Learning Center June 23, 2022

Incident Response vs. Disaster Recovery: Key Differences

As cybercrimes and security breaches become more sophisticated, data protection strategies have become more important to business survival. A critical element in an organization’s ability to effectively handle these incidents is to reduce downtime and minimize damage. This is where an effective incident response and disaster recovery plan comes into play. In this blog, we will discuss the key differences between incident response and disaster recovery, as well as the types of threats to be aware of when creating your plan.

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What is an incident response plan?

An incident response plan is a set of procedures your business will follow in the event of a security breach. Having an incident response plan in place ensures that your business is prepared with the right personnel and procedures to reduce recovery time and the costs associated with the breach. The goal of the plan is to allow a business to effectively and efficiently detect, manage, and recover from a cyberattack, therefore reducing the potential damages and consequences to the business.

What is a disaster recovery plan?

A disaster recovery plan addresses the bigger questions surrounding a potential cyber attack, identifying how the business will recover and resume normal work operations after a security breach. Disaster recovery plans focus on the enterprise as a whole, paying close attention to how the business can respond immediately to a security breach and minimize the overall damage. The more detailed and sophisticated your disaster recovery plan, the better your chance of recovering critical documents, applications, and data for your business.

Types of security threats to be aware of

While an incident response plan and disaster recovery plan are both designed to prevent different aspects of a security breach, they both are fighting the same initial threats. Here are some of the top security threats that businesses need to look out for:

DDoS attack

A distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack is an attempt to interrupt normal business operations by targeting a server, network, or service. When a cybercriminal executes a DDoS attack, they attempt to overwhelm servers by flooding them with Internet traffic with the goal to shut down the server entirely. As a result, servers are left vulnerable and cybercriminals are able to extract sensitive information from the device.


A ransomware attack is a subset of a malware attack where cybercriminals infiltrate an organization’s network and encrypt information, preventing users from reading or accessing the data. Cybercriminals will then demand a ransom be paid before restoring the network back to its original state. If your business doesn’t have a disaster recovery plan or an adequate backup solution, it can be very hard to avoid paying ransom for these types of attacks.

Insider threats

Insider threats come from those who work within the business — ie. employees, former employees, third-party vendors, contractors, etc. Most insider threats stem from disgruntled employees who are motivated by personal gain and will steal data for monetary compensation. Insider threats can also come from careless employees who install unauthorized apps or mishandle data. Proper employee training is extremely important to avoid misuse of data and to ensure your employees are educated on the consequences of poor data protection.

Phishing attacks

Phishing attacks are an attempt to trick users into clicking on a malicious link, email, or page, by posing as a government website or bank via email or text. In doing so, users unknowingly grant access to or give away their personal information to a cybercriminal — putting themselves and their organization at risk. Although phishing attacks are becoming harder to detect, it’s important to stay proactive with routine employee training and cybersecurity education courses to prevent your business from falling victim to a phishing attack.

Incident response plan vs disaster recovery plan: key differences

The difference between an incident response plan and a disaster recovery plan lies in the types of events they address. An incident response plan refers to the actions that need to be taken in the event of a cyberattack. It outlines and identifies the roles and responsibilities of those within the organization, as well as how they plan to respond to an attack if their networks become compromised. A disaster recovery plan is more holistic; it focuses on bringing your organization back to its pre-breach state and recovering your network from any damage caused by the breach. A disaster recovery plan offers a detailed plan of action to execute once a breach has taken place and is key to restoring your network.

It’s important to note that an incident response plan is part of a disaster recovery plan and they should work in tandem — rather than having two different data protection plans. When developing an incident response and disaster recovery plan for your business, consider each security threat mentioned above and design a plan that combats each of these threats. For starters, insider threats and phishing attacks are easily avoidable with adequate security measures on sensitive data and routine employee training. By eliminating the possibility of several security threats, your organization can focus time and resources on preparing for the breaches that you may not have been able to prevent.

Incorporate SecurityScorecard into your data security plans

So there you have it. Incident response and disaster recovery plans have many things in common, with their overall purpose to provide your business with the best possible armor and response to cyber attacks. But as we mentioned above, it can be difficult to protect your organization from every security threat without knowing which are targeted against you. This can make it even harder to adequately create and follow an incident response and disaster recovery plan that best suits your business.

When developing your incident response and disaster recovery plans, consider using SecurityScorecard’s Digital Forensics and Incident Response Services. SecurityScorecard can help your business establish proactive security measures, mitigate cyber threats, and remediate incidents while providing support for legal proceedings and establishing recovery plan guidelines. Additionally, we offer access to 24/7 emergency response team and cyber readiness review, providing your business with the essential building blocks for successful incident response and disaster recovery plans. Interested in learning more? Contact us today or request a demo to learn how your business can develop a strong cybersecurity response plan with the help of SecurityScorecard.