Here are the toughest entry-level cybersecurity interview questions

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  1. Basic Technical Questions:
    • Threat, Vulnerability, Risk: Your company just released a new online product. An external security auditor found a vulnerability. How would you differentiate between the vulnerability, any threats that exploit it, and the risks associated with it?
    • Authentication Factors: Your organization is considering implementing two-factor authentication for its email system. Can you explain the three main types of authentication factors and suggest which two you might combine for this purpose?
    • Firewall: A new branch office is being set up, and you’re asked to help configure its network defenses. Can you explain to the non-technical staff what a firewall does?
    • HTTP vs HTTPS: A manager wants to launch a new website to collect customer feedback. They’re unsure if it needs to be secured. Can you explain the differences between HTTP and HTTPS and why one might be preferable?
  2. Scenario-based Questions:
    • Phishing Email: A coworker shows you an email that offers a significant discount on office supplies if you click a link and log in with your company credentials. They’re excited about the discount but want your opinion. How would you handle this?
    • Network Issue: You’re at your desk when several employees report they can’t access a shared company resource. You notice the network is acting strangely. What steps would you take?
  3. Conceptual and Foundational Questions:
    • Attraction to Cybersecurity: Think back to when you first became interested in cybersecurity. Was there a specific incident, news story, or personal experience that drew you to the field?
    • CIA Triad: During a team meeting, you’re asked to give a quick overview of cybersecurity’s primary objectives. How would you use the CIA triad to explain this?
    • Social Engineering: A colleague tells you about a phone call they received where the caller claimed to be IT support and asked for their password to fix an issue. How would you define this type of threat to them?
  4. Behavioral Questions:
    • Overcoming a Challenge: Recall a challenging project or task you’ve faced, either in school or a previous job. How did you approach it, and what did you learn?
    • Staying Updated: With the rapid evolution of cyber threats, how do you ensure you’re always updated with the latest trends and vulnerabilities?
    • Identified Threat/Risk: Share an experience, perhaps from a class project, internship, or personal hobby, where you identified a potential security flaw or risk. How did you handle or address it?
  5. General IT Knowledge:
    • OSI Model: During an onboarding session for new hires, you’re asked to give a brief overview of how the internet works. Can you use the OSI model to explain this?
    • VPN: An employee is traveling to a country known for internet censorship and monitoring. They ask for advice on accessing the company’s resources safely. How would you explain the role of a VPN in this situation?
    • Malware Types: A friend’s computer is acting strangely: it’s slow, and there are random pop-ups. You suspect malware. Can you describe some common malware types and suggest which might be the culprit?

For these scenarios, interviewers are gauging your ability to explain technical concepts in accessible terms, think critically, and approach problems methodically. They’re also assessing your interpersonal skills and how you might interact with colleagues in real-world situations.

Here are the possible answers to those scenarios above:

  1. Basic Technical Questions:
    • Vulnerability, Threat, Risk:
      • Answer: A vulnerability is a weakness in our online product that could be exploited. A threat would be someone or something that could potentially exploit this vulnerability. Risk is the potential damage or loss that would occur if the threat exploits the vulnerability. In this case, the vulnerability is the security loophole the auditor found, the threat could be a hacker or cybercriminal, and the risk could be data theft or system compromise.
    • Authentication Factors:
      • Answer: The three main types of authentication factors are: something you know (e.g., password), something you have (e.g., a smart card or token), and something you are (e.g., a fingerprint or retina scan). For our email system, I’d recommend using a password (something you know) combined with a mobile app or SMS code (something you have) for two-factor authentication.
    • Firewall:
      • Answer: A firewall acts as a security guard between our internal network and the external internet. It checks incoming and outgoing traffic against certain rules and blocks or allows it based on those rules, ensuring only legitimate traffic gets through.
    • HTTP vs HTTPS:
      • Answer: HTTP is the standard protocol for transmitting web data, while HTTPS is the secure version of it. HTTPS encrypts data between the website and the user, ensuring that any information, like customer feedback or personal details, remains confidential and safe from eavesdropping. For our new website, especially if collecting any form of user data, it’s preferable to use HTTPS.
  2. Scenario-based Questions:
    • Phishing Email:
      • Answer: This email sounds like a classic phishing attempt. It’s important not to click on any links or provide credentials. I’d recommend deleting the email and reporting it to our IT department so they can alert other employees.
    • Network Issue:
      • Answer: I’d first check if the network issue is localized to a specific area or widespread. Then, I’d verify the network configurations and logs to see if there are any security alerts. If I suspect a security breach, I’d escalate to the cybersecurity team immediately.
  3. Conceptual and Foundational Questions:
    • Attraction to Cybersecurity:
      • Answer: I’ve always been fascinated by the world of technology. What drew me specifically to cybersecurity was the increasing number of news stories about cyberattacks and the challenge of defending against ever-evolving threats.
    • CIA Triad:
      • Answer: The CIA triad stands for Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability. It’s the foundation of information security. Confidentiality ensures that data is accessed only by authorized individuals, Integrity ensures data remains accurate and reliable, and Availability ensures that data and systems are accessible when needed.
    • Social Engineering:
      • Answer: This sounds like a typical social engineering attempt, where attackers manipulate individuals into revealing confidential information. It’s crucial never to share passwords or sensitive information over the phone, especially with unsolicited callers.
  4. Behavioral Questions:
    • Overcoming a Challenge:
      • Answer: During my final year of college, I worked on a project that involved setting up a simulated network and securing it. We faced numerous challenges, from configuration errors to simulated attacks. It taught me persistence, teamwork, and the importance of thorough testing.
    • Staying Updated:
      • Answer: I follow several cybersecurity blogs and forums. I also participate in local cybersecurity meetups and webinars. Regularly reading industry news and reports, like those from the Center for Internet Security or CERT advisories, helps me stay updated.
    • Identified Threat/Risk:
      • Answer: In a previous internship, I noticed that our web application did not have a rate limit for login attempts. I raised this as a potential risk for brute-force attacks, and we implemented a lockout mechanism in response.
  5. General IT Knowledge:
    • OSI Model:
      • Answer: The OSI model is a conceptual framework used to understand how different protocols interact in network communication. It has seven layers, from Physical (Layer 1) dealing with raw data transmission to Application (Layer 7) where user applications operate. Each layer has its specific function, ensuring smooth communication over the internet.
    • VPN:
      • Answer: A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, creates a secure tunnel between a user and a network, ensuring data remains encrypted and private. In countries with internet restrictions or monitoring, a VPN can help bypass those restrictions and ensure privacy. It would be a good idea for the traveling employee to use a trusted VPN service.
    • Malware Types:
      • Answer: Common malware types include viruses, worms, trojans, ransomware, and spyware. Given the symptoms of a slow computer and random pop-ups, it could be adware or potentially unwanted software. It’s essential to run a thorough malware scan to identify and remove the culprit.

These answers provide a base. Depending on the specifics of the situation, you might provide more details or examples.

I hoped you enjoyed reading the hardest entry level cybersecurity interview questions. Be safe out there!






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