Ensuring API security within the DevSecOps framework
Ensuring API security within the DevSecOps framework
Ensuring API security within the DevSecOps framework

Security testing

Ensuring API security within the DevSecOps framework

Introduction DevSecOps framework

In the rapidly evolving digital era we are in today, Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) have emerged as the silent heroes. They act as connectors for almost all of our favorite apps, and because they ensure that different software components are connected seamlessly, we can enjoy their many benefits. With the proliferation of APIs in nearly every application that we use, it’s no surprise that their security has become a pressing concern. Looking deeper, it becomes evident that the symbiotic relationship between API security and DevSecOps is a crucial merging of disciplines. Both fields are becoming increasingly intertwined, marking a significant shift in how we approach software development and security. This article aims to shed some light on this convergence, emphasizing the urgency of strong API security in the current digital landscape.

Understanding DevSecOps

DevOps, as a methodology, emerged with the vision of bridging the divide between software development (Dev) and IT operations (Ops), promising more agile deliveries and a smoother development lifecycle. Yet, as cyber threats continued to grow, an important element was found missing from the formula: security. Enter DevSecOps. By integrating security considerations directly into the DevOps workflow, DevSecOps mandates that security isn’t a bolted-on afterthought but rather an ingrained part of the development process from inception. By doing so, it shifts the security paradigm from reactive patching of vulnerabilities to a proactive model, addressing potential threats even before they manifest. As we navigate deeper into the era of the web, the tenets of DevSecOps are becoming not just preferable, but indispensable.

APIs – The Gateway to Your Application

At the heart of almost any of our favorite applications lies a network of APIs, often working behind the scenes to power the functionalities we have come to depend on. Think of APIs as the unseen conductor of an orchestra, coordinating various instruments (services and platforms) to produce a harmonious user experience. However, as these facilitate data flow and interconnectivity, they also become potential points of entry for malicious actors. A breached API can give attackers undue access, potentially compromising sensitive data or even hijacking entire systems. Given their central role, leaving APIs unguarded is akin to leaving your home’s front door wide open. Recognizing the role of APIs in modern applications means also understanding the immense responsibility of securing them against threats.

Best Practices for Ensuring API Security within DevSecOps

Protecting your digital assets is more than just an obligation, it is a commitment to your users and stakeholders. In the realm of API security, DevSecOps present a comprehensive blueprint. Here is the breakdown of some pivotal strategies:

Authentication and Authorization

It is not enough to know someone is at the door; we must be sure of their identity and intentions. Implement robust mechanisms like OAuth and JWT to ensure only legitimate users access your APIs, and that those users are only doing what they are supposed to be able to do. Below is an example of a commonly used method of authentication: OAuth.

Abstract Protocol Flow

Rate Limiting and Throttling

It is not just about the quantity of requests, but the quality. By controlling the frequency of API calls, you shield yourself from potential DDoS attacks and maintain service integrity as well as availability. Having an API that is not usable by your actual users, is like not having an API at all.

Attacks graph

Input Validation

Like a vigilant gatekeeper, this process ensures that only valid and safe data enters the system. Proper input validation safeguards against injection attacks and other malicious activities. Thankfully, there are some great resources to help you with input validation for your APIs. One resource that provides incredible expertise on this is the OWASP Input Validation Cheat Sheet.

Regular and Automated Security Testing

Vigilance is the name of the game. Continuous and automated security tests highlight vulnerabilities before they can be exploited, acting as a crucial preventative measure. Regular automated testing also makes sure that you have proper test coverage on your whole API codebase. Akto can help you out in this area. If you are interested in how Akto is revolutionizing this area of API security, check out a video of our platform.

Logging and Monitoring API Calls

The more knowledge you have about your APIs the better. Knowledge is power. By tracking API interactions, anomalies are quickly detected, paving the way for timely interventions. Most cloud providers will have some of this logging and monitoring capabilities built into their API products. Google Cloud, for instance, has a multitude of dashboards that will allow you to monitor the behavior and health of your APIs like the one below.

APIs and Services

Encryption In-transit and At-rest

Data is a modern-day treasure, and like any treasure, it needs protecting. Encrypting data both as it travels and when it is stored is non-negotiable for airtight API security. Hashicorp does this well. You can see in the diagram below, it is a very good example for keeping data encrypted as much as possible both in-transit and at-rest.


API Gateway Implementation

Think of this as the fortress wall, governing and managing incoming requests to ensure both optimum performance and enhanced security. This is also a service that a lot of cloud providers have built into some of their services. This time we can use an example from Azure. You can see a diagram here to set up a gateway to protect APIs, and you can see the documentation of this entire process here.

Microsoft Azure

Real API Case Studies

One way to really see the impact that sidelining API security could have on an enterprise, is to look at some of the companies that have unfortunately come under attack due to API issues. Here are some examples to show you how seemingly small issues can cause massive problems.

Optus data breach via API endpoint

With this API breach, attackers discovered a publicly exposed endpoint that did not require authentication. This endpoint exposed very sensitive information about Optus customers. On top of this, it was discovered that the API developers used sequential IDs. This made users easy to enumerate for attackers. This breach had a huge financial impact on the company. It was speculated to be over $100 million in financial impact.

Twitter has ~5 million user’s data leaked online

Twitter also had one of the biggest API breaches in the past few years. Attackers found a vulnerability in the Twitter API that allowed them to submit email addresses or phone numbers, and retrieve the user's associated twitter account. Thankfully this breach only disclosed information like birthdays, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses. But with all this leaked data, other attackers could definitely have used it for more creative attack paths.

3Commas has API keys stolen

Sadly, some breaches do cause massive financial damages to users. In December of 2022, an attacker put out a pastebin showing they had breached a 3Commas database, and from this database they were able to retrieve API keys that are used to perform transactions on a multitude of platforms. With the API data, attackers then linked their own blockchain wallets to these accounts and made trades on a user’s behalf. This attack caused an estimated $20 million loss from these exchange accounts into the attacker's wallets. Halborn has a more in-depth analysis.

Challenges in Ensuring API Security in DevSecOps

The path to integrating API security within a DevSecOps framework is not without its struggles and hurdles. As teams reach for as close to perfection as possible, they encounter challenges unique to the nexus of APIs and security. Let’s unpack some of these complexities:

  1. Technical Intricacies of Continuous Monitoring: APIs are dynamic, often changing in tandem with application requirements. Keeping an eye on these constantly shifting interfaces, while necessary, can pose technical challenges, especially when dealing with legacy systems or complicated architectures.

  2. Addressing False Positives During Automated Testing: Automation, while efficient, is not infallible. Automated security scans can sometimes raise false alarms, leading teams down rabbit holes or causing unneeded panic. Distinguishing genuine vulnerabilities from false positives is something that will take time while you configure and set up your tooling in the best way possible.

  3. The Evolving Nature of API-based Threats: Threat actors are resourceful, always innovating their attack vectors. The threats faced today might be entirely different from those we encounter tomorrow. Staying a step ahead requires not just good technology, but also a mindset of continuous adaptation.

  4. Balancing Speed with Security: DevSecOps aims to integrate security without hampering the agility that DevSecOps promises. Finding the equilibrium where security measures don’t slow down development and deployments can be a very hard balance to find.

  5. Here is a webinar by Akto on API Security in DevSecOps.

The Role of API Security Vendors Like Akto

In the intricate space of API security, specialized vendors stand out, bringing immense value to enterprises. Akto, for instance, is more than just a vendor offering API security; they are a partner in your journey towards airtight API security. Here’s what aligning with Akto brings to your API:

  • Deep-rooted Expertise: With Akto, you are tapping into a reservoir of industry-specific knowledge, crafted specifically for the unique demands of API security.

  • Real-time Monitoring: In today’s world, every second counts. Akto’s advanced monitoring proactively oversees API endpoints, identifying and mitigating threats as they emerge.

  • Upholding Compliance Standards: Akto ensures your APIs don’t just function efficiently but also adhere to the highest security and privacy benchmarks.

Remember, with API security, timely intervention can be the difference between smooth operations and catastrophic breaches. By taking preemptive steps, you not only shield critical data pathways but also lay a resilient foundation for the future of your APIs.

Looking Ahead: The Future of API Security in DevSecOps

We are in the middle of a period of incredible technology and innovation. The symbiotic relationship between API security and DevSecOps is also evolving, promising new paradigms and challenges. Here’s a glimpse into the not-so-distant future of this pairing:

  1. Rising API Complexity: With the advancement of microservices and serverless architectures, APIs are destined to become even more intricate. This complexity will necessitate smarter, more adaptive security protocols within the DevSecOps framework.

  2. AI and Machine Learning: The marriage of AI with DevSecOps is on the horizon. AI-driven tools will play an instrumental role in predictive threat analysis, automating response strategies, and optimizing API security protocols, making them more adaptive and resilient. Akto is already venturing into this space with AktoGPT.

  3. Decentralized API Security: As digital ecosystems start to lean towards decentralization, with advancements like edge computing and distributed databases, API security will need to adapt, ensuring data integrity and security across fragmented digital landscapes.

  4. Continuous Learning and Adaptation: The threats of tomorrow might be completely different from the threats we face today. A culture of continuous learning, training, and evolution will be imperative for professionals navigating the API security realm within a DevSecOps context. To learn more check out our blog on Building a DevSecOps Culture.

  5. Collaborative Security Models: The future will see more integrated collaboration between developers, operations, and security teams. This holistic approach will foster an environment where every team member is a part of the organization’s API security responsibilities.

While the road ahead is lined with opportunities, it is also paved with challenges that demand foresight, innovation, and a relentless commitment to excellence. As API security becomes an even larger part of the DevSecOps framework, it will undoubtedly have a role to play in shaping the trajectory of secure and agile application development.


The convergence of API security and DevSecOps represents a profound shift in the ethos of application development and deployment. APIs, acting as the neural connectors of modern software, carry a responsibility that goes beyond mere functionality. Their security, woven perfectly into the DevSecOps framework, is an emblem of commitment to stakeholders, users, and the larger digital ecosystem.

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Gartner estimates that by 2025, less than 50% of enterprise APIs will be properly managed.

Gartner estimates that by 2025, less than 50% of enterprise APIs will be properly managed.

Protect your APIs from attacks now

Protect your APIs from attacks now

Protect your APIs from attacks now