The benefits and the security impact of API adoption
APIs or Application Programming Interfaces have become the beating heart that enables digital innovation, with organizations already benefitting from the efficiency and interoperability that they provide. This is particularly true in the Legal industry where APIs have become critical in the facilitation of large data flows. Due to the nature of the data, safeguarding this information is of paramount importance. In this blog I’ll delve into the importance of API security within the legal industry and why it’s a no longer a nice to have, but a must have.
APIs in the legal context and why security matters
The predominant function of APIs is to enable communication between two disconnected applications, allowing them to share data seamlessly for a variety of purposes and outcomes. In the legal world, APIs are used extensively to streamline processes – such as research and document management – enhance legal analytics and provide real-time visibility within client portals, benefitting both legal professionals and their clients.
Legal databases contain a vast array of sensitive information including personal identifiable information (PII), financial records, medical records, corporate data, and authentication credentials. As with many other industries where data is a key asset, data leakage can be highly detrimental to law firms. APIs can be incredibly powerful, but can become vulnerable to exploitation should they not be properly secured. And while there isn’t a universal standard for honesty, integrity and trust in law, these are the foundation upon which they are built, and a data breach will inevitably result in reputational damage and loss of customers.
What about compliance?
In addition to client retention, law firms must comply with and follow regulatory mandates covering both local, national, and international jurisdictions. For most organizations, this is an insurance policy against the “ugly tapestry” of data breaches, the legal fees and fines, and the reputational damage to the brand all of which is an expensive cost of business.
But its consequences go further than these immediate problems. Accidental disclosure of sensitive data might reveal the business’s own secret sauce that would offer an opposing company a powerful competitive advantage. As such, the effects of unsecured APIs extend well past data breaches, deep into the lifeblood of law practice—and consequently leave no room for ambiguity around why API security is necessary.
In The Dock: Mossack Fonseca
Whilst the infamous breach of Mossack Fonseca was not a result of an API security attack, it provides great context as to the importance of properly securing the confidential data within a legal firm. The ‘Panama Papers’ hack consisted of 11.5 million documents, the equivalent of around 2.6 terabytes of data, representing approximately 90% of Mossack Fonseca’s clientele. The breach led to irreparable reputational damage, forcing the firm to close its doors following the breach.
How to Protect Against Data Exposure
Exploring and adopting a robust API security solution is the only assurance against API-related threats and vulnerabilities. These purpose-built products deliver the following capabilities:
- API discovery provides comprehensive visibility of your API attack surface. It automates an inventory of your APIs, providing a real-time view of your API estate, and has the ability to identify all APIs handling sensitive data.
- Continuous API testing assures you are protected against data breaches by continuously testing for known API vulnerabilities.
- API protection for logic-based attacks which can evade traditional security tools such as WAFs and API gateways. Solutions can identify unusual patterns and anomalies in API use and data access.
- Continuous monitoring of APIs to manage vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and compliance issues for proactive API posture management.
APIs have rapidly become a leading cybersecurity threat vector, putting API security at the top of the agenda for security teams across all market sectors. Due to the nature of the work undertaken within the legal profession, API security is now a must-have within the security stack. Ensuring the protection of sensitive and confidential data is vital to maintaining the reputation of the firm, the trust of clients, and the ability to meet rigorous compliance frameworks.
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