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Get Me Some API Now!
Get Me Some API Now!

In the fast-paced digital era, Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) have become the backbone of software development, enabling applications to communicate, share data and extend functionalities seamlessly and efficiently. However, the proliferation of APIs has also introduced complex security challenges, necessitating a paradigm shift in traditional Security Operations (SecOps) practices. 

This post delves into how API security is compelling traditional SecOps to adopt a "shift left" mindset, emphasizing early integration of security in the software development lifecycle (SDLC) to enhance protection, compliance and efficiency.

Understanding the landscape

The rise of APIs

APIs have become ubiquitous in today's software landscape, serving as the connective tissue between services, platforms and applications. They enable businesses to offer more integrated and feature-rich services rapidly, but also expose broad new attack surfaces heretofore unseen. The complexity and volume of API interactions have outpaced traditional security measures, making it imperative for organizations to reassess their SecOps strategies. This is where, let's call them, first-generation API security came into focus. 

That focus was on the discovery of new APIs but was hindered by only being able to see those APIs that were still going through traditional corporate gates, such as API gateways and WAFs (Web Application Firewalls). It also could detect more API-specific attacks but was unable to see or determine more complex business logic attacks like Broken Object Level Authorization (BOLA) or Broken Function Level Authorization (BFLA) attacks.

Second-generation or next-generation API security tools, which are the dominant on the market today, use sophisticated AL/ML and large datalakes, allowing for deeper insights into attacks, but still run into the problem of only knowing or discovering those APIs at the typical chokepoints previously mentioned. These tools are highly competent and the mainstream of API security in the first quarter of Anno Domini 2024.

Thrid Gen API Sec - Cogito Ergo Sum!

What we are calling third-generation API security is that which is shifting left and melding development and traditional SecOps and focusing on risk at the application level. This is the integration of API security and Application Security Posture Management, also known as ASPM. ASPM enriches API security by informing it of issues at the code level, of which it is truly vulnerable. The most malicious and hard-to-catch business logic attacks are the aforementioned attacks amongst others.

Traditional SecOps challenges


Traditional SecOps have primarily focused on securing the perimeter and reacting to threats as they occur. This reactionary approach, while necessary, is increasingly insufficient in a world where APIs extend across organizational and cloud boundaries, creating dynamic and distributed ecosystems. The reactive nature of traditional SecOps struggles to keep pace with the rapid evolution of API-driven architectures, leading to vulnerabilities being discovered too late in the SDLC, or more specifically, after release to runtime. This puts SecOps behind the curve and always has to play catch-up. 

SecOps had all the burden of securing the company's digital assets, without any insight, or even say most of the time, into the development process. This doesn't scale in today's market. APIs and their propensity to reproduce like rabbits everywhere you look means that SecOps teams are neither equipped nor able to cope with the rapid expansion leading to an area of the company that has access to the most data with the least amount of focus on the security of SecOps or DevOps. This is causing a rapid change.

The "shift left" mindset

The concept of "shifting left" in SecOps refers to integrating security practices early and throughout the SDLC, from initial design to development, testing and deployment. This proactive approach aims to identify and mitigate security vulnerabilities before they can impact production environments, thereby reducing the risk of breaches and compliance issues.

The App and API Security Market Landscape

Why shift left for API security?

  1. Early vulnerability detection: By embedding security in the initial stages of API development, organizations can identify and address vulnerabilities when they are easier and less costly to fix.
  2. Developer empowerment: Shifting left places security in the hands of developers, who are best positioned to understand and secure their code. This empowerment fosters a culture of security awareness and responsibility across the development team.
  3. Automated security testing: Integrating automated security testing tools within the CI/CD pipeline enables continuous assessment of APIs for vulnerabilities, ensuring that security is maintained throughout the development process.
  4. Compliance assurance: Early integration of security helps ensure that APIs comply with regulatory standards and industry best practices from the outset, reducing the risk of non-compliance penalties.

Implementing a shift left strategy for API security

Adopting a shift left mindset for API security requires a holistic approach, encompassing people, processes and technology. Here are key steps organizations can take:

1. Culture and training

  • Foster a culture of security: Cultivate an organizational culture that prioritizes security as a shared responsibility across all teams involved in the SDLC. Create bug hunt competition to excite teams to find and clear up bugs. Setup a security champion within your organization.
  • Provide security training: Equip developers with the knowledge and tools they need to incorporate security best practices into their work from the start. This is so critical that PCI DSS 4.0 requires this for app and API security.
Developer Security Competition

2. Process integration

  • Embed security in the SDLC: Integrate security practices and proper tools into each stage of the SDLC, from planning and design to deployment and maintenance.
  • Implement security by design: Encourage the adoption of security by design principles, ensuring that security considerations are integral to the architectural and design phases of API development.

3. Technological enablement

  • Leverage automated security tools: Utilize automated security testing tools, such as static and dynamic application security testing (SAST and DAST), software composition analysis (SCA) and API security testing tools to continuously evaluate APIs for vulnerabilities.
  • Utilize API gateways and management platforms: Implement API gateways and management platforms to monitor, manage and secure API traffic, enforcing authentication, authorization and encryption standards.
  • Leverage runtime API security tools: API Security helps, when combined with tools like ASPM, to find the APIs you don't know about and have true posture management using runtime and code-level tools to have a true holistic view of your application and API estate.

The benefits of shifting left in API security

The shift left approach to API security offers numerous benefits, including:

  • Reduced security risks: Early detection and mitigation of vulnerabilities significantly reduce the risk of security breaches.
  • Cost efficiency: Addressing security issues early in the SDLC is far less costly than remedying them after deployment.
  • Faster time to market: A streamlined, secure development process accelerates the deployment of secure APIs, enhancing competitiveness.
  • Compliance and trust: Ensuring compliance with security standards and regulations builds trust with customers and stakeholders.



As APIs continue to proliferate and become critical to business operations the need for a shift in SecOps practices becomes increasingly evident. By adopting a proactive, integrated approach to API security, organizations can enhance their defensive posture, mitigate risks more effectively and foster a culture of security that supports business innovation and growth. 

The journey towards a shift left mindset may require significant cultural and procedural changes, but the benefits of enhanced security, compliance and operational efficiency make it a worthwhile endeavor. This is why API security will be the key enabler of the shift left mindset and culture required to tackle the issues of securing highly distributed applications and APIs in the modern world.

WWT is here to help customers to navigate this emerging market and its complexities. Reach out and we would be happy to discuss in detail the market landscape and how to best address App and API security in your environment. 

Our briefing, "API Security - Visibility Into an Expanding Attack," is a worthwhile hour to spend discussing the market, where it is heading and how to best take advantage of it. Additionally, our, "Application Security Briefing," ties in the shift left and moves to the secure side of IT security. 

Reach out, we would love to talk with you!