Full Lifecycle API Security Survey

 100 senior security leaders from large enterprises share their insights

Grab your APIs by the horns

As businesses become increasingly connected, APIs play a crucial role in streamlining operations and improving customer experiences. APIs are fundamental to digital transformation, but the increasing API surface is posing security and quality risks to businesses.

Teams working on enterprise security face new challenges as APIs become more widespread. A consistent security posture is increasingly difficult to maintain as you need to coordinate with developers and control everything from one place. 

We recently surveyed 100 enterprise security leaders to highlight these new challenges security teams are facing in protecting their APIs across their lifecycle.

#1 - API security is sensitive data security

In the same way that people once said “all roads lead to Rome,” today it is evident that all APIs lead to sensitive data. 78% of enterprise security leaders see data breaches and sensitive data exposure as their top API-related concern. 

At the same time, the complexities APIs introduce will only continue to grow, fast: 87% of respondents state they plan to develop more APIs this year than they did last year. If APIs are the path to sensitive data, their security is more tightly related to business risk than ever before. 

Security leaders should reevaluate their current threat modelling to account for the complexities posed by API-first architectures, and the gradual opening of clients’ data to partners.

#2 - Collaboration is the best medicine

Security teams are faced with new challenges as a result of the increase in scope and scale of APIs. Security leaders surveyed indicated the following as their biggest challenges surrounding API security:

  • Reliance on manual controls (64%):
    Manual controls undermine the consistency of controls, making them infrequent, outdated or partial. 
  • Lack of centralized visibility and control (54%):
    The more teams, platforms, and legacy systems in place, the greater the risk of data leakage through shadow APIs.
  • Lack of collaboration between sec and dev (53%):
    Agile development means that technology is continuously delivered and iterated. 

Security leaders should prioritize security controls and processes that can help generate a consistent, centralized and collaborative understanding of the organization’s API footprint, usage and risks, across all teams and platforms.

#3 - Trust, but verify

Although security leaders generally rely on their development counterparts, they do so without the frameworks and controls necessary to generate visibility. 

While 91% of security leaders think their developers have the knowledge and tools needed to create high-quality, secure APIs, only 2% are very confident that they know every API in their organization.

#4 - Show me the money

According to every enterprise security leader we surveyed, a full lifecycle API security strategy will result in enhanced API security. With business risk directly tied to data breach risks, organizations that want to mature their security posture are likely to increase investment in API security. 

As a result of the continuous growth in API development and usage, 86% of respondents plan to invest more in API security. This is very much in line with the 69% of enterprises that already  have 5 or more global R&D teams developing or using APIs.

Security leaders should prioritize investments in security controls that are ready to scale, creating a security infrastructure that can support rapid, widespread API adoption.

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#5 - Full lifecycle API security: The time is now

In today’s “Open Everything” world, APIs are load bearing supports that hold up these new digital infrastructures. Organizations that want to future-proof their business strategies need full lifecycle API security. 

To secure their API pipelines and the sensitive data that pass through them, technology leaders listed their top three as Dynamic API security testing (61%), Monitoring and anomaly detection (51%), Improved API design quality (46%), effectively covering the whole lifecycle of APIs.

Security leaders should consider an API security strategy that integrates controls at every stage of the API lifecycle – design, testing and runtime – to enable better partnership with developers, keep up with the pace of change and manage risks more effectively .

Opening up without being vulnerable

The high reliance on connectivity means more teams develop more APIs, on various platforms and environments, and this proliferation becomes increasingly difficult to manage.API security is the foundation upon which companies build a healthy cybersecurity posture that enables partnerships innovation.

As enterprises strive to open up without being vulnerable, security teams are challenged with fostering a secure API development culture. Only by protecting today’s digital strategies will organizations be able to create a sustainable, digital future that protects sensitive data.

In the API-first era, effective application security programs must enable collaboration and visibility into risk for all internal stakeholders. Enterprises should focus their API security plans on automation, as it is the driver which enhances visibility and collaboration across the lifecycle.

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