What is an API key?
An API key is a unique code used to identify an app making an API request, allowing the API to control access to its resources and enforce security measures.
This code provides a secret token for authentication and authorization, allowing the requesting app to access and use the API’s services and resources securely. API keys block any anonymous traffic or unauthorized access to the API that could lead to abuse or malicious activity.
How API keys provide security
API keys provide security in three ways:
Access control: When making an API request, an app or website includes the API key. This allows the API server to verify the requester’s identity, and ensure the request comes from a trusted, authorized source. Developers need to treat API keys as sensitive and keep them secure, as they grant anyone with that key access to the API’s resources.
Authentication: The API provider uses the API key to authenticate the client requesting access to its services or resources. Verifying the validity of the key ensures that the requesting client is authorized to use the API.
Authorization: API keys allow API providers to grant or revoke access to certain features and resources. The provider can set specific permissions or access levels to each API key. This allows the API provider to restrict access to certain endpoints (URLs), features, or data.
Say you’re developing an eCommerce app with a chat API to add live messaging features for improved support capabilities. The API provider issues you an API key. Whenever your app requests the chat API, it includes the API key in the request header. After checking the key to verify your app as valid, the API provider grants your app access to the API’s services.
The API provider typically includes an API key in the API documentation, usually housed in the provider’s developer portal.
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