What are the Key Benefits of API Discovery?

API discovery is a crucial process in the API lifecycle. It allows cybersecurity teams to gain full visibility on an organization’s API estate by uncovering unmonitored, shadow and vulnerable APIs. What is more, is that it is an important component for proactive risk assessment and remediation. They are an important component of a solution employed to defend APIs againsts threats and vulnerabilities.

In this blog, discover the entire role that API discovery plays in API security. We take a look at the differences between internal and external programs, the key benefits to organizations of using API discovery tools, as well as the core differences between API discovery and API management.

Interested in catching up with the previous blogs in this series? We are releasing five parts, and here is what we’ve published so far.

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

2: API Attacks: Understanding and Protecting Your System

Now, let’s explore everything about API discovery in part 3 of this series.

What is API discovery?

API discovery is the process of searching for and finding API resources, and it can refer to the discovery of both internal and external APIs. External facing APIs are particularly at risk as a preferred attack vector for hackers.

It is an essential aspect of application security and development. It empowers organizations to effectively manage their API ecosystem, ensure up-to-date API specifications, and structure APIs for optimal performance. Whether performed manually or automated, API discovery is instrumental in accelerating development and achieving better outcomes in both internal and external programs.

There are three core reasons why discovery is so key for saving internal resources.

  1. API discovery finds rogue and zombie APIs: API discovery helps identify and address rogue and outdated APIs, also know as zombie APIs, that may still be active due to personnel changes or oversight.
  2. API discovery means greater efficiency: API discovery facilitates project efficiency by allowing teams in different departments to avoid duplicating efforts and reinventing the wheel. This helps large enterprises identify existing internal APIs that could be utilized by multiple teams, streamlining development processes.
  3. API discovery saves technical time and effort: External API discovery offers businesses the opportunity to enhance their website or app functionality with interactive map and route planning features. Instead of developing these functionalities from scratch, businesses can explore existing APIs that provide the desired capabilities. Discovering and utilizing these external APIs can result in significant time and effort savings.
  4. API discovery means costs benefits and savings: Zombie APIs can cut into profits, with the suggested costs of API vulnerabilities in 2022 set at upwards of $75 billion annually.

Let’s take a closer look at the different functionalities when it comes to api discovery tools who have internal and external programs.

API Discovery: Internal V External Programs

The functionality of API discovery varies slightly depending on the use cases and operational domain. usually split between internal and external programs.

Here is what CISOs need to know.

Internal Programs

In the context of internal programming, API discovery refers to defining innovations and capabilities for applications that grant access to third-party resources. API discovery plays a key role in accelerating app development by providing insights into API utility, predicting the outcome of API usage, reducing the likelihood of API duplication, and understanding the potential for API improvements.

Why is this relevant for CISOs?

In terms of context, when you discuss”internal programs” in relation to API discovery, it refers to efforts within the organization to identify and manage APIs that are used internally. This might include APIs that facilitate communication between internal applications, microservices, or systems. For CISOs, this is critical for several reasons:

  • Security Posture: Knowing what APIs exist internally helps in assessing security vulnerabilities or compliance issues.
  • Risk Management: Understanding the internal API ecosystem allows for better risk assessment and mitigation strategies, protecting internal systems from potential security breaches or data leaks.
  • Operational Efficiency: Proper API management can lead to more seamless integration and interaction between different parts of the organization, improving overall operational efficiency.

External Programs

In contrast, “external programs” relate to APIs that are exposed to or consumed by external entities, such as third-party developers, partners, or customers. In this instance, API discovery involves identifying the required APIs from a digital pool.

Users can access an API storefront that features multiple APIs and select the ones they need. During this type of discovery, users familiarize themselves with the core values associated with APIs and the necessary procedures to implement them. Popular platforms like GitHub, Postman, Google, and Rapid API, to name a few are commonly used for this type of API discovery.

Why is this relevant for CISOs?

There are three main reasons why.

  • Security and Compliance: External APIs present a direct interface with the outside world and are, therefore, a common target for attacks. It’s vital to implement robust security measures and ensure regulatory compliance.
  • Public and Partner APIs: Different strategies may be required to manage APIs designed for public consumption versus those used for specific partners. Identifying and cataloging these helps in applying appropriate security policies and access controls.
  • Monitoring and Threat Detection: Being aware of the entire external API portfolio allows for better monitoring of suspicious activity and quicker response to potential threats, safeguarding sensitive data and services.

Next, let’s examine the overall importance of API discovery for the overall tech ecosystem for businesses.

How does API discovery benefit organizations?

Until now we’ve briefly touched on the resources that can be saved when organizations deploy API discovery tools, and for good reason. According to Gartner, real-time APIs are expected to handle over 50% of B2B transactions by the end of 2023.

It is clear that APIs are vital for any technological architecture of the future. But some organizations continue to not understand how API discovery can benefit them.

API discovery serves several roles within an organization.

  • Cyber visibility: API discovery plays a crucial role in identifying all APIs being used within an organization, including identifying potential security risks. It optimizes resource allocation to enhance overall efficiency
  • Cost benefits: API discovery not only allows for cost savings by reducing IT complexity and promoting agility, but it also assists in decoupling systems and exposing functions.
  • Sensitive data: Within the API ecosystem, API discovery tools reduce sensitive data exposure concerns for organizations. Particularly when we see the explosive growth in API use, both externally and internally, with it is an ever expanding attack surface. We detail more about this explosive growth in CybelAngel’s 2024 annual report.
  • Comprehensive documentation: Discovered APIs that are thoroughly documented, provide developers with essential information such as functionality, endpoints, authentication requirements, and example responses. Well-documented APIs streamline the development process and ensure ease of use for developers.
  • Improved integration: API discovery facilitates seamless integration and smooth operations between various systems and applications by identifying the available Application Programming Interfaces. This enables organizations to leverage existing APIs efficiently and build robust, interconnected systems.

Now, let’s take a look at API discovery in action.

What are the differences between API discovery and API management

The growing complexity of IT infrastructures that companies manage, internal APIs now number in the hundreds or even thousands.

According to a recent global survey on APIs in banking, by McKinsey and Company, 81% of participants saw them as a high priority for both business and IT functions. The same survey found that major banks are dedicating an average of 14% of their IT budget towards API programs, showcasing the industry’s recognition of their value.

API management platforms enable organizations to effectively develop, design, monitor, test, secure, and analyze APIs. These platforms offer a robust set of software and processes to make both public and private APIs consumable and scalable. With full-lifecycle API management, organizations can easily discover and use APIs, control access, analyze usage, and enforce security and governance policies. In essence, API management platforms govern an enterprise’s entire API ecosystem, managing the API lifecycle end-to-end.

API discovery is the process of finding internal and external API resources. It plays a crucial role in application security and development, allowing organizations to manage their API ecosystem effectively and ensure up-to-date specifications and optimal performance.

Why is API discovery so critical to overall good API management?

So, what are the differences between API discovery and API management?

This is a great question.

In essence, API discovery is essential for cyber teams whereas API management is more focused on the management of APIs by development teams.

1: API discovery avoids duplicating functionality: API discovery plays a vital role in helping developers and cyber teams understand what APIs and avoid duplicating functionality by using already available APIs.

2: API discovery focuses on finding and cataloging available APIs: Modern API discovery involves tools and platforms that automatically discover and create API documentation. API management, instead, closely follows the entire lifecycle, including creation, deployment, monitoring, and API documentation.

3: API discovery plays a vital role in ensuring security and compliance: By identifying all APIs, teams can ensure that each API meets security requirements for sensitive data. What is more, researchers at Gartner estimates that by 2025, less than 50% of enterprise APIs will be properly managed. This conceals a massive chunk of your API ecosystem from security controls. API management reviews whether your APIs meet these standards, and clearly identifies what needs to be improved or fixed.

We will further examine API discovery compliance in our upcoming API Security series blog. To keep an eye on new publications, follow all new content releases on our blog via our social channels, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Wrapping up: API discovery takeaways

API discovery is crucial in your software development lifecycle to identify all APIs and improve security. API discovery tools powered by automation help to streamline internal processes, bolster API security, detect vulnerabilities, and enhance API management.

To wrap up review our key takeaways for security teams to keep in mind:

  • API discovery helps organizations find and catalog available APIs, their endpoints, functionalities, and data structures. It is crucial for defending APIs against threats, sensitive data exposure, and vulnerabilities.
  • API discovery saves internal resources. API inventories identify and address rogue and outdated APIs, avoiding duplicating new API efforts in different departments, and utilize existing internal APIs.
  • API discovery in external programs involves identifying the required Application Programming Interfaces from a digital pool using platforms like GitHub, Postman, Google, and Rapid API.
  • API discovery benefits organizations by providing real time cyber visibility, cost savings, reducing sensitive data pii exposure, comprehensive documentation, and improved integration and operations between systems.
  • API discovery is different from API management. API discovery focuses on finding and cataloging available APIs, avoiding duplicating functionality, and ensuring security and compliance. API management platforms govern the entire API ecosystem, managing the API lifecycle end-to-end.

That is it for blog three in our series. Stay tuned for our next upcoming blog in this series.