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Risk and Vulnerabilities of APIs

By December 5, 2014 No Comments

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APIs, Application Programming Interface, is not a new technology, in fact they have been around for a couple of decades. They are a set of protocols which dictate how software components should interact with each other. A good API allows a developer to build functions into a program easily and maintain fluidity, without risking operational issues.

A poorly constructed API can cause technical issues which can have serious implications on the overall experience, and ultimately the success of a project. Improperly organized data is one such consequence of a poorly constructed API as information being relayed between the systems can be mismatched or even misinterpreted.

Mobile apps and backend software are frequently updated and maintained as more users pile on to the system or when new features are added. Thus any errors during the maintenance can affect the performance of the app or the backend servers. This causes a disconnect that results in one or both sides of the app unable to exchange information, inevitably resulting in crashes until the error is found and resolved.

In addition, app developers should also be aware of potential attacks on their API’s. A DDoS attack, or Distributed Denial of Service, occurs when a server is bombarded by multiple requests, which floods the system. Imagine five people trying to call you at the same time, none of the five people will be able to reach you due to the high call traffic. If an app has too many calls to the server like those in a DDoS attack it can drastically slow down the performance of the app and even crash it. The preventative measure against a DDoS is usually limiting the amount of calls an app can receive in each function and building the API’s to serve up the data required. This relates back to the point emphasized earlier about data organization.

A strong app strategy depends on the performance of an app. An app that crashes or has technical issues in its basic core functions can lead the user to quickly abandon and delete the app from their device. The strength of an app lies partially in its robust API’s and these should be among the first priorities being evaluated when building an app.