Is there a right way to turn off your old APIs?


Josh Breaker-Rolfe

Application programming interfaces (APIs) are the building blocks of the internet. By facilitating communication between disparate software systems, they empower innovators, streamline business processes, and improve customer experiences. Without APIs, we wouldn’t have “sign in with” technology, price comparison sites, weather snippets, and much, much more.

Unfortunately, however, APIs present a major challenge for security professionals. Some of the most significant data breaches of the last few years – Optus, Dropbox, and Twitter, for example – have resulted from an API issue. Moreover, attacks on APIs are increasing at an alarming rate; in December 2022 alone, API attacks increased 400%.

Outdated APIs in particular present a security risk. Older APIs might have vulnerabilities or security issues that are challenging to patch or mitigate. Shutting down these APIs can help protect user data and prevent potential breaches; but is there a right way to do that? In short, yes. This article will explain what an API is and how to turn them off correctly.

What is an API? 

An API is a set of rules, protocols, and tools that allows different software applications or components to communicate and interact with each other. APIs define the methods and data structures that developers can use to interact with a service, library, or platform, without needing to understand the internal implementation details. There are four key types of API you should be aware of: 
  • Open APIs (Public APIs): These APIs are made available to external developers and third-party applications. They allow developers to access certain features or data from a service, platform, or application. Open APIs are commonly used by companies to promote collaboration and integration with their offerings.
  • Internal APIs (Private APIs): Internal APIs are designed for communication within an organization. They enable different teams or components to interact and share data, helping to maintain modularity and reusability within complex systems.
  • Partner APIs: Partner APIs are shared with specific external organizations or partners. They provide a controlled way to share data and services between collaborating entities.
  • Composite APIs: Also known as "facade APIs," composite APIs combine multiple endpoints or services into a single interface. This simplifies interactions for developers by offering a unified entry point.

How to turn off APIs the right way

To turn off your old APIs ensuring a smooth transition for your users and minimizing disruptions, follow these steps:
  • Notification and Communication: Notify your users well in advance about the upcoming API shutdown. Provide ample time for them to make necessary changes to their applications that depend on the old API. Use multiple communication channels, such as emails, blog posts, social media, and developer forums, to ensure your users are aware of the upcoming changes.
  • Deprecation Period: Implement a deprecation period during which the old API will continue to function, but you will no longer actively develop or support it. This gives your users time to migrate to the new API or find alternative solutions.
  • Documentation and Migration Guides: Create comprehensive documentation and migration guides that explain how to transition from the old API to the new one. Include code examples, best practices, and troubleshooting tips to make the migration process as smooth as possible.
  • Offer Assistance: Aid users who are facing difficulties during the migration process. This could involve offering support through forums, chat, or email to address any questions or challenges they encounter.
  • Monitoring Usage: Keep track of how many users are still using the old API during the deprecation period. This will help you understand the impact and plan for a smooth transition.
  • Sunset Date: Set a specific date for the old API's shutdown. This should be after the deprecation period to allow users ample time to make the necessary changes.
  • Final Communication: As the sunset date approaches, send out final reminders to your users about the impending shutdown. Include details about what will happen on the shutdown date and where they can find additional information.
  • Shutdown Process: On the designated shutdown date, disable the old API. Depending on the circumstances, you might choose to return informative error messages, redirect requests to the new API, or simply reject requests to the old API.
  • Post-Shutdown Support: Even after the old API is shut down, consider offering a limited period of support to users who are still facing issues due to the migration. This can help address any lingering challenges and maintain positive relationships with your user base.
  • Continuous Communication: After the shutdown, continue to communicate with your users to gather feedback about the transition process. This can help you identify any areas where the transition could have been smoother and inform your approach to future changes.
Remember that every situation is unique, so tailor these steps to your circumstances. The key is to be transparent, provide ample time for users to adapt, and offer support throughout the process to minimize disruption and maintain a positive relationship with your user community. 

APIs serve as vital conduits enabling seamless interactions between systems. They foster innovation, optimize operations, and elevate user experiences. However, APIs also pose security challenges, evident in significant data breaches. Turning off APIs demands a methodical approach that includes communication, gradual deprecation, meticulous documentation, and user support. Such careful handling ensures a harmonious transition, safeguarding data integrity and user satisfaction. As technology evolves, mastering the art of APIs remains paramount in shaping a resilient digital landscape.

About Author:


Josh is a Content writer at Bora. He graduated with a degree in Journalism in 2021 and has a background in cybersecurity PR. He's written on a wide range of topics, from AI to Zero Trust, and is particularly interested in the impacts of cybersecurity on the wider economy.

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