Security policies and frameworks for data pipelines in the public sector

Data pipelines are essential components of modern governmental operations. They facilitate the flow of information between (governmental) organizations, departments, and systems, ensuring efficient functioning of the government. With increasing digitization and data usage, vulnerabilities in the data pipeline have become a critical focus. In this blog, we explore the challenges, risks, and strategies for keeping government data pipelines secure.


The Volkskrant has recently reported on data breaches at various ministries including Finance, Internal Affairs, Justice and Security, and at TNO, partly due to a breach at the company ID-ware. Additionally, the NOS reported on April 10th that the Dutch Data Protection Authority found that organizations are reporting cyberattacks too infrequently. We can therefore conclude that data security is an important issue and will remain so in the coming period.

In the transmission of data and information, data pipelines play a crucial role in supporting activities within the government. Such data pipelines ensure that organizations can exchange data around primary processes: from citizen services and law enforcement to healthcare and national security.

What is a data pipeline?

But what is a data pipeline exactly? A data pipeline is a system that facilitates communication between two entities (or organizations), wherein the data pipeline, if necessary, transforms the data and information that passes through it. In other words, data is collected, processed, and moved between different data environments within the data pipeline.

Examples of data pipelines to provide a better understanding are:

  • Between citizens and government institutions: Exchanging medical data of patients between healthcare facilities; 
  • Between different government institutions: Data exchange between police units and municipalities; 
  • Within a government institution: Data within the Tax Authority.

Why do data pipelines deserve extra attention around this topic?

Systems face an increased risk of cyberattacks during data exchange due to the critical nature of the processed information, such as personal and financial data. The complexity and interconnectedness of these systems create a growing attack surface for cybercriminals. Organizations can proactively take measures, such as implementing cybersecurity protocols and conducting security audits, to reduce potential vulnerabilities and effectively protect sensitive information.

In the domain of government data pipelines, there are numerous threats constantly lurking.

  • The first thing to consider is data breaches. A breach of this data can lead to serious issues, such as identity theft and financial fraud.
  • Another risk is the danger of cyberattacks. Government agencies are targets for advanced threat actors. They can exploit vulnerabilities in the data pipelines to gain unauthorized access to government systems, causing significant harm. 
  • Disruptions in data pipelines can result in data loss, disrupting normal government operations and undermining citizen trust. 
  • There's also a risk that arises within the organization. Think of employees or contractors with access to data pipelines who may misuse their privileges and cause security breaches. Or simply not applying certain cybersecurity measures (timely) due to ignorance, even with good intentions, which can also create vulnerability.
  • Another point of concern is insecure encryption. If data is not encrypted during transport through the pipelines in a manner that limits IT threats, there's a risk that intruders and malicious actors intercept the data and misuse it. 
  • Lastly, there's the risk of lack of monitoring. Inadequate supervision and logging make it difficult to (quickly) detect vulnerabilities or attacks and respond appropriately. It is therefore necessary to have strategies in place to make government data pipelines future-proof.

What security policy can the government apply to manage the risks?

Within the government, various data pipelines can be distinguished. To determine which data pipelines have taken sufficient risk-mitigating measures, we need to look at the deployment of the following measures:

  • Encryption: Employing data encryption as a shield against cyberattacks during data exchange is essential. This includes implementing end-to-end encryption to ensure intercepted data remains as protected as possible.
  • Access control: The government applies strict access controls, allowing only authorized personnel access to data pipelines. Regular updates and controls to prevent unauthorized access are crucial. It's valuable to verify whether this is also done with APIs, collaborations in data environments with other parties, and with the IT environments of collaborating parties themselves. This might be less necessary with larger hyperscalers than with smaller, specialized software providers who gain access to the data infrastructure of a government organization.
  • Preventive detection: Deploying firewalls and intrusion detection systems focusing on data pipelines, rather than just software or networks, is important.
  • Training: Another approach the government can adopt is IT security training. This should be targeted at programmers, data scientists, data management teams, and compliance personnel.
  • Response plans: Having incident response plans is crucial. Plans to respond quickly and effectively to security breaches or vulnerabilities that arise serve as emergency exits for unforeseen events.

Top 10 measures

There are various frameworks and guidelines in the field of security for securing your data pipelines. The measures are based on these frameworks. Below we have included the top 10 and provide a description per framework and the associated best practices for securing your data pipelines.



Best Practices for Better Data Pipeline Security

GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation)

Comprehensive legislation for data protection regulating the processing of personal data of individuals within the EU and EEA.

- Ensure a thorough assessment of current data processing processes.
- Implement training and awareness programs for employees on data protection.

NIS Directive (Network and Information Security Directive)

A directive aimed at ensuring a high common level of network and information security in the EU.

- Conduct risk assessments to identify vulnerabilities and prioritize security measures.
- Establish an incident response plan and regularly test it.

PSD2 (Payment Services Directive 2)

A directive aimed at regulating payment services and providers within the EU, with the goal of ensuring security and consumer protection.

- Implement strong authentication and identification mechanisms for payment services.
- Conduct regular audits to verify compliance with the directive.

eIDAS (Electronic Identification and Trust Services Regulation)

Regulates electronic identification and trust services within the EU, and establishes a legal framework for electronic signatures, seals, and timestamps.

- Implement robust authentication and authorization mechanisms for electronic services.
- Verify compliance with the framework through regular audits and evaluations.

ISO/IEC 27001

An international standard for information security management systems (ISMS), providing a systematic approach to managing sensitive information.

- Conduct a thorough risk assessment to plan and implement security measures.
- Regularly train employees on information security policies and procedures.

ENISA (European Union Agency for Cybersecurity)

Provides guidance, advice, and recommendations on cybersecurity issues to EU member states, facilitating cooperation and information exchange.

- Use the guidelines and recommendations of ENISA in developing cybersecurity strategies.
- Encourage collaboration and information exchange with other organizations and governments.

Baseline Information Security Government

Specifies minimum information security requirements for Dutch government organizations, aiming to protect government information and systems.

- Conduct a thorough assessment of existing security measures and implement required changes.
- Ensure continuous monitoring and reporting on compliance with the baseline.

Wbni (Network and Information Systems Security Act)

Dutch implementation of the NIS Directive, aimed at enhancing the security of networks and information systems within critical sectors, including the public sector.

- Collaborate with other organizations and government agencies to identify and address threats and vulnerabilities.
- Ensure regular evaluations and improvements of security measures.

OWASP Top 10

A list of the 10 most critical security risks facing web applications, including vulnerabilities such as injection, broken authentication, and sensitive data exposure.

- Implement security measures to prevent vulnerabilities such as SQL injection and cross-site scripting.

- Conduct regular penetration tests to identify and remediate vulnerabilities.

CIS Controls

A set of prioritized security actions and best practices designed to mitigate common cyber threats and improve cybersecurity posture.

- Implement the CIS Controls.


Vulnerabilities in government data pipelines can have far-reaching consequences, from leaking sensitive citizen data to threatening national security. Protecting these pipelines requires a multifaceted approach that combines technology, policy, and employee awareness.

In an era of increasing cyber threats, securing government data pipelines is of paramount importance, and proactive measures are essential to safeguard sensitive information and maintain public trust.


Want to know more?

If you would like to learn more about how to secure your organization's data pipelines, please contact or