Pankaj Gupta, a data analytics engineer from Discover Financial Services, puts Zero Trust under the microscope and explores why it's necessary, how it works and what the concept might mean for the future of security.

In today's digital world, data is incredibly valuable to businesses. It helps them make smart decisions, operate efficiently, and stay competitive. But as data has become more and more important, the risks to its security have also increased. People who work with data, like data engineers, have a big responsibility to keep it safe. This article talks about a new way to protect data called the ‘Zero Trust’ approach.

The field of data engineering has changed a lot recently. The rise of digital technology and data's growing importance have reshaped how we work with information. To understand why new security methods like Zero Trust are needed, we need to look at how things used to be.

In the past, data engineering was mainly about collecting, storing, and processing data in a company's own data centres. These centres were like strongholds, protected by security systems that guarded the borders of the network. People inside these borders were usually trusted to access the data, and it was relatively easy to get to it.

Today, things are different. Cloud technology, remote work, and complex data systems have changed the game: data now moves in more flexible and decentralized ways, and the old security methods aren't enough to keep it safe. This is why we need new approaches like the Zero Trust model. It's a smarter way to protect data in our fast-changing digital world.

What is Zero Trust?

Zero Trust is a security idea that says we shouldn't just assume that everything inside or outside our organisation is safe. Instead, we should always check and make sure that things are secure, no matter where or what they are. It's like double-checking your doors and windows at home to keep your belongings safe.

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This model advocates a fundamental paradigm shift: ‘never trust, always verify.’ The core idea is that trust must be continuously verified at each stage of data access, making it an ongoing and dynamic process rather than a static event.

Zero Trust in data engineering

When it comes to data engineering, the Zero Trust approach can greatly strengthen the security of data pipelines by following several important principles:

  1. Continuous authentication: instead of just checking your identity once at the start, Zero Trust makes sure to keep verifying who you are in real-time all along the way as you access data. This means your access rights are always being updated based on how much we trust you at any given moment
  2. Least privilege access: the Zero Trust model encourages the idea of giving users and systems only the least access they need to get their work done. This not only limits the potential harm a bad actor can do if they break in but also decreases the routes through which they could break in in the first place
  3. Data encryption: the combination of encrypting data at rest and in transit creates a robust security layer within the Zero Trust framework. It means that at any point in time, whether data is at rest in storage or on the move, it remains protected and inaccessible to unauthorized individuals. This is especially crucial in a world where data breaches and cyberattacks are ever-present threats. By ensuring that data is encrypted, organisations can significantly reduce the risk of sensitive information falling into the wrong hands, aligning perfectly with the Zero Trust principle of continuous verification and protection
  4. Micro-segmentation of data pipelines: data pipelines can be divided into smaller, more easily controlled units, each of which is subject to rigorous oversight and constant monitoring. This approach significantly decreases the available targets for potential cyberattacks, consequently minimising the potential harm caused by a security breach

The adoption of the Zero Trust approach in data engineering offers several notable advantages:

  1. Enhanced visibility: ongoing monitoring and the use of behavioral analytics provide valuable insights into patterns of data access and usage. This, in turn, enables the proactive detection of potential threats and allows for swift and effective responses when security issues arise
  2. Enhanced security: through its constant monitoring and verification of access, the Zero Trust model significantly mitigates the risk of data breaches, offering a resilient defence mechanism against unauthorised access
  3. Compliance: in the case of organisations that must adhere to strict regulatory requirements, the Zero Trust model guarantees the implementation of robust data protection measures, streamlining the process of achieving and maintaining compliance


In an era where data is the lifeblood of organisations, security is of paramount importance. To effectively secure data pipelines, the Zero Trust approach offers a comprehensive framework. This approach, which encompasses micro-segmentation, continuous authentication, least privilege access, data encryption, and behavioral analytics, empowers organisations to bolster their data pipelines against evolving threats.

As data engineering evolves in complexity and significance, adopting a Zero Trust approach becomes a critical step in ensuring the integrity and confidentiality of data. Zero Trust stands out as a beacon of hope in the ever-changing data security landscape, thanks to its ability to adapt to dynamic work environments and its proactive defense against a multitude of potential threats.