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Securing APIs in 2024: Top challenges for CISOs
Tue, 6th Feb 2024

APIs have become indispensable in enabling organisations to unlock innovation and drive revenue through seamless interoperability and data exchange. However, the exponential rise in API adoption has also dramatically expanded the attack surface. A recent ESG survey revealed a staggering 92% of organisations using APIs suffered a breach in the past 12 months.

As APIs grow more critical for business operations, they remain one of the most vulnerable components of the modern IT ecosystem. In 2024 and beyond, effectively securing APIs will be a pivotal concern for CISOs safeguarding their organisations. Here are the key challenges CISOs will need to address:

Enabling Proactive Threat Hunting

With the rising sophistication of attacks, CISOs can no longer rely on reactive threat detection. AI-powered hacking and insider threats require proactively scanning for anomalies and behaviours indicative of compromise.

But current reliance on limited guides like OWASP Top 10 leaves blindspots attackers can easily exploit. Only full observability into raw API traffic enables evolvable behavioural analysis to reliably flag emerging attack techniques.

Addressing insider threats 

Perimeter defences like web application firewalls (WAFs) are ineffective at detecting threats from authenticated users with legitimate access. As hackers creatively gain customer or partner access through APIs' low barriers to entry, their actions appear valid. WAFs only inspect inbound requests, missing the full context of responses to identify misuse.

CISOs need to implement layered inside-the-perimeter monitoring to catch credential misuse, data exfiltration, or manipulation of endpoints. This requires correlating identity, behaviour, and payload data across the full lifecycle of API transactions.

Discovering Compliant Security Tools

Organisations must adhere to regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to protect personal data accessed through APIs. As operations expand globally, meeting regional compliance frameworks becomes exponentially complex.

SaaS solutions require lengthy data processing to redact sensitive information before analysis, hindering efficiency. However, traditional on-prem tools lack the scalability to handle massive API data. Finding solutions that enable compliance without compromising operational agility is a major dilemma.

Prioritising on-premise tools that instantly analyse raw traffic avoids third-party data risks and accelerates deployment. This balances security with productivity demands.

Securing leadership support

There is an education gap when it comes to API security, as API attacks have more recently emerged as a significant threat. Many CISOs struggle to convey the urgency of API risks to budget holders without comprehensive visibility into their API environment. With APIs rapidly changing, tracking modifications and emerging vulnerabilities is a monumental challenge.

By attaining real-time observability of API traffic and inventory, CISOs can accurately quantify risks and their direct business impact, from service disruptions to compliance violations. This is pivotal in strategically aligning security objectives with business goals to secure executive buy-in.

Making APIs a Priority

In 2022, 82% of organisations reported a mature API strategy and higher API adoption resulted in increased efficiency, collaboration, and agility. Yet, APIs remain an under-protected attack vector in most security strategies. CISOs must bring APIs to the forefront of risk assessments and resource allocation.

Comprehensive API visibility, compliant and scalable on-prem tools, layered inside-perimeter monitoring, and proactive hunting are imperative for CISOs seeking to secure APIs against the challenges of 2024. With APIs forming the backbone of innovation and growth, prioritising their protection will be key to organisational resilience.