A Guide for Handling 5 Key Program Interface Development Issues
Application Programming Interface, API, is a set of tools, routines, and protocols used to build software applications. It specifies the interaction between software components. You can as well use it to design the elements of GUIs (Graphical User Interfaces). A good API provides all software building blocks. All you have to do is put them together.
APIs have become the primary channel used by large services to reach users. These services include Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, Google Maps, and Netflix. The APIs handle more users than the front-ends of these online giants. It is no surprise then that by developing your API, you will significantly improve the quality and deliver-ability of your business’ services.
However, developing APIs can be a daunting task for beginners. This article covers some of the key API development issues you need to keep in mind and how to handle them.
Importance of Quality
Program Interface's quality is crucial to the implementer and clients. High-quality APIs require less training, documentation and easily become popular. Additionally, they experience fewer support calls. To the customer, a poor quality API causes high defective rates and longer product development cycle. Fortunately, there are numerous tools you can utilize for to improve you API’s quality. Akamai for developers is one place where you can find the tools which will enhance your API’s usability.
It is hard to use an interface that does not conform to the architecture of the applications for which you are building. If the application already depends on a particular API design approach, use the same design to create a new one.
The design of most program interfaces uses REST or SOAP approaches. SOAP APIs focuses on remote procedures and process while REST is applicable for resources. If you are developing an API for exposing features and utilizes componentization, REST is the best option.
You need to choose the right protocol for your API.
TCP and UDP
To separate Web activity and API traffic, you should use User Data Protocol, UDP, or Transmission Control Protocol, TCP, instead of Webport 80. However, this choice comes with firewall limitations which will require specific system configurations to navigate. The settings can expose your APIs to remote access.
3. Data Formats
Deciding on the right data format for your API is crucial for proper information exchange and parameter expression. XML is a general data format that you can use in both SOAP and REST design approaches. But it is best for structure less data. For rigidly defined data elements like in RESTful approach, JSON is the best choice. It is easier to use and provides variable types used widely in API development.
Securing your application and its user is a primary concern for developers. When your app is not properly secured, malicious hackers can harm both your business and your clients. They can achieve this by creating a spoof app with malware, compromising your company’s backend network, intercepting sensitive information and much more.
To for complete security, you should understand the real threats then secure your API, backend network, and user data. Below is a quick guide on how to achieve these.
The deployment of Program interfaces can be internal or external. Each deployment model has its unique risks. Understanding these threats is necessary for helping you decide on effective security measure to implement.
For example, external deployment exposes sensitive data to untrusted developers through the internet. In this case, you should use encryption or Transport Layer security to protect the data while in transit and at rest.
Additionally, you should use dynamic and static code tools to test your API for OWASP top vulnerabilities. Also, conduct a periodical audit for abnormal behaviors on your API.
API Authorization and Authentication
The best tool for securing your API is the Open Authorization, OAuth framework. OAuth.2 provides authorization constraints for mobile apps, desktop and Web applications and even Internet of Things. It achieves this via a 3-legged flow as follows; after a successful user authentication, the authorization server awards the native app an access token and a refresh token. The access token is used to access protected API resources. The refresh token renews the access token. The approach provides continuous user experience by eliminating the need to sign in repeatedly. When the tokens are compromised, you simply use the safety valve to revoke them.
For sequential user authentication, you should use OpenID Connect. It comes together with the OAuth standard.
Backend Network security
You need to secure the servers and cloud servers accessed by your own API’s applications and third-party apps. Securing the servers prevents unauthorized access consequently protecting sensitive data.
Use database encryption and encrypted connections to secure the network. Encrypted connections include Transport Layer Security, TLS, Secure Socket Layer, SSL and Virtual Private Network, VPN. Storing your documents in encrypted containers, a practice known as containerization, adds extra security. Additionally, you should spread your resources across different server, with separate keys. This measure is known as Federation.
Besides these measures, have an internet specialist conduct a regular vulnerability assessment penetration testing of your network to ensure the integrity of your network security.
Securing User Data
Today most of the user’s data are stored on the local device. Leaky apps can release sensitive user information such as age, location, and device usage behavior. To secure your users, employ file-level encryption, encrypt device databases and eliminate the storage of sensitive information such as credit card details on the local device.
You probably understand by now that it is important to test your API before releasing it to the market. Unlike many developers, do not focus your test on usability and functionality only. Test your security measures as well. Use device, browser, and operating system emulators to test the behavior of your program interface in a simulated environment.