2 August 2023

The Importance of Regularly Rotating Your API Keys

Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) have become ubiquitous in modern software development. They are seemingly everywhere, serving as connectors to allow different applications to communicate with each other by requesting and exchanging data through specific points, or endpoints, that return data.

To prevent unauthorized access, most APIs require authentication via API keys. An API key is a unique identifier that is passed along with API requests. This allows the API provider to identify the caller and determine if they should be allowed to retrieve the requested data.

While API keys enable secure access control, they can also pose a risk if compromised. That’s why it’s crucial to refresh your API keys regularly.

In this ElevateAI Tech Tips blog, we’ll cover:

  • Why you should periodically generate new API keys
  • Techniques for rotating API keys
  • How ElevateAI makes API key rotation simple

The Risks of Stale API Keys

Once an API key is issued, it typically remains valid until it has been explicitly revoked. Over time, as more people gain access to a key, the potential for exposure increases.

For example, let’s say you initially issued an API key to a developer who needed to work on a prototype. A few months later, that developer leaves the company, but the old API key remains active. Like an unmanaged password, the active API key would pose a security risk if it fell into the wrong hands.

Additionally, some APIs may be exploited due to vulnerabilities that arise. If a flaw is discovered in an API that allows unauthorized data access, any existing keys could be leveraged for malicious intent before the provider patches the issue.

How do you mitigate these risks? By rotating your API keys. Regularly generating fresh API keys allows you to limit the lifespan of each API key, reducing the chances of a compromised or vulnerable key being abused.

Recommended Frequency for Key Rotation

So, how often should you refresh your API keys? While there are no universal standards, general industry recommendations include the following:

  • At least every six (6) months. Rotating twice a year ensures that your API keys aren’t active for too long.
  • Whenever significant personnel and/or system changes occur.  If developers, admins, or integrated systems that use the keys change, you should rotate your API keys.
  • After any known or potential compromises. If an API key may have been exposed, you should generate a new one immediately.
  • When extensive API changes happen. As a rule, big updates to API functionality warrant issuing new API keys.

The specific frequency of API key issuance will depend on your risk profile. More sensitive applications and data may warrant more frequent rotations, while less critical systems could go a year or longer between refresh cycles.

Rotating API Keys with ElevateAI

ElevateAI by NICE makes it simple to manage and rotate your API keys. Once logged into your ElevateAI dashboard, you can generate, view, and revoke API keys anytime with just a few clicks.

How do we enable easy API control? Here are some key features at your fingertips:

  • Generate API keys easily. Instantly create new API keys.
  • Name and organize keys. API keys can be labeled with custom names for easy identification.
  • View key activity. See the number of calls made with each key and date of last request.
  • Revoke individual keys. API keys can be revoked immediately without impacting others.

All of these features – and more – are available in your ElevateAI dashboard.

 

ElevateAI dashboard screen to manage tokens.

 

With this suite of capabilities, you can implement a secure API key rotation policy:

  • Generate API keys for each developer/system that needs access.
  • Review usage activity to identify stale keys.
  • Revoke unused keys after six (6) months.
  • Create new keys as personnel and/or systems change.
  • Instantly revoke any compromised keys.

ElevateAI empowers you to easily implement best practices for API key lifecycle management – your credentials stay fresh and you minimize the attack surface area for bad actors.

Secure Your APIs with Proactive Key Rotation

API keys enable straightforward access control for developers. But failing to rotate stale API keys increases risk and vulnerability. Make API key rotation an integral part of your security routine, leveraging ElevateAI’s intuitive dashboard interface to make the refresh of your API keys a simple and painless part of your regular routine.

Take control of your API keys and ensure they don’t outstay their welcome. Enable robust API security by proactively generating new credentials.

Get started with our secure, easy-to-deploy and manage Cloud API today >> elevateai.com/getstarted

Neeraj Verma

Neeraj has extensive experience in the enterprise software space, having joined speech technology pioneer Nexidia straight out of college and spent his career in technology and customer experience. He transitioned to NICE with their 2016 acquisition of Nexidia and currently serves as the Vice President of Artificial Intelligence (AI), leading ElevateAI by NICE.