SOAP Vs REST, Which API is More Secure?

Posted by ongraph · April 25, 2017 · 5 Min read

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In digitally connected world, secure web application and API security are paramount for secure data exchange. The balance you transfer from your bank’s mobile app, the OTP send over to you for your retail transactions, the credential you hold and apply to multiple devices from multiple locations to get access to your online accounts, all such things are possible all because of API and hence your API better be secure.

API Security

To secure API, there are set standards and that needs to be implmeneted while information transfers and when stored. But, where are the standards around the surface area that APIs represent? You want your data to be exposed, but not the confidential one and never ever to wrong people. API also functions as front-line defense layer and that’s where it has to seen as major concern and specificity as you do any other security risk.

In current times, there are two Web Services Formats that dominate the landscape. Those two are SOAP and REST, while SOAP is widely implemented in enterprises where high-end security is prime concern for API. However, SOAP is ceding ground to the modern REST pattern for web services development. Both standards expose data over HTTP requests and responses, but use vastly different formats and semantics to accomplish that and thus function differently for security concerns that you need to pay attention to.

SOAP has provided an added extensions for transnational messaging addressing specific security concerns. SOAP has came long back and has been successfully accepted and used in large enterprises. XML-Encryption, SAML token, XML-Signature to name a few screwed tightly the security story over data being received by and sent from a SOAP service.  

On the other hand, REST does not implement as such specific security patterns. REST keep its focus on how to deliver and consume data, not how to build in safety while you exchange data. In REST patterns, it is imperative to give attention to amount of security in code, deployment and transmission, instead presuming as something that comes out-of-box.

If you are about to implement API within your project, use comparison points between REST and SOAP as a guide:

1) When standardization and security are your major goals, SOAP is considered as a stronger option to use as Web Services. Both API formats support Secure Sockets Layer that protect data when it get transferred. However, SOAP additionally offer WS-Security that’s an added perk to enterprise.  

2) REST is an API standard that is compatible with various data outputs types such as JSON, CSV and XML, while SOAP can only handle XML. JSON format is easier to parse than XML, using REST for data transfer in JSON help save lots of bucks in computer infrastructure costs.

3) REST is more advanced, so when another endpoint requests an already completed query, the API development can use the data from the previous request. On the other hand, SOAP implementations have to process the query every time.  

SOAP is the best choice in projects developed and containing crucial private information such as finance, banking, and alike. However, you don’t need to use SOAP while developing mobile app that sends the day’s forecast as you don’t need extra security in that.

Though it sounds like SOAP has total advantage over REST, but a good REST implementation benefit much to an enterprise instead of using a poorly-designed SOAP API. SOAP has built-in error handing for communication errors via tha WS-ReliableMessaging specification. On the other side, REST has to resend the transfer whenever it encounters an error.  

API Testing for Security and Stability  

APIs ensures continuous delivery of data while ensuring users have the most up-to-date revision of a code base. However this  also increases the chances of code failure or lax security. Hence to form a powerful userbase and ecosystem, API testing is important. Unlike debugging a website or an application, API testing is quite different in nature. It doesn’t entirely depends on the processing servers and systems that handle heavy lifting. API carries a lot of data behind the scenes. Errors in data transfer, request handling, programming can cause incorrectly formatted responses, which the software would not be able to use.

API Testing Security

While testing APIs, developers makes sure that APIs can handle all the concurrent users that will be accessing the services at the same time. Bottlenecks in the API can cause the service to respond slowly – and the negative effects can rebound in application functionality, website performance and customer satisfaction. These problems can be compounded when it’s unclear which API endpoint is experiencing the problem.

You always wish your users experience hassle free application user experience within all online platforms. Such experience is possible to render only when you focus on API security and its platform which can successfully handle all the concurrent users when they try to access services at the same time.  Any sort of obstruction in the API could lead to issues like slow response, poor performance, incorrect results etc. These problems can be compounded when it’s unclear which API endpoint is experiencing the problem.

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