Discovery: An Essential First Step in Securing APIs


Product Marketing Manager

August 6, 2023

API security is a crucial facet of cybersecurity in this era of rapid digitalization. While APIs serve as potent tools operating across every aspect of a company, they can also create significant vulnerabilities due to their quick and decentralized creation.

Understanding the Scale of the Challenge

With their capacity to enable data access across different platforms, APIs have become ubiquitous in today’s digital landscape. This pervasiveness makes APIs a prime target for cyber-attackers, especially when APIs contain or connect to sensitive data. Even in companies that prioritize API documentation, some APIs remain undocumented, creating substantial security risks.

Undocumented APIs: The Hidden Dangers

Undocumented APIs, often called shadow APIs, pose unique security threats. Further complexity arises with zombie APIs — those no longer maintained or forgotten in the documentation but still able to access data and resources, or rogue APIs which bypass API gateways or WAFs. All of which attackers can exploit as infiltration points and leverage their under-the-radar status to access sensitive data or launch attacks.

Consequences of API Attacks

API attacks can lead to dire consequences. Data leaks, one of the most significant outcomes, can expose personally identifiable information (PII) or organizational secrets. Such leaks can lead to regulatory penalties, loss of customer trust, and potential long-term reputational damage.

But more importantly, API attacks can disrupt business operations and continuity, impacting supply chains and causing substantial financial costs while harming a company’s reputation and eroding brand trust that can take years to rebuild.

A Clear Catalog: The Power of API Discovery

Given these potential threats, the first line of defense is clearly understanding the API landscape, also called discovery. API discovery involves scanning all API documentation and traffic within an organization to identify existing APIs, their endpoints, the data they contain or access, and any vulnerabilities or misconfigurations.

By comprehensively mapping organizational APIs, API discovery provides a clear understanding which is crucial to aid in identifying vulnerabilities and reducing the attack surface available to cybercriminals.

The Importance of a Comprehensive API Inventory

A comprehensive API inventory is more than just a list—it’s the cornerstone of a strong API security strategy. Every API that exists within an organization, or has access to the organization’s resources and data, needs to be accounted for and secured.

Without a complete API inventory, parts of the organization are exposed to potential attacks. In particular, shadow, zombie, and rogue APIs can become major security blind spots. A detailed API inventory lets teams know exactly what needs to be protected and helps prioritize security measures accordingly.

Proactive Security: The Need of the Hour

API security is not just about reacting to threats—it’s about proactively identifying and addressing potential risks. Understanding the API landscape allows teams to identify vulnerabilities before they can be exploited, giving security teams the upper hand in the ongoing battle against cyber threats.

In a world where digital transformations and integrations are the norm, understanding and securing APIs is not just a choice—it’s a necessity. With a comprehensive API inventory, organizations can mitigate security risks and protect digital assets, ensuring a smoother and safer digital transformation journey.

API discovery is more than a cataloging exercise—it’s a vital step toward securing the digital ecosystem. By building a comprehensive understanding of all APIs in use or accessing organizational resources, companies significantly strengthen defenses against cyber threats.

The critical first step to securing APIs is ensuring that API Security solutions provide a clear view of all APIs, endpoints, and application consumers and consistently map the API sprawl.

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