Top 50 cybersecurity Interview Questions & Responses

Do you want to ace your upcoming cybersecurity job interview? You can when you know the questions (and what answers your interviewer expects) in advance.

We’ve compiled a list of 50 common cybersecurity interview questions and answers so you can prepare appropriate responses and better understand what answers your interviewer may be expecting. We’ve also consulted with Robert Bolder, Founder of VPS Server, to give us some insight into typical questions his company asks cybersecurity candidates.

Each section includes sample questions (bold) and answer scripts (blue text) or insights to help you formulate your own answers. Be sure to customize your answers to your experience and the company you’re interviewing for, whenever possible.

10 basic cybersecurity questions

Be ready to demonstrate your basic knowledge of cybersecurity in the interview. The below questions may be asked verbally or included on a written skills test:

1. In your own words, define cybersecurity.
“Cybersecurity prevents unauthorized access to networks, computing systems, and data. At [COMPANY], it’s how you protect data and your customer’s sensitive information from hackers or having your proprietary intellectual property stolen by the competition.”

2. Explain the difference between a threat, vulnerability, and risk.
“A threat is the potential to cause the company harm. Vulnerabilities are weaknesses in the company’s digital security. Risk is the possibility of a threat occurring and its impact on the organization if it does.”

3. What common cyber threats do you see as potential risks to our organization?
“As a [insert company description here], I want to start by protecting the organization from phishing scams designed to access your customer and client data. I also want to ensure employee emails and phones have up-to-date encryption and security measures and that employees are educated on the importance of security.”

4. Explain the difference between encryption and hashing.
“Both encryption and hashing are used to turn readable data into unreadable data. The difference is that encryption can be reverted back to readable text anytime, whereas hashing cannot.”

5. Explain the top 3 cybersecurity best practices you’d recommend when starting with a new team like ours.
Your answer may include discussing any of the following:

  • Firewall protection to the latest standards
  • Reviewing current network infrastructure
  • Updating security software
  • Enforcing strong passwords across all systems
  • Enabling multi-factor authentication
  • Setting up regular, secure data backups
  • Educating individuals in the company on data encryption and security best practices
  • Monitoring of 3rd party controls
  • Reviewing users and access levels
  • Prepare or update cybersecurity policies and guidelines for staff

Here are five more questions you may be asked:

6. What steps would you take to avoid an XSS attack at our company?

7. How often do you perform a Patch management?

8. Discuss your experience with a CIA triad.

9. What are the 3 major types of cybersecurity? What are the 5 C's of cybersecurity?

10. What’s the difference between a Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing?

Are you an early-career cybersecurity professional? Check out these five jobs to consider.

10 intermediate cybersecurity questions

After assessing your basic understanding of cybersecurity, the interviewer will likely dive into more technical questions where you’re expected to be more detailed and specific in your responses.

1. Explain how you’d perform a cybersecurity risk assessment in our organization.
Take an educated guess at what systems and software the organization may be using, and present a basic plan for how you would do a risk assessment on day 1 of your new job. Be sure to mention:

  • Relevant threats that may apply to the organization
  • Potential internal and external vulnerabilities you would investigate
  • Brief discussion of the risk to the company if security vulnerabilities are exploited.

2. List several indicators of compromise (IOC) you’d likely monitor in this role.
The interviewer wants to understand your maintenance and monitoring capabilities and understanding. You might mention IOCs such as:

  • Unusual outbound network traffic
  • HTML responses
  • Error codes
  • Login and account access anomalies
  • Unexpected system patching
  • Unusual DNS requests
  • Increase in support tickets
  • Suspicious activity on servers
  • Cross-site scripting

3. Our company has a hybrid working model. How can you ensure the security of our systems when staff work remotely?
“I would set up secure VPN access and cloud computing software for staff. I would also ask that they not use public Wi-Fi connections, as they’re more vulnerable to hacking. For those working from home, I’ll also install remote desktop software so I can support security or IT requests remotely to ensure compliance and security.”

4. If you detect a data breach or hack, explain your indecent response strategy (during and outside business hours).
Explain the steps to stop a live, active threat and how and when you’d communicate it to supervisors, management, and legal teams if appropriate.

5. What skills and experience do you have that would add value to our organization?
When answering this question, speak about your unique experiences or knowledge. Feel free to mention the soft, transferable skills you possess as well.

Other intermediate questions you may be asked include:

6. What steps would you take if you discover a hacker is impersonating a staff member online?

7. Discuss the cybersecurity frameworks you work with most often.

8. What are brute force attacks, and how would you prevent it?

9. How would you explain the threat and prevention of phishing scams to our staff?

10. What malware concerns are you worried about today?

Lighthouse Labs’ Cybersecurity Program arms grads with practical skills and real-world knowledge to ace their job interviews:

10 advanced cybersecurity questions

These advanced questions are designed to test the upper limits of your experience and knowledge. If you’re newer to the industry and can’t speak to more advanced questions, be honest and share as much as possible (or discuss how you’d find the solutions on the job).

1. What challenges do you expect the cybersecurity industry to face in the future?
Dive into your knowledge of news and current events to suggest what challenges you might face in your job in the future. This helps the interviewer understand your knowledge of the industry.

2. Explain ethical hacking and how you’d use it to protect our company.
Explain your approach to ethical hacking of the company’s servers and why it’s important. Discuss if you’d do the ethical hacking in-house or subcontract to a reputable external professional hacker (and why).

3. Imagine a co-worker forwards you an email they feel is suspicious. How would you assess the risk and communicate your findings and next steps to the employee?
Discuss what you’d look for to see if the email is phishing, or a hack has already occurred. Share an example of what you’d say to the employee and how you could educate them about the situation to avoid email security breaches in the future.

4. A staff member comes up to you with printouts of emails seemingly sent from their email but that they never actually sent. What are the first steps you’d take to assess the risk?
These are likely the result of a hacked password, especially if the content of the emails is clearly spammy. You’ll want to address asking the employee to change their password. At the same time, you look in your computer systems to identify suspicious login attempts.

5. Have you used AI in cybersecurity? Explain how you’ve used it.
If you have experience with cognitive cybersecurity (AI to detect threats and protect digital computer systems), explain why you used it and how it supported your role.

Other questions that will expect a more specific, detailed answer may include:

6. Explain the difference between cybersecurity on-site and in the cloud.

7. If you had to compress and encrypt data during a transmission, which would you do first and why?

8. Discuss your experience using CryptoAPI.

9. Explain a technical challenge you experienced in a cybersecurity role and how you solved it.

10. Discuss the most common cyber attacks you anticipate being a concern for our company and how you’d protect against them.

10 cybersecurity tools and technologies questions

Your interviewer will also want to understand what tools and technologies you have experience with. Be prepared to discuss your top choices (and why) when asked the following questions about cybersecurity tools:

  1. What antivirus software do you typically recommend?
  2. Explain how you’d set up secure firewalls and Secure Socket Layers (SSL) for an organization of our size.
  3. What SIEM tools do you have experience with?
  4. What’s your opinion (or experience) of AI-based cybersecurity tools?
  5. Explain what tools you use to monitor network traffic
  6. What technologies would you recommend to boost our mobile device security?
  7. Tell us about your favourite software to enable reliable remote system access.
  8. Explain the importance of end-point security and what tools you’ve used to support it.
  9. Talk about your preferred task and project management methodologies and what tools support it.
  10. What do you foresee as our biggest IOT security challenges, and what tools or technology would you use to protect our IOT devices?

Do you have enough experience to speak to most of these categories? Read our list of eight essential skills for success in cybersecurity.

10 Behavioral and soft skills questions

Your soft skills (transferable skills) may also be discussed in your interview, as more companies are using these to determine your suitability for a role.

1. If a staff member is putting sensitive company data at risk, how could you convince them to change their behaviour?
“I would show them the related section in our company's privacy and cybersecurity guidelines. Then, I’d show them exactly what behaviour is putting data at risk and walk them through correcting this behaviour.”

2. Discuss a time you dealt with a security breach or hack and how you handled it.
The interviewer is looking to understand how you react in high-pressure situations. Emphasize the technical steps you took and how you communicated with others and worked with a team to resolve the issues.

3. How do you stay on top of emerging technologies and threats in cybersecurity?
Robert Bolder, Founder of VPS Server, says this is a commonly asked question as it uncovers candidates who take a proactive approach to learning and remaining educated about the continually changing world of cybersecurity.

“Attending conferences, taking part in online forums, and seeking certifications that are pertinent to the question are all potential strategies that could be considered,” he says

4. Discuss how you handle conflicts in your team.
“In past conflict scenarios, I scheduled a face-to-face meeting with the team (as emails or written communication can be misinterpreted). Each person shared their point of view and discussed how their ideas impact company goals, success, and security. Depending on the team, the team leader would then decide, we come to a compromise or put it to a majority-rules vote.”

5. What are the top 3-5 things you’d recommend to our staff to ensure their personal social media posts are ethical and don’t put our company’s digital security at risk?
You may include tips like:

  • Don’t share photos of your home or workspace (which could show potential criminals your valuables).
  • Don’t post relative's names, mother’s maiden name, where you grew up, and other private information that may be part of your passwords or password security prompts.
  • Use a strong password with uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
  • Don’t post or tease about upcoming company products, features, or events that haven’t already been posted on company-official channels.
  • Use multi-factor authentication on your accounts and add a recovery phone number or email address to prevent identity theft.
  • Don’t use personal social media accounts on work devices.

Other behavioural and soft-skills interview questions you may be asked include:

6. Tell us about a time you received negative feedback and how you responded to it.

7. What organizational or project management tools do you use to manage your work?

8. Tell us about a time when you had to make a big change and how you approached it.

9. What are the three most important things for you in a job?

10. Tell us about when you played a leadership role and how you approached it.

Do you have the right skills to succeed in cybersecurity? Here are ten essential skills to master.

Preparing for your cybersecurity interview

In addition to preparing responses for your interview questions, there are other ways you can prepare for your interview:

  • Research the company: Learn as much as possible about the company before the interview to tailor your responses to the organization.
  • Understand the role: Read the job description several times. Discussing the link between your skills and experience and specific items in the job description can be helpful.
  • Prepare questions to ask the interviewer: Prepare several questions you want to ask the interviewer to show your passion and initiative for the role.

Bolder recommends showing your experience by:

  • Providing concrete instances of how you have detected and mitigated security risks in past roles or projects you have worked on during your career.
  • Discussing any practical experience you may have had with security tools and technologies.
  • Sharing relevant certificates or training you have completed, such as courses on ethical hacking or competitions in the field of cybersecurity.

See how Lighthouse Labs’ Cybersecurity Bootcamp alums have succeeded in the industry, even through economic challenges. Download our Student Outcomes Report now:

How do I ace a cybersecurity interview?

Your knowledge and interview prep will help you ace your cybersecurity interview. If you feel your cybersecurity skills are ready for upgrading, consider attending a bootcamp at Lighthouse Labs. Our 12-week or 30-week Bootcamp is designed to provide you with the most up-to-date and relevant knowledge in the industry. Upon graduation, our Career Services will help match you with companies hiring right now.

Ready to get into the cybersecurity field? Speak with a Learning Advisor to learn more about Lighthouse Labs’ Cybersecurity Program, including tips and advice for acceptance.