Business Practices Product

API security in the cloud isn’t optional

Eric Wolff
Written By Eric Wolff
3 minute read

The conventional wisdom used to be that moving critical IT and security functions to the cloud introduced risk. After all, sending sensitive data beyond your company’s walls felt like you were putting your security in a stranger’s hands.

But adopting the cloud is now viewed by many security strategists as a security benefit rather than a risk. We now know that cloud providers are very good at infrastructure security – and can invest at much higher levels than most enterprises can. And we’ve also discovered that many of the agility and scalability advantages of the cloud apply equally to security systems and workflows.

But when it comes to API security, embracing the cloud isn’t just a good idea to consider. It’s the only way to meet the scale and complexity of the problem.

Here are key ways that the cloud enables a new generation of API protection techniques that simply aren’t possible through an on-premises architecture.

See the complete picture

One of the biggest challenges of API security is the sheer volume of data. Machines talking to machines are capable of much higher transaction volume than humans hitting a web application. Plus the explosive growth of API deployment multiplies the data volume further.

There’s another big “data-maker”. To understand it, consider the two main security risks with APIs:

  1. Vulnerabilities or any weaknesses in the code or API deployment that can be exploited. Vulnerability don’t need a lot of data collection: attacks against many vulnerabilities happen, are seen, and remediation steps can take place.
  2. API Abuse is the other big security risk for APIs. In an instantaneous look, API Abuse looks like regular API traffic. Abuse unfolds over extended periods. 

On-premises API security platforms can only store and analyze small data slices, which are discarded after analysis. This may catch the most egregious API attacks.

But the only way to see the complete picture is by collecting and analyzing data sets that extend over weeks – ideally a month or more. Only cloud-based API Security makes this practical. Neosec took this step, and you gain better API security as a result.

Cloud-based API security offers a much more complete and meaningful picture of standard API-based business workflows – and any attempts to compromise or abuse them. And as I’ll cover in the following sections, a richer data set opens up many new possibilities.

Behavioral analytics from the lab into practice

First-generation API security vendors are talking about behavioral analytics. But what they usually mean is analyzing data sets in a threat research lab to understand more about how API threats are evolving. This is necessary but insufficient!

It’s time to bring behavioral analytics from the lab and into day-to-day defense against API attacks and abuse. Other vendors aren’t doing this because it can’t be done at scale on-premises. The cloud’s economics and elasticity – enabling the larger data sets mentioned above – can perform behavioral analytics in production and at scale.

Applying behavioral analytics to large sets of API security data enables a new generation of threat detection and mitigation techniques. You aren’t just limited to waiting for history to repeat itself in the form of known attack signatures and patterns. Instead, you can protect your organization from novel attacks – and business logic abuse that would otherwise blend in with typical usage – by baselining your normal API activity and detecting anomalies.

View API activity in business context

Behavioral analytics is an effective tool against API threats. But human and algorithmic threat hunting benefit from business context. Neosec profiles users, entities, and business workflows represented in API activity and enriches the data, giving it more meaning or context, enabling more accurate threat detection.

Open up and integrate

Most API security platforms operate like black boxes. Data goes in. Alerts come out. What happens in the middle is a mystery. That’s because what’s happening in the middle isn’t really understandable by humans. Neosec offers the NeoGraph API to the API security platform itself, and unlocks many new and powerful ways to harness API inventory, activity, and threat information.

You can continue doing the basics, like blocking and rate-limiting based on detected threats. But you can also do much more with an open, cloud-based API security platform. For example, you can initiate automated response playbooks that tie in seamlessly with your API gateway or security orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR) platform. You can also bring rich API inventory, activity, and threat data directly into the ticketing and DevOps tools your API teams use.

Shift into proactive mode

In addition to helping you react to API-based threats with greater speed and precision, an open, cloud-based approach to API security also makes it possible to shift into proactive mode. Giving threat hunters access to rich, human-understandable insights about APIs, activity, and security risks makes it possible for them to identify threats before they escalate into business-impacting security incidents.

You can staff up a team of in-house threat hunters to conduct these activities. Or, by adopting an open, cloud-based approach, you can more easily engage Neosec threat hunters specializing in API risks.

Get started quickly and scale easily

The most obvious advantage of a cloud-based API security approach: It’s faster and simpler to get started and begin delivering business value. Too often, deploying on-premises security tools is a complex and time-consuming process that requires coordination across many different teams. And this process then repeats itself when updates and scalability upgrades are needed.

A cloud-based API security approach avoids this. You can be up and running in minutes and see new API security insights at the speed of traffic flows. Plus, you never need to worry about scaling complexity and surprises as your API usage grows.

In fact, why not take the first step right now? Visit neosec.com to access a free trial of our 100 percent cloud-based API security platform.

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