Why API Security Is Everywhere (Except Where You Need It)

Josh Thorngren
February 23, 2023
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Application programming interfaces, or APIs, are everywhere. Your smartwatch, your car, the games you play on your phone, your lights. Everything from your Fitbit to your car has an API. Even your bank likely has an API that you use when you check your balance or make a payment. 

With the release of Apple's HomeKit, we're seeing even more devices with APIs appearing in our homes. And as the Internet of Things continues to grow, the number of devices with APIs is only going to increase.

All of these APIs have one thing in common: they need to be secure. Unfortunately, many devs and ops engineers don't view API security as a priority - and that's a mistake. In this blog post, we'll explore why API security is so important, and how you can make sure you're doing it right.


The Importance of API Security

APIs are an increasingly important part of modern technology, as they enable customer data to be safely transferred between services. They also provide customer privacy protection and robust security – both of which are vital elements of customer experience and trust. 

Therefore, it is essential that measures are taken to ensure API security is maintained. This includes rigorous authentication procedures, regular vulnerability scanning, and refined access control for customer data. Making sure these measures are in place is the smart approach for businesses today, as it provides customers with peace-of-mind and builds strong customer relationships based on trust.


There are too many ways to define what “API security” is.

When vendors (yes, us included) talk about API security, you may wonder what they mean by the term. Your uncertainty isn’t surprising when everyone’s putting marketing effort behind those terms and shoehorning products into the category even when they don’t fit. Network security firewalls might detect anomalous requests on an API, but that’s hardly a tailored API solution.

And even when there’s “a fit”, that can still mean a dozen different things. API Security may mean monitoring API requests in real time and blocking or alerting on suspicious activity. It may mean inventorying API endpoints within your private network. Or something else entirely.

API Security is cropping up as a category, and it’d be easy to buy three API Security tools from three different vendors—and still not be covering all your bases. So let’s talk about what you should be doing to secure your API.


What We Mean by “API Security”

As a quick aside, when we say teams use Mayhem for “API Security”, what we mean is this: Mayhem automatically generates and runs thousands of tests on your API. This includes your standard checks like the OWASP Top 10, but goes beyond this to dynamically generate tests with different inputs and conditions to simulate a wider range of potential behavior. 

The results you get with Mayhem won’t always be tied to a specific vulnerability. It might uncover a performance issue or a reliability concern, but fixing these issues will make your API less likely to be exploited or to behave in a way that inadvertently leaks data.



API Security is Application Security.

This one’s a little personal for me. A few years back, I was writing similar posts to this when everyone was getting excited about Docker. Container security—now that’s something entirely different! 

Except, it wasn’t. With container security, you still needed to check for vulnerabilities and weaknesses, enforce secure configurations, monitor runtime activity, and protect communications internally and externally to your network. Sure, the ‘how’ was different, but the ‘what’ wasn’t. 

It’s the same with APIs. Check out what Chat-GPT told me:

API security is an increasingly important factor in protecting user data, preventing unwanted intrusions and countering malicious attacks. It is no longer enough to rely solely on a strong authentication system and robust access control measures; API security requires a more holistic approach to security across applications, networks and users. 

Securing your APIs is much more than a one-off task—it’s time to invest in a comprehensive application security program that includes preventive controls as well as rapid response times for threat detection and response, ensuring that you are able to respond quickly and effectively during times of crisis.


I could say the same about [insert any technology that’s moving from trailblazing to ubiquitous] security. Where API Security starts to differ isn’t in the swimlanes, it’s in the scale. 

Consider some of today’s most-played mobile games. APIs power the communication between player phones and game or payment servers. We’re not talking about thousands of devices or requests—we’re talking millions or more. That type of scale isn’t something that can be secured without leveraging machine-speed testing and triage.

Aside from scale, you’re not doing much differently. You need:

  • To test your APIs for vulnerabilities, weaknesses and data leaks.
  • To ensure performance and reliability issues can’t be exploited by attackers
  • To monitor usage and detect anomalous behavior for quick response
  • To adopt principles of zero trust access and identity. 



Tips for Keeping Your API Secure in the Future

As the future of application programming interfaces (APIs) evolves, security needs to remain a top priority for developers. 

To ensure that your API is as secure as possible, be sure to use authentication, authorization, and encrypt traffic; also, monitor API usage regularly and stay up-to-date on vulnerabilities. Creating detailed documentation can help make it easier to identify malicious activity. 

Finally, designing APIs with input validation in mind can stop attackers from taking advantage of any loopholes. 

Ultimately, the best way to keep your APIs secure is to start thinking about security preemptively and to be aware of the risks posed if you fail to ensure adequate protection for your infrastructure.

If you're looking for help securing your APIs and staying ahead of attackers, then try Mayhem API Security today. Performance, Reliability and Security testing all in one! By investing in top-of-the-line API security measures now, you'll have total peace of mind that you've done everything possible to keep your services safe from attack threats far into the future.

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