A Deep Dive Into API Security: Unpacking Traceable’s Definitive API Security Guide

As we navigate through the increasingly digital landscape of the 21st century, APIs have become the unseen threads that stitch together our interconnected world. They underpin our web applications, mobile apps, and the Internet of Things (IoT), enabling different software to talk, share, and integrate in previously unimaginable ways. However, this new reality of pervasive APIs brings its unique set of challenges, especially when it comes to securing them against emerging threats and exploits.

We are thrilled to delve into Traceable’s latest whitepaper: “The Definitive Guide to API Security.” This groundbreaking piece promises to provide a comprehensive overview of API security, a topic that becomes more relevant with each passing day as our dependence on digital services grows. Known for their innovative solutions in cybersecurity, Traceable’s exploration of API security combines industry expertise with deep technological insight, making it an invaluable resource for IT professionals, cybersecurity enthusiasts, and anyone interested in understanding the world of digital security better.

Over the course of this blog series, we’ll be dissecting and discussing the key points and significant findings from this whitepaper. We aim to unpack complex ideas, best practices, and groundbreaking methodologies, distilling them into insights to help you understand and implement state-of-the-art API security practices.

Stay with us on this journey as we illuminate the intricate landscape of API security, guided by the experts at Traceable. This first series tackles the growing API security crisis, API Sprawl, and details about how APIs are the universal attack vector.



The Growing API Security Crisis

According to Gartner, last year in 2022, API abuse became the most frequent attack vector for data breaches. Furthermore, by next year, in 2024, API abuse attacks will double.  

While API security is not a challenge specific to particular industries, Financial Services typically contends within addition to security challenges, organizations face significant regulatory and compliance challenges. 

The financial services industry is also seeing the rumblings of compliance around API security. On October 3, 2022, the FFIEC announced a significant update to meet cybersecurity mandates for financial institutions. This update explicitly calls out APIs as a separate attack surface in regulatory guidelines that represents a significant shift in compliance trajectories, and highlights the increased threats that APIs pose. The FFIEC specifically created these new guidelines prompting financial institutions to inventory APIs as part of their overall inventory of information systems and risk assessments.


APIs Are the Universal Attack Vector

What makes APIs so dangerous is that they expand the attack surface across all vectors. They present the largest attack surface we have ever encountered in the industry.

In the past, hackers had to find ways of bypassing existing solutions, such as WAFs, DLP, API Gateways, etc., in order to find data and disrupt systems. Now, they can simply exploit an API, and obtain access to sensitive data, and not even have to exploit the other solutions in the security stack. Before APIs, hackers would have to learn how to attack each layer they were trying to get through, learning different attacks for different technologies at each layer of the stack. And learning how to get around each of the different security technologies that typically protected each attack vector.


In simple terms, APIs hold the keys to Pandora’s box.

They are the number one method of gaining access to sensitive data, systems, infrastructure, and a whole host of other surfaces that result in numerous consequences for organizations and their customers.

How We Got Here: The Perils of API Sprawl

As the number of APIs and the complexity of apps grow, it becomes very hard to track how many APIs exist, where they are located, and what they’re doing. What is internal and external isn’t clearly defined anymore. And these APIs can be especially difficult to discover within and outside the enterprise, impacting end-to-end connectivity. 

With so many APIs being created and updated, organizations can quickly lose control of the numerous types including internal, private, public or externally exposed, rogue, shadow, partner or 3rd party APIs. 

The reality – there are thousands of APIs in organizations, running on multiple clouds, and they are growing each day. And considering the complexity of APIs and increasing API sprawl, most organizations simply don’t have visibility into how many APIs they have, where those APIs reside, and what those APIs are doing.

The number of APIs will continue to grow.

According to Gartner:

  1. APIs are critical to the success of organizations’ digital transformation programs. In a Gartner survey, 70% of enterprises cited APIs as important to digital transformation and API security as their top challenge.
  2. 94% of organizations use or are planning to use public APIs provided by third-parties; up from 52% in 2019.
  3. 90% of organizations use or are planning to use private APIs provided by partners; up from 68% in 2019.
  4. 80% of organizations provide or are planning to provide publicly exposed APIs; up from 46% in 2019.


Frequent updates to APIs result in versioning and documentation issues. Beyond that, APIs are prone to fraud and malicious behavior. External APIs must be validated continuously for trust, and internal API keys can be compromised, giving attackers access to critical infrastructure. Solutions like API gateways, ingress controllers, and sidecar proxies can enable highly effective management of intra-cluster API architectures, but they are insufficient for managing inter-cluster API sprawl.

To solve API sprawl across multiple clusters, enterprises require a single source of truth that tracks all APIs, seamless API discovery, proper versioning and documentation, API-to-API connectivity, and uniform monitoring of API reliability. And with APIs opening up so many new threat vectors, enterprises need to recognize the risk they pose, and make trust a metric for third parties accessing their APIs.

In our Upcoming Series

As we conclude this introductory post, it’s clear that API security is a vast, intricate, and critical component of our digital world. Our deep dive into Traceable’s whitepaper has revealed the broad strokes of API security’s importance, how it intersects with everyday technologies, and why it should be top of mind for all organizations.

But this is just the beginning. As we venture deeper into this labyrinth, it becomes evident that the conventional tools and legacy solutions we’ve employed so far have not been fully sufficient for addressing the growing and evolving challenges in API security. As the digital landscape becomes more complex, it’s clear that piecemeal solutions simply can’t keep up.

In the upcoming second series of this blog, we will tackle why exactly these traditional methods have been falling short and why a more holistic approach to API security is not just preferable, but essential. We’ll discuss how it’s imperative that we shift our paradigm and think about API security in a more integrated manner, tying it more closely with other aspects of our IT infrastructure and overall security posture.

One key element we will delve into is the concept of an API data lake – an integrated, comprehensive repository of raw API data that forms the backbone of context-based API security. We’ll explore how such a repository can provide invaluable insights, enable robust security measures, and ultimately transform your approach to safeguarding your digital assets.

There’s a lot to look forward to in the upcoming series. Together, we’ll continue to unravel the mysteries of API security, unearthing the most effective strategies and tools, and discovering how to implement them to secure our digital environments. Until then, let’s keep the conversation going and continue to challenge the status quo for a safer, more secure digital future.

Stay tuned!


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.