An Application Programming Interface, or API, is generally provided by an existing software system and allows other programs, applications and websites to use specific parts of the existing software system. This makes it possible for different software systems to interact. Particularly in conjunction with native cloud architectures, these programming interfaces play an important role. However, the interfaces can also act as gateways for cybercriminals. As a result, the number of API vulnerabilities in companies has increased dramatically in recent years. This means that companies must be aware of and resolve such security vulnerabilities. Read our blog post to learn how to secure access control for applications and APIs.
APIs in a nutshell
APIs describe interfaces that allow different applications to communicate and exchange information with one another. They consist of a set of rules, protocols and tools that allow developers to access or use a specific software component without knowing or modifying the source code itself.
APIs are an important aspect of software development and enable integrating and interacting between different applications and systems. For the insurance sector, this means that data and functionalities can be made available to third parties.
How does access control work?
APIs enable users, applications and devices to access sensitive data and other network resources. The use of APIs has increased steadily in recent years. Cybercriminals use security deficiencies in the interfaces to extract data or to access company infrastructures and IT systems. It is, therefore, essential to comply with and implement comprehensive security measures. Companies must ensure that API requests can be authenticated, authorised, validated, cleaned, and processed if the service is attacked or overloaded. In addition to network security checks, the provision of robust coded APIs that can process and reject invalid and malicious requests is also essential in order to guarantee the confidentiality, availability and integrity of the data and resources provided by the APIs. It is irrelevant in this context whether the respective APIs are publicly accessible, only shared with partners or are internally used – all interfaces must be securely administered to protect IT systems against attack. When it comes to guaranteeing secure administration, a range of security instruments are normally used. Authentication tools typically ensure that the user's or system's identity is checked or that a user is authorised before access is granted. This can be done with the help of usernames and passwords, API keys, OAuth, OpenID Connect, SAML or other methods. In some cases, authentication processes and authorisations are combined as standalone solutions. An example of this approach can be the provision of a code that not only authenticates the user but also verifies their authorisation.
APIs and their security in the insurance industry
The insurance industry has embraced digitalisation. In the past, insurers relied on inflexible standalone IT systems with specific requirements and conditions. All this has changed. Many insurance companies are now increasingly making use of modern technologies. As a result, APIs have also become an increasingly important topic in the insurance sector because they are ultimately at the heart of every digital strategy. These programming interfaces have opened up numerous new business models and helped build new partnerships, boost revenue, reduce the time to market for products and services, develop new sales channels, and more. Consequently, APIs are frequently used in the insurance sector to exchange data between different systems such as insurers, brokers, customers and price-comparison platforms.
Since this area, in particular, involves the collection of large volumes of sensitive data, security plays a decisive role. Damaged, unprotected or hacked APIs are the primary cause of serious data losses that can result in the disclosure of confidential medical, financial and personal data. We recommend using standardised protocols and processes to guarantee the security of APIs. For example, insurance companies should use multi-factor authentication solutions to make identity theft or identity manipulation more difficult. However, the use of encryption and signatures will also increase security. For instance, fully homomorphic encryption (FHE) allows the transmitting and storing of data in an encrypted format.