Cyber Security Interview Questions and Answers

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 27 July 2022

Published 15 December 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Cyber security positions require you to protect data, networks, software and electronic devices from malicious attacks. Job interview questions for a cyber security position depend on the exact position you are applying for, such as systems administrator, network engineer, web developer, IT auditor, cyber security architect or chief information officer. Interviewers often seek to assess your basic understanding of concepts if you are applying as a fresher and ask advanced level questions if you are an experienced candidate. In this article, we discuss some common cyber security interview questions for freshers and experienced candidates along with sample answers.

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General Cyber Security Interview Questions

Here are some general questions from a cyber security interview:

  • What is cybercrime? Give some examples of cybercrime committed against an individual.

  • Tell us about SSL, HTTPS and TLS.

  • What is a DDoS attack?

  • What is phishing?

  • What does CIA stand for in cyber security?

  • How do you find out whether a system is compromised or vulnerable?

  • What is penetration testing?

  • Name some standard tools used in assessing the security of a system.

  • How would you secure a wireless access point?

  • How do you secure a Linux server?

  • What is the advantage of using a cipher?

Related: How To Become a Cybersecurity Engineer (Salary and Skills)

In-Depth Cyber Security Interview Questions

Following are some sample questions for cyber security interview that seek to assess your in-depth domain knowledge:

  • Why is it important to monitor a Domain Name System (DNS)?

  • Are hashing, encoding and encrypting the same thing?

  • What is salting used for in cyber security?

  • How do you authenticate a user?

  • How do you mitigate the risk of Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)?

  • What is your opinion about bug bounty programs? Are they helpful?

  • Are proprietary projects more secure than their open-source counterparts?

  • How is IPS different from IDS?

  • How does the Diffie-Hellman method work?

  • Briefly explain the three-way handshake process.

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Cyber Security Interview Questions And Answers For Freshers

Here are some common cyber security interview questions you can expect as a fresher for entry-level positions:

What is cyber security?

This is a basic question the interviewer may ask at the beginning of the interview to assess how well you understand the concept of cyber security. You are required to begin with a standard definition and explain the meaning with relation to the position you are interviewing for. For example, if you are interviewing for a web developer job, your answer can be:

Example: "Cyber security is the practice of protecting data, network, communication, software, servers, computers and other hardware from malicious attacks. With respect to a website, cyber security primarily involves making it secure to prevent hacking, DDoS attacks and unauthorised access to the server. Installing a firewall, deploying SSL certificate, encrypting data and removing vulnerability from the code are some common examples of cyber security measures taken to make a website secure."

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How does cyber security help a business?

Explain how taking cyber security measures can help businesses protect confidential data and information. Consider giving a simple, practical example to let the interviewer know that you can apply your knowledge in a real-life situation.

Example: "Most businesses use computer networks and electronic devices to conduct operations and manage the flow of information. Cyber security protects the data of a business and its users from phishing, malware and unauthorised access. For example, an e-commerce website runs the risk of compromising the financial and personal information of its customers if it does not have proper cyber security measures in place."

What are risks, vulnerabilities and threats? Do they refer to the same thing?

Explain how these three terms differ from each other with the help of a simple example. For ease of understanding, it is better to begin your answer by defining vulnerability.

Example: "There is a subtle difference between these three terms. Vulnerability is a loophole or weakness in the efforts to protect an asset. A threat is someone or something that can exploit the vulnerability to damage or access the asset. Risk refers to the potential loss or damage if someone exploits the vulnerability. For example, if a company does not use data encryption, a hacker can easily get access to the data being transmitted. The lack of encryption is the vulnerability here, while the hacker is a threat and the potential loss due to a data breach is a risk."

What is data leakage, and how would you prevent it?

This question tries to assess your understanding of standard office practices concerning data protection. Explain the typical channels of data leakage and some simple steps that can prevent it.

Example: "Data leakage refers to the unauthorised release of an organisation's data through sources such as compromised emails, data recovery from scrapped computers or uploading of photographs on social media. A company can prevent data leakage by having a data usage policy to control and restrict the usage of data. The data usage policy can put explicit restrictions on using personal emails in the office and transmitting data to third parties without permission, among others."

Who are white hat, grey hat and black hat hackers?

The interviewer wants to know whether you know these basic terms. You need not go into great details unless the interviewer asks you to.

Example: "White hat hackers are security specialists who attempt to hack a system for the benefit of the organisation to test for vulnerabilities. If a white hat hacker performs an unauthorised activity, they are called grey hat hackers. Black hat hackers are those who break into a system with malicious intent."

Related: How To Become an Ethical Hacker in 3 Actionable Steps

How do you install a firewall?

This question tries to assess your practical knowledge in installing a firewall. If you have set up firewalls in your previous job, mention them in your answer.

Example: "The standard process to install a firewall is as follows: Create an admin account for the server or network. Enable the port. Disable remote login. Install a firewall with existing DHCP servers. Configure access control. Test the firewall configuration."

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Cyber Security Interview Questions And Answers For Experienced Candidates

The interviewer may ask some advanced-level questions if you are applying for an experienced position. Here are some sample questions and how to answer them:

What is a port scan, and how do you perform it?

An interviewer wants you to be able to explain why a port scan is essential. Talk about various techniques for port scanning.

Example: "A port scan is a method for identifying open ports in a system. Since hackers may use an open port as an entry point, it is prudent to identify and close an open port if it is not needed for the system's functionality. A port scan is performed with the help of a computer program, commonly referred to as a port scanner. Ping scan is the simplest technique for port scanning. Other methods include TCP half-open scan, TCP connect, UDP and stealth scanning."

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What is symmetric and asymmetric encryption?

The interviewer wants to make sure you understand the basics of these types of encryption. Highlight the difference between symmetric and asymmetric encryption while answering this question.

Example: "Symmetric encryption is a type of encryption in which a single secret key is used for encryption and decryption of data. Asymmetric encryption uses a public key for encryption and a different private key for decryption. Symmetric encryption is faster but less secure than asymmetric encryption."

Why is cross-site scripting (XSS) dangerous?

Employers ask this question to ensure you would not leave their systems vulnerable. Explain what cross-site scripting is and how this vulnerability makes a web application unsecure.

Example: "Cross-site scripting is a vulnerability mostly found in web applications. Hackers can use this vulnerability to inject malicious script on a website. For example, if a website processes an input field without validating it, hackers can attack the website by entering malicious code in the input field. Input validation can help mitigate this vulnerability."

How does ransomware work?

Briefly explain what ransomware means and how it attacks a system to show the interviewer that you know the basics. You need not go into in-depth technical details to answer this question.

Example: "Ransomware is a piece of malicious software that attacks a system with the intent to hold it hostage and extort money. It encrypts the system's data and makes it corrupt or inaccessible. Attackers then ask for payment for restoring access to the system or data."

What is a man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack?

The interviewer may ask this question to make sure you know how to identify different attacks on their system. This question does not require much technical elaboration. Briefly explain about man-in-the-middle attack and how it happens.

Example: "A man-in-the-middle or MITM attack refers to a cyber attack, where the attacker hacks into a system to access the communication taking place between two parties secretly. Attackers do this using a dummy network. They may use techniques like IP spoofing and SSL hijacking to reroute the data through their server."

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