API Keys: 4 Ways to Mitigate the Risks

Application programming interface (API) keys are a precious commodity in the world of cybersecurity. A vital component of modern developmental processes, they allow the authentication and authorization of a specific user, developer, or program to an API. API keys have distinct advantages, like verifying user identify identity and permissions when making certain requests to an API—which can reduce the risk of hackers pretending to be end users of an application.

But API keys aren’t foolproof. If one is stolen, it may be used indefinitely―because it has no expiration―unless the project owner revokes or regenerates the key. Read on for our insights on API keys, and how you can protect them.

The Tremendous Value of the API

API keys can be thought of as passwords that allow computer programs to talk to each other. They’re often long strings of characters or numbers (e.g., AIzaSyDaGmWKa4JsXZ-HjGw7ISLn_3namBGewQe) that allow access to data, resources, or program-to-program functionality. For example, an API key might let a user authenticate a computer or query a database looking for specific information; ReliaQuest research revealed that 40% of exposed API keys have been used for database stores.

A cloud API enables applications to communicate with each other and exchange information in the cloud, interacting with programs programmatically and connecting multiple clouds or linking cloud apps to on-premises apps. This type of API uses keys, too, which can bring severe consequences to the cloud environment if an attacker gets hold of a key.

Security controls to identify exposed API keys have

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