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Data Privacy and #APIs

As we are living in a digitalized world, privacy has become one of the supreme issues of our time, with a lot of implications for both businesses and society. Data security is a predecessor of data privacy and thus companies are now more inclined toward data privacy using techniques from the security domain.

Recently European Union’s (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was enforced, escorting everyone into a new realm of data privacy and security. Mainly GDPR is designed to provide European citizens with more control and autonomy over their data. It explains in detail about the guidelines and principles for different companies to follow in order to manage data and penalties in case of non-compliance.

More and more data are being generated every day. An immeasurable amount of data is released through IoT devices. The devices we used on daily bases send the data to god knows who.  Also, we voluntarily share our data with others. No one now days thinks at least once that how many people are going to see their tweets or Facebook status?

Generally, data sources are not standalone but they are a mixture of profiling and data. This is quite interesting and challenging for the parties and people having not so kind motives.

So, in the light of recent issues like Cambridge Analytica at Facebook. In the repercussion of recent events, API developers have to comply and discover and analyze how exactly are the consumers interacting with and responding to their API. There are many companies who are facing online vulnerabilities due to API issues

Actual API Privacy Threat

APIs are basically “reach multipliers”. They make applications and data accessible programmatically on the internet or across the enterprises. By making application and data functionality open they are transforming the accessibility of information by end-users. The days of monolithic applications with specific data sources are long gone. Now API allows application functionality to be divided into microservices.

Nowadays APIs are a major security concern as they have direct access to the important data behind all software’s and application.  Asked about their main API security concern, respondents stated they are most worried about DDoS attacks and bots while 24 percent said they are most concerned about authentication enforcement. So the best way to improve the security concern is improving the design of APIs. As programming interface design represents an important part of software architecture.

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Working of an API depends upon how the provider if API has implemented the requirements. It’s important to keep the balance between ease and difficulty because a hard design can cause hindrance in the working of API.

Technology and digitalization and legislation have evolved the whole frame of business due to different trends. Now is the time for APIs, as it was stated in Forbes. So, today API systems are continuously evolving and implying more and more possibilities for customers to mix services from different providers and giving an opportunity for small companies to build better platforms. It’s been assumed that Facebook will “strengthen its walls” in the wake of the recent revelations but it seems quite difficult as GDPR will be the enemy rather than an ally.

Security Practices

Although the laws are being passed it’s not clear right now that how individual rights to their data is going to be balanced with other data subjects like acquaintances. As the conditions for API is continuously changing it is also changing, now it is being designed so that it gives your data more access that was unavailable via other channels. Now a layered approach is being used to enhance privacy by organizations and increase the efficiency of APIs. The steps followed are following;

  • Use of existing security like proper TLS management for asset protection, firewalls etc.
  • Use of limiting rate mechanism in order to control API data that might be consumed by different users.
  • Identity verification of applications who utilize API, also the identity verification of end-user.
  • Incoming data scanning different attacking vectors like SQL injection and other programs that might attack system.

All these are the best security practices that are explicitly applied to API’s.

Different Paradigm

Now in many scenarios APIs are being offered not as a means of exposing data, but as a channel to get access to previously exposed data by using different mechanisms like file transfer service and website. In such cases, it’s been argued that shifting towards an API approach from these technologies create more safe, sound and secure system rather than other alternatives.

For example, websites are subjected to many screen scrapping techniques. Any clever web developer can easily use such techniques and can effortlessly discover the required information. Although the web app is a very complex system, it has many entry points as a vulnerability. So, a smart and clever developer can easily figure out ways to get access to the secure data. Even if the website is 100% bug-free this kind of access is possible and the team controlling the site remain unaware of data breaches. A suitable and secure API though can include security techniques that ensure that only applications authorized properly or assembled by authorized developers can only access the data made available by API.

Moreover, the team that provides APIs can also put features like traffic management in order to control the amount of data each developer is allowed to access. And for the worst scenario, if there is some breach in your data it is easy to track by whom and for how long the data was accessed through audit trails and logs as the APIs are mostly designed from scratch.

The Lack of API Privacy Standards

There are no compliances to use APIs that are not a part of data that is exposed by a file transfer or web application. There are industry standards like PCI, HIPPA, GDPR etc. that has to be applied just like other systems.

Many possible threats can be evaded by keeping in mind, API design and continuously changing government policies and laws. It’s important to design API so that it can be protected against malicious content and unauthorized users. Security mistake of an API can have serious consequences-but with the right approach, management, businesses can become safer.

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