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2023 API Security Trends for Government and Public Sector

Dan Murphy
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It’s no secret that government agencies have a tendency to work in silos. If you aren’t familiar with the phrase, it basically means they work in isolation from one another. And if that posed issues before 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic definitely laid bare the need for greater collaboration between public sector organizations – the type of collaboration made possible by application programming interfaces (APIs). However, despite the breadth and depth of the services APIs enable, government agency collaboration woes aren’t totally forgiven.

The API challenge for the government is two-fold; APIs are needed to connect talent across sectors, but they also deal with some of the most sensitive personal identifiable information (PII) available. Which means cybersecurity controls are of utmost importance when it comes to utilizing APIs effectively. But what is the current API security landscape and how should organizations improve their security posture?

To uncover and address the risks involved, Noname Security conducted its 2023 API Security Trends survey and report to provide new discoveries and build on last year’s research. The endeavor entailed surveying over 600 CIOs, CISOs, CTOs, and senior security professionals from UK and US-based organizations across six industries. 112 of these respondents were from government and public sector organizations. With that in mind, this blog post will highlight the most common API security risks within the government sector, provide strategies to make government APIs safe and effective, and give you access to the full unfiltered report at the end.

How Cybercriminals Thrive

Seventy-seven percent of survey respondents from the government and public sector reported being victimized by an API security incident over the past year. While this overall hit rate and pace of growth (2%) are middle-of-the-pack among sectors polled, they still indicate a high frequency of security incidents moving in the wrong direction.

Interestingly enough, while security incidents were on the rise in 2023, so was trust in API strength. 96% of the government and public sector respondents expressed confidence in their testing tools’ capabilities to protect APIs. This false sense of security is even more confounding given that the reported rate of real-time security testing decreased from 2022 to 2023.

How Security Breaches Hit Home

If the data concerning API security incidents and misconceptions of stability aren’t enough to motivate the government and public sector to reevaluate their security posture, perhaps the stakes involved could be. Threat actors pose several grave challenges to this industry when their attacks are successful.

Increasing Demand, Decreasing Faith

The COVID-19 pandemic drastically accelerated consumer preference for online goods and services. Perhaps no industry is beholden to a larger customer base with more varied needs and demands than the government and public sector. Bridging the gap between legacy systems people rely on with the new modality of rendering service makes API usage a necessity in this industry. But the extensive exchange of personal, employment, and healthcare data puts the sector under heavy scrutiny at a time when public polling indicates a staggering loss of confidence in public institutions. Nearly 60% of survey respondents indicated a loss of goodwill and churned accounts as tangible effects of API security incidents.

Stocking Up on Defense

While we now understand the risks and rewards associated with API security, the government and public sector must chart a course away from peril and toward prosperity. Noname’s research found several promising trends that provide hope for the present and future within the industry. Despite the disconnect between real and perceived security capabilities noted earlier, industry leaders are clearly paying attention to API security. Visibility of full organizational API inventories and daily security testing procedures both increased year-over-year.

Reclaiming Public Trust

Necessity is the mother of innovation, as the saying goes, and this industry is embracing that growth mindset. Once known for isolated planning and execution, Noname is seeing a major shift toward inter-agency collaboration through API usage, as well as a shift toward a more flexible workforce that will help the government and public sector compete in the job market with private industries. An ecosystem of partnerships with a highly skilled workforce can deliver the products and services that will restore the public faith in government.

Test to Win

Beyond any doubt, the most effective tool the government and public sector have at their disposal when it comes to producing and protecting effective APIs is frequent, consistent security testing. Working with an API security platform provider that enables posture management, real-time testing and other security practices can be the singular key to success in this space.

Conclusion

From highly sensitive data to complex collaborative environments, down to the public’s faith in its own government, the stakes of API security could hardly be higher for this industry. We know that cybercriminals have ramped up attacks over the past year, and leaders of the government and public sector have room to grow between their perceived and true level of security. Fortunately, awareness is on the rise and, along with it, solutions that will deliver a more effective government for the people.

Government and public sector leaders would be well-served by reading the full report, learning more about API areas to protect and how to preserve a secure environment.

Click here to download the full report – 2023 API Security Trends for the Government and Public Sector.