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The Top Cybersecurity Interview Questions for 2024

Cybersecurity Interview Questions

Cybersecurity is an issue on everyone’s mind, from the boardrooms of major corporations down to the individual consumer, and with good reason. The Internet is rife with hackers, cybercriminals, fraudsters, thieves, and other unsavory types that want to hack and bring down systems out of greed, malice, or boredom.

This article collects the top cybersecurity interview questions for 2024, broken down into general issues, entry-level questions, and questions for experienced cybersecurity professionals. We’ll also share an excellent online cybersecurity program you can take to prepare yourself better.

We have a lot of ground to cover, so let’s jump in. But first, why is cybersecurity so critical?

Why Cybersecurity Matters

Network security is a big deal. Today’s IT networks, web servers, computer systems, and sensitive data are vulnerable to brute force attacks, data leakage, identity theft, and other forms of cyber-attack. According to a recent report from Check Point, weekly cyber-attacks rose worldwide by 7 percent in the first quarter of 2024, compared to last year, with firms surveyed facing an average of 1248 attacks weekly.

According to a recent Forbes article, cybercrime is growing exponentially, with the cost of cybercrime predicted to reach $8 trillion by the close of 2024 and growing to $10.5 trillion by 2025. In summary, here are ten reasons why cybersecurity is essential today:

  • It protects your business data
  • It keeps network traffic and customer data safe
  • It protects against malware and viruses
  • It prevents financial losses
  • It ensures business continuity
  • It maintains your organization’s reputation
  • It prevents costly downtime
  • It offers peace of mind
  • It helps organizations to stay compliant
  • It protects against new, emerging threats

Now, let’s review a sample of the most common cybersecurity interview questions, then move on to questions based on experience level.

General Cybersecurity Interview Questions and Answers

Here are a dozen of the most asked general cybersecurity questions during interviews and the answers.

Q: What is cybersecurity’s primary purpose?

  • A: Cybersecurity’s primary purpose is to protect confidential data against cyberattacks such as accessing, changing, or destroying sensitive information.

Q: Define cybersecurity.

  • A: The term “cybersecurity” refers to the collection of protection of physical and digital systems, software, and data from attackers.

Q: List the basic elements of cybersecurity.

  • A: Here are the basic elements of cybersecurity:
    • Application security
    • Business continuity planning
    • End-user education
    • Information security
    • Network security
    • Operational security

Q: What is cryptography?

  • A: Cryptography is the cybersecurity domain that safeguards information from adversaries, thus ensuring that authorized users and recipients exclusively access the data.

Q: Explain the difference between an IDS and an IPS.

  • A: IDS stands for Intrusion Detection System and only detects intrusions; the administrator is responsible for preventing intrusions. An IPS, on the other hand, stands for Intrusion Prevention System. The IPS detects the intrusions and takes action to prevent intrusions.

Q: What is the CIA triad? Does it have anything to do with the spy organization, or what?

  • A: CIA, in this case, stands for Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability. It’s used as a model designed to guide information security policies.

Q: Explain the three-way handshake.

  • A: The three-way handshake is a TCP/IP network method to connect the host with a client. It’s called a three-way handshake because it uses a three-step method for packet exchange between the client and the server. The three steps are:
    • The client sends a SYN(Synchronize) packet to the server to see if the server is up and has open ports. Hackers use port scanning to find information.
    • The server sends the SYN-ACK packet to the client if it has available open ports.
    • The client acknowledges the transmission and sends an ACK(Acknowledgment) packet back to the server.

Q: What’s the difference between a risk, a threat, and a vulnerability?

  • A: The differences are:
    • Risk. Risk is the likelihood a threat agent can successfully exploit a vulnerability.
    • Threat. Threats are any hazard that can potentially steal or destroy data, disrupt operations, or cause general harm. Threat examples include malware, data breaches, phishing, or even unethical employees.
    • Vulnerability. Vulnerabilities are flaws in hardware, software, staff, or procedures that threat actors may use to conduct their illegal activities.

Q: Explain the difference between vulnerability assessment and penetration testing.

  • A: The differences are:
    • Vulnerability Assessment defines, detects, and prioritizes vulnerabilities in network infrastructures, applications, computer systems, or other systems and provides the information needed to correct the flaws.
    • Penetration Testing, also called ethical hacking or pen-testing. It identifies vulnerabilities in applications, networks, systems, or other systems to prevent attackers from exploiting them.

Q: List the most common kinds of cybersecurity attacks.

  • A: The most common cybersecurity attacks include:
    • Brute Force
    • Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)
    • Denial-of-Service (DoS)
    • Domain Name System Attack
    • Man-in-the-Middle Attacks
    • Malware
    • SQL Injection Attack
    • Phishing
    • Session Hijacking

Q: What is a Null session?

  • A: Null sessions occur when a user isn’t authorized to use a username or a password. Null sessions provide security concerns for apps because they imply the person making the request is unknown.

Q: What’s phishing?

  • A: Phishing involves a cybercriminal posing as a legitimate entity such as your cable company, eBay, PayPal, financial institutions, etc. The scammer sends an email, phone call, or text message to a target to convince them to click on a link, which, unbeknownst to the victim, takes them to a fake website where they’re prompted to enter sensitive information like personal data, banking and credit card information, social security numbers, usernames, and passwords. Also, by clicking the link, malware sometimes gets installed on the target machines so hackers can remotely control them.

Let’s refine our questions a little. The following section covers the fundamental questions found when going for an entry-level or beginning position in cybersecurity.

Beginner-Level Cybersecurity Interview Questions

Here’s a sampling of basic cybersecurity interview questions suitable for entry-level positions.

Q: List and explain the different types of cybersecurity.

  • A:
  • Network security. This security type protects a computer network against intruders, unauthorized access, disruption, attacks, and misuse of hardware and software. Network security helps protect the organization’s assets from external and internal threats like. Example: firewalls.
  • Application security. Application security involves safeguarding devices and software against malicious attacks. This is accomplished by regularly updating the apps to ensure they are secure and safe against threats.
  • Data security. It entails establishing a solid data storage system that delivers data integrity and privacy when the data is in storage or in transit.
  • Identity management. Identity management involves identifying each individual’s level of access within the organization. For example, restricting data access to data as dictated by the individual’s job role.
  • Operational security. It entails analyzing and deciding how to handle and secure data assets. For example, storing data in an encrypted form within the database.
  • Mobile security. It protects organizational and personal data stored on mobile devices like cell phones, PCs, tablets, and similar devices against hostile attacks. These dangers include unauthorized access, device loss or theft, malware, and other threats.
  • Cloud security. It refers to safeguarding data stored in a digital environment or cloud infrastructures. Cloud security employs a variety of cloud service platforms, such as AWS, Azure, Google, and others, to assure protection against various threats.

Q: What’s a firewall?

  • A: A firewall refers to a network security system that blocks malicious traffic from hackers, protecting data privacy. Firewalls defend against bots, malware, phishing links, worm viruses, trojan viruses, and more. Additionally, firewalls monitor inbound and outbound network traffic, allowing only data packets that conform to the security guidelines established by the server owner.

Q: Explain data leakage.

  • A: Data leakage describes the unauthorized data release from an organization to an unauthorized third party. These data transmissions can be conducted via the Internet, email, mobile data, or involving storage devices like laptops, USB keys, and optical discs. The types of data leakage:
    • Accidental leakage. The authorized party sends data to an unauthorized party accidentally.
    • Malicious insiders. The authorized in-house entity deliberately sends data to an unauthorized entity.
    • Electronic communication. Hackers use hacking tools to enter the system.

Q: Explain the difference between encryption and hashing.

  • A: Although both encryption and hashing readable data into an unreadable format, encryption lets the encrypted data be converted back to original data. In contrast, hashed data can’t be converted back to original data.

Q: What’s the difference between penetration testing and vulnerability assessment?

  • A: Vulnerability assessment defines, detects, and prioritizes vulnerabilities in computer systems, applications, network infrastructures, and other systems and provides the organization with the necessary information to correct the flaws. Penetration testing identifies network, application, or other systems vulnerabilities to prevent attackers from exploiting them.

Q: What’s SSL encryption?

  • A: The Secure Socket Layer (or SSL) is a security protocol for encryption, data integrity, enabling network privacy, and authentication, especially in instances like online transactions.

Q: What’s a brute force attack, and how do you defend against it?

  • A: Brute force attacks are attempts to gain unauthorized access to a system network by systematically trying all possible password or encryption key combinations. Enforcing strong password policies, using multi-factor authentication, and implementing account lockout mechanisms are the best ways to protect against brute force attacks.

Q: What’s a VPN?

  • A: VPN is an acronym that means Virtual Private Network and is an encrypted link between a network and a device through the Internet. This encrypted connection helps secure the transmission of sensitive data and protects against illegal eavesdropping on traffic, making remote access and work a safer option.

Q: Explain the difference between white, black, and grey hat hackers.

  • A: These hackers are:
    • Black hat hackers. Black hat hackers try to break into systems and networks to cause harm or steal data.
    • White hat hackers. White hat hackers are hired professionals who conduct penetration testing and vulnerability assessments. They are paid to try and break through an organization’s cybersecurity defenses and determine their effectiveness. They are also called ethical hackers.
    • Grey hat hackers. Grey hat hackers are a little of both. They break into networks for fun, exploiting flaws in the network’s defenses. Typically, grey hat hackers report their findings to the organization for a small reward or recognition.

Q: Discuss port scanning.

  • A: Port scans help determine which ports are open, listening, or closed on a network. You use port scanning to test network security and the system’s firewall strength. Here are the most common forms of port scanning:
    • Ping scan
    • Stealth scanning
    • TCP connect
    • TCP half-open
    • UDP

Experienced Level Cybersecurity Interview Questions

Let’s increase the difficulty and check out more challenging cybersecurity analyst interview questions.

Q: What’s the difference between asymmetric and symmetric encryption?

  • A: Symmetric encryption utilizes the same key for the encryption and decryption processes, while asymmetric encryption uses different keys, specifically a public key for encryption and a private key for decryption. Asymmetric encryption offers higher security because it enables secure communication without exchanging secret keys.

Q: What’s network sniffing?

  • A: Network sniffing is a collection of specialized software programs or hardware equipment hackers use to analyze data packets sent across a network. Sniffing can be used to:
    • Capture sensitive data like passwords
    • Eavesdropping on chat messages
    • Monitor data packages over a network

Q: Why is DNS monitoring important?

  • A: Domains are easily infected with malicious software; DNS monitoring tools can identify malware.

Q: What’s exfiltration?

  • A: Data exfiltration is the unauthorized transfer of data from a computer system, including manual transmissions performed by anyone with access to the computer.

Q: Is it possible to reset a password-protected BIOS configuration?

  • A: Yes. You can:
    • Unplug your PC, remove the CMOS battery for 15–30 minutes, and replace it
    • Use third-party software like CmosPwd and Kiosk
    • You can run commands from the MS-DOS prompt using the debug tool. You will need access to the installed OS.

Q: What’s forward secrecy?

  • A: Forward secrecy is a key agreement protocol feature that generates a unique session key for each transaction. This feature prevents an intruder from accessing data from multiple communications between a server and a client, even if one communication is compromised.

Q: What’s the difference between a virus and a worm?

  • A: Viruses are harmful executable code attached to another executable file and used to modify or erase data. Viruses can’t be managed remotely. Like viruses, worms don’t alter the program. However, worms continue multiplying themselves, causing the computer system to slow down since its primary goal is to consume system resources. Worms can be controlled remotely.

Q: What’s an SQL injection?

  • A: A SQL injection is a cyberattack that inserts malicious SQL code through input data to manipulate databases. If properly executed, an SQL injection can read sensitive data stored in the database, alter that data, execute administration operations, or potentially send out operating system commands.

Q: What’s a traceroute, and why is it used?

  • A: Traceroutes are tools that show packet paths. The tool lists all the points (chiefly routers) the packet passes through and is typically used when it isn’t reaching its destination. Traceroute identifies the point of failure by checking where the connection stops or breaks.

Q: What’s an MITM attack, and how do you defend against it?

  • A: MITM stands for Man-in-the-Middle attack, where the hacker eavesdrops on communication between two parties. The intruder then impersonates another individual and makes the data transmission appear normal to the other parties. If cybercriminals succeed, they can alter data, steal personal information, or obtain login credentials to wreck communication. Here are a few ways to prevent an MITM attack:
    • Use public key pair-based authentication
    • Use a VPN
    • Maintain strong router login credentials
    • Implement robust Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS), such as a firewall
    • Maintain strong WEP/WPA encryption in access points

Are You Interested in a Career in Cybersecurity?

This online cybersecurity bootcamp trains you in cybersecurity’s offensive and defensive aspects. This 24-week course teaches you network security, digital forensics, and more, using live virtual classes, integrated sandbox labs, and practice tools.

FAQs

Does a cybersecurity career pay well?

According to Glassdoor.com, a cybersecurity professional in the United States earns an annual average of $102,062.

Are cybersecurity jobs in demand today?

Yes. Not only is cybersecurity a significant concern in today’s IT world, but a study conducted by the cybersecurity professional organization ISC2 shows there are at least 3.4 million unfilled positions worldwide.

What training or background do you need to become a cybersecurity professional?

Although the requirements may vary, it’s typically accepted that cybersecurity professionals should have a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field (cybersecurity, computer programming, computer engineering) and at least three years of appropriate experience.

How long does it take to become a cybersecurity professional?

You can get an entry-level position in at least two to four years if you have hands-on experience and formal training, such as an associate degree and/or cybersecurity certification courses.

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AI in Cybersecurity

AI in Cybersecurity: A Comprehensive Guide

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