Importance of API Lock-down

In recent times, it seems as though a few companies are letting major security flaws slip through their developer tools. A few days ago, Facebook had a massive 8+ million user exposure due to a flaw in their Photos API. This bug allowed photos of users using certain apps with this API to have their data leaked and pulled without their knowledge. Facebook didn’t realize this until 12 days after this had occurred. Now, Google is in a similar boat. A few days ago, on Monday, Google revealed that it’s Google Plus social media network site (that was in the process of shutting down) also had an API bug that, again, exposed the information of users. This time on a much larger scale. Google’s API exposure hit over 51 million users. Interestingly enough, this happened just two months after they had discovered another bug that exposed data of 500,000 users. This was the initial reason for Google Plus to ultimately shut down. Although Google reported that there was no evidence of this data being “misused”, this information is still out there and the attention will surely seek the eyes of many who will misuse it.

So why is locking down an API so important? An API is a predefined set of tools that are used by developers to perform multiple actions in program. A lot of these are protocols that either pull certain information or perform various tasks. The API is the middle ground of how software can talk to each other. When there is an API bug, this can lead to information that is not suppose to be able to be pulled, get exposed to fields that should not be able to. This was the case with Facebook’s Photo API, and now the case with Google’s Google Plus media API. What we can learn from this is, whenever you are modifying or testing with API’s, always make sure that boundary tests are in place to make sure that certain data can not be pulled by any alternative means. Most of the time, only authorized developers are only permitted access to certain API’s, nullifying any outside attacks. However, if an API does not have the correct stops and security in place, user data is at a massive risk as shown by these two examples of mass user data exposure.




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