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After Theranos, the risk from ‘black box’ start-up API security providers is a real threat

Shay Levi
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One of the hottest trends in Cybersecurity is API Security, and for a good reason. Cyber security organizations have realized APIs are indeed everywhere: on any of their cloud environments and in their datacenters. They’re used to communicate with customer interfaces such as web and mobile apps or to communicate with suppliers and business partners with server to server communication. Used for automation, used for administration – we can go as far as saying any piece of code that’s written in the last three years is either using or exposing an API.

This explosion of APIs comes with many challenges for the average security organization. More often than not, APIs are being developed rapidly (we live in a fast world) and mistakes are very common. Those mistakes can be design flaws, misconfigurations and API security vulnerabilities such as faulty authorization. It would be impossible to find an organization that is well aware of all the APIs in its environment, especially the ones that aren’t routed through the centric API gateway, let alone the data that goes through any of the APIs and who is permitted to access the API or the data behind it.

How does that relate to Theranos? Theranos was a “breakthrough” technology company that claimed to have devised blood tests that required only very small amounts of blood and could be performed very rapidly using small automated devices the company had developed. The only problem? The device didn’t work properly and produced inaccurate results. Turns out the tiny sample of blood is actually not enough.

In a very similar fashion, some API Security solutions are boasting their “breakthrough” AI models, claiming you’ll never worry about your APIs again. The problem is, just like Theranos, those companies are relying on a very narrow window into your API environment. They only have limited visibility into API traffic without a contextual understanding of the API itself. In the absence of sufficient details and insights, API vulnerabilities can go unnoticed, and cyber attacks can resemble legitimate behavior. Just a few drops of ‘blood’ from an API traffic capture is simply not enough to build an accurate AI model for API security.

Noname Security recognizes that the API security problem is complex and requires a unique approach and architecture. Therefore, we created an advanced API security platform that, though sophisticated, is simple to use and is non-disruptive because it does not require changes to the network or architecture at the customers’ end. We provide value by solving the real issue of securing APIs.

But, how?

The Answer: A Complete API Security Solution

Poor API security solutions make empty promises, they bombard customers with buzzwords and obfuscate what’s really important. You can’t build an adequate, operational API security model without sufficient visibility, context, and integrations. Here’s what’s crucial to know:

  • Shadow APIs, or Rogue APIs, are APIs you are not aware of. Often these are APIs that are not routed through a managed gateway. If your API security is reliant only through an API gateway security route, it could result in serious API security gaps that can leave these APIs exposed and vulnerable. Look for a solution that has multiple sources for API data, such as gateway integrations as well as network analysis. This will help to build a more accurate inventory of your APIs, including the ones you didn’t know you had.
  • API specification analysis can help with fortifying API security. API security standards such as OpenAPI Specification (OAS) can streamline API design and collaboration. They can also be used to help generate code and ensure quality. Modern API security solutions can help you compare the written specification (OAS) against the actual observed traffic. Differences can be identified so that feedback can be provided back to the developers to remediate. This will help ensure the API is only used for its intended purposes and nothing more.
  • It’s possible to detect attacks in real-time, address misconfigurations, and identify security defects for remediation. The challenge is doing it at scale and with operational efficiency. API security solutions need to integrate and complement existing technologies such as WAFs and workflow tools. When attacks, anomalies, or misconfigurations are detected, the solutions should be capable of initiating the response. This could include automated (or semi-automated) signaling to the WAF to reset a session, revoking a credential at the gateway, or opening a Jira change request to resolve a misconfiguration. The API security platform should leverage the investment in the technology stack you already have, not add more complexity.

It’s noisy in the marketplace. You can feel spoiled for choice as you browse the many new API security software tools available.

Interested in learning more? Connect with us. We’d love to hear from you.

Shay Levi

Shay Levi is the Co-Founder and CTO of Noname Security. Prior to Noname, Shay was a Senior Software Engineer at Facebook as a member of the Mobile Web and Lite for KaiOS teams. At Facebook, Shay Levi played a key role in a successful launch of the Facebook Lite for KaiOS operating system.

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