It’s all but impossible to live without APIs in the modern era. Whether you know it or not, APIs facilitate communication and more in our private and professional lives. As an end user, it’s easy to carry on in blissful ignorance without considering the vital role that APIs play.
IT professionals don’t have that luxury. Neglecting, ignoring, or taking APIs for granted can have dire results in a business setting. Only in a dream world can organizations set it and forget it, trusting that things will run smoothly (and safely) in perpetuity. Like never locking your front door or seeing a dentist, it’s unreasonable to go through life without security or general checkups.
You miss critical updates
Neglecting your APIs means risking missing critical version updates, and as with any software, updating your APIs can have downstream effects that can impact user experience.
That doesn’t mean avoiding updates or neglecting them when they become available. Modern developers implement API versioning, releasing more regular updates with smaller changes and avoiding major updates when possible. By not staying current or keeping track of your version updates, your organization misses the insights gained from these changes.
More than your APIs, you may even miss out on updates for software altogether. In a 2022 State of API Security report, more than half of respondents said they had delayed an application rollout due to API security concerns. That means withholding critical applications or functions due to APIs, an issue that could be easily avoided with more attention.
You become reactive rather than proactive
If your API is versioned or updated, you may see effects on user groups within your organization. If not, you may be at risk for security exploitation or other dire consequences that could be avoided by proactively monitoring, tracking, and updating your APIs.
Organizations must know what is happening with their APIs at all times – whether versions or updates take place manually or are scheduled for automated deployment. Being proactive means, you can notify end users of potential challenges or differences before your Help Desk is inundated with calls and tickets.
You waste time and resources
You may have learned that being reactive comes at a high cost – time, money, and staff availability. Neglecting your APIs sets you up for all-hands-on-deck issues, draining your resources when you need to pull staff away from their existing projects or workloads to tend to mission-critical problems or unscheduled updates. Keep your APIs front of mind and avoid wasting time and energy on unplanned tasks.
You can’t learn from experience
Well, you can certainly learn from experience when things come up. But isn’t it nicer to learn along the way than parse information after the fact? Neglecting your APIs means missing out on documenting and learning as you go. That doesn’t mean only learning from mistakes, of course. Knowledge is power, as they say, and knowing what works will arm you with data to make wise business decisions.
You leave your company, your end users, and your data vulnerable to attacks
Reliance on APIs has risen in recent years, and so too have security risks. Cybercriminals have identified APIs as a weak point for organizations and aim to exploit security holes for their gain. In the aforementioned State of API Security report, only 9% of respondents said they were confident in their API security strategy. If you don’t have an API security strategy, you’re not alone: 61% confess they lack a robust plan for mitigating risk.
On average, data breaches cost US businesses a staggering $10 million, a figure that sounds alarm bells for organizations while singing a siren song to bad actors. Whatever businesses think they’re saving by neglecting API security or cutting corners, it’s undoubtedly far less than the $10 million it could cost when their data falls into the wrong hands.
The impact of neglecting your APIs is significant and can affect not only your organization but your end users, data, and overall security landscape. Without proper attention, APIs languish in your ecosystem, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation or sacrificing user experience.
API Security Best Practices
Of course, warnings without action are just doom and gloom. To incorporate these risks into your strategy, consider some API management best practices:
- Take a full inventory of your current APIs and develop a system for tracking, monitoring, and maintaining all APIs organization-wide.
- Employ runtime security for APIs to identify and stop bad actors exploiting business logic gaps in your APIs.
- Ensure your organization has an efficient onboarding and offboarding process for employees. Lingering account access for end users no longer with the company (or who have switched departments and no longer use certain applications) creates vulnerabilities.
- Consider implementing two-factor or multi-factor authentication (2FA/MFA) for an added layer of security.
- Encrypt all data transmission, and don’t neglect internal communication in your encryption policies.
- Create a risk-aware culture, ensuring employees are aware of risks, how to be vigilant, and where to report incidents within your organization.
The takeaway? Don’t neglect your APIs.
Your DevSecOps team should ensure your APIs – and, chances are, you’re using a lot of them – are given the attention they need and deserve. Keep up with the latest versions and stay ahead of the curve in security, protecting your organization from opportunistic cybercriminals.
About the Author
Stefanie Shank. Having spent her career in various capacities and industries under the “high tech” umbrella, Stefanie is passionate about the trends, challenges, solutions, and stories of existing and emerging technologies. A storyteller at heart, she considers herself one of the lucky ones: someone who gets to make a living doing what she loves. Stefanie is a regular writer at Bora.