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In today's world, automated processes play a crucial role in the operations of organizations, regardless of their size, industry, or structure. According to Gartner, by the end of 2023, around 70% of organizations will adopt structured automation to enhance their flexibility and efficiency, which is a significant increase compared to the previous statistic of only 20% in 2021.
Automation, including through APIs, is now an essential for businesses to perform tasks more efficiently and compete on a global scale. However, the rush to implement automated processes has somewhat neglected the importance of secure automation practices. Consequently, insecure automated systems have become attractive targets for malicious individuals seeking to compromise systems.
API automation allows businesses to soar to greater heights than ever before — opening up new possibilities for fast and efficient production and development. But without improved security measures, automation risks becoming a vulnerable venture.
Automation is the MVP of business in the digital age. It’s essential to executing the most important workflows without human eyes or hands, allowing unprecedented scaling with greater efficiency.
It’s not just a hot trend, though - it's an expensive one. Cflow predicts that the market for workflow automation is projected to reach $5 billion by the end of 2024. Reliance on it to get the job done will only increase with such enormous investment in automation technology.
In this decade, automation has it taken full hold of modern businesses, although the idea of automation has existed for a long time.
A few of the places and processes now ruled by automation include data storage, business analytics, and supply chain operations. For CPA firms, automation is chiefly attained through APIs, and it's reasonable to assume that will expand in the coming years.
Even so, this is barely the tip of the iceberg of how much API automation dominates certain industries, nor does it comprehensively cover where automation will reign supreme tomorrow. That means API security is key to defending all kinds of business resources and private data from devastating attacks, including for accounting firms.
Automation has radically changed the operation of business and expectations around how it operates. That’s why industry experts expect automation to grow exponentially into a multi-billion dollar industry within the next decade.
Although API-automated processes can transform the way we go about accounting and other business processes, their close connection to these processes also makes them prime targets for bad actors. If firms are going to spend this much time and resources on APIs, their automated processes must also be secure.
Increased machine-to-machine (M2M) communication means less human intervention, which can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, greater efficiency means firms are able to operate — and scale — faster. On the other hand, reduced human oversight may mean less direct analysis, enabling possible attacks — especially API attacks or leaks.
That’s what makes APIs a potent attack vector for malicious actors. In 2022, the development platform CircleCI reported a mass exposure of API secrets. That exposure left clients’ automated CI/CD pipelines wide open to attacks. Consequently, CircleCI recommended that its clients immediately rotate all secrets stored on the API — including Project API tokens.
What’s the vulnerability at play here? Leaked static API secrets allowed attackers to access sensitive data and software. This serves as one example of how leaked credentials can leave APIS wide open for exploitation.
Poor security around API processes can proliferate all aspects of a firm's operations. If API secrets connected to automated processes slip through the cracks, the entire business can become vulnerable. What enables stronger protection across automated workflows? A holistic API security program.
Better API security is the cornerstone of secure automation for a CPA firm or other business. While a robust cybersecurity program is essential to defend your organization from threats, API safeguarding is a crucial component to stop malicious actors in their tracks.
After all, denying access to APIs means no access to the automation processes that are the "keys to the kingdom" for secure data.
So what can firms do to level up their API security for secure process automation?
The key here is to keep a close eye on the APIs connecting different resources and services throughout your firm. The most dangerous threat to your API is having one that you don’t even know about — how can you protect what you can't even see? Leaks from these "shadow" APIs can go undetected for weeks, months - sometimes even years. In that nebulous timeframe, significant damage can be done.
For instance, in 2022, Toyota warned customers that its API keys had been listed openly on GitHub for almost five years. This means threat actors had a five-year reign over the credentials that opened gateways to the auto manufacturer's data.
Once you gain situational awareness into where your APIs live and what they’re doing, it’s important to identify where vulnerabilities lie. This will help you classify APIs from a risk management perspective — which can inform your security teams about where to keep an eye out for potential attacks.
Think about it from an attacker's point of view. They’re unlikely to bother pointlessly hacking away in a place where your security configuration is in proper shape. They’re going to find where there’s already a weakness in your cybersecurity armor and direct their efforts there.
After performing a visibility audit, a risk audit of your APIs can help you to start thinking like these bad actors and acting to boost your defense against them. The biggest indicator of a weakly protected API is vulnerabilities. No organization is immune to Critical Vulnerability Exploits (CVEs), no matter their pedigree.
In 2022, someone figured out a zero-day vulnerability in Twitter's API and executed a CVE. Although Twitter detected and patched the vulnerability, the damage had already been done. The malicious actor managed to compromise sensitive data for more than five million Twitter users.
It only takes one set of credentials falling through the cracks to open the floodgates for threat actors. You need an additional safety net that can account for the pitfalls of static API secrets.
What extra layer of security usually works best? Multi-factor authentication (MFA).
MFA has the capability to validate access-seeking identities, even if they bear the right credentials. This helps compensate for the security gaps that result from total reliance on static secret management. It also harbors against the inherent risks that come with secrets sprawl, or when your organization’s API secrets spread and are stored across your ecosystem.
You can even go a step further than MFA/2FA to mitigate against some of the most advanced API exploitations with Single Sign-On (SSO) and Zero-Trust methods.
Automation is no longer the dream of a distant future, but an ever-present reality. This means secure automation should be a top priority for firms aiming to stay productive and competitive.
With a strong API security program, accounting firms can knock out two birds with one stone. They can defend the coveted gateways to all the management services, databases, and other resources while protecting the automated processes that keep business flowing.
That's why it's important to work with someone who knows how to maximize automation security, and that's where Cetrom comes in. We'll save you a headache while ensuring you leverage automation to grow your accounting business.
Cetrom Connect is the best secure API solution for accounting. With an industry-leading 99.9 percent uptime on our cloud-based platform built for CPA firms, Cetrom seamlessly secures your firm's processes.
Discover how Cetrom makes it all possible below.
Cetrom Support fixed all of my problems, their engineers are very professional, courteous, friendly and very efficient. If all customer service out there was like...- Mid-sized