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.

Here is an example of a common skills-based cybersecurity interview question and how to answer it:

Question: What is a Brute Force Attack? What steps can you take to prevent it?

Answer: 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.

Question: What is the difference between black hat and white hat hackers?

Answer: 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.

Additional Skills-Based Cybersecurity Interview Questions

  • What is cryptography?
  • How do you define the differences between symmetric and asymmetric encryption?
  • How do you define the differences between IDS and IPS?
  • What is the CIA triad?
  • How do you define the differences between encoding, encryption, and hashing?
  • Do you have experience with Traceroute?
  • What steps would you take to prevent an XSS attack?
  • What would be your process to set up a firewall?
  • What is a Virtual Private Network (VPN)?
  • What is cross-site scripting?
  • In your experience, how frequently do you perform a Patch management?
  • What is your process to prevent identity theft?
  • Please take us through your understanding of risk, vulnerability, and threat within a network?
  • What steps would you take to prevent an MITM attack?
  • What is the difference between a threat, a vulnerability, and a risk?
  • Why is DNS monitoring important?
  • What is two-factor authentication?
  • How would you define Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)?

Common Technical Cybersecurity Interview 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.

Here are two examples of a technical cybersecurity interview question and how to answer them:

Question: What are the different layers of the OSI model?

Answer: 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

Question: 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.

Additional Technical Cybersecurity Interview Questions

  • How would you identify a compromised system?
  • Imagine you have to both compress and encrypt data during a transmission. Which would you do first?
  • What is your approach to 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?
  • How do you define data leakage and its types?
  • Can you please 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 the term for the situation when a user is attacked by directing them to what they think is a legitimate site, but it is actually a scam site?
  • What’s the difference between logging and auditing?
  • Explain why you would 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 virus and a worm?
  • How do you prevent outdated software from being exploited?
  • Which attacks involve the use of previously captured network traffic?
  • What is the term for a situation when somebody is forced to reveal cryptographic secrets through physical threats?
  • What cybersecurity tool would you use to quickly search through logs with regular expression?

Common Personal Cybersecurity Interview 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.

Here is an example of a personal cybersecurity interview question and how to answer it:

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

Answer: In cybersecurity, 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.

Additional Personal Cybersecurity Interview Questions

  • Which trend in cybersecurity are you most excited about? Which cybersecurity trend will have the biggest impact in five years?
  • What is an emerging threat in cybersecurity that deserves more attention?
  • Tell us about yourself.
  • Tell us about your preferred work environment.
  • Tell us about your educational background. How has your education prepared you for this job?
  • What extracurricular activities do you participate in?
  • What skills from previous positions will help you in 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 Situational Cybersecurity Interview Questions

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 situational cybersecurity interview questions such as:

Question: Why is a good cybersecurity team essential for any business?

Answer: 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.

Additional Situational Cybersecurity Interview Questions

  • Please describe a time when you demonstrated leadership capabilities on the job.
  • What is your approach for resolving conflict?
  • Tell us about a successful presentation you gave and why you think it went well.
  • What is your approach to build rapport with others?
  • Please describe a time when you had to handle sensitive information. How did you do it?
  • How would you explain a complicated technical problem to a colleague/client who had less technical understanding?
  • Please 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?
  • Are you better at communicating verbally or in writing?
  • Please tell us about a time you had to relay bad news to a client or colleague.

Common Behavioral Cybersecurity Interview Questions

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 cybersecurity interview questions are:

  • An important company stakeholder is putting sensitive data at risk because of their poor habits. How would you convince this person to change their behavior?
  • Tell us about a time you had to respond to negative feedback. How did you learn from it?
  • Please tell us 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?
  • What is your approach to handle conflicts on your team?

Advanced Cybersecurity Interview Questions

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 (including Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft).

  • What risks come with public Wi-Fi?
  • What is the main difference between RSA and Diffie-Hellman?
  • What is port scanning?
  • What protocols fall under TCP/IP internet layer?
  • Please define forward secrecy.
  • Please explain the difference between stream cipher and block cipher.
  • What is cognitive cyber security?
  • Define 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?
  • What is the difference between vulnerability assessment and penetration testing?
  • Please define system hardening.
  • What are the several indicators of compromise that organizations should monitor?

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