API security: Why it’s foundational to modern, consumer-driven organizations.

According to Gartner, “Organizations are choosing application programming interfaces (APIs) as the primary application architecture for developing business capabilities.” With the growth of cloud, mobile applications, IoT technologies, and microservices, APIs have become the foundation of modern, interconnected business and operations technology. In some industries, like healthcare and banking, APIs are regulatory imperatives. And in others, like retail, telecom, and media, APIs push speed-to-market with more personalized and timely consumer experiences.

APIs offer interoperability, flexibility, and speed

Basically, APIs are software codes that enable communication between two software programs. APIs build and integrate applications through definitions and protocols, tapping into software components or resources beyond the original code. Deemed “essential for business survival” by enterprise leaders, APIs streamline software development and act as the connective tissue throughout digital technologies.

API security risks are high and increasing

Despite their flexibility and popularity, Gartner declared APIs the number one attack vector for enterprise web applications for 2022. In fact, Forbes reported that API security breaches saw a 286% increase quarter-over-quarter in 2022. By 2024, those abuses and breaches are expected to double.

Techniques like “Man-in-the-Middle,” injection or stolen authentication attacks are used to gain unauthorized access to APIs, shared data, and connected software and systems.

API security requires robust capabilities

The goal of API security is to ensure that API requests are valid, authorized, authentic, and can be processed when microservices are in heavy use. Deployed API security strategies and tools must thwart four main attack patterns, including abuse of functionality, exploitation, denials of service, or access violations

The following six capabilities provide a foundation for API security:

Provide visibility into API activity: Visibility across all APIs is key to the ability to enforce policies consistently and monitor for vulnerabilities.

Manage identity and access control: API security starts with controlling access to API resources, so knowing which users, devices, and data are being shared is crucial. This is particularly important when third parties are given access to internal data and systems.

Maintain a record of APIs in a service registry: This database stores data structures for app-level communication, making it easy for developers to reuse schemas and API designs. The registry is also useful for API security so that DevOps or DevSecOps teams can assess risk levels and address them consistently.

Authenticate and authorize valid requests: Depending on the type of API -REST, RPC, SOAP, or gRPC- authentication and authorization needs may be basic (email, password, and API token), or they could require additional protections, headers, credentials, or tokens.

API data maintenance: API data needs to be cleaned or validated, which helps thwart injection issues and request forgery attacks. Tools can monitor API data flows and track any errors and abnormalities for mitigation.

API endpoint hardening: APIs make managing sensitive data easier, but that also means shoring up data endpoints that may use various protocols or request formats. This is where a web application firewall that uses a secure protocol, SSL certificates, or throttling targets can add further protection. Geo-velocity checks can keep out access from certain countries or locations, and rate limiting can provide additional security when requests are too fast or voluminous to be legitimate.

API security supports enterprise digital transformation

Cloud architectures have led to a proliferation of microservices, which means API security must be mature, consistent, and built-in from the first sprint. Maintaining robust API security also gives developers the confidence to maximize API value and innovate at the speed of business.

[CTA] API security relies on Panoptica

Cisco’s Emerging Technologies and Incubation (ET&I) team is paving the way with “DevOps-friendly” cloud-native security solutions that fundamentally simplify conventional offerings. Built from the ground up to meet the needs of mission-critical modern applications, our Panoptica solution simplifies cloud-native application security, making it easy to embed into the software development lifecycle.  Panoptica protects the full application stack from code to runtime by scanning for security vulnerabilities in the cloud infrastructure, microservices (Containers or Serverless), the software bill of materials, and the interconnecting APIs. And best of all, it integrates with the tools that your application development and SecOps teams are already using.