Hide Your API Keys with an API Proxy Server

Hide Your API Keys with an API Proxy Server

Photo by Kevin Ku on Pexels


In this article/tutorial we are going to create an API Proxy Server using NodeJS and the main reason behind this is to show you how to hide public API keys and not expose them in the public like I was doing in past. All of us have created an application once, just to get to know a new library or a framework, and the best way to achieve this is to use an open API (like TMDB).

Most of these open APIs require adding the API key in the request URL or in the headers before making the request. Either way, the API key can be stolen and used by people that are not actually own this key. As result, you may end up with a suspended account or your application not work as you've expected it to.

Remember this: The API keys belong to the server side of your application

Without further talking, let's create this API Proxy server. For the sake of this article/tutorial, we are going to use Weather API.


Before start coding, we need to have the followings:

  • API key Open OpenWeatherMapAPI website, make a free account, go to My API keys and create one.
  • Basic knowledge of JavaScript and NodeJS
  • Coffee

Dependencies and Scripts

Create application's project folder

cd ~/Documents/tutorials
mkdir api-proxy-server && cd api-proxy-server
npm init -y

Install required NPM packages

npm install -S express cors dotenv axios
npm install -D nodemon # for faster development

Prepare scripts inside package.json file

  "scripts": {
    "start": "node index.js",
    "dev": "nodemon --config nodemon.json"

Let's take a look at the project's folders and files just to have a clearer image of the structure.

├── src
│   ├── utils
│   │   └── env.js
│   └── routes
│       └── index.js
├── package.json
├── nodemon.json
├── index.js
└── .env
3 directories, 6 files

Create and index.js and a nodemon.json file at the root of the project.

// nodemon.json
  "verbose": true,
  "ignore": ["node_modules/"],
  "watch": ["./**/*"]

Before start editing the entry (index.js) file, we need to create two other useful files. The first one is the .env file where all of our environment variables live. It's going to be a bit reusable in order to be able to use it with other public APIs except OpenWeatherMap API.

API_PORT = 1337
API_BASE_URL = "https://api.openweathermap.org/data/2.5/weather"
API_KEY = "1d084c18063128c282ee3b41e91b6740" # not actual api key

And the other file is the src/utils/env.js which is responsible to read and export all the environment variables.


module.exports = {
  port: Number(process.env.API_PORT) || 3000,
  baseURL: String(process.env.API_BASE_URL) || "",
  apiKey: String(process.env.API_KEY) || "",

Now it's time to edit the main file and add some logic to this proxy server application.

// imports
const express = require("express");
const cors = require("cors");
const env = require("./src/utils/env");

// Application
const app = express();

// Middlewares
app.use(express.urlencoded({ extended: true }));

// Routes
app.use("/api", require("./src/routes")); // Every request that starts with /api will be handled by this handler

// This route will handle all the requests that are not handled by any other route handler
app.all("*", (request, response, next) => {
  return response.status(404).json({ message: "Endpoint not found!" });

// Bootstrap server
app.listen(env.port, () => {
  console.log(`Server is up and running at http://localhost:${env.port}`);

Things here are very simple, it's a basic ExpressJs server application. On the top, we've got the required imports. Then we have some needed middleware, such as the JSON middleware which is responsible to parse incoming requests with JSON payloads and is based on body-parser. Next, we have the routes where here we manage the endpoints and their handlers. And lastly, we've got the bootstrapping of the server.

Let's take a look at the handler of the /api route.

// server/src/routes/index.js
const router = require("express").Router();
const { default: axios } = require("axios");
const env = require("../utils/env");

// [GET] Current weather data
router.get("/", async (request, response, next) => {
  try {
    const query = request.query || {}; 
    const params = {
      appid: env.apiKey, // required field
    const { data } = await axios.get(env.baseURL, { params });
    return response.status(200).json({
      message: "Current weather data fetched!",
      details: { ...data },
  } catch (error) {
    const {
      response: { data },
    } = error;
    const statusCode = Number(data.cod) || 400;
    return response
      .json({ message: "Bad Request", details: { ...data } });

module.exports = router;

The GET request handler function is taking as inputs the query fields that we've provided when we call it.

For example, if we didn't have this API Proxy server, our request would look like this https://api.openweathermap.org/data/2.5/weather?q=Thessaloniki,Greece&appid={API key}, but now that we've got it, our request looks like this http://localhost/api?q=Thessaloniki,Greece. There is no need to add the required field appid because the proxy server adds it by itself as a request parameter. We spared not showing the API key while we make the request on the OpenWeatherMap API.


The main concept is to hide your public API keys behind an API Proxy Server, in order to prevent users to steal your keys. To achieve this is to create endpoints that wrap the endpoints of the actual open API providing the API key inside the proxy server as an environment variable in every request that needs this key. The obvious con of this approach is that this is a time-consuming process and in some cases is not even needed.

You can get the source code of this API Proxy server here.

What's next

I was thinking to add some features to this proxy server. One of these is to add caching functionality in order to serve the data that was recently requested faster. The other one is to add a rate limiter in order to prevent users from overusing the API and crashing the server.

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