An endpoint refers to a device that exists at the end of a network connection. It uses the network to communicate and transmit data with other endpoints, including desktops, laptops, smartphones, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Endpoints can also include gateway devices such as servers, routers, and firewalls that connect one network to another; from a cybersecurity perspective, this means endpoints are some of the most vulnerable locations on a network because cybercriminals can target them as points of entry.
One example of endpoint communication is email. When a user sends an email from their laptop, the laptop (an endpoint) uses a series of protocols to transmit the message to the email server (another endpoint), which then uses similar protocols to transmit the message to the recipient s inbox and is accessed from a final endpoint device.
In API (application program interface) connections specifically, endpoints are two integrated systems (software programs, URLs, applications, etc.) that use calls and responses to exchange information. Common API examples include Pay with Paypal widgets found while online shopping or Login with [XYZ] widgets used to create or access an online account through an existing, external social media account. Although less common, some API integrations are write-only or read-only, meaning one endpoint is used to exclusively send or receive data e.g., a budgeting tool that receives information from a bank account integration but does not return any data.
In each of these examples, one website is integrated with another website to offer a streamlined experience for its users. One concern among critics of this type of API integrations is that the data shared between endpoints (and by extension, the companies that host them) might be sold or otherwise used for commercial purposes. The user may be oblivious to how their information will be commodified, so they ultimately prioritize convenience over privacy and agree to the integration terms.
API integrations can also be used for streamlining internal processes and goals. For example, a company might use Salesforce as its customer relationship manager (CRM) but Mailchimp for its targeted email marketing needs. In this case, the API integration is used to synchronize customer records between both platforms, simultaneously enabling sales and marketing tactics without requiring records to be manually updated in both places.