As marketers we like to talk about data. It’s usually in terms of how to access it and harness it to be more beneficial to our business. While data has tremendous value to our organizations, we need to remember with equal vigor to ensure its protection.

Let’s face it; privacy hasn’t had a great year. Reports of breaches and mishandled data appear to be occurring daily. The big news hit early when in March the story broke that political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica hacked 87 million Facebook profiles, resulting in Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg having to testify before Congress and the European Parliament. If your audience wasn’t already uneasy, they most likely will be after this year.

Companies have to step up and address data risks and new requirements inherent to their businesses. Today’s consumers are insisting that at a minimum companies provide online security and protect their personal information. The bottom line is, customers are more skittish than ever before — their trust is dwindling and their concern is growing.

With these shifting customer expectations, more countries and states are moving into action. In May, the General Data Protection Regulation in the EU enacted stringent compliance rules that any company offering goods or services to people living there must follow. In the U.S., Vermont became the first state to pass a law regulating data brokers, which was followed by California’s sweeping law that goes into effect January 1, 2020, providing their state’s residents the most comprehensive privacy rights in the nation. It’s top of mind everywhere and by May of this year, 265 bills have already been introduced in legislatures on cybersecurity alone.

All signs suggest it’s time to take privacy projects out of the prelaunch mode. While requirements will be strongest in highly regulated industries such as healthcare, finance, and government, cybersecurity compliance will be a key obligation that will permeate other markets as well. Experts in technology and security offer seven initial tactics companies can implement to keep their customers’ data safe:

Create a Plan.

As a marketer you need to be in on the planning to help your company define what types of data need to be focused on protecting and the steps that should be taken to secure it. Every organization has unique information, security and privacy threats that must be identified so best practices can be implemented for greater protection.

Classify Data.

While you’re creating your data security policy, start to organize your data into public and confidential. Encryption of sensitive data is critical to keeping your customers’ privacy protects. Also use this opportunity to eliminate the collection of any unneeded data, really.

Use a VPN.

Set up a virtual private network for employees accessing your network outside your office(s). It’s good too if your employees use public WiFi in the office as it will protect online activity on any device including laptops, mobile phones and tablets.

Update Software.

In order to defend against malware, keep software and servers updated. Reports by Kaspersky Lab show that every 40 seconds a business becomes a ransomware victim. Additionally important is a good anti-spam solution, as 91 percent of cyberattacks begins with phishing email. This will help catch these fraudulent emails before they do damage.

Continually Train Employees.

Be part of the team that helps teach everyone in your company the difference between a fake website and a real one. Information needs to be communicated on how to avoid phishing links and other hazards, which are the most common ways company data can get infected. This should all be outlined and presented in your data security plan.

Back It Up.

The cloud is a wonderful thing, use it to back up your data. If data gets infected or you have a security breach, having a backup in the cloud makes having a comeback much easier. Experts also note that data stored securely in the cloud should use dual-factor authentication.

Follow the Rules.

And expect more to be coming. Data privacy regulations have already gotten more stringent throughout Europe, and the U.S. is expected to have coast-to-coast rules soon that inform consumers and allow them to control their personal information that is collected online.

It comes down to this simply. It will become paramount to a company’s success to ensure that their customers are confident that their personal information is protected. Technological advances continue to change the privacy landscape and companies need to work on providing a framework of protection and transparency.