While data on the frequency of advisor-targeted cyberattacks are hard to come by, the broader financial services industry was the third-most-targeted industry for cyberattacks in 2015, dropping from first place in 2014, according to IBM research released last year.
Meanwhile, a study released last September by the Financial Planning Association's FPA Research and Practice Institute shows that although 81 percent of advisors say cybersecurity is a high priority, just 29 percent say they are "fully prepared to manage and mitigate the risks associated with cybersecurity."
The research, sponsored by TD Ameritrade Institutional, also shows that just 36 percent of advisors say their teams "fully understand the issues and risks" related to cybersecurity.
While perhaps in the minority, Ringer is among those advisors who count cybersecurity among their priorities. For starters, he pays a firm that specializes in IT and network security to protect his office system with a strong firewall and 24-7 monitoring.
"This stuff is so complicated, and it's really not something anyone should try on their own," said Ringer, who launched his own firm last year and runs a small operation.
Among other safeguards, he requires verbal confirmation for client transactions and he never uses Wi-Fi in a public place.
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"Clients trust us with a lot of information, and we have to keep it safe and be good guardians of that information," Ringer said.
Even one of the simplest forms of communication between advisor and client — an email — is vulnerable to cyberattack.
CFP Michael Resnick, senior wealth management advisor at GCG Financial, said that any time he sends sensitive data to clients via email, he sends it encrypted to add a layer of protection. While it adds a step to a client's ability to access the email's contents or its attachments, Resnick says it's worth it.
"As a client of mine [who works in cybersecurity] describes it, an email is the modern-day version of a postcard," Resnick said. "Anyone can read it."
Often, sensitive client information resides on a personal finance website that aggregates client data from different banks, credit cards, brokerage accounts and the like. While no transactions take place through these third-party-run personal portals, a cyberattack could compromise client data and potentially lead to financial losses due to identify theft or other criminal activity.
Ringer, for his part, decided to add an additional layer of cyber protection for his clients by turning to insurance.