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What is API Posture Management?

What is API Posture Management?

Harold Bell
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If your mother ever told you to sit up straight at the dinner table, then you’ll understand that posture refers to being in the correct position. In cybersecurity and IT, the word has a similar meaning, but it also connotes readiness. Having a strong security posture means your cyber defenses are well-planned and thoroughly implemented. You’re in the correct position to defend your digital assets. API posture management follows this meaning, as well. It’s about how well you can protect your application programming interfaces (APIs) from threats and misuse.

What is API posture management?

API posture management is a part of IT and cybersecurity practice that seeks to ensure maximum protection of APIs. The specifics of API posture management vary by organization, as well as by the toolset used for its implementation. However, in general, API posture management covers the following areas:

  • Inventorying APIs and their operations — It is impossible to defend what cannot be seen, so API posture management begins by taking a complete inventory of APIs and the operations they perform, along with the gateways the API passes through and the date of its last update. This process needs to include APIs that may not be registered into an organization’s official API management tools. Indeed, some of the most serious API risk exposure comes from APIs that exist outside of formal areas of control. Or, they are old APIs that have been forgotten, even as they still function and allow access to data. The API inventorying process needs to be ongoing, as development teams continue to deploy APIs into production, often without the IT department’s knowledge.
  • Establishing complete API visibility — With an API inventory available, API posture management must then establish complete visibility into your APIs. The team responsible for API posture management has to be able to see every API—how it’s configured, the systems it exposes, the underlying infrastructure powering the APIs, who’s using it, and so forth. The visibility should also include awareness of the types of data going through the APIs. For example, if an API is handling personally identifiable information (PII), that’s a useful fact to know for the sake of regulatory compliance.
  • Monitoring APIs — An API inventory and visibility only matter if teams and their tools monitor the APIs continuously. The monitoring process is meant to detect API availability and performance problems, as well as anomalies that signal that an API attack is underway. API monitoring should also track compliance with regulations, e.g., GDPR, as well as with internal security and governance policies.
  • Identifying and remediating API vulnerabilities — API posture management teams, and their tools, must detect vulnerabilities. This might involve analyzing log files, configuration files, and more. The OWASP API Security Top 10 vulnerabilities are valuable reference points in this workload. Done right, API vulnerability detection will discover problems like credential leaks, code exposure, and misconfigurations. The challenge at the moment of detection is one of prioritization. API posture management establishes which vulnerabilities get remediated first by way of assigning a risk score. Automated remediation, available in certain API posture management tools, is often the best approach.

Why is API Posture Management important?

API posture management is an important workload because APIs represent a serious and expanding attack surface for malicious actors. Compromising an API allows a hacker to access sensitive or valuable data. The result might be a data breach or destruction of data. Compliance problems can follow. Additionally, given the centrality of APIs to business operations today, a denial of service (DoS) attack on an API can impair a company’s ability to function.

Benefits of API Posture Management

API posture management delivers a range of benefits for organizations that practice it. One is the reduction of “API sprawl,” the problem of having undiscovered and potentially unnecessary APIs running in one’s infrastructure. These may be old versions of APIs, or APIs created by “shadow IT” processes. Better cybersecurity is another benefit. By making APIs a smaller attack surface, API posture management reduces the likelihood of a security event like a data breach. Some of the benefits of API posture management are preemptive in nature. For example, by identifying where sensitive data needs the most robust protections, API posture management can help mitigate the impact of a breach.

API Posture Management vs API Discovery

API posture management includes the API discovery process, but people sometimes conflate the two practices. An organization might conduct API discovery and conclude that it has done its API posture management work. This is not accurate. Rather, true API posture management also includes API monitoring, vulnerability detection, and remediation. API discovery is essential for these other workloads, but API discovery on its own does not do much to improve API security.

Conclusion

APIs comprise a substantial attack surface. API posture management enables IT managers and their partners in cybersecurity to reduce API-based risk by inventorying and monitoring APIs, detecting vulnerabilities, and then remediating them. These processes help protect an organization from data breaches and compliance problems that can result from API vulnerabilities that have not been remediated.

Harold Bell

Harold Bell was the Director of Content Marketing at Noname Security. He has over a decade of experience in the IT industry with leading organizations such as Cisco, Nutanix, and Rubrik, and has been featured as an executive ghostwriter in Forbes Technology Council and Hacker News.

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