7 of the Most Common Cybersecurity Interview Questions
Written by: Lindsay McKay
With the digital world touching every aspect of our lives and the increase in cyber-attacks, there is a need for more highly trained cybersecurity professionals. Even though the number of individuals joining the cybersecurity force increases each year, there is a major cybersecurity skills gap that has led to 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs. This high demand with short supply creates exciting opportunities for individuals who are willing to re-skill themselves with cybersecurity courses. The foundational certifications to start your career in cybersecurity are CompTIA A+ certification and CompTIA Security+ certification. Once you complete your education by earning one/or both certifications, it is time to get prepared and excel in your interview.
Cybersecurity job interviews start the same as any interview with “getting to know you” questions. Look at some of the common Cybersecurity Interview Questions.
1. Why are you looking for a new position?
This question is important to be prepared for, especially if you have recently taken some cybersecurity courses or recently became certified. Be honest about your intentions for a change into cybersecurity. Are you looking for something more hands-on? Do you want something where you can continuously grow and move up?
After a few “getting to know you” questions, technical knowledge-based questions will take up most of the interview. Here are the 5 most common technical questions.
2. What is the difference between a threat, a vulnerability, and a risk?
Answering this question calls for a deep understanding of cybersecurity. A threat is an actor or person targeting a vulnerability in the system, which is a weakness or a gap in the system that puts the system at risk. Whenever there is a gap in the system, there is a potential loss if the weakness is exploited. That measure of loss is the risk.
Expect a follow-up of which one you should focus on – use your own insights to answer this question as it is there for you to explain your knowledge. There is no one correct answer.
3. What is cross-site scripting, and how do you defend against it?
It is a Java Script vulnerability where a code injunction attack occurs on the client-side. Teams should be trained regularly, and content security policies should be implemented. Input validation can be added since user inputs cannot be trusted. You could also use an escaping/encoding technique, sanitize HTML, and set up an HTTPOnly flag.
Only include answers that you can confidently explain further.
4. What port does ping work over?
Watch out for this question. Ping does not use a port at all. It uses ICMP (Internet Control Message Protocol).
5. What is the difference between encoding, encrypting, and hashing?
Encoding is a code change to original data that can be reversed. Encrypting is used for security purposes. Encryption occurs on the sender side so that others are unable to easily access the data. The receiver end has a key for the data to be decrypted. Hashing uses an algorithm to map data to a specific, fixed length. Since it is fixed, it lets you know if someone has altered your data. It is one way, there is no reversing it.
This question should inspire a short conversation about encryption, which gives you the chance to explain your knowledge of it.
6. What is salting, and what is it used for?
Salting is often used to ensure passwords are safe. It involves adding random data that is unique to each user to the end of their data prior to hashing to create a different hash value. It also prevents the attackers from testing known words across the system.
After going through technical questions, the interviewer will start to wrap up with a few final questions to give you a lasting impression.
7. Where do you see yourself in five years?
There is a lot of potential for growth in cybersecurity. Constant learning and continuing education are necessary to move up and show you are an asset to the company. Depending on which path you choose, there are different certifications you can earn. If you are interviewing with a company in the networking technologies industry, a CompTIA Network+ certification will be beneficial to developing a career in IT infrastructure. If you are interviewing at a company that employs cybersecurity analysts, an impressive 5-year vision would be to earn a CompTIA CySA+certification, the only intermediate high-stakes cybersecurity analyst certification.
Don’t forget the value of highlighting your soft skills. The cybersecurity gap is real and soft skills may be just what puts you over the top. Where possible, include how you are continuing to learn and grow in your profession, how you adapt, or how you have increased your workplace communication skills through taking online communication courses. Communication skills are an asset in cybersecurity and IT roles.
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