, you need to integrate with a mature policy decision engine. It can be either standard based, such as XACML, or integrated with an existing legacy system provider

Protect Data

Protect your data as if your business depends on it, as it often does, or should. Make sure that the sensitive data, whether in transit or at rest (storage), is not in an unprotected original format. While there are multiple ways the data can be protected, the most common ones are encryption or tokenization. In the case of encryption, the data will be encrypted, so only authorized systems can decrypt the data back to its original form. This will allow the data to circulate encrypted and decrypt as necessary along the way by secured steps. While this is a good solution for many companies you need be careful about the encryption standard you choose, your key management and key rotation policies. The other standard “tokenization” is based on the fact you can’t steal what is not there. You can basically tokenize anything from PCI, PII or PHI information. The original data is stored in a secure vault and a token (or pointer, representing the data) will be sent in transit down stream. The advantage is that if any unauthorized party gets hold of the token, they wouldn’t know where to go to get the original data, let alone have access to the original data. Even if they do know where the token data is located, they are not white listed, so the original data is not available to them. The greatest advantage with tokenization systems is that it reduces the exposure scope throughout your enterprise, as you have eliminated vulnerabilities throughout the system by eliminating the sensitive and critical data from the stream thereby centralizing your focus and security upon the stationary token vault rather than active, dynamic and pliable data streams.. While you’re at it, you might want to consider a mechanism, such as DLP, which is highly effective in monitoring for sensitive data leakage. This process can automatically tokenize or encrypt the sensitive data that is going out. You might also want to consider policy based information traffic control. While certain groups of people may be allowed to communicate certain information (such as company financials by an auditor,etc) the groups may not be allowed to send that information. You can also enforce that by a location based invocation (ie. intranet users vs. mobile users who are allowed to get certain information).

QOS

While APIs exposed in the cloud can let you get away with scalability from a expansion or a burst during peak hours, it is still a good architectural design principle to make sure that you limit or rate access to your API. This is especially valuable  if you are offering an open API and exposure to anyone, which is an important and valuable factor. There are 2 sides to this; a business side and a technical side. The technical side will allow your APIs to be consumed in a controlled way and the business side will let you negotiate better SLA contracts based on usage model you have handy. You also need to have a flexible throttling mechanism that can help you implement this more efficiently such as just notify, throttle the excessive traffic, shape the traffic by holding the messages until the next sampling period starts, etc. In addition, there should be a mechanism to monitor and manage traffic both for long term and for short term which can be based on 2 different policies.

Protect your API

The attacks or misuse of  your publicly exposed API can be intentional or accidental. Either way you can’t afford for anyone to bring your API down. You need to have application aware firewalls that can look into the application level messages and prevent attacks. Generally the application attacks tend to fall under Injection attacks (SQL Injection, Xpath injection, etc), Script attacks, or attack on the Infrastructure itself.

Message Security

You also need to provide both transport level and message level security features. While transport security features such as SSL, TSL provide some data privacy you need to have an option to encrypt/ sign message traffic, so it will reach the end systems safely and securely and can authenticate the end user who sent the message.

Imagine if you can provide all of the above in one package. Just take it out of the packaging, power it up, and with a few configuration steps provide most of what we have discussed above?  More importantly in a matter of hours you’ve hardened your API to your enterprise level (or in some cases better than that). Intel has such a solution to offer.

Check out our Intel API gateway solution which offers all of those hardening features, in one package and a whole lot more. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or need additional info.

http://cloudsecurity.intel.com/solutions/cloud-service-brokerage-api-resource-center

 

 

Andy Thurai — Chief Architect & CTO, Application Security and Identity Products, Intel

Andy Thurai is Chief Architect and CTO of Application Security and Identity Products with Intel, where he is responsible for architecting SOA, Cloud, Governance, Security, and Identity solutions for their major corporate customers. In his role, he is responsible for helping Intel/McAfee field sales, technical teams and customer executives. Prior to this role, he has held technology architecture leadership and executive positions with L-1 Identity Solutions, IBM (Datapower), BMC, CSC, and Nortel. His interests and expertise include Cloud, SOA, identity management, security, governance, and SaaS. He holds a degree in Electrical and Electronics engineering and has over 20+ years of IT experience.

He blogs regularly at www.thurai.net/securityblog on Security, SOA, Identity, Governance and Cloud topics. You can find him on LinkedIn

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Application Security

This blog references our expert posts on application and web services security.

@ThingsExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that SoftLayer, an IBM Company, has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. SoftLayer, an IBM Company, provides cloud infrastructure as a service from a growing number of data centers and network points of presence around the world. SoftLayer’s customers range from Web startups to global enterprises.
The vision of a connected smart home is becoming reality with the application of integrated wireless technologies in devices and appliances. The use of standardized and TCP/IP networked wireless technologies in line-powered and battery operated sensors and controls has led to the adoption of radios in the 2.4GHz band, including Wi-Fi, BT/BLE and 802.15.4 applied ZigBee and Thread. This is driving the need for robust wireless coexistence for multiple radios to ensure throughput performance and th...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Commvault, a global leader in enterprise data protection and information management, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Commvault is a leading provider of data protection and information management solutions, helping companies worldwide activate their data to drive more value and business insight and to transform moder...
Fifty billion connected devices and still no winning protocols standards. HTTP, WebSockets, MQTT, and CoAP seem to be leading in the IoT protocol race at the moment but many more protocols are getting introduced on a regular basis. Each protocol has its pros and cons depending on the nature of the communications. Does there really need to be only one protocol to rule them all? Of course not. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, walk you through how Oct...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CDS Global Cloud, an Infrastructure as a Service provider, will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CDS Global Cloud is an IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) provider specializing in solutions for e-commerce, internet gaming, online education and other internet applications. With a growing number of data centers and network points around the world, ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that LeaseWeb USA, a cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provider, will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. LeaseWeb is one of the world's largest hosting brands. The company helps customers define, develop and deploy IT infrastructure tailored to their exact business needs, by combining various kinds cloud solutions.
Big Data has been changing the world. IoT fuels the further transformation recently. How are Big Data and IoT related? In his session at @BigDataExpo, Tony Shan, a renowned visionary and thought leader, will explore the interplay of Big Data and IoT. He will anatomize Big Data and IoT separately in terms of what, which, why, where, when, who, how and how much. He will then analyze the relationship between IoT and Big Data, specifically the drilldown of how the 4Vs of Big Data (Volume, Variety,...
WebRTC is bringing significant change to the communications landscape that will bridge the worlds of web and telephony, making the Internet the new standard for communications. Cloud9 took the road less traveled and used WebRTC to create a downloadable enterprise-grade communications platform that is changing the communication dynamic in the financial sector. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Leo Papadopoulos, CTO of Cloud9, discussed the importance of WebRTC and how it enables companies to focus...
In his general session at 18th Cloud Expo, Lee Atchison, Principal Cloud Architect and Advocate at New Relic, discussed cloud as a ‘better data center’ and how it adds new capacity (faster) and improves application availability (redundancy). The cloud is a ‘Dynamic Tool for Dynamic Apps’ and resource allocation is an integral part of your application architecture, so use only the resources you need and allocate /de-allocate resources on the fly.
Vidyo, Inc., has joined the Alliance for Open Media. The Alliance for Open Media is a non-profit organization working to define and develop media technologies that address the need for an open standard for video compression and delivery over the web. As a member of the Alliance, Vidyo will collaborate with industry leaders in pursuit of an open and royalty-free AOMedia Video codec, AV1. Vidyo’s contributions to the organization will bring to bear its long history of expertise in codec technolo...
There is little doubt that Big Data solutions will have an increasing role in the Enterprise IT mainstream over time. Big Data at Cloud Expo - to be held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA - has announced its Call for Papers is open. Cloud computing is being adopted in one form or another by 94% of enterprises today. Tens of billions of new devices are being connected to The Internet of Things. And Big Data is driving this bus. An exponential increase is...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, wh...
An IoT product’s log files speak volumes about what’s happening with your products in the field, pinpointing current and potential issues, and enabling you to predict failures and save millions of dollars in inventory. But until recently, no one knew how to listen. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Dan Gettens, Chief Research Officer at OnProcess, will discuss recent research by Massachusetts Institute of Technology and OnProcess Technology, where MIT created a new, breakthrough analytics model f...
The Internet of Things will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform and how we integrate our thinking to solve complicated problems. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, will demonstrate how to move beyond today's coding paradigm ...
Ask someone to architect an Internet of Things (IoT) solution and you are guaranteed to see a reference to the cloud. This would lead you to believe that IoT requires the cloud to exist. However, there are many IoT use cases where the cloud is not feasible or desirable. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Dave McCarthy, Director of Products at Bsquare Corporation, will discuss the strategies that exist to extend intelligence directly to IoT devices and sensors, freeing them from the constraints of ...
From wearable activity trackers to fantasy e-sports, data and technology are transforming the way athletes train for the game and fans engage with their teams. In his session at @ThingsExpo, will present key data findings from leading sports organizations San Francisco 49ers, Orlando Magic NBA team. By utilizing data analytics these sports orgs have recognized new revenue streams, doubled its fan base and streamlined costs at its stadiums. John Paul is the CEO and Founder of VenueNext. Prior ...
Technology vendors and analysts are eager to paint a rosy picture of how wonderful IoT is and why your deployment will be great with the use of their products and services. While it is easy to showcase successful IoT solutions, identifying IoT systems that missed the mark or failed can often provide more in the way of key lessons learned. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Peter Vanderminden, Principal Industry Analyst for IoT & Digital Supply Chain to Flatiron Strategies, will focus on how IoT de...
IoT offers a value of almost $4 trillion to the manufacturing industry through platforms that can improve margins, optimize operations & drive high performance work teams. By using IoT technologies as a foundation, manufacturing customers are integrating worker safety with manufacturing systems, driving deep collaboration and utilizing analytics to exponentially increased per-unit margins. However, as Benoit Lheureux, the VP for Research at Gartner points out, “IoT project implementers often ...
So, you bought into the current machine learning craze and went on to collect millions/billions of records from this promising new data source. Now, what do you do with them? Too often, the abundance of data quickly turns into an abundance of problems. How do you extract that "magic essence" from your data without falling into the common pitfalls? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Natalia Ponomareva, Software Engineer at Google, provided tips on how to be successful in large scale machine learning...
Information technology is an industry that has always experienced change, and the dramatic change sweeping across the industry today could not be truthfully described as the first time we've seen such widespread change impacting customer investments. However, the rate of the change, and the potential outcomes from today's digital transformation has the distinct potential to separate the industry into two camps: Organizations that see the change coming, embrace it, and successful leverage it; and...