Lalit Ahluwalia is committed to redefining the future of cybersecurity by helping large, medium, and small-scale businesses build digital trust. Here, Lalit discusses the alarming increase in API security breaches, the impact of the expanded attack surface so far, plus how to maximize DigitalXForce’s expanded attack surface management solution for API security.
Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) play a fundamental role in modern computing architectures and software ecosystems. But this comes with an inherent cost – the expansion of the attack surface.
In this article, we’ll explore API security, discussing the challenges posed by the external attack surface, and the imperative to maximize Expanded Attack Surface Management (ASM) for robust API security.
The Crucial Role of APIs in Computing
APIs serve as bridges that allow different software applications to communicate, share data, and execute functionalities. From mobile apps to cloud services, APIs facilitate the seamless flow of information, enabling the creation of complex and interconnected digital ecosystems.
As noted by a 2021 Gartner research, the number of public, private, and partner APIs has grown exponentially, with studies predicting over 25,000 APIs will be online by 2025, up nearly 3000% over the last decade.
With this rapid growth, however, comes enormous security risks. “In 2023, cyberattacks targeting APIs have increased by 137%”, The Hacker News reveals. According to statistics from Traceable, of the 1629 respondents surveyed in their recent report, “60% reported a data breach in the past two years. Of these, 74% had at least 3 API-related breaches. Alarmingly, 40% had five or more, and 11% faced over seven, stressing the dire need for enhanced API security”.
Vulnerable APIs allow attackers to extract sensitive data, manipulate applications, launch denial-of-service attacks, or move laterally within networks.
API Vulnerabilities in Cybersecurity
While APIs empower businesses to deliver richer and more integrated digital experiences, they also introduce vulnerabilities that can be exploited by malicious actors. But, what aspects of APIs make them so vulnerable?
A few key factors to note:
- APIs lack traditional web app controls: According to guidance from OWASP, APIs inherently promote connectivity and information sharing, often at the expense of access controls and security enforcement that would be standard in web applications.
- APIs are automatically generated and discovered: Tools like OpenAPI facilitate automatic API generation, discovery, and onboarding. However, according to Gartner’s analysis, this era of “hyperconnectivity” often exposes unstable or non-production APIs that have not been adequately tested or secured.
- Dynamic nature of APIs: The rapid pace of change across API ecosystems – with new APIs published, removed, or updated daily – means what was once properly secured can quickly become vulnerable. A recent Salt Labs’ State of API Security 2023 report has more to say.
The external attack surface of APIs presents a unique set of challenges. As APIs extend beyond organizational boundaries, connecting with third-party services, and partners, and even open to the public, the potential points of vulnerability increase exponentially. The dynamic nature of the external attack surface amplifies the difficulty of monitoring and securing every interaction point.
Impact of API Security Breaches on Digital Trust
Digital trust is the currency of the modern digital economy, and any compromise can result in severe reputational damage. Unauthorized access, data breaches, and service disruptions not only have immediate consequences but also erode the bedrock of digital trust. Maintaining a secure API environment is not just a technical concern; it’s a strategic imperative to preserve the confidence of customers, partners, and stakeholders. For instance, a recent CSOnline report reveals, “Web application and application programming interface (API) attacks against the global financial services industry grew by 65% in Q2 2023 compared to Q2 2022, accounting for nine billion attacks in 18 months with banks bearing the brunt.”
APIs often handle sensitive data, and any compromise in security can lead to unauthorized access or data leaks. In an era of stringent data protection regulations, such as GDPR and CCPA, ensuring API security is synonymous with upholding data privacy. API security and data privacy are inseparable. Any lapses in API security can have far-reaching consequences in terms of compliance and legal implications.
Expanded Attack Surface Management (EASM) and API Security
To effectively address the challenges posed by the external attack surface in API security, there’s a need to embrace the concept of Expanded Attack Surface Management (ASM). Expanded ASM involves a holistic approach to identifying, assessing, and mitigating risks across the entire attack surface, including APIs.
The traditional perimeter-focused security model is no longer sufficient in an era where APIs extend the attack surface beyond organizational boundaries. Experts such as NIST and Gartner recommend taking an API lifecycle-based approach – building security across stages from API design and publishing to runtime protection.
How to Maximize Expanded ASM for API Security
Maximizing the Expanded ASM for API security begins with a strategic and proactive approach:
- Comprehensive API Inventory: Conduct a thorough inventory of all APIs in use, including those interacting with third-party services, and leverage automated discovery tools to ensure no API is overlooked.
- Continuous Monitoring: Implement continuous monitoring solutions to gain real-time visibility into API activities. Ensure to monitor for anomalies and deviations from normal behavior patterns.
- Risk Assessment and Prioritization: Conduct detailed risk assessments to identify critical APIs and potential vulnerabilities. Also, prioritize remediation efforts based on the severity of risks and the importance of APIs to your business operations.
- Authentication and Authorization Controls: Implement robust authentication mechanisms to ensure only authorized entities can access and interact with APIs. It is also important to explore multi-factor authentication to add an extra layer of security.
- Data Encryption and Privacy Measures: Encrypt sensitive data transmitted via APIs to safeguard it from unauthorized access and adhere to privacy-preserving measures to comply with data protection regulations.
- API Lifecycle Security: Integrate security measures throughout the API lifecycle, from design and development to deployment and decommissioning. Ensure security is ingrained at every stage of the API development and maintenance.
- Incident Response Planning: Develop a comprehensive incident response plan specific to API security incidents and define clear procedures for identifying, containing, and mitigating API-related threats.
EASM moves beyond siloed API gateways or web application firewalls (WAFs) to continuously discover assets, monitor traffic, detect policy violations, and determine the priority of risks across the full range of REST and CRUD APIs.
DigitalXForce’s Role in Maximizing Expanded ASM for API Security
DigitalXForce stands as a pioneer in providing cutting-edge solutions with an attack surface management solution tailored to maximize security, especially in the context of API vulnerabilities. Our suite of cybersecurity solutions helps you stay ahead of emerging threats, identify potential risks, and proactively secure your API landscape by harnessing the power of data-driven insights to make informed decisions, fortify your defenses, and ensure the resilience of your API infrastructure.
The scale and spread of APIs represent a major security challenge. EASM powered by behavioral analytics and automated enforcement provides a means to manage API risk amidst the complexity of modern computing ecosystems. At DigitalXForce, we offer an attack surface management solution, backed by data-driven insights, to fortify your API security. Our suite of cybersecurity solutions empowers organizations to navigate the complexities of API security for a proactive, comprehensive, and resilient API security strategy.