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API, APIs, Application programming interface

Integrated API : Transition from development to release

Over the past decade, the world has been slowly moving from a mobile-first to an API-first approach. API has become a key ingredient in software development. They play a critical role in enabling organizations to expose their business functionalities and data for the consumption of other players and vice versa.  APIs have enabled organizations to become agile and innovative without hampering their ability to scale. But as the role of APIs become increasingly fundamental in a business, so does the concern over the efficacy of APIs along with the security of those APIs.

Ensuring that an API is designed and developed to facilitate the rollout of services in an expected fashion, remains a big challenge for product and development teams. Also, their vulnerability becomes a major concern for businesses. This vulnerability may arise due to a wide variety of reasons, like:

  • the increase in the number and sophistication of cyberattacks
  • the lack of regular updates to the company’s API policy
  • the continuously evolving business models, leading to more APIs being used without proper security testing.
Challenges in API testing

Having a sustainable framework for testing the APIs associated with your business can ensure reduced risk across your interfaces. The API testing process is different from normal GUI testing because GUI testing concentrates on the look and feel of the application; it is performed on the presentation layer – or user interface layer – of the application, whereas API testing is done on the business layer. During the testing process, a standard set of inputs is sent to the application, and the outputs received are compared against the predefined set of outputs.

Issues with functional testing

Before having a comprehensive testing strategy in place, there are several hurdles and iterations that the organization must go through before reaching the right framework. A few challenges that organizations might face while setting up a testing framework are:

  • Inputting the right parameter combinations for testing: The numerous APIs, that are involved in a business application, will require a huge amount of data to ensure that the testing covers every scenario possible. Managing this data and ensuring the right parameter combinations are sent as inputs to the APIs, is a complex and challenging process.
  • Versioning: as the business processes evolve in an organization, it often requires new versions of APIs to be implemented. When this happens, it can cause changes that are often unpredictable and risky to implement.
  • Performance: an application usually consists of numerous APIs that interact with each other. Before the application goes live, it is critical to test the performance of the APIs under different load conditions to ensure the performance is optimum. Failure to perform proper load testing may cause the system to crash under high load. Another critical aspect of APIs to be tested is the latency or the request to response time.
  • Knowledge of business logic: APIs are governed by a strict set of rules and guidelines such as policies, limits, and display policies. Hence it is important for the testers to have an in-depth knowledge of the business logic so that they can have a clear idea of the test objective.
  • Testing of sequenced APIs as part of API package: for a business application to run smoothly, it may require a number of APIs to be called in a specific order. This could create a potential sequencing challenge for the team that is taking care of the testing of APIs.
  • Managing time from development to release: product heads always face the challenge of the faster release of APIs for integration and consumption process, while the delay in the process flows from development to testing to release impacts the go-to-market.
Security testing big burden

API Security is one major challenge for the organization while making it available for integration and consumption by third parties. Recent data breaches within startups have also highlighted some of the risks linked to improper management of API keys and overall API security. It remains difficult for developers and product heads to verify APIs security as part of the development and testing process.

  1. Man in the middle: the man in the middle (MITM) attack is a cyberattack where an unauthorized third party attempts to gain information by secretly intercepting or altering the communication between two systems that interact with each other via APIs. In this cyberattack, the goal of the attacker is to eavesdrop on sensitive information transmitted through APIs without the knowledge of both parties.
  2. DDoS: This malware attack attempts to disrupt or stop the normal flow of traffic to a target server by overwhelming it with a flood of spam traffic. This traffic could be directed from multiple interconnected systems that have already been compromised by the malware.
  3. Data exposure: here, the affected API exposes more client information than what is required for the transaction to take place, thus leaving the client information vulnerable to attacks. This is a major concern for REST APIs that use HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol).
  4. SQL/XML injection: in an injection attack, a malicious code is embedded into a software program to cause an attack. This injection can alter the logic of the application, causing it to expose sensitive customer data. The best countermeasure for this attack is to enable input validation where the type or number of characters that can be entered into a field is restricted.
  5. Broken access control: access control is the process of restricting access to a website or application by implementing authorization mechanisms. When these mechanisms fail, attackers or hackers gain control over user accounts and client privileges.
  6. Parameter tampering: as the name suggests, in this attack, the malware attempts to modify the transaction parameters such as user credentials, price, quantity, and user permissions.

Thus, while APIs are a key ingredient in enabling digital transformation, they also pose a threat to the security of the business. API testing is a type of software testing that helps validate APIs. It helps check the reliability, functionality, performance, and security of the software interfaces. A regular and thorough testing framework ensures the safety of the business processes.

Need for an integrated testing environment

As the number of APIs that are required for the business application increases, so does the need for a robust CI/CD pipeline.

The CI/CD pipeline method (Continuous Integration / Continuous Development pipeline method) enables organizations to automate the entire lifecycle before a software enters the market. It forms the backbone of the DevOps environment. With the business changes rapidly changing, software systems involved in the business have to be kept updated. Hence, having a testing platform that can be integrated into the organization’s CI/CD pipeline becomes crucial for development. This would help the developers, engineers, and testers to work in parallel without having to take your code out of the pipeline.

The integrated environment provides end-to-end capabilities that a developer requires to get his application into the market. A typical integrated environment provides capabilities to edit code, compile, test, and automate the developer tasks. It helps improve the speed and efficiency of the developer, provides a collaborative environment where several developers can work together, and enables program management easily.

API testing is a critical component of any development process. It enabled developers to discover any flaws in their interface or security, and fix them before the system interacts with the customer. Several testing solutions currently available on the market do not allow easy integration with the development environment. This forces developers to rely on third-party systems where developers have to open a new testing environment and learn a new test tool. This is a time-consuming and cumbersome activity. It may result in the reduction of the comprehensiveness of the tests.

The comprehensive API testing solution that offers the testing and quality assurance team the ability to integrate the testing environment with the development environment can easily address these issues and help improve the speed and accuracy of the tests. This would enable the team to build test case packages based on API specification and automate the entire testing process with a comprehensive reporting structure.

One such player that provides an integrated testing environment is Fime. Fime is a payment testing and consultancy expert, which has launched TrustAPI+, an automated open banking API test solution.

TrustAPI+ is an online or a standalone tool that provides a common environment to create, run and maintain automated functional and security test campaigns for generic REST APIs. It provides customers with the option to choose between a standardized testing plan or create their own customized testing solution tailored to fit individual requirements.

Conclusion

As APIs become the core of business applications in today’s world, testing of APIs becomes an integral part of businesses. Having an integrated testing environment is arguably one of the most critical components of having a successful deployment of a program. Once an application is tested, it can then be deployed and presented to the end-users.

A testing tool, like TrustAPI+ from Fime, combines traditional testing with modern functional and security testing, allows users to develop entire test libraries for use cases such as UPI and lending, and automates testing with request and response configuration for APIs.

Having an integrated API testing tool is currently an essential part of developing an error-free and efficient software application.

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