The Imperative of API Ownership: A Nexus of Development and API Security

As the digital era flourishes, the importance of data and seamless connectivity has skyrocketed. The key enabling factor for this seamless connectivity are APIs. 

APIs are the messengers of the internet age, relaying requests between different software systems and applications, and returning responses. 

It is the gatekeeper of data and functionality, thereby being at the heart of the digital transformation we are witnessing.

Yet, the fundamental role APIs play as gatekeepers also positions them squarely in the danger zone of security threats, violations, and abuse.

According to Akamai’s “2023 State of the Internet / Security Report,” incidents related to APIs have skyrocketed, with an astounding 350% increase in attacks from 2020 to 2023. This alarming trend underscores the urgent need for enhanced API security measures and the establishment of definitive API ownership.


Understanding API Ownership

Traditionally, API ownership has been a gray area. Developers create APIs, security teams secure them, and operational teams maintain them. This lack of clear ownership often leads to inconsistencies, miscommunications, and lapses in security protocols. API ownership is not about singling out a responsible party; it’s about establishing clear boundaries, roles, and responsibilities.

API ownership is the delineation of accountability and responsibility for a given API. It includes defining who is in charge of the design, implementation, operation, and particularly the security of that API. It implies a dedicated owner or a team that understands the API, its use cases, potential vulnerabilities, and, most importantly, is accountable for its secure operation.


The Imperative of Establishing Clear API Ownership

Establishing clear API ownership has undeniable benefits, particularly in enhancing security. 

Here’s why:

  1. Accountability: the old adage, “When everyone is responsible, no one is responsible,” holds here. When security teams assume developers are ensuring secure coding practices, and developers believe security teams are handling API security, it creates a dangerous gap. This gap often becomes the entry point for cyber threats.However, when there’s clear ownership, there’s accountability. And with accountability comes meticulous attention to detail and security. API owners will have direct stakes in ensuring their APIs are not the weakest link in the cybersecurity chain.
  1. Continuity: API security is not a one-and-done task. It demands continuous monitoring, timely updates, and immediate response to threats. This continuity is better maintained by an owner or a dedicated team who understands the API, its dependencies, and its role in the overall system.
  2. Rapid Response: an API breach can have catastrophic consequences for businesses, ranging from data leaks to interrupted services, or even complete shutdowns. With clear API ownership, responses to security incidents can be more rapid and effective, minimizing potential damage.
  3. Knowledge Consolidation: API ownership leads to better knowledge consolidation. API owners, by virtue of their role, are more likely to have in-depth knowledge about their APIs, the data they handle, the vulnerabilities they might possess, and the ways to secure them.


Embracing API Ownership: The Way Forward

If the current API security landscape continues, we can expect to see an increase in data breaches and API-related incidents. API ownership is no longer a choice but a necessity in the cybersecurity strategy of businesses.

Adopting an API-first approach in design and development is becoming increasingly popular. In this approach, APIs are treated as first-class citizens. And as such, they need ownership and accountability to ensure their robust and secure operation.

From the trend perspective, Gartner estimates that by 2023, 90% of web-enabled applications will have more surface area for attack in the form of exposed APIs rather than the UI. Therefore, it becomes indispensable for organizations to rethink their approach to API security and include API ownership as a crucial part of their cybersecurity strategy.

Indeed, API ownership may pose certain challenges. Establishing clear ownership might require organizational restructuring and altering traditional roles, which can be complex. However, the return on investment for this reorientation is significant. After all, the cost of preventing an API breach is substantially less than recovering from one.

Additionally, it’s critical to pair API ownership with a cultural shift towards a shared security mindset, where security is seen as a shared responsibility. Even with clear ownership, all stakeholders – from developers to operations – need to have a security-focused mindset. Moreover, API owners should leverage advancements in technology, such as AI and machine learning, to monitor and secure their APIs. These technologies can help automate repetitive tasks, identify patterns and anomalies, and provide predictive analytics for proactive threat detection and mitigation.

In conclusion, the era of vague API responsibilities is rapidly becoming obsolete. We are entering an era where clear API ownership is integral to robust API security, effective application development, and consequently, to the broader cybersecurity landscape.

The need for API ownership is not merely an industry trend or a fad; it is a fundamental requirement in an increasingly interconnected digital world. Businesses and organizations must recognize this need, adapt, and act. 

Security does not happen by accident; it is a result of deliberate actions, clear responsibilities, and unwavering commitment to safeguarding data and systems. As we continue to develop and innovate, we must also continue to protect and secure. API ownership, it seems, is a potent tool in our cybersecurity arsenal.


About Traceable

Traceable is the industry’s leading API Security company that helps organizations achieve API protection in a cloud-first, API-driven world. With an API Data Lake at the core of the platform, Traceable is the only intelligent and context-aware solution that powers complete API security – security posture management, threat protection and threat management across the entire Software Development Lifecycle – enabling organizations to minimize risk and maximize the value that APIs bring to their customers. To learn more about how API security can help your business, book a demo with a security expert.