The Reason For Your API Security Breach: You Did Nothing

You just got three separate calls, and countless emails alerting to the fact that you just had a major security breach. You don’t know the extent of the damage yet, but it looks like they got into your primary customer database via the APIs you depend on for all your mobile applications. You are sitting in your office chair, sweating, and trying to figure out how this happened. I will tell you, it is because you have done nothing. You have de-prioritized security at every turn, resulting in an open door for any hacker to walk through.

Not only have you done nothing, you actually worked against anyone who brought up the topic of API security. You would respond: We don’t have the time. We don’t have the budget. We don’t have the skills. You never listened to anyone of your staff, even that security lady (what was her name?) you had hired last year, and then resigned, with a letter containing over 25 security holes she had been trying to take care of, but because of the toxic environment you’ve created, she was unable to do anything and moved on. You have created an environment where anyone who brings up security concerns feels persecuted, and even that their job is in jeopardy, making “doing nothing” the standard mode across all operations.

You have eight separate mobile applications which all use APIs, and all of them using the customer database in question, which also stores credit cards, which is in violation of your PCI compliance–you know, those forms you sign off on each year? You felt these mobile APIs were secure because they were hidden behind your mobile applications, and your developers had given you a application security scan report last year. In this situation you would love to blame these developers, but all roads lead to you when it comes to responsibility for this situation. You begin to feel sick to your stomach thinking about the 345,633 credit cards and other PII that was leaked. You know the numbers, because you have real time reports on how many customers you have. You just don’t have any real time reports for anything to do with security.

API security was everyones first concern when you first pitched these projects starting back in 2010, and you have managed to run for seven years without any major incidents. Each year you have just been more emboldened in your do nothing strategy, but everything has caught up with you now. What do you do? You don’t have a breach action plan. You don’t have sort of protocol for this type of situation, despite saying that you did several times in meetings. You better get to work dealing with the technical fallout from all of this, because it will last weeks, if not months. Then you get to also start dealing with the business, legal, and political fallout from this breach. Hey, there is a bright spot. The chances are pretty high you might not even have a job after all of this is pretty high as well. Enjoy!

Note: If my writing is a little dark this week, here is a little explainer–don’t worry, things will back to normal at API Evangelist soon.