SEO Glossary > API


An API (Application Programming Interface) is a software interface built by an organization to allow computers to access data and tools that it hosts. Each API is programmed to support specific commands, syntax, and protocols. Most APIs are gated and require interested parties to apply for access. An example scenario using an API might be building an app that allows users to post status updates to their accounts by connecting to Facebook's Graph API.

What is an API key?


An API key is a value that identifies an API service user. When an API requires a key, the user must first be accepted as an API service user and will retrieve their personal identifier, or key. When a key is assigned to the user, the user's key will be a part of the user's requests sent to the API service. This will allow the service to identify the user and log which services they require if the key is valid. The API will then send appropriate data in response.

How does API security work?


API security is important to prevent hackers from breaking into and compromising any important information. There are many parts of an API interaction that need to be secured. This includes the API consumer using a computer or mobile phone, the cloud, and then the API server itself. Each of these components needs to be encrypted and secured.

Can an API be hacked?


Unfortunately, APIs can be hacked as unprotected resources on the internet are at risk. Here are four common API hacking methods:
  • Spoofing is when a hacker pretends to be someone they are not. The hacker will often mimic a trusted user and then give free data access to additional users.
  • Man in the middle attack is when an attacker poses as a part of the API chain of communication or as the server itself, giving the hacker access to the API data.
  • Reverse engineering is when a hacker calls the API in a reverse manner with the goal of finding faults in the API. API faults can cause the API to act in unexpected ways. The hacker can use these faults to break into the API exposing the API data.
  • Session replays are attacks against websites that store sessions. The hacker captures the session in order to replay it to the server, causing the server to give over data as if the same session is occurring again. 

What is an API gateway?


An API is a software interface that allows two applications to communicate. When services combine many APIs, it's the API gateway's job to take all API requests from one user, determine the services needed, and to combine them into a single experience. 

What is the difference between an API and a Web application?


API and Web service are both a means of communication. However, interactions between two machines over a network are facilitated by a Web service. An API on the other hand interfaces between two different applications allowing them to communicate with each other.

==> For further reading, check out our guide to understanding SEO data APIs