What do Twitter, Yahoo, eBay and Equifax all have in common?

Each of these companies, plus many others, have fallen victim to cyberattacks, exposing the private information of millions of customers. Hackers target business data in search of valuable information like credit card accounts, passwords and social security numbers.

As corporate data breaches become increasingly normalized, trust erodes, and customers are put at risk for identity theft. That’s why only 25 percent of consumers trust businesses to securely handle their private data, and that’s bad news for business owners.

Increasingly skeptical customers are harder to win over and easier to lose, jeopardizing company reputations and brand loyalty and even putting you at risk for legal action.

Here’s how to gain customer confidence while improving data security.

Regularly update your data security protocols. When it comes to data security, it’s critical that your business stand at the forefront. Even minor slip-ups like a neglected software update or a weak password could increase the likelihood that your business suffers a cyberattack. To mitigate your risk of exposing customer information, you’ll need to pay close attention to new cybersecurity trends and technologies. Continuously assess your level of risk, and never become complacent.

Only collect information you need. There’s a reason that hackers target major corporations—because they have tons of valuable data. Although hackers see great value in targeting corporations, small businesses are also at risk, making up 28 percent of those affected by data breaches. The more data you possess the greater your chances of suffering a breach.

That’s why you should only take only what information you need to do business. When you collect less data, your customers will be more trusting, and you’ll decrease your perceived value to hackers.

Be transparent about data security in your business. For a variety of reasons, customers simply don’t trust businesses with their data. They’re weary of junk mail and a cluttered email inbox, and they certainly don’t want their credit cards and bank accounts exposed to scammers.

Give your customers peace of mind by clearly disclosing what you do with their information and how you protect it.

And if you do suffer a breach, don’t hide it. Notify your customers as soon as possible, so they can freeze any potentially affected accounts and take action to protect themselves.

When you no longer need them, shred all documents containing private customer information. Although digital data breaches are most commonplace these days, it’s critical that businesses safeguard physical records as well.

You can take one step towards protecting your company and your customers from a data breach at BBB Shred Day, hosted by the Better Business Bureau Greater Maryland Foundation.

Get up to four bags or boxes of your documents shredded for free at the Maryland State Fairgrounds from 8:00 AM to 11:00 AM on Saturday, October 24!

During the coronavirus, fraudsters have been more active than ever, seizing on any opportunity to make money off of vulnerable people. Customer information must always be protected, but there’s no better time than now to make data security your top priority.

Angie Barnett is president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Greater Maryland.