As a cybersecurity professional, you should be able to understand network security, to talk about information security, encrypting, hashtagging, and what it means to be an ethical hacker, among other topics. To prepare for cybersecurity job interviews, familiarize yourself with some common interview questions.
Read on to discover the most common cybersecurity interview questions and get some tips on how to approach and answer each question.
Basic Cybersecurity Interview Questions
Believe it or not, some cybersecurity interviews will start with some very basic questions, even though cybersecurity is actually a very complex topic. This is because hiring managers want to make sure that you, the job candidate, can clearly articulate the most basic aspects of the field.
Don’t be afraid to take the time to review and reflect on how to answer some of the most common and very basic questions, which we have listed below. Taking the time to make sure you have solid and accurate answers to basic questions and concepts will impress your interviewer.
Better yet, it will give you the chance to show off your innate understanding of the fundamentals of cybersecurity.
What Is Cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity is the protection of hardware, software, and data from external actors.
Okay, so that is a pretty basic definition of cybersecurity. Ideally, you will elaborate and expand, naming some of the different elements of cybersecurity, including but not limited to operational security, networking security, end-user education, information security, and business continuity planning.
You might even go a little further and mention the different kinds of cybersecurity threats, including malware, ransomware, and social engineering.
What Is Cryptography?
Cryptography is about securing information and communication to protect data. This is done through different techniques and strategies all in the service of protecting data from third parties.
What Is SSL?
SSL is a standard security technology for encrypting. It is typically used between a server and a client, typically between a web server and a web browser.
What Is DNS Monitoring?
DMS monitoring is a method to check and secure the connectivity between your connection or your servers and the rest of the Internet. If you suspect a threat or malicious activity, DNS monitoring can help you identify and troubleshoot connectivity problems.
What Is Encryption?
Encryption sounds complicated but it’s really just another way of saying “code.” Encryption takes a sentence of reasonable text and scrambles it into a completely unreadable jumble of something called “ciphertext.” Messages and transferable data sets are typically encrypted with keys for encryption to protect the information in the space between the sender and the receiver.
You should feel comfortable discussing how to encrypt and decrypt for the purposes of security systems.
What Is the Difference Between Symmetric and Asymmetric Encryption?
Symmetric encryption uses the same key to encrypt and decrypt while asymmetric encryption uses a different key for each process.
It makes sense, one process is the same and symmetrical while the other is different and asymmetrical. Asymmetrical encryption is considered more secure because it uses two different keys. That said, symmetric encryption is faster because it involves simpler math and is inherently less complicated, using only one key for both encryption and decryption.
Technical Cybersecurity Interview Questions
What Is the Difference Between Encryption and Hashing?
While encryption takes readable text and converts it into code or ciphertext, hashing takes readable text and converts it into another value. While encryption can be reversed, and converts the ciphertext back into readable text, hashing cannot be reversed.
What Is the CIA Triad?
CIA stands for confidentiality, integrity, and availability. CIA is a model many cybersecurity professionals use as a policy for information technology. Read on for a breakdown of each concept.
Confidentiality means others should not be able to read or understand a piece of information. Data should be encrypted so data is not understandable, even if it is hacked.
Data with integrity is data that hasn’t been modified or corrupted by outside sources. To make sure data remains integrous, confidentiality needs to be maintained. A cybersecurity professional can uphold the integrity of a set of data by putting systems in place that will block a modification and reverse the data to its original, uncorrupted state.
While maintaining confidentiality and integrity, data should still be made available and accessible to authorized users. So, as cybersecurity experts are designing security policies, they must make sure availability is possible while they pursue confidentiality and integrity in their measures.
What Are Risk, Vulnerability, and Threat?
Obviously, vulnerability means the same thing it means outside of the context of cybersecurity. In the context of cybersecurity, vulnerability is how prone or weak a system is to an attack.
Risk is the measure of potential loss or damage. If there is an attack, how much is at risk? Ideally, as a cybersecurity expert, you should be working to minimize or at the very least mitigate risk.
A threat is the external, malicious actor. It comes in many different forms and can be an individual or virus-like malware or ransomware. Any system is vulnerable to a threat and the risk is how much the system would compromise if the threat is successful in exposing system vulnerabilities.
What Is Data Leakage and How Can You Prevent It?
Data leakage is when confidential data is intentionally or unintentionally transferred (leaked) from an authorized internal location to an unauthorized external location. It is considered a leak because it is confidential information being released to an external actor who is not supposed to have access to the information.
You can prevent data leakage by using a variety of Data Leak Prevention (DLP) tools. Many large cybersecurity companies like McAffe sell DLP packages to companies that need to make sure they are employing every available measure to protect their data.
You might even be interviewing to work for one such cybersecurity company, designing the policies and tools that go into these kinds of services. DLP tools are increasingly important for companies large and small, especially when it comes to using cloud tools for storage.
Types of Cyberattacks and Testing
What Is Cross Site Scripting?
Cross Site Scripting, also known as CXX, is a very common kind of hack or attack. Explaining CXX can be complicated because it is very technical and it is a very specific type of hack.
Make sure that at the very least, you can explain that it is an injection of malicious scripts into trusted websites. This is particularly dangerous because users may be completely unaware and may not be suspicious because they are on an otherwise trusted website. It is usually in the form of a browser side script.
What Is Distributed Denial of Service?
Distributed Denial of Service, or DDoS, is when more than one machine or system perpetrates an attack onto a single target. Ultimately, it disrupts the normal traffic of a server or network by overwhelming it.
The attacks are carried out with malware-infected devices and then controlling them through remote access. This then results in a denial of service to normal Internet traffic or server connectivity, which is inherently disruptive and ultimately, poses a threat to the integrity of the network’s data.
What Is Penetration Testing?
Penetration testing, also known as pen testing for short, is about finding vulnerabilities on a target. It’s also about exploiting these vulnerabilities.
To put it simply, it’s a test to see how easy it is to hack into a system. It’s like a kind of simulation that a company commissions for a cybersecurity expert to run penetration testing on their system. Based on the results of the testing, a cybersecurity expert may be able to recommend adjustments to the company’s security system to mitigate any vulnerabilities they identify.
Typically, companies hire external cybersecurity experts to perform pen tests to make sure that all vulnerabilities are caught. Anyone working internally with familiarity with the system might miss some blind spots in the system that an external actor is more likely to catch. Cybersecurity experts must be certified in penetration testing before they can perform it.
Different Kinds of Hackers
Hackers come in many different sizes, shapes, and apparently, they like to wear different color hats. In the world of cybersecurity, there are white hat hackers, black hat hackers, and grey hat hackers.
This is because all hacking is not inherently bad, despite the word’s very negative connotation. The different color hats are categories that delineate good and bad hackers. When it comes down to it, the basic definition of a hacker is anyone who, using their technical knowledge, is able to hack into a confidential system or data set. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they are unauthorized or malicious.
Read on to find out some basic definitions for these hatted-hackers and get some advice on how to answer questions about these hackers in an interview scenario.
What Is a White Hat Hacker?
A white hat hacker is also known as an ethical hacker. If you’ve ever had computer issues and had to call IT to help, you may have consented for someone to access your computer remotely. This is a kind of hacking and in this case, because you consented to it, it is known and white hat hacking.
More commonly though, white hat hackers do penetration testing and other processes to test system vulnerabilities and risk.
What Is a Black Hat Hacker?
A black hat hacker is the kind of hacker you probably think of. Inherently malicious and hell-bent on taking advantage of every vulnerability in a system. This is the villainous hacker we see in the movies, typing away in a cavernous basement while stealing data from thousands.
Black hat hackers are typically experts in writing malware, which is what allows them to breach security systems. Black hat hackers can steal, modify, or destroy data, depending on what their motivations are.
Though black hat hackers are typically motivated by financial gain, they may also be motivated by political or activist goals. For example, hacking has definitely been a major topic of concern in the most recent US elections, with foreign hackers using their technical expertise to influence American politics.
What Is a Grey Hat Hacker?
Grey hat hackers are in between white hat hackers and black hat hackers. Typically, they look for vulnerabilities in systems but do the hacking without the owner’s overt consent or knowledge. Then, having found those vulnerabilities, they will tell the company or owner about the vulnerability and offer to fix the issue for a fee.
It is a kind of ransom hack, because there is usually the threat that if the owner does not agree to pay the fee, the hacker will post the vulnerability online for black hat hackers to take advantage of.
Conclusion: Showcase Your Expertise in Tech Security
Cybersecurity is an extremely technical field. Walking into the interview for your dream job can be intimidating under normal circumstances, let alone when the job requires a high degree of technical knowledge and skill.
Making sure you are extremely well-prepared for your interview will give you the confidence to nail it and do your best throughout the interview process. From breaking down some of the basics, which you may take for granted, to working on some more complicated technical concepts that may come up, you should now have all of the tools you need for every kind of question.