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Discover the Best API Discovery Tools in 2024


StackHawk|May 14, 2024

Explore the benefits of API Discovery and the top tools leading the charge in 2024.

Selecting the right API discovery tools plays a huge role in API integration, API management, and many other areas where understanding your entire API portfolio is critical. These tools can help ensure that every API connected to your organization is discovered and cataloged, which is a major part of ensuring that APIs are secure. Without understanding every aspect of your organization's APIs, it's hard to keep them compliant, secure, and well-utilized.

This guide will examine how API discovery can streamline many parts of your workflow. We will demystify and compare the top API discovery tools available in 2024, discover their advantages and use cases, and cut through the noise to give you the answers you need to figure out which tools will suit you best for discovering APIs within your ecosystem. Let's begin by looking at API discovery tools and how they work.

Navigating the World of API Discovery Tools image

API discovery involves understanding an API's efficiencies and real-time functionalities, typically done through various methods. This includes a mix of manual and automated tasks, with the end goal of identifying what APIs an organization has under its umbrella to accelerate app development by understanding the API capabilities. Of course, from the security perspective, API discovery helps to identify how data flows throughout the various APIs, which can help identify any gaps that could lead to a security vulnerability. With the help of a discovery API, organizations can take a crucial step to manage and harness the power of APIs efficiently.

API discovery tools help by:

  • pinpointing and managing all the APIs in your digital systems

  • empowering developers to comprehend and utilize existing APIs, eliminating the need to create new ones

  • conserving time and promoting efficient integration

  • catering to different cybersecurity needs, including a proactive approach to API security

Defining API Discovery Tools

API stands for Application Programming Interface, which details how software components should interact. RESTful APIs are the most familiar style for modern web application programming interfaces, allowing data to be sent and received between systems, most frequently between a front and backend application. On the other hand, API discovery is the process of identifying and cataloging the APIs present within an organization. Think of automated API discovery tools as a librarian designed to automatically locate, document, and construct a catalog of an organization’s APIs. The primary objective of an API Discovery feature is to construct a centralized repository or catalog that lists all APIs, guaranteeing easy discovery and efficient utilization.

The Role of API Discovery in Digital Transformation

When it comes to digital transformation initiatives, they often involve the integration of new software and services. In many of these transformation initiatives, APIs serve as the key enablers of this integration. APIs are essential for the connectivity between different systems and services, as they allow for the sharing of functionalities and data.

API discovery tools offer an automated method for recognizing and cataloging APIs throughout the enterprise. These tools aid in comprehending the functionalities of various APIs so that API consumers can understand where and how they may be able to use a particular API. By informing developers about available APIs, API discovery can promote integration and usage of these APIs within software projects. By leveraging these API catalogs and discovery, businesses can optimize the use of their existing APIs for new purposes, enhancing the efficiency of their digital transformation efforts.

Especially in the cases where APIs have not been documented well or vast portfolios of APIs exist, API discovery can significantly influence digital transformation by allowing organizations to swiftly identify and integrate with multiple systems through the available APIs found through the API discovery tool.

Unveiling Top API Discovery Solutions

Unveiling Top API Discovery Solutions image

As we explore the realm of API discovery, it’s vital to recognize the tools that are at the forefront. These tools help to automate and make the API discovery process very efficient. Choosing the right API discovery tool can be daunting, given the many options available. However, understanding the criteria for selecting an API discovery tool can enable you to make an informed decision to ensure the selected tool matches your particular needs. In this section, we’ll look at the leading API discovery solutions and discuss the factors to consider when choosing a tool to fit your use case.

Criteria for Selecting an API Discovery Tool

Although many tools and features are available, we can boil down core functionalities to look for in four categories: automation, integration, security, and ease of use. These critical factors need to be considered when selecting an API discovery tool. Let's take a look at these four pillars in more depth:

  • Automation: A good API discovery tool helps automate the recognition of APIs in an organization. The tool's automated processes should be configurable and allow you to dial in the discovery process as much as possible.

  • Integration capabilities: The tool should be able to integrate with existing systems and technologies within your stack.

  • Security features: The tool should have robust security features to protect sensitive data and prevent unauthorized access. The tool may also help you identify any security issues within the APIs it discovers.

  • Ease of use: The tool should be user-friendly and easy to navigate. Configuration and deployment should be seamless and not require much effort to initiate the discovery process.

At a high level, these factors will help you choose the right API discovery tool based on your needs, with very simple criteria to follow. Most API discovery tools are bundled as features within wider platforms, whether an API security tool or an API management platform. So, you should also ensure that the platform's other features also fit your use case/technology stack and check if there are other features you could leverage as well.

Highlighting Industry-Leading API Discovery Software

API discovery solutions are relatively abundant; however, not all these tools are created equally. Several tools stand out due to their robust features and user-friendly interfaces. Let's take a quick look at the range of powerful tools that can streamline API management and security with API discovery capabilities. Here are a few leading solutions to be aware of:

  • StackHawk: StackHawk couples its well-established DAST (Dynamic Application Security Testing) capabilities with API discovery. This combination offers a powerful toolset for identifying and securing your API landscape.

  • Salt Security: This platform emphasizes proactive security measures, including real-time analysis and prevention of API attacks. It offers seamless integration capabilities to fit within existing environments.

  • Noname Security: Dedicated to comprehensive asset security, this tool covers various aspects such as API discovery, posture management, runtime protection, and security testing.

  • Memcyco: This solution goes beyond traditional API discovery to actively prevent website spoofing fraud and safeguard online brand reputation.

  • APIsec: Focused on robust security mechanisms and thorough monitoring, this solution aids organizations in identifying and mitigating risks associated with shadow APIs. It integrates well with platforms like AWS API Gateway for streamlined protection.

  • Wallarm: This platform prioritizes API security with comprehensive monitoring, protection features, and assistance in discovering and managing shadow APIs, contributing to enhanced overall security posture.

Of course, this is just a small selection of many of the API discovery tools available on the market. Choosing the right tool depends on your specific security needs, integration requirements, and the size/complexity of your API ecosystem.

Enhancing API Security Through Discovery Tools

Enhancing API Security Through Discovery Tools image

When it comes to the benefits that API discovery tools bring to an organization, their contribution towards enhancing API security is definitely up high on the list. API discovery involves recognizing all APIs, including those that are concealed or overlooked. By making sure that every available API is discovered and cataloged, API discovery tools can help guarantee comprehensive security and lessen the risk of cyber threats. By understanding an organization's entire API portfolio, teams can work more effectively to safeguard digital assets by identifying all APIs and ensuring they adhere to security standards. Knowing all active APIs is critical for ensuring they are continuously monitored and protected, enhancing overall security since if an undocumented API has a security issue, it likely will not be found until it is exploited.

Three particular types of APIs can degrade an organization's security posture: shadow, zombie, and rogue APIs. Let's examine all three in more detail to understand what they are and how they can impact security.

Identifying and Securing Shadow APIs

Shadow APIs lurk within organizations and are created outside of any official oversight. While often well-intentioned, these APIs can widen your attack surface, lacking the security, documentation, and monitoring that centrally managed APIs typically have. API discovery tools are your key to uncovering them. By scanning network traffic, API gateways, and even code bases, they reveal APIs that might slip past traditional security measures.

Once you know a shadow API exists, you'll want to enforce the API standards across your organization within the API, conduct regular audits, and potentially implement API observability to monitor API calls to the endpoint. Finally, put those shadow APIs through the same rigorous security testing (with tools like StackHawk) that you would apply to any production API if you plan to keep them available.

Preventing Zombie and Rogue API Risks

Old, outdated zombie APIs and intentionally malicious rogue APIs both pose serious risks. Advanced API discovery tools can help you pinpoint these threats by analyzing API usage patterns and looking for anomalies that indicate trouble. Spikes in API traffic from unusual places, strange user-agent strings, or unexpected activity after hours can all be signs of an attack in progress.

When it comes to remedying these issues, deprecate zombie APIs in a controlled manner, giving developers time to update their code. Decisively block any suspected rogue APIs immediately while investigating further. Education is also key—make sure your developers understand the dangers and best practices to avoid accidentally creating these kinds of risky APIs and exposing them as potential attack vectors.

Leveraging API Discovery for Developer Productivity

Leveraging API Discovery for Developer Productivity image

API discovery tools are an essential element in the developer’s toolkit. These tools and the knowledge they bring to developers about an organization's API landscape can help developers find existing APIs that meet their needs, speeding up development processes and reducing duplicated efforts. API discovery tools foster collaboration between teams by making APIs easily discoverable, allowing developers to quickly identify who to contact regarding a specific API.

Facilitating Easy Access to API Documentation and Catalogs

Proper documentation of APIs, detailing their functionality, endpoints, authentication methods, and response examples, is crucial for developers to understand and properly utilize APIs. To fully leverage the APIs, developers must access API specifications, such as input/output formats, authentication requirements, and rate limits or quotas.

Once APIs are discovered and cataloged, API documentation tools can efficiently generate and maintain API documentation, ensuring consistency, accuracy, and comprehension for the developers using the API. They also facilitate collaborative efforts by allowing developers to share, review, and edit documentation seamlessly, minimizing the need for frequent direct communication.

Boosting Collaboration Across Development Teams

APIs support collaborative development by allowing real-time access to data and functionality, which is essential for decision-making and aligning team efforts. When it comes to organizations using a microservice-oriented approach, APIs can offer clear contracts for services, enhancing their usability. The double-edged sword of microservice APIs is that they generally have a large footprint regarding the number of APIs available across an organization. This is where API discovery can help teams keep track of all APIs within the microservice ecosystem for more close-knit collaboration.

This collaborative approach enhances the efficiency of the development process and fosters a sense of ownership and accountability among team members, while API discovery tools help to ensure that every API is accounted for and documented.

The Evolution of API Discovery: From Manual to Automatic

The world of API discovery has undergone a remarkable transformation. In the early days, finding and understanding available APIs was labor-intensive. Developers often resorted to internet searches or relied on potentially outdated documentation, spending massive amounts of effort and time to discover and understand the APIs they wanted to use. Although users may have known that an API existed, there may not have been any documentation or easy way to confirm its existence or how to consume it.

This landscape changed as APIs themselves evolved. The move from SOAP-based (Simple Object Access Protocol) web services, with their reliance on descriptive files like WSDL, to the flexible world of REST APIs and the OpenAPI specification created opportunities for innovation in discovery. No longer bound by strict definitions, APIs could be more dynamic, demanding new tools to uncover them. Compound this with the number of new APIs being introduced daily; manual methods were no longer feasible for API discovery.

The Shift from Manual to Automated Processes

The transition from manual API discovery to streamlined automation marks a turning point. Automated tools don't just save time; they transform how we interact with APIs. By actively scanning network traffic and code repositories and even using pattern-matching heuristics, these tools reveal a comprehensive view of your API landscape. This heightened awareness is crucial for effective management, security, and innovation. Many tools can compound the insights retained from API discovery tools with other parts of their platform, such as how StackHawk can use API discovery to identify all endpoints and then test them for security flaws with its DAST (Dynamic Application Security Testing) capabilities.

Embracing Automation for Enhanced API Visibility

Fully embracing automated API discovery tools grants us unprecedented visibility into complex API ecosystems. Imagine a continuously updated map of every API in your organization, highlighting not just what exists but how APIs are used, who interacts with them, and the sensitivity of the data involved. This visibility is a game-changer. It helps proactively uncover forgotten "zombie APIs" that might still expose data and alerts you to a developer's well-intentioned but potentially insecure shadow API. With this knowledge, developers and their organizations can take decisive action: tighten security, streamline processes, and drive better API design and management.

StackHawk + API Discovery

StackHawk customers repeatedly see the power of our API security testing – the comprehensive coverage, the seamless CI/CD integration, and that feeling of confidence. But there's a catch, a recurring challenge: they're often only securing a fraction of their APIs. Our analysis reveals a worrying truth: many security teams are in the dark about a huge chunk of their attack surface. It's nobody's fault; software moves fast, and security often struggles to keep pace. The way we test and manage APIs needs to come up to speed.

That's why we built API Discovery Powered by HawkAI. It's the missing piece in the API security puzzle. Think of it as a spotlight in the dark, revealing hidden APIs that attackers could exploit. With this newfound knowledge, you can extend the same rigorous testing and automation you rely on with StackHawk to the entirety of your API landscape. No more blind spots, no more surprises, just the control every security team needs and deserves.

Discovery – Understanding Your Attack Surface

Modern software development is inherently complex, making it challenging for security teams to pinpoint all the "things" in software applications they need to test. At StackHawk, we believe that Source Code is the Source of Truth, and HawkAI takes an inside-out approach, empowering developers and AppSec teams to achieve security and speed. Here's how it works:

  • Effortless Integration: Connect your code repositories to StackHawk.

  • AI-Powered Identification: HawkAI utilizes intelligent algorithms to identify repositories containing running applications and APIs.

  • Attack Surface Defined: Uncover previously unknown APIs and gain a comprehensive view of your attack surface.

  • Progress Tracking: Monitor your progress toward achieving complete API coverage.

StackHawk Discovery table - initial state image

Observability – Keeping Pace with Change

Once you have a handle on your assets, how do you ensure your security processes keep up with constant code changes? StackHawk adds further functionality to improve your security posture with the following:

  • Continuous Monitoring: HawkAI tracks how often code is deployed to your assets and compares it to your testing frequency.

  • Policy Alignment: Identify discrepancies between your security policies and actual testing coverage.

  • Success Support: We're here to help your security team refine its program and maximize its effectiveness.

HawkAI - mapped state - confirmation image

StackHawk goes beyond traditional API discovery tools, pairing discovery with our powerful, API-focused DAST capabilities. This means newfound security doesn't just stay on paper—you can immediately test those discoveries, ensuring your organization's security posture is truly strengthened.

HawkAI digs deeper than just finding APIs. It bridges the gap between security and development teams. Discover an untested asset? HawkAI pinpoints the developer who last touched it, enabling direct collaboration for rapid understanding and action. No more security roadblocks, just streamlined processes that get APIs secured quickly.

At StackHawk, we believe AI isn't just a buzzword. It's a tool to empower security and developers to prioritize what matters most: secure, high-quality software. HawkAI embodies this by delivering a comprehensive API discovery solution that doesn't just find problems; it helps you solve them – quickly.


APIs are the backbone of modern software, but their vast numbers and the rapid pace of development make it difficult to know what you have and keep it all secure. In this blog, we covered:

  • What API discovery is and how it works

  • Benefits for security, developer productivity, and digital transformation

  • Top tools and how to choose the right one

  • The shift from manual to automated discovery

Lastly, we took a look at StackHawk's latest API discovery capabilities and how StackHawk's new API Discovery Powered by HawkAI goes beyond traditional tools:

  • Illuminates your entire attack surface: Uncover shadow, zombie, and rogue APIs with AI-powered insights.

  • Bridges the dev-security gap: Collaborate directly with developers to secure newly discovered APIs quickly.

  • Secures at the speed of development: Seamless API discovery and our best-in-class DAST ensure your security keeps pace with innovation.

StackHawk's API Discovery Powered by HawkAI is currently in closed beta. Want to see it in action? Schedule a demo of StackHawk's comprehensive API security platform.

StackHawk  |  May 14, 2024

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