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Cybersecurity Interview Questions

BrainStation’s Cybersecurity Analyst career guide is your first step toward a career in cybersecurity. Read on to learn how to prepare for common Cybersecurity Analyst interview questions.

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Once your top-notch cybersecurity cover letter and resume have landed you an interview opportunity, you’ll need to begin preparing for your Cybersecurity Analyst interview. With cybersecurity positions, the interview process can vary depending on the company and the role.

One example of the hiring process may be an initial call with a Hiring Manager, followed by an interview with the Hiring Manager and/or a panel of team members.

Throughout the hiring process, you will be answering a mix of technical and behavioral questions. These questions will test your knowledge of cybersecurity as well as your fit with the company culture.

To prepare you for the range of questions you may encounter, we have compiled a list of commonly asked interview questions and answers for cybersecurity jobs.

When you interview for a job in cyber security, you can expect the bulk of the interview to focus on your knowledge of cybersecurity principles and best practices, your experience carrying out a variety of standard tasks, and your ability to keep up with a field that is constantly changing.

Common cybersecurity interview questions and answers include:

What is a Brute Force Attack? How can you prevent it?

A brute force attack is a trial-and-error method used to decode encrypted data such as a password by trying various combinations of possible credentials. These brute force attacks are typically automated. Some of the methods you can use to prevent these cyberattacks include instituting mandatory password complexity and length (and ensuring that no one in the company is still using a default password), putting a two-factor authentication system in place, or setting a limit on unsuccessful login attempts.

What is the difference between black and white hat hackers?

A black hat hacker is a person who tries to obtain unauthorized access into computer systems or operating systems through a brute force attack or other tactics for malicious reasons, while white hat hackers use some of the same tactics for a totally different goal: to help organizations fix vulnerabilities to protect data and keep sensitive data safe from malicious actors.

  • What is cryptography?
  • Describe the differences between symmetric and asymmetric encryption.
  • Describe the differences between IDS and IPS.
  • What is the CIA triad?
  • What are the differences between encoding, encryption, and hashing?
  • Are you familiar with Traceroute?
  • How would you prevent an XSS attack?
  • What steps would you take to set up a firewall?
  • What is a Virtual Private Network (VPN)?
  • What is cross-site scripting?
  • How often would you perform a Patch management?
  • What steps would you take to prevent identity theft?
  • What is your understanding of risk, vulnerability, and threat within a network?
  • How would you take steps to prevent an MITM attack?
  • What is the difference between a threat, a vulnerability, and a risk?
  • How do you go about securing a server?
  • Why is DNS monitoring important?
  • How would you explain two-factor authentication?
  • What is Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)?

Common Cybersecurity Interview Questions: Technical Questions

Cybersecurity roles tend to be highly technical. After your hiring manager gets a good handle on your overall understanding of core cybersecurity concepts, they will likely want to drill down into even more complex topics and technical tasks to make sure you have the right mix of experience and expertise.

Technical cybersecurity interview questions include:

What are the different layers of the OSI model?

The seven different layers of OSI (Open Systems Interconnection) models are:

  • Physical Layer
  • Data Link Layer
  • Network Layer
  • Transport Layer
  • Session Layer
  • Presentation Layer
  • Application Layer

What steps would you take to secure a server?

For virtually any job in cyber security, hiring managers will want to know that you have experience protecting and securing a web server. The first step in your response should be to secure passwords for administrative and root users before removing remote access from default admin and root accounts. The final step would be to set up a firewall to monitor network traffic and protect the computer system from being attacked by malware, viruses, or warms.

  • What sorts of anomalies would you look for to identify a compromised system?
  • If you had to both compress and encrypt data during a transmission, which would you do first?
  • How would you defend against a cross-site scripting attack?
  • What are the differences between cybersecurity in the cloud and on-premises?
  • What is the difference between symmetric and asymmetric encryption?
  • Define data leakage and its types.
  • Define the process of salting.
  • What is the difference between UDP and TCP?
  • What is the application of address resolution protocol (ARP)?
  • What is a black box penetration test?
  • What are the default ports for HTTP and for HTTPS?
  • What is a polymorphic virus?
  • What is a null session?
  • What is the difference between spear phishing and phishing?
  • What is it called when a user is attacked by directing them to what they think is a legitimate site, but which is actually a scam site?
  • What’s the difference between auditing and logging?
  • Why might you do a vulnerability assessment instead of a penetration test?
  • What kind of cookie would a spyware attack typically use?
  • What is the difference between a worm and a virus?
  • How do you prevent outdated software from being exploited?
  • Which of the following attacks involves the use of previously captured network traffic?
  • What is it called when somebody is forced to reveal cryptographic secrets through physical threats?
  • What tool would you use to quickly search through logs with regular expression?

Common Cybersecurity Interview Questions: Personal Questions

Even with all the necessary skills and qualifications, the best Cyber Security Analyst still needs to have the right personality to fit in with a company or team.

Employers will ask personal cybersecurity interview questions such as the ones below to assess your fit:

How do you keep on top of cybersecurity industry news and trends?

In cyber security, staying on top of trends can make all the difference in protecting your company from emerging threats. Your hiring manager will want to see that you are plugged into the industry. Talk about how you check vulnerability alert feeds and advisory websites, read cybersecurity news sites and blogs, and follow all the top cybersecurity social media accounts. It is also worth mentioning if you have experience networking and sharing ideas with other cybersecurity professionals at conferences, live events, or other meet-ups.

  • Which trend in cybersecurity are you most excited about?
  • What is an emerging threat in cybersecurity that deserves more attention?
  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Talk about your preferred work environment.
  • Tell me about your educational background.
  • What extracurricular activities have you participated in?
  • What skills from previous positions will help you in this job?
  • How has your education prepared you for this job?
  • What are your professional goals?
  • What inspired you to pursue cybersecurity?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • What kind of team environment do you thrive in?
  • What excites you about our company?

Common Cybersecurity Interview Questions: Leadership and Communication

Cybersecurity is highly collaborative—to be successful, you need strong teamwork and communication skills. Cybersecurity experts also tend to interact with a wide variety of employees and stakeholders within an organization, given that security risks can affect anyone.

Employers will want candidates who can lead major cybersecurity projects and communicate their processes in a clear and compelling way to team members and clients.

To test your leadership and communication skills, employers may ask cybersecurity interview questions such as:

Why is a good cybersecurity team essential for any business?

This is a good opportunity for you to show the hiring manager that you understand overall business goals and how cybersecurity fits in. Talk about the importance of convincing management to prioritize security policy and infrastructure by focusing on how any breaches of network security could affect sales, revenue, and the company’s reputation. Stress your experience communicating these ideas in a persuasive and accessible way to a variety of stakeholders.

  • Can you tell me about a time when you demonstrated leadership capabilities on the job?
  • How do you go about resolving conflict?
  • Talk about a successful presentation you gave and why you think it went well.
  • How do you prefer to build rapport with others?
  • Describe a time when you had to be careful talking about sensitive information. How did you do it?
  • How would you explain a complicated technical problem to a colleague/client with less technical understanding?
  • Rate your communication skills on a scale of 1 to 10. Give examples of experiences that demonstrate the rating is accurate.
  • Is it more important to be a good listener or a good communicator?
  • Tell me about a time you had to relay bad news to a client or colleague.

Common Cybersecurity Interview Questions: Behavioral

With behavioral interview questions, employers want to see how you handled past situations. Your response will give employers insight into how you may handle tasks or solve problems in the future.

For these types of interview questions, specificity is key. Provide an example of a past situation, describe the actions you took and share the results or outcome.

A few examples of behavioral cyber security interview questions are:

  • A key company stakeholder is putting sensitive data at risk because of their poor habits. How would you convince this person to change their behavior?
  • Tell me about a time you had to respond to negative feedback.
  • Tell me about a time when you were caught off-guard by data breaches, malicious software, or a different form of cyber attacks in the past. How did you learn from the experience to ensure you were more prepared next time?
  • How do you handle conflicts on your team?

Common Cybersecurity Interview Questions From Top Companies (Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft)

To give you an idea of the range of cyber security interview questions you may be asked, here are a few questions from top tech companies.

  • What are the risks associated with public Wi-Fi?
  • Explain the main difference between RSA and Diffie-Hellman?
  • What is port scanning?
  • What protocols fall under TCP/IP internet layer?
  • Define forward secrecy.
  • Explain the difference between stream cipher and block cipher.
  • What is cognitive cyber security?
  • Describe a buffer overflow attack.
  • What is CryptoAPI?
  • What is an SQL Injection?
  • What are some common types of non-physical attacks?
  • What is a botnet?
  • Explain the difference between vulnerability assessment and penetration testing.
  • Explain system hardening.
  • What are the several indicators of compromise that organizations should monitor?