API Governance and Compliance

API-based development has become the core of all things digital as organizations of all kinds expand their use of APIs, both internal and external. Chances are good that your business fits into this category — and this introduces new security and governance considerations.
Businesses turn to APIs because they represent a convenient way to develop consistent, reliable application infrastructure, but when not managed carefully, they may provide an attack surface for bad actors. More often than not, APIs are transmitting sensitive data introducing potential compliance implications. Namely, organizations may end up out of compliance with key industry and regional regulations due to unaddressed API issues.
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The Importance of Strong API Governance

Why should data governance efforts include APIs? In short, because the risk of data exposure and noncompliance through APIs is real and present. Adopting a suitable API governance model can help an organization safeguard its data as API creation and use both increase.
According to the most recent Cequence research on API usage, exposure of sensitive data through API vulnerabilities rose by 87% relative to previous studies. When the information in question is regulated, such as payment card information, this could cause organizations to fall out of compliance with important frameworks such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).
While every organization is different, it’s rare for a business not to have at least some important API risk factors that need to be managed and controlled. Some of the specific issues associated with API governance include:

Hidden, deprecated and shadow APIs

Organizations that don’t have granular visibility into their APIs may not realize how many APIs are actively in use. Undetected, unmanaged new APIs or older, forgotten solutions may be exposing sensitive data in ways that violate key regulations.

Coding mistakes and human error

Even APIs that have been created with security in mind may still be exposing data if there are errors within their code. Therefore, API monitoring must be continuous and reach all of an organization’s APIs.

Misalignment with specifications

While standardized API specifications help applications reach a baseline level of data security and compliance, ongoing conformance monitoring is needed to ensure the APIs are actually in line with specifications.

Accidental public exposure of internal APIs

Some APIs that are meant to be internally facing may become security and compliance risks if they are ever exposed to the public. It’s important to have a way to ensure these APIs remain hidden. Per Cequence research, inadvertently public APIs have risen 46% in recent months.
Any one of these issues could lead to significant problems for companies, as they may represent noncompliance, especially in heavily regulated fields such as health care or finance. Organizations hoping to avoid the fines and reputation damage associated with compliance violations need to think more closely about their API posture.

API Risk Assessment: Why And How

How can an IT security team start to get a handle on API governance? The process involves an API Risk Assessment, which is the process of detecting a host of potential vulnerabilities. Some of these issues may place the business’s regulatory compliance in jeopardy, and they’re all worth detecting and correcting.
From coding errors to inadvertent exposure of internal APIs and more, there are numerous ways for sensitive information to leak out via an organization’s APIs. A risk assessment determines what is really going on, in practice rather than in theory, and points to vital next steps.
Organizations’ individual API deployments can be sprawling and inadequately mapped. Putting the right tools in place highlights the potential dangers that are present, including from published APIs that have not been properly accounted for. Companies can’t protect what they don’t know they have, so this process of discovery is integral to enforcing both API design governance and overall data security.

API Risk Assessment Across Industries

Every business will have slightly different API governance needs and its own unique risk profile. Factors such as an organization’s industry, location and scale determine both the types of sensitive data it needs to protect and the regulations to comply with. A risk assessment should reflect these unique traits through the use of custom rules
A combination of preset and user-defined rules can set out what is considered a risk factor for a particular organization. For example, while it’s always prudent to make sure there are no APIs inadvertently exposing credit card information or Social Security numbers, some organizations will have more specific types of personally identifiable information also worth protecting. This may include user account numbers, login credentials and more.
This requirement — to not just complete a risk assessment but to focus on the vulnerabilities that matter most — highlights the importance of working with the right partner organization. Teaming with Cequence Security is the way to ensure API protection receives the attention it deserves.
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How Cequence Security Addresses Top API Governance Challenges

Cequence Security believes in taking a holistic approach to defending against API-related data risk with a market-defining Unified API Protection solution that goes beyond API security approaches that only focus individually on discovery, detection or defense but combines all three.
This process of Unified API Protection can begin with a comprehensive API Risk Assessment, determining where the faults reside in a business’s API management strategy and infrastructure. Going far beyond simple, surface-level issues with APIs, this process can reveal a variety of risk factors, potentially including issues based on customized criteria.

The Journey to Unified API Protection

Cequence Security believes in taking a holistic approach to defending against API-related data risk with a market-defining Unified API Protection solution that goes beyond API security approaches that may focus solely on one aspect of the API protection journey. Achieving true peace of mind for comprehensive API attack protection means traveling through six distinct steps associated with the Unified API Protection solution:
Cequence The Journey to Unified API Protection
Discovery: Viewing an organization’s API attack surface from a threat actor perspective to know the unknown.
Inventory: Performing a comprehensive multi-cloud API inventory, including all existing APIs and connections.
Testing: Integrating API protection into development, which shifts API security left within the organization, so risky code doesn’t go live.
Compliance: Keeping APIs in compliance with specifications, standards and regulations such as OWASP and ensuring ongoing API governance.
Detection: Continuous scanning for threats, including subtle business logic abuse, fraud, and automated malicious activity from bots.
Prevention: Employing countermeasures such as alerts, real-time blocking, deception, without the need for added third-party data security tools.
Unified API Protection is different from fragmented or incomplete API security offerings because it’s a methodology designed to account for multiple types of risk, across every phase of the API protection lifecycle.

Time to Commit to API Governance Oversight

The correct time to improve API governance oversight and risk management is now. The API development and use ecosystem are only becoming more widespread and diverse. The sooner organizations can gain increased visibility and control over their API deployments, the better.
Once API security teams have Cequence Security Unified API Protection solution in place, they can turn to its visual tools, such as the Sensitive Data Exposure Dashboard, to detect and respond to any new exposure risks or incidents. Using customizable alerts, personnel can be notified as soon as such issues are detected, allowing them to respond immediately and develop solutions.
Of course, the best way to combat faults in API management and security is to make sure they never enter production in the first place. Cequence Security tools can accomplish this feat as well, becoming deeply embedded in the API lifecycle and effectively shifting security left within the DevOps framework to catch issues before developers publish APIs.
Investing in a comprehensive unified API protection approach is the optimal way to guard against threats — known and novel, now and in the future. This level of defense is necessary, as attackers have come to realize both how common API usage is and how much sensitive data they can exfiltrate if they successfully compromise an API.
An API Risk Assessment from Cequence Security is a vital part of this unified API strategy and protection process, and one your organization should embrace as soon as possible. Request a demo today to see where your business stands from an API governance and risk perspective.

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