API Threats and Brand Reputation: Your Top 10 Checklist

Are API threats top of mind for you and your SOC team?

If not, they will be after you’ve read this blog.

Welcome back to our API Security series. In the final blog in our series, we are wrapping up by diving further into API security vulnerabilities. We review how API threats affect your brand’s reputation on a global scale, with effects that range from financial losses to cyber breaches affecting exposed user data.

We also share an essential top 10 API threats checklist within this blog. It crucially details the top 10 API threats and identifiers you need to defend against, to protect your sensitive data, and more importantly, protect your user’s data.

You can also easily share this checklist with your cybersecurity and SOC teams to refresh your API security measures, best practices, and ultimately get ahead of key issues facing your attack surface.

Interested in catching up with the previous blogs in this series? Take a look at the other 4 blogs that we’ve published so far.

1: What is API Security? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

2: API Attacks: Understanding and Protecting Your Infrastructure

3: What are the Key Benefits of API Discovery?

4: API Security and Data Exposure: 8 Principles to Know

Now, let’s take a look at the costs involved in mitigating the damage caused by API threats.

What is the cost of sensitive data that leaks via API Security risks?

Navigating API security threats is a critical priority for your brand, and for good reason.

The financial ramifications are one key risk area.

In 2023, the average cost of a data breach reached a record high of approximately $4.45 million according to the Ponemon Institute and IBM Security, as published in their “The Cost of a Data Breach Report 2023.” This represents a 2.3% increase from the previous year.

The costs associated with cyber attacks, often are difficult to quantify in terms of business impact, and what is more, is that they are rising. Last year, CybelAngel identified a notable escalation in risks tied to the external attack surface. We detail these findings in our annual report.

Our CISO, Todd Carroll, found that there was a swift rise not only in the exposure of data but also in the proliferation of assets with vulnerabilities, including APIs, thereby expanding the potential avenues for cyber threats.

As they’ve become fundamental components of app development , the widespread expansion of APIs have inadvertently provided opportunities for malicious actors. These adversaries target web applications through APIs to launch data breaches, seize control of accounts, commit fraud, and pose other threats.

So what exact core security vulnerabilities should you be monitoring to better prevent against API threats?

Why are API security breaches escalating?

The escalation in security breaches has shed light on the importance of securing Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) against cyber threats. Attackers are increasingly targeting APIs, exploiting weaknesses to access sensitive data, or to sabotage systems.

But exactly why are API threats becoming more and more common?

We’ve discussed the fundamentals of API security in a previous blog, but here is a quick recap of the core vulnerabilities that contribute to API security incidents.

These can include:

  • Poor authentication practices
  • Inadequate encryption
  • Exposed endpoints
  • Improper management of keys
  • Flawed API security standards
  • Irregular security testing and API audits

These vulnerabilities have a wide ranging impact, mainly that of user data exposure, the erosion of customer trust, regulatory and compliance breaches, as well as significant financial costs.

In an era where API requests are continually evolving, auditing your API security threats is a non-negotiable for enterprises.

Let’s examine our top 10 checklist to significantly lower API security data breach costs and API security solutions.

A top 10 API Security best practices checklist for CISOs

Why is an API threats checklist essential for you to ward against hackers?

For one, the API security landscape in 2023 was characterized by more sophisticated attacks, lower barriers to entry for attackers, and significant financial and operational impacts on affected organizations.

Robust cybersecurity measures that include proactive threat monitoring are the best ways to stay ahead of the curve to identify and contain breaches more quickly.

1: Pay closer attention to shadow APIs

Shadow APIs refers to any device or digital service that is not formally managed or secured by an organization’s cybersecurity team. Shadow APIs can take many forms including via undocumented APIs, unpatched vulnerabilities assets etc.

Shadow APIs are usually not malicious but can be impossible to secure against API attacks.

A recent study detailed the uncontrollable expansion of ‘shadow APIs’. It was found that guardians cannot protect what they cannot see, resulting in almost 31% more API REST endpoints being identified through machine learning techniques compared to those detected via customer-provided session identifiers.

2: Increase visibility on your API attack surface

An important part of any defense strategy is increasing the visibility of your attack surface.

Tools like API discovery, can in real time discover, monitor, and secure all API endpoints to keep up with real-time issues that otherwise benefit from a widening attack surface.

This is critical as every day, a substantial number of APIs are developed and updated, making it challenging for teams to monitor and manage all of them comprehensively.

3: Create a culture of API audit and authorization checks

We can’t talk about API security without mentioning safe coding practices. Exposure during the API development phase is an entry point for cyber attacks.


Rather frequently, developers sometimes position their APIs, or portions thereof, outside firewalls for testing purposes, during demos to partners, or to facilitate third-party backend access. This often occurs without the knowledge of the security team, and can lead to excessive data exposure.

It is important to size up technical processes with a clearcut audit that ensures safer API development.

4: Prioritize and rank your API threats

What API threats are the most important in the general scheme of cyber attacks?

Prioritization is crucial when it comes to mitigating threats when they arise due to the sheer scope of modern application architecture that is itself managed by multiple different teams, who iterate and change their APIs quickly.

To stay ahead in this space make a list of issues that are the most imperative for your SOC team.

An example of these API threats could be:

  • Certificate issues
  • Misconfigurations
  • API documentation exposure
  • The OWASP top 10 scope
  • PII exposure/excessive data exposure

Once you fall behind your API security best practices as a CISO, it can be near impossible to catch up. It is better to preempt these threats to better protect your brand’s reputation.

5: Leverage non invasive scanning (instead of testing)

Did you know that organizations that use vendors with security AI and automation reported significantly lower data breach costs and were able to identify and contain breaches more quickly? On average they do so 108 days faster than those who didn’t.

In complex IT environments API testing has become a du jour practice- but it remains costly and invasive.

Leverage an automated solution to uncover external-facing APIs and endpoints. If you can, ensure your solution covers the detection of the main API risks, such as sensitive data exposure or potential risks to your operations

6: Get up to speed on API attack regulatory issues

The fallout of exposing user and client data is one API attack threat that CISOs lose sleep over.

It’s vital to implement robust security measures and ensure regulatory compliance.

For example, in the E.U. GDPR compliance directly ties to web application and API security. Under Article 25, data protection must be “by design and default,” requiring data controllers to enforce technical measures that bolster data principles and rights. Ensuring these safeguards are embedded in their processing methods is essential to achieve GDPR compliance.

For brands who are concerned with both the cost and the reputational effects of sensitive data PII leaks, there are regulatory fines also in place.

Rousseau, the digital voting platform utilized by Italy’s 5 Star Movement political party, incurred a €50,000 fine due to a lapse in security that left user data exposed to potential breaches.

7: Implement these 4 core security measures for API threat protection

These 4 key pointers are classic and helpful for a reason.

  • Implementing robust authentication and authorization systems, such as OAuth 2.0, OpenID Connect, JWT, SAML, API Keys, RBAC, mTLS, and 2FA.
  • Utilizing rate limiting strategies to prevent DoS attacks and control server load.
  • Educate your team about the importance of data encryption in transit and at rest, along with key management best practices.
  • Carry out regular security testing techniques, including vulnerability scanning, penetration testing, static and dynamic analysis, fuzzing, and API-specific testing. Do keep in mind that testing can quickly become expensive.

8: Get a grip on the benefits of API Discovery

As a CISO API discovery is critical for preserving critical resources.

But why is it so important?

We’ve covered this in our 3rd blog in this series but here is the shortened story.

API discovery is a vital tool that allows organizations to identify and manage rogue or outdated APIs, known as zombie APIs and shadow APIs. It enhances project efficiency by preventing redundancy and saving technical time and effort by utilizing existing APIs. Importantly, API discovery can also lead to significant cost savings by minimizing vulnerabilities, which research found will cost around $75 billion annually.

9: Consider these 3 “provider pillars”

When it comes to selecting a provider for outsourcing your API threat management, consider these three pillars before you make your choice to help you and your team.

  1. Cost consideration: Can you be choosy with your API threats needs but also have that reflected within your provider’s pricing?
  2. Scalability challenges: Will your needs grow with the functionality of your provider? Ask yourself if your attack surface will remain a priority for your provider as you scale?
  3. Complex implementation: What is the timeline like for implementation and how is it managed in terms of permissions? How will you and your team gain access to reporting and data?

All three are core questions to reflect on.

10: Know that API security and cybersecurity are interlinked

In a world where cyberattacks and security threats are all too common, keeping all your systems and sensitive information safe is more important than ever. For busy CISOs and SOC teams, slipping behind application security and API security best practices is not an option. What is more is that attack vectors and the attack surface are increasing

Brush up on our definitive API security guide here.

Wrapping up: Can you mitigate the effects of API threats?

In short, the answer is yes.

Dedicating proper attention, resources, and a comprehensive strategy towards safeguarding APIs is essential. CISOs, with the right security measures in place for their organization, can absolutely navigate the myriad of security vulnerabilities that application programming interfaces are susceptible to.

Overall, an effective API security framework not only shields against data intrusions but also ensures adherence to stringent regulatory standards to protect the sensitive data of. What is perhaps the most critical point is that API lifecycle solutions like API discovery tools, safeguard the integrity of your brand. These tools mitigate security threats and help to bolster the confidence of your customers and partners, who engage with your digital interfaces and apps.

Adding onto this, the dynamic landscape of cyber threats underscores the urgency for businesses to constantly refine and update their API security protocols.

It is is clear that to offset cyber risk and cyber attacks a static approach to API security will no longer suffice.

In short, counter API threats via these 4 core areas.

  • Proactive identification of potential vulnerabilities, e.g. sensitive data PII exposure
  • Implementation of cutting-edge security measures and tools
  • Creating a security-first mindset culture across your organization and especially for backend teams
  • Evolving your cybersecurity outlook from a reactive to proactive approach.

That is it for the final blog in our API Security series. If you are interested in reading all content in this series, you’ll find them on our blog.

To connect with our team and discuss your external attack surface request a demo today.