Considerations for Choosing Your API Security Solutions

March 20, 2024

As the cornerstone of modern software, APIs tie together various components of a digital ecosystem, from web services and third-party software to microservices within an application. They facilitate seamless data exchange between discrete systems, thus enabling richer application functionality and enhanced user experiences.

However, APIs are not without their vulnerabilities. They can become an Achilles' heel if not adequately secured, serving as conduits for attacks within the more extensive system. API-based security incidents are rising, from unauthorized data access and denial of service to data loss. According to a recent study conducted by the Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), 92 percent of organizations have experienced at least one security incident related to insecure APIs in the last 12 months. With a projected increase in the reliance on APIs, especially considering the trend towards microservices, cloud services, and IoT, the need for robust API security solutions cannot be overstated.

This article equips you with the necessary information to make a proper decision when selecting API security solutions or a platform. We recommend features to consider, best practices, and guidelines to follow when selecting the appropriate API security solution for your needs. In summary, be wary of choosing an API security solution that claims to solve everything from end to end; instead, look for a comprehensive API security platform that takes an integrated, flexible approach from discovery to testing and remediation (secure SDLC) to runtime protection and enforcement to posture management.

From API security solutions to an API security platform—a feature summary

API security solutions or an integrated platform should have a range of characteristics that ensure robust defense against potential threats.

Feature Brief Description
Inline enforcement Provides real-time protection by blocking or rerouting suspicious requests.
Developer support Offers features and insights to enable developers to strengthen API robustness against attacks.
Continuous monitoring Monitors API activities continuously, providing real-time updates on possible vulnerabilities.
Automate workflows with Large Language Models (LLM) Leverage AI and Large Language Models (LLM) to automate security workflows and better organize API endpoints.

For the rest of this article, we’ll take a deeper dive into the four essential features that make securing APIs easier and more manageable.

#1 Inline enforcement

Inline enforcement operates by actively evaluating and acting upon API requests in real time as they flow through the network. Traditional out-of-band solutions rely on logs and SIEM alerts for analysis long after malicious events have occurred. In contrast, inline enforcement actively intercepts, inspects, and takes action on API calls as they happen, providing swift defense against potential threats. This inline position reduces the likely reaction time, as threats are identified and dealt with immediately. The enforcement mechanism also offers valuable insights into traffic patterns, highlighting potential vulnerabilities and showing what traffic was blocked and why. This complete view of the affected request and response bodies is critical for business stakeholders to analyze what might have gone wrong, aiding continuous improvement.

How inline enforcement works

eBPF (extended Berkeley Packet Filter) offers an alternative for organizations that do not want to deal with the risks of code changes or the time-consuming and performance-demanding nature of installing inline agents. eBPF is a versatile and efficient technology that allows for the dynamic and programmable filtering and processing of the Linux kernel processes. Originally developed as an extension of the traditional Berkeley Packet Filter (BPF), eBPF has evolved into a framework that enables many applications beyond just packet filtering, which was its original use case.

With eBPF, developers can write and load small programs, known as eBPF programs, directly into the kernel, where they execute securely in a restricted virtual machine environment. These programs can be used to perform various tasks, such as packet filtering, tracing, monitoring, and even custom data processing, all without modifying the kernel itself. You can learn how modern API security solutions or platforms leverage eBPF by reading this announcement.

When choosing an API security solution, look for one with flexible inline enforcement or alternative deployments that can handle real-time traffic without causing significant performance impact while scaling horizontally to accommodate growing API traffic.

#2 Integrated with Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC)

When developers have access to the proper set of features and capabilities via a comprehensive platform, they build inherently secure APIs, reducing the likelihood of future security issues. Your API security solution or platform should include auto-generated code templates for safe API consumption, diagnostic utilities for identifying potential vulnerabilities, and guidelines for fortifying API endpoints. Utilizing these resources is crucial to shifting left—adopting a proactive, security-first approach to development. It significantly reduces the need for reactive security measures after deploying the API.

For instance, in the image below, you can see how an API security platform can offer runtime protection utilizing integrated context from the entire Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC).

Actionable feedback for developers from Impart Security’s API security platform (source)

Here’s how to best leverage an API security solution or platform and integrate it into your current developer workflow:

Integration with CI/CD pipelines

API security, as an integrated part of the Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery or Deployment (CI/CD) pipeline, ensures that security is a part of the process from code development to production delivery. Such integration promotes the resolution of vulnerabilities before the code progresses to production. Your API security solution or platform should:

  • Offer tailored and actionable recommendations across your pipeline to reduce remediation costs and timeframes.
  • Support versioning, allowing for easy rollback if a newly deployed API version introduces security vulnerabilities.
  • Allow for the customization of security policies to fit your specific needs.
  • Seamlessly integrate with your existing API management tools, providing a unified approach to API security.

You can implement policy-as-code practices using API security tools to define and enforce security policies across the CI/CD pipeline. For instance, you can automate security tests as part of continuous integration, ensuring that every code commit is automatically scanned for potential vulnerabilities. If vulnerabilities are discovered, a secure, previous version of the API can be quickly reinstated while the issues are addressed.

It is important to note that manual code reviews and peer audits are still invaluable, even with automated tools. They offer an additional layer of scrutiny to catch potential vulnerabilities that automated scans might miss.

Building secure APIs

API security is not only about monitoring and protecting API endpoints in production but also about building better APIs that are in development. Applying what’s learned with an API security platform’s runtime protection capabilities, along with recommendations, will help to ensure the secure development of future API and ensure nothing is forgotten before the API endpoint is moved to production.


#3 Continuous monitoring

Continuous monitoring entails maintaining a real-time and historical view of API activities, extending beyond occasional scans to incorporate never-ending vigilance. The approach provides invaluable data on how, when, and by whom APIs are accessed and used, providing insights for future development iterations and ongoing API optimization.

Logs in API security solutions should capture more than just basic information. They should include contextual data like user IDs, IP addresses, timestamps, and the specific API endpoints accessed. This enriched data can be crucial for forensic analysis and identifying patterns of misuse.

Securely storing logs is a best practice and a legal requirement under various data protection laws like GDPR, CCPA, and HIPAA. You can:

  • Ensure that your log storage is encrypted and access-controlled.
  • Implement log rotation strategies to manage the size and number of log files.
  • Set retention policies that align with compliance requirements and operational needs.
  • Archive or delete older logs as necessary.
  • Regularly audit the logs for compliance with privacy regulations.

Limit who can access your logs by implementing role-based access control (RBAC). This ensures that only authorized personnel can view or modify the logs, reducing the risk of internal threats.

#4 Automate workflows with Large Language Models (LLM)

With the release of ChatGPT in late 2022, innovative software vendors have already been applying the power of AI and Large Language Models (LLM) to cybersecurity, saving organizations the cost and complexity of developing and maintaining in-house AI applications.

These cutting-edge technologies can be combined with automated API discovery, runtime protection, and continuous testing to minimize human oversight, identify insecure or undocumented APIs, and streamline workflows. This approach helps security teams be more proactive but also more efficient in reactive mode, providing the headroom necessary to make clearer decisions.  

The application of AI and LLMs in cybersecurity is practically boundless. AI helps by enabling automation and pattern recognition, streamlining tasks, and identifying insights from vast amounts of data. LLM (Large Language Models) like ChatGPT or LLaMA assist by generating human-like text, providing language understanding and natural language processing capabilities for various applications.

Here are a few examples of how AI and LLMs in API security platforms like Impart Security can greatly improve API security management processes:

  • Translating rules, alerts, and specifications into plain English
    • LLMs can clarify firewall rules to help administrators confirm that the rules are void of mistakes potentially concealed in configuration files.
    • AI models can turn API endpoint specifications into text (see the screenshot below) to explain their purpose and supported data types to security professionals as intended by developers and ensure that they don’t overlook potential vulnerabilities.
  • Assigning risk scores based on API endpoint characteristics
    • Imagine an AI agent analyzing hundreds of API endpoints and assigning a risk score to each before sorting them based on their inherent risk. This functionality can identify a needle in the haystack faster than any human analysis and avoid breaches from otherwise unknown exposures.
  • Automating tasks and workflows to save time and improve response time
    • The level of effort required by security analysts to document the facts and remediation steps in security incident tickets can waste precious minutes while under attack or squander sheer manpower when dealing with hundreds of vulnerabilities. The AI models can contextualize the security alerts or incident tickets with all the information and explanations required for collaboration between operators and developers to resolve the problem, saving precious time and resources.
LLM-power API Discovery by Impart Security
LLM-power API Discovery by Impart Security (source)

Visit this product update page to see examples of the latest applications of AI and LLM to API security management.


Guidelines for implementing API security solutions

Before diving into the selection process, conduct a comprehensive evaluation of your organization's specific security needs. This involves understanding the scale of your applications, the types of data you handle, and the regulatory landscape you operate within.

Are you dealing with sensitive customer data that requires stringent compliance measures like GDPR or HIPAA? Do you have a microservices architecture that demands a more complex security setup? Such questions can help you decide between basic, open-source tools, dedicated, all-encompassing security solutions, or even better yet, a comprehensive platform with robust features.

Remember that a single solution can’t cover all aspects of API security even if promoted as such. Consider coupling traditional API management tools and legacy Web Application Firewalls with stronger runtime protection and testing tools or, even better, a comprehensive API security platform.

Some more implementation considerations are given below.

Strategically prioritize essential features

Once you have identified your security needs, the next step is to prioritize security features that align most closely with your business objectives. For example, if your organization has a rapid API development cycle, developer enablement should be high on your list. These tools facilitate proactive security measures during development, allowing real-time vulnerability scanning and automated code reviews. This way, security is baked into the API from the get-go rather than being bolted on as an afterthought.

Commit to ongoing evaluation and updates

Security is not a one-time setup but a continuous process. The threat landscape is ever-changing, with new vulnerabilities and attack vectors emerging regularly. Your API security solutions or platform should be capable of regular vulnerability scans and offer seamless system updates to adapt to new threats. Scheduled audits, real-time monitoring, and automated alerts are features that help you stay ahead of potential security issues. Detailed reporting can also assist in this continuous evaluation, offering insights into API usage patterns, attempted breaches, and other security events.

Cultivate a security-first culture

The technology is only as effective as the people using it. Therefore, fostering a security-first mindset among your development team is paramount. This involves training sessions, workshops, and regular updates on best practices in API security. When a security-first culture is ingrained in the team, it becomes second nature to consider security implications at every stage of the API development lifecycle. The proactive approach minimizes vulnerabilities and saves time and resources in the long run, as fewer adjustments are needed post-launch to address security concerns.



In light of the exponential growth of APIs and the corresponding escalation of security risks—underscored by the growing challenges for CISOs and the increasing targeting by cyber attackers—safeguarding your API infrastructure is no longer optional; it's a critical necessity. Considering the risk involved, the decision should extend beyond mere popularity or cost considerations when selecting API security solutions or a platform to secure your APIs. It demands a thorough assessment that encompasses features and capabilities, the level of vendor support, and its adaptability to an ever-changing threat landscape. Remember, API security is not a one-time fix but an ongoing journey. It's imperative for businesses to continually reassess their chosen solutions in the context of emerging standards and evolving threats, ensuring that their API security posture remains robust and resilient.

Contact Impart Security at for more API security tips and best practices and be sure to follow us on LinkedIn for the latest product news and updates.

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