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111 cybersecurity interview questions for your candidates


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 cybersecurity interview questions below to help you assess candidates for a cybersecurity role.

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

15 general cybersecurity interview questions to ask candidates

This section features 15 general cybersecurity interview questions to ask your candidates and evaluate their general cybersecurity knowledge.

  • Why is cybersecurity crucial for businesses?

  • Which skills are important for cybersecurity professionals?

  • Explain what a hacker is.

  • Why is DNS monitoring important?

  • Name two types of common cyberattacks.

  • Why is using public Wi-Fi risky?

  • What can spyware do to an organization’s data?

  • What can viruses do to a computer system?

  • What are the benefits of a CryptoAPI?

  • What does ethical hacking mean?

  • Name three examples of social engineering attacks.

  • What do antivirus sensor systems do?

  • Explain what security auditing means.

  • Are there any disadvantages of penetration testing? Give an example.

  • What are physical threats in cybersecurity?

5 general cybersecurity interview questions and answers 

Here’s our selection of five of the most crucial cybersecurity interview questions from the ones above, together with sample answers to help you gauge applicants’ knowledge.

1. Explain what a hacker is.

Candidates should understand that hackers seek to find and exploit computer system weaknesses, using their thorough knowledge of network and IT systems.

2. Which skills are important for cybersecurity professionals?

Do your candidates know that knowledge of network and endpoint threat mitigation are two critical skills that cybersecurity professionals should have? Can they explain that knowledge of computer networks and cloud server security is also essential for a cybersecurity role?

3. Name two types of common cyberattacks.

Two types of common cyberattacks that your candidates should know include web application attacks and system-based attacks: 

  • Web application attacks are malicious attempts to compromise a web application’s security

  • System-based attacks are attempts to spread malicious software through the computer network via computer files

4. What do antivirus sensor systems do?

Antivirus sensor systems are software tools used to find, mitigate, and get rid of a virus that computers may have. These sensors carry out regular checks to increase a system’s security.

5. Explain what security auditing means.

Can your candidates explain that security auditing involves internal application and operating system inspections to spot any security flaws and vulnerabilities? Strong candidates will explain that line-by-line code inspections can help perform the audit.

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.

  • Explain what remote desktop protocol means.

  • Explain what forward secrecy means.

  • What does cipher refer to?

  • What does block cipher refer to?

  • List some examples of symmetric encryption algorithms.

  • Explain what ECB means.

  • Explain what CBC means.

  • What is spyware in cybersecurity?

  • What is a buffer overflow attack in cybersecurity?

  • Explain what impersonation means in cybersecurity.

  • Explain what SRM means.

  • Explain what a computer virus is.

  • What is CryptoAPI?

  • Explain what a botnet is.

  • Explain what SSL is.

  • Explain what TLS is.

  • Explain the difference between SSL and TLS.

  • What does CSRF mean?

  • What is TFA?

  • Explain what symmetric encryption is.

  • Explain what asymmetric encryption is.

  • Explain the difference between symmetric and asymmetric encryption.

  • What does XSS mean?

  • What does WAF mean?

  • Describe what a VPN is.

  • Describe what a white hat hacker is.

  • Explain what a black hat hacker is.

  • Describe what a grey hat hacker is.

  • Explain what a MITM attack is.

  • Explain what IDS means.

  • What does IPS mean?

  • Explain the difference between IDS and IPS.

  • Explain what CIA is.

  • Can you explain what a firewall is?

  • Explain what Traceroute is.

  • What is HIDS?

  • What is NIDS?

  • Explain the difference between HIDS and NIDS.

  • Explain what SSL means.

  • Explain what data leakage refers to.

  • Explain what a brute force attack is.

  • Explain what port scanning means.

  • Name the main layers of an OSI model.

  • What does the application layer of an OSI model do?

  • What does the presentation layer of an OSI model do?

  • Describe what network sniffing refers to.

  • Why is DNS monitoring critical?

  • Define salting in cybersecurity.

  • Explain what SSH means.

  • Explain what black box testing refers to.

  • Explain what white box testing refers to.

  • Explain the difference between black and white box testing.

  • Define TCP in cybersecurity.

  • Define residual risk in cybersecurity.

  • Explain what exfiltration means.

  • Explain what penetration testing means in cybersecurity.

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

  • Outline what data encryption is.

  • Define ethical hacking.

  • Define social engineering in cybersecurity.

  • Explain what a worm is.

  • Explain how viruses are different from worms.

  • Explain what a DDoS attack is.

  • What is a honeypot in relation to cybersecurity?

  • What are the main encryption tools?

  • Explain what a backdoor is.

  • Explain what WEP cracking refers to.

  • Define security auditing in cybersecurity.

  • Define phishing.

  • Explain what physical threats are.

  • Explain what non-physical threats are.

  • Give some examples of non-physical threats.

  • Explain what a Trojan virus is.

  • Explain what SQL injection refers to.

  • What are the main OWASP security vulnerabilities?

  • Explain what Nmap refers to.

  • Explain what EtterPeak does.

  • Name the main web-based cyber-attacks.

  • What is a system-based attack?

  • Name four examples of system-based attacks.

  • Explain what an accidental threat is.

  • Explain what a hybrid attack is.

  • Explain what an access token is.

  • Explain what an antivirus sensor system is.

  • Explain what an IP address is.

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

  • Explain what ARP poisoning means.

  • 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.

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

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

  • Which method would you use to complete the salting process?

  • Which method would you use to enhance authentication security?

  • Which method would you use to protect an email message?

  • Explain how you would secure a web server.

  • Explain how you implement two-factor authentication.

  • 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? 

10 tips for using cybersecurity interview questions effectively

To use the cybersecurity interview questions in this article effectively, take a look at our ten tips below.

1. Use cybersecurity interview questions after skills testing.

Make skills testing the priority when assessing the skills of potential cybersecurity professionals for your organization. Invite candidates to complete a skills assessment of up to five tests to thoroughly evaluate their skills and knowledge.

Make sure to include a Cybersecurity test, along with other role-specific skill tests, cognitive ability tests, or personality and culture assessments.

When you’ve received applicants’ cybersecurity skills assessment results, invite qualified candidates to an interview. You can then use the cybersecurity interview questions from our article to learn more about your applicants.

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

2. Have a list of skills to check during the interview.

You may have a list of skills that the role requires and have included them in the job description. This shouldn’t be a generic list of cybersecurity skills – instead, it should be a list of role-specific skills. For example, if you’re interviewing cybersecurity analyst candidates, you should have a list of essential cybersecurity analyst skills.

You can compare your requirements and your candidates’ responses and ensure that you select candidates whose cybersecurity knowledge and skills best align with your needs.

3. Talk about your organization’s vision and mission.

The interview stage is an excellent chance to promote your organization’s vision and mission to potential new hires.

During the interview phase, you can talk about your organization’s goals, so prepare for this by brushing up on its culture, mission statement, values, and vision. Talking about your organization can be the pivotal point that sways a candidate’s decision to join your company.

4. Get to know your candidates’ career goals.

At the beginning of the interview, ask your applicants about their career goals to determine whether their ambitions align with what your company offers.

This way, you’ll be able to find out whether your candidates have the necessary passion, commitment, and desire to progress in their careers.

Learn whether they are interested in any training opportunities and get a better understanding of their career so far to determine their level of motivation.

5. Ask applicants general cybersecurity interview questions first.

Ask your candidates a few general cybersecurity interview questions first, before working your way up to the more challenging questions. This method will help you understand more about your candidates’ experiences in cybersecurity and general knowledge before you test their technical knowledge.

6. Avoid bias by asking the same questions in the same order.

Fair interview processes are vital and can enhance the candidate experience.

Ensure that you ask all cybersecurity interview questions in the same order for all candidates. However, you can ask follow-up questions if you feel this will give your applicants a chance to give you more information.

7. Use consistent metrics when reviewing candidates after the interview.

Using consistent metrics to review your candidates can also help you avoid bias. When you use skills tests, you’ll receive ranked results of the assessments, which will help you evaluate candidates’ skills efficiently.

You can also use scoring sheets to evaluate your candidates’ answers during interviews and compare scores to skills assessment results. 

8. Prepare for your applicants’ questions.

Let your applicants ask their cybersecurity interview questions about your organization to enhance their candidate experience.

Be prepared to provide thorough, honest answers, as this can be a pivotal moment that helps a candidate decide whether they want to accept your job offer.

9. Provide feedback to applicants to enhance the candidate experience.

When you disqualify candidates who don’t meet your requirements, let them know why. Giving them this information will help you enhance the candidate experience even more. 

10. Use candidates’ responses and test results to create a tailored onboarding program.

Candidates’ responses to your cybersecurity interview questions provide useful information to help you build tailored training sessions for your new hire and address any potential gaps. Their questions about training opportunities can help you further inform your onboarding strategy.

Which skills should you assess to hire a 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, our cybersecurity interview questions, and an effective job description – like a strong cryptographer job description – to find the best expert for your organization.

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