9 min. read

June 22, 2021


31 Most Common Cybersecurity Interview Questions

Here are the most common cyber security interview questions!

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Sai Krishna Kothapalli, Cyber Security Researcher

Most commonly asked cybersecurity interview questions.

Cyber security is a booming industry that has seen 350 percent growth in open cyber security positions from 2013 to 2021. As per a prediction by The New York Times, there will be 3.5 million unfilled cyber security jobs globally by 2021, up from one million positions in 2014.

This post is about the most commonly asked questions in cyber security, a field that has a stunning zero-percent unemployment rate, with the opportunities growing by leaps and bound every year.

Before we delve into the cyber security interview questions, it’s important to understand the scope of the topic: what exactly is cyber security? It is an umbrella term for defending computers, servers, mobile devices, electronic systems, networks, and data from malicious attacks. There are several sub-categories in this field, including:

  • Network security or the practice of securing a computer network from threats.

  • Application security or the field of keeping software and devices free from malicious attacks.

  • Information security, or the protection of privacy and integrity of data in storage and in transit.

  • Operational security, or the practice of handling decisions about how and where data may be stored.

  • Disaster recovery and business continuity, or the process of how an organisation responds to an incident that causes the loss of operations or data.

  • End-user education or the process of teaching the end-users, i.e. the people using the applications to be careful of their data and privacy.

Next, let us look at some of the most common entry-level cyber security interview questions.

Getting-to-know-you questions

1. Why are you looking for a new position?

While answering this, you have to be open about whether you are looking for more responsibility, a chance to expand your skillset, or a better pay-check. Explain why you are the best fit for this new position that will mutually benefit both you and the organisation.

2. How did you get started with cyber security?

Here, you can be honest about your journey and share what sparked that curiosity in you to pursue a career in the field of cybersecurity. You can also talk in brief about your first hack.

3. What you have contributed to the infosec community?

This answer should include all the ways you have positively impacted a company, organisation, or another person’s life by your contribution to cyber security.

4. What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?

This is more of a generic question where the interviewer is more interested in knowing you as a person and an employee. So, be open about your skills and what you consider your weakness.

Entry-level cyber security questions

1. What is the difference between Threat, Vulnerability, and Risk?

A Threat is when a person or party has the potential to destroy the official data of a system or organisation, e.g. Phishing attack.

Vulnerability refers to weaknesses in a system that makes the outcomes of a threat more possible and dangerous, e.g. SQL injections.

Risk refers to a combination of threat probability and its impact.

2. How can you identify if a machine is affected by ransomware?

There are various signs, including, but not limited to the following:

  • A splash screen appears that prevents you from using the computer and provides instructions on how to restore access.

  • Files or folders that can’t be opened indicate you might be a victim of encryption ransomware.

  • Odd or missing file extensions. Often, the finder will display a blank icon for such suspicious file types.

3. What is the difference between vulnerability assessment and penetration testing?

Vulnerability Assessment is a process to define, detect, and prioritise the vulnerabilities in computer systems, infrastructure, and applications. Knowing the vulnerability assessment gives an organisation enough information to fix the flaws.

Penetration Testing is the process of testing a network, system, application, etc. to identify vulnerabilities attackers could exploit.

4. List the common types of cyber security attacks.

  • Malware

  • SQL Injection Attack

  • Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)

  • Denial-of-Service (DoS)

  • Man-in-the-Middle Attacks

  • Credential Reuse

  • Phishing

  • Session Hijacking

6. What are the common methods of authentication for network security?

  • Tokens with long credentials for accessing systems that make it difficult for hackers to access accounts.

  • Transaction Authentication like a one-time pin or password to process online transactions and verify the users’ identity.

  • Multi-Factor Authentication.

  • Out-of-Band Authentication that needs two signals from two different channels or networks.

7. What is the difference between encrypting and hashing?

Hashing and encryption are two methods used to convert readable data into an unreadable format. Encrypted data can be transformed into original data by decryption, whereas hashed data cannot be processed back to the original data.

8. What are brute force attacks and how can you prevent them?

A Brute Force Attack employs the usage of trial and error methods to decode encrypted data rather than applying intellectual strategies. In a way, it means identifying the right credentials by repetitively attempting all the possible permutations and combinations.

Brute Force attacks can be avoided by the following practices:

  • Including different formats of characters to increase password complexity.

  • Limit the login attempts to three or fewer attempts.

  • Introduce two-factor authentication as an added layer of security.

9. Does a Cybersecurity law exist in your country? Can you tell us more about it and its implications?

To answer this question, you have to be aware of the cybersecurity laws in your country and how they impact ethical hackers and penetration testers who are playing around, trying to test the security of web applications.

You also need to be aware of how cyberattacks are penalised and what are the laws in place to prevent cyber attacks on companies and organisations.

More specific questions

The following are more specific, in-depth questions that test how skilled you are in specialised fields of cybersecurity.

  1. What is OWASP Top 10?

  2. What does Nmap do?

  3. Explain SQL injection attacks and how can we prevent an SQL attack?

  4. Explain CSRF and SSRF and how can we prevent them?

  5. What is an SSRF and what is its impact?

  6. How can you prevent a DDOS attack?

  7. What do you know about DKMI and DMARC?

  8. What are some common ports and services that can be misused?

  9. What is the difference between reverse shell and bind shell?

  10. What are different types of XSS and how can you prevent it

  11. What are salted hashes?

  12. Explain what you know about the CIA triad and how it can be a business enabler?

  13. What is the difference between a red team and a blue team?

  14. What is the difference between Symmetric and Asymmetric encryption? What are the advantages and disadvantages of both?

  15. Explain SSH and the SSL/TLS handshake process?

  16. What do you know about the OSI model?

  17. What is an IDOR and how do you mitigate it?

  18. What are honeypots and why are they needed?

Some important points to keep in mind

The ones mentioned above are the most commonly asked questions you need to master while walking into any cyber security interview, you should also be prepared for the scenario when the interviewer will ask you more questions in-depth as well.

Remember: it’s more about the process than the specific outcome. Interviewers are looking for people who can think on the spot and provide creative solutions — not just degree smart.