111 cybersecurity interview questions

111 cybersecurity interview questions
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Cyberattacks can have devastating effects on your company. Leaked sensitive data and network security breaches can have a high financial cost and even impact you and your employees personally. However, you can easily protect your company’s data with the right cybersecurity professional on your team.

Combining our Cryptography skills test and the right cybersecurity interview questions can make it simpler to hire the right professional. And, to make your work even easier, we’ve listed 111 cybersecurity interview questions below to help you assess your candidates.

Check out the questions below, make your list, and find the right professional easily.

15 general cybersecurity interview questions to ask experts

15 general cybersecurity interview questions

If you need to evaluate your candidates’ general cybersecurity knowledge, here are 15 questions to ask about network security, your candidates’ careers, and their goals. You can use them to begin the interview.

  1. Explain what cybersecurity is.

  2. Outline the main elements of cybersecurity.

  3. Name five critical advantages of cybersecurity.

  4. Explain what cryptography is.

  5. Explain what hacking means.

  6. List five examples of common cyber-attacks.

  7. Which skills are essential when working in cybersecurity?

  8. Which soft skills are essential when working in cybersecurity?

  9. Which cybersecurity skills are you trying to improve?

  10. How do you remain up to date on the most recent cybersecurity developments?

  11. Describe your cybersecurity career so far.

  12. Why have you chosen a career in cybersecurity?

  13. What do you want to achieve in the next three years of your cybersecurity career?

  14. Why have you chosen to apply for our cybersecurity position?

  15. Should you ever send login credentials via email?

5 general cybersecurity interview questions and answers

We’ve selected five questions from the list above and provided sample answers you can use to assess your candidates’ responses.

Use these network security interview questions and answers to evaluate your candidates’ general knowledge.

1. Which skills are essential when working in cybersecurity?

Candidates should understand that several skills are essential when working in cybersecurity, such as the ability to mitigate web-related threats and minimize network-related vulnerabilities.

Can your interviewees describe the importance of these cybersecurity skills and explain how they use them to handle cyber-attacks in their current roles?

2. Name five critical advantages of cybersecurity.

There are various advantages of using the right cybersecurity methods. Your applicants may mention advantages that include protecting end-users, helping to prevent unauthorized users from accessing systems or data, protecting networks, and protecting businesses as a whole.

3. List five examples of common cyberattacks.

If your applicants are skilled cybersecurity experts, they should be able to easily list the main types of cyberattacks that hackers use to cause damage.

Some of the main types of cyberattacks interviewees may mention include: 

  • Malware

  • DDoS attacks

  • MITM (man in the middle) attacks

  • Password attacks

  • Rogue software

4. Should you ever send login credentials via email?

Applicants keen on becoming a part of your team should know that you should never send login credentials via email. 

Sending a user their ID and a password as plain text in an email can increase the chances of a security breach: Their account could be hacked or the email could be inadvertently forwarded to the wrong person. Unintentional actions are the source of almost 9 out of 10 cybersecurity incidents or security breaches.

5. Which soft skills are essential when working in cybersecurity?

The most essential cybersecurity-related soft skills include strong communication and problem-solving skills to troubleshoot and fix errors. 

You can check whether your applicants have these skills either with skills tests or by using the right interview questions about communication or problem solving.

88 cybersecurity interview questions

Here are 88 questions related to the main terms and definitions in cybersecurity to ask during your interviews with expert applicants.

Use these interview questions to review their technical knowledge.

  1. Explain what remote desktop protocol means.

  2. Explain what forward secrecy means.

  3. What does cipher refer to?

  4. What does block cipher refer to?

  5. List some examples of symmetric encryption algorithms.

  6. Explain what ECB means.

  7. Explain what CBC means.

  8. What is spyware in cybersecurity?

  9. What is a buffer overflow attack in cybersecurity?

  10. Explain what impersonation means in cybersecurity.

  11. Explain what SRM means.

  12. Explain what a computer virus is.

  13. What is CryptoAPI?

  14. Explain what a botnet is.

  15. Explain what SSL is.

  16. Explain what TLS is.

  17. Explain the difference between SSL and TLS.

  18. What does CSRF mean?

  19. What is TFA?

  20. Explain what symmetric encryption is.

  21. Explain what asymmetric encryption is.

  22. Explain the difference between symmetric and asymmetric encryption.

  23. What does XSS mean?

  24. What does WAF mean?

  25. Describe what a VPN is.

  26. Describe what a white hat hacker is.

  27. Explain what a black hat hacker is.

  28. Describe what a grey hat hacker is.

  29. Explain what a MITM attack is.

  30. Explain what IDS means.

  31. What does IPS mean?

  32. Explain the difference between IDS and IPS.

  33. Explain what CIA is.

  34. Can you explain what a firewall is?

  35. Explain what Traceroute is.

  36. What is HIDS?

  37. What is NIDS?

  38. Explain the difference between HIDS and NIDS.

  39. Explain what SSL means.

  40. Explain what data leakage refers to.

  41. Explain what a brute force attack is.

  42. Explain what port scanning means.

  43. Name the main layers of an OSI model.

  44. What does the application layer of an OSI model do?

  45. What does the presentation layer of an OSI model do?

  46. Describe what network sniffing refers to.

  47. Why is DNS monitoring critical?

  48. Define salting in cybersecurity.

  49. Explain what SSH means.

  50. Explain what black box testing refers to.

  51. Explain what white box testing refers to.

  52. Explain the difference between black and white box testing.

  53. Define TCP in cybersecurity.

  54. Define residual risk in cybersecurity.

  55. Explain what exfiltration means.

  56. Explain what penetration testing means in cybersecurity.

  57. Why is using public Wi-Fi risky? Name three risks.

  58. Outline what data encryption is.

  59. Define ethical hacking.

  60. Define social engineering in cybersecurity.

  61. Explain what a worm is.

  62. Explain how viruses are different from worms.

  63. Explain what a DDoS attack is.

  64. What is a honeypot in relation to cybersecurity?

  65. What are the main encryption tools?

  66. Explain what a backdoor is.

  67. Explain what WEP cracking refers to.

  68. Define security auditing in cybersecurity.

  69. Define phishing.

  70. Explain what physical threats are.

  71. Explain what non-physical threats are.

  72. Give some examples of non-physical threats.

  73. Explain what a Trojan virus is.

  74. Explain what SQL injection refers to.

  75. What are the main OWASP security vulnerabilities?

  76. Explain what Nmap refers to.

  77. Explain what EtterPeak does.

  78. Name the main web-based cyber-attacks.

  79. What is a system-based attack?

  80. Name four examples of system-based attacks.

  81. Explain what an accidental threat is.

  82. Explain what a hybrid attack is.

  83. Explain what an access token is.

  84. Explain what an antivirus sensor system is.

  85. Explain what an IP address is.

  86. List three disadvantages of the penetration testing process in cybersecurity.

  87. Explain what ARP poisoning means.

  88. What are the main examples of cyber attacks?

Below, we’ve selected the 15 most important questions from the list from the previous section and provided sample answers to help you review your candidates’ responses and accurately assess their skills and knowledge.

1. Describe what a white hat hacker is.

Can your interviewees explain that a white hat hacker is a security specialist? Are they aware that a white hat hacker focuses on penetration testing? Your interviewee should also know that this role involves protecting an organization’s assets, such as information, networks, and data.

2. Explain what a black hat hacker is.

Your interviewees should know that black hat hackers are interested in exploiting vulnerabilities of the security of a network to create or deploy malware with malicious intent. Black hat hackers also try to breach secure networks to steal or destroy data, meaning authorized users can’t access the network or its data.

3. Explain what an accidental threat is.

Are your applicants aware that accidental threats are threats to security that are unintentional? 

The main cause of an accidental threat is often the inadvertent actions of an organization’s employees who may delete files or accidentally leak confidential data and share it with third parties (thus breaching the company’s policies).

4. Explain what remote desktop protocol means.

Interviewees should know that remote desktop protocol (RDP) refers to the Microsoft-developed technical standard that enables the connection of two devices via a network through the GUI. They may explain that RDP is a tool that’s ideal for remote management. It also makes it easier to get access to virtual PCs.

5.Explain what ARP poisoning means.

ARP poisoning (short for address resolution protocol poisoning) is a type of cyberattack.

Can your applicants explain that it converts IP addresses into physical addresses found on a network device? Do your applicants know how ARP attacks work?

The best candidates will know that a host will send an address resolution protocol broadcast, and a recipient PC will respond with the physical address.

6. Explain what penetration testing means for cybersecurity.

Skilled cybersecurity experts will understand what penetration testing means for cybersecurity. They will be able to explain that the process involves assessing whether a network has any vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit. They will also know that the goal of penetration testing is to improve the security of web application firewalls.

7. List three disadvantages of the penetration testing process in cybersecurity.

There are a few disadvantages of the penetration testing process in cybersecurity.

Applicants may list several examples of these disadvantages, including the following:

  • Missed vulnerabilities: Despite penetration testing efforts, a cybersecurity professional may not always find every vulnerability in a system

  • System downtime: During penetration testing, a system may be down for long periods of time, which can be costly and inconvenient

  • Costs: Penetration testing can be expensive, and organizations may have limited budgets.

8. Explain what a hybrid attack is.

Candidates hoping to join your organization must know that hybrid attacks combine brute force attacks (attempts to learn or decipher a password) and dictionary use. Hackers who use a hybrid attack will try to decipher a password by combining symbols, numbers, and dictionary words.

9. Explain what an SQL injection refers to.

Can interviewees explain that SQL injections involve inserting malicious SQL statements into code to attack a data-driven application?

Do they know this technique can lead to unauthorized access and enable hackers to access sensitive data? Applicants should also know the kinds of data hackers can access via an SQL injection, such as personal information and credit card details.

10. Explain what a Trojan virus is.

Applicants should know that Trojan viruses enable hackers to access any computer. Your candidates may explain that a key method that hackers use to execute a Trojan virus on a system is to use social engineering techniques.

11. What is a honeypot in relation to cybersecurity?

Can your applicants explain that a honeypot is a type of decoy system capable of recording any transaction or action that users make? Are they aware of the two main examples of honeypots, which are production and research?

Administrators use production honeypots to capture data and information by placing the system into networks.

Research honeypots are used by universities and schools to research black-hat techniques that may threaten their network.

12. Explain how viruses are different from worms.

While a virus infects files and programs via code, hackers use email clients to spread worms. Candidates should also know that viruses require host programs, while worms do not, and that viruses work to infect files much more slowly than a worm.

13. Define social engineering in cybersecurity.

Do your applicants know that social engineering refers to a method where hackers or cyber attackers attempt to trick others into giving them sensitive or confidential information?

Applicants may explain three examples of social engineering attacks: human, mobile, and computer social engineering.

14. Define ethical hacking.

Your next cybersecurity expert should know that ethical hacking means working to enhance a network’s security. They may explain that ethical hacking includes attempts to fix network or computer vulnerabilities by using software tools for system security enhancement.

15. Define security auditing in cybersecurity.

Security audits are processes where cybersecurity professionals complete an inspection of internal applications and operating systems. Another way to perform a security audit of an application is to complete a line-by-line code inspection.

8 situational cybersecurity interview questions 

situational cybersecurity interview questions

You can ask your interviewees these eight situational cybersecurity interview questions to get an idea of how they would react in difficult situations involving cybersecurity risks and to see whether they’re capable of tackling complex challenges.

  1. Which method would you use to prevent a brute force attack?

  2. Explain how you would reset a BIOS configuration that is password-protected.

  3. Which method would you use to complete the salting process?

  4. Which method would you use to enhance authentication security?

  5. Which method would you use to protect an email message?

  6. Explain how you would secure a web server.

  7. Explain how you implement two-factor authentication.

  8. Explain how you would enhance the security of the user-authentication process.

5 situational cybersecurity interview questions and answers

In this section, you’ll find the answers to five situational cybersecurity questions. Use these answers to review your applicants’ responses and skills.

1. Which method would you use to prevent a brute force attack?

Applicants may explain that there are a few different methods for preventing a brute force attack. Some ways they may list are to:

  • Implement an account lockout after an attempt has failed

  • Increase the complexity or length of passwords

  • Use web application firewalls (known as WAFs)

2. Explain how you would secure a web server.

Candidates with strong cybersecurity skills should understand how to secure a web server. Some of the steps they may mention when responding to this cybersecurity interview question are to: 

  • Update the file ownership

  • Disable the additional web server modules

  • Delete default scripts

3. Explain how you would reset a BIOS configuration that is password protected.

Applicants should know how to reset BIOS configurations that are password protected if they’re cybersecurity experts. They should be able to outline four methods for completing this process, which are to:

  • Use software

  • Use a motherboard jumper

  • Use MS-DOS

  • Take out the CMOS battery

4. Explain how you would enhance the security of the user-authentication process.

There are a couple of methods cybersecurity experts can use to enhance user authentications. They can either set up a dynamically generated one-time token or establish a biometric setup that uses a fingerprint authentication option. 

They may also set up a second password requirement that constantly changes, establish an email token or establish an SMS token method, which is easy to use, cost-effective, available to everyone, and secure.

5. Which method would you use to protect an email message?

Email is a popular means of contacting others, with more than 4 billion email users worldwide, and can be targeted by hackers and cyber criminals. 

Can your candidate explain how to protect email messages? Are your applicants aware that a cipher algorithm can help users protect their email and any credit card or corporate data they send? 

At which phase in your hiring process should you implement these cybersecurity interview questions?

If you’re about to begin your recruitment process to find a cybersecurity professional, we advise you to use cybersecurity interview questions towards the bottom of your hiring funnel and after you’ve assessed applicants’ skills. 

Here’s how a streamlined hiring process looks like:

  • Source applicants

  • Choose a set of up to five skills tests to build a comprehensive cybersecurity assessment

  • Invite candidates to complete the assessment

  • Analyze assessment results to identify your top talent

  • Select the cybersecurity professionals who have performed best and invite them to an interview

  • Conduct interviews in which you use the cybersecurity interview questions from this article to gain an in-depth understanding of your applicants’ expertise

  • Hire an expert using all the data you’ve gained throughout the recruitment process

  • Use skills test results to create training sessions tailored to the needs of your new hire

Should you use skills testing during your hiring process?

The short answer is yes. Using skills testing during your hiring process is an excellent idea for several reasons.

This method enables you to identify the candidates with the strongest cybersecurity skills from the very beginning of your hiring process and can be used to replace resume screening entirely (which, let’s face it, is an outdated method that doesn’t belong to the future of hiring). 

Some of the other advantages of skills testing are: 

  • Unconscious bias mitigation: Pre-employment tests enable you to get rid of hiring bias and make decisions based on applicants’ true performance potential

  • Lower time to hire: Assessments are automatically graded, which helps you reduce the time to hire considerably

  • Accuracy: Tests enable you to evaluate applicants’ cybersecurity skills with a high level of accuracy and precision

  • Assessment of several skills: If you choose TestGorilla, you can select up to five skills tests to review candidates’ related skills

  • Better team diversity: With skills testing, hiring a diverse and inclusive cybersecurity team is easier

Which skills should you assess to hire a cybersecurity expert?

Which skills should you assess to hire cybersecurity expert?

Below, we’ve listed some of the most critical skills you should assess when hiring a cybersecurity expert.

We’ve divided these into soft and hard skills, so check the lists for more information.

Cybersecurity soft skills to assess during hiring

For the best results, we advise you to assess these cybersecurity soft skills during hiring:

1. Communication skills

Regular interactions with all departments are critical for cybersecurity experts. Your next professional may need to communicate with other teams about phishing threats or viruses, or also educate users on how to mitigate risks and adopt key cybersecurity best practices. 

Ensure your new hire has the right communication skills by using a combination of methods: 

  • Administer a communication skills test

  • Interview applicants by using cybersecurity questions from this article

  • Evaluate candidates’ overall communication style during the entire hiring process

This way, you’ll be sure to identify the applicants who have the best communication skills.

2. Problem-solving skills

Given that at least 30,000 websites are hacked worldwide every day, protecting sensitive company data should be at the top of your priority list – and to quickly identify and contain security breaches, your next cybersecurity expert should have top problem-solving skills. 

They must know how to follow troubleshooting procedures and set up new ones with ease. Make sure your cybersecurity professional has the right problem-solving skills by using our Problem-Solving skills test and asking them situational cybersecurity interview questions to gauge their expertise.

Cybersecurity hard skills to evaluate during recruitment

Review these cybersecurity hard skills to hire a professional for your team:

1. Private-key cryptography

Knowledge of private-key cryptography is critical for cybersecurity professionals because it is vital for data encryption and decryption. For this, your professionals will need to understand cryptographic algorithms as well. 

Our Cryptography test is the best way to review these skills in a short timeframe. To evaluate applicants’ skills, you can also ask network security interview questions related to private-key cryptography.

2. Message authentication code (MAC)

Understanding message authentication codes is vital for the next cybersecurity professional you hire. 

Can your applicants understand how to verify data legitimacy that others send via a network? You can test their expertise in this field with our Cryptography skills test or ask them relevant cybersecurity interview questions to thoroughly assess their knowledge.

Find the best cybersecurity professionals for your business with the right interview questions

Finding expert cybersecurity professionals for your business may seem complex, but getting the right person on board begins with the comprehensive assessment of applicants’ skills. The best way to do that is with skills testing and the right network security interview questions. 

Using these two methods in combination will also enable you to reduce hiring times when searching for the right cybersecurity professional. And with the cybersecurity interview questions and tips in this article, you’ll have no problems finding the best professional.

Remember that skills testing is ideal for choosing the right candidates for an interview. Our Cybersecurity test and Cryptography skills test can assist you when selecting candidates who have solid cybersecurity expertise. It can also help you mitigate unconscious bias and diversify your team.

Don’t leave cybersecurity to chance. Use skills tests and our cybersecurity interview questions to find the best expert for your organization.

 Get started with TestGorilla for free today.

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