Cybersecurity Interview Questions and Answers | CyberSecurity Interview Tips

General Questions

1. What do you mean by cybersecurity?

Answer: Today’s generation relies heavily on the internet, often unaware of how data reaches our computers securely. Hackers exploit vulnerabilities, creating malicious software and evolving cyber-attacks. Cybersecurity involves processes, practices, and technologies designed to protect networks, computers, programs, and data from attack, damage, or unauthorized access. This ensures that our data remains secure and protected from malicious entities.

2. What do you have on your home network?

Answer: A home network can serve as a test environment for experimentation. It might include an Active Directory domain controller, a dedicated firewall appliance, and a network-attached storage device. Additional components could include extended Wi-Fi through an Apple AirPort Extreme, Ethernet switches, and various gaming consoles and media players. The setup helps in learning and experimenting with network configurations and security.

3. What is encryption and why is it important?

Answer: Encryption is the process of converting data into an unreadable form to prevent unauthorized access, and ensure data protection. It is crucial because it secures sensitive information, protecting corporate secrets, classified information, and personal data from identity theft.

4. What is the difference between symmetric and asymmetric encryption?

Answer: Symmetric encryption uses the same secret key for both encryption and decryption, making it faster but more vulnerable. Asymmetric encryption uses different keys for encryption and decryption, offering higher security but slower performance. Examples of symmetric encryption include DES and 3DES, while RSA and Diffie-Hellman are popular asymmetric encryption methods.

5. What is the CIA Triad?

Answer: The CIA Triad stands for Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability. It is a standard for evaluating and implementing information security. Confidentiality ensures data access only to intended individuals. Integrity ensures data remains unaltered by unauthorized entities. Availability ensures that data and systems are accessible when needed by authorized parties.

6. What do you understand by risk, vulnerability, and threat in a network?


  • Threat: The potential to harm a system or organization.
  • Vulnerability: A weakness that can be exploited by threats.
  • Risk: The potential for loss or damage when a threat exploits a vulnerability.

7. How do you report risk?

Answer: Risk is assessed quantitatively or qualitatively. Quantitative assessment presents probable loss in numbers, while qualitative assessment monitors impact and frequency. The reporting method depends on the audience, with business stakeholders interested in financial impact and technical stakeholders focused on system impact.

8. What is the difference between IPS and IDS systems?

Answer: Intrusion Detection System (IDS) detects intrusions and alerts administrators for further action. Intrusion Prevention System (IPS) detects and prevents intrusions by taking necessary actions. IDS and IPS differ in their placement within the network, though they operate on similar concepts.

9. What do you know about cybersecurity frameworks?

Answer: Cybersecurity frameworks provide voluntary guidelines for managing and reducing cybersecurity risks. Common frameworks include:

  • PCI DSS: Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards.
  • ISO 27001/27002: International Organization for Standardization.
  • CIS: Critical Security Controls.
  • NIST: National Institute of Standards and Technology.

10. What is weak information security?

Answer: Information security is considered weak if it fails to meet criteria such as distribution, review, comprehension, compliance, and uniformity. If employees do not understand or have access to the security policy, the information security is deemed weak.

11. What is the better approach to setting up a firewall?

Answer: Steps to configure a firewall include:

  1. Modify the default username and password.
  2. Disable remote administration from outside networks.
  3. Configure port forwarding for necessary applications.
  4. Disable the DHCP server if there is an existing one.
  5. Enable and understand logging.
  6. Enforce solid security policies through the firewall.

12. Can you explain SSL encryption?

Answer: SSL (Secure Socket Layer) enables safe communication between parties, verifying their identities. HTTPS combines HTTP with SSL for secure browsing. SSL ensures that the person you communicate with is who they claim to be.

13. Which is more secure: SSL or TLS?

Answer: TLS (Transport Layer Security) offers better security features compared to SSL, providing additional data protection. Often, SSL and TLS are used together for enhanced security.

14. What are salted hashes?

Answer: Salting involves adding random data to passwords before hashing, creating a unique hash value for each password. This prevents attackers from using precomputed hash attacks, even if the same password is used on different systems.

15. How can identity theft be prevented?

Answer: Prevent identity theft by:

  • Using strong, unique passwords.
  • Avoid sharing confidential information online.
  • Shopping from trusted websites.
  • Using updated browsers.
  • Installing advanced malware protection.
  • Using specialized security solutions.
  • Regularly updating systems and software.
  • Protecting social security numbers.

16. How can you prevent a man-in-the-middle attack?

Answer: Prevent man-in-the-middle attacks by:

  • Using encryption, preferably public key encryption.
  • Avoiding open Wi-Fi networks.
  • Using HTTPS, Force TLS, and other secure plugins.

17. State the differences between encoding, hashing, and encryption.


  • Encoding: Transforms data for safe consumption by different systems (e.g., Base64, URL encoding).
  • Hashing: Ensures data integrity by producing a fixed-length string from arbitrary input (e.g., SHA-256).
  • Encryption: Secures data to keep it secret from unauthorized access (e.g., AES, RSA).

18. What steps will you take to secure a server?

Answer: To secure a server:

  1. Use secure passwords for root and administrator accounts.
  2. Create new users for system management.
  3. Remove remote access for default administrator accounts.
  4. Configure firewall rules for remote access.

19. What is a DDOS attack and how is it mitigated?

Answer: A Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attack floods a network with requests, making it unavailable to legitimate users. Mitigation involves analyzing and filtering traffic in scrubbing centers, which clean and remove malicious traffic.

20. Why do you need DNS monitoring?

Answer: DNS monitoring is crucial as it allows you to access websites without memorizing IP addresses. Monitoring DNS traffic can reveal malware and botnets, providing valuable information for forensic analysis and improving overall security.

Understanding the TCP 3-Way Handshake in Transmission Control Protocol (TCP)

21: What is a three-way handshake in TCP?

The TCP 3-way handshake in Transmission Control Protocol is the method used by a device on a network to establish a stable connection over an Internet Protocol-based network. TCP’s three-way handshake is often referred to as SYN, SYN-ACK, and ACK, due to the three messages transmitted by TCP to negotiate and start a TCP session between two computers.

Black Hat, White Hat, and Gray Hat Hackers

22: What are black hat hackers, white hat hackers, and gray hat hackers?

  • Black Hat Hackers: These hackers have extensive knowledge about breaking into computer networks and bypassing security protocols. They write malware to gain access to systems, typically for personal or financial gain, cyber espionage, protests, or the thrill of cybercrime.
  • White Hat Hackers: Also known as ethical hackers, they use their skills for good, usually working as paid employees or contractors to find security holes via hacking, but with the system owner’s permission, making their actions legal.
  • Gray Hat Hackers: These hackers fall between black and white hats, often looking for vulnerabilities in a system without the owner’s permission. If they find issues, they report them to the owner, sometimes requesting a small fee to fix the problem.

Patch Management

23: How often should you perform patch management?

Patch management should be done as soon as a patch is released. For Windows, once a patch is released, it should be applied to all machines within one month. The same applies to network devices, which should be patched as soon as possible following proper patch management processes.

Application Security

24: What do you know about application security?

Application security involves improving the security of applications using software, hardware, and other procedural methods. Common measures include application firewalls that limit the execution of files or data handling by specific installed programs.

Penetration Testing vs. Software Testing

25: Differentiate between penetration testing and software testing.

  • Penetration Testing: Focuses on identifying and addressing security vulnerabilities, often by thinking differently and finding small, unmitigated vulnerabilities.
  • Software Testing: Focuses on the functionality of software, ensuring it behaves as expected and is used correctly, while also considering common end-user misbehaviors.

When to Use Tracer or Traceroute

26: When to use Tracer or Traceroute?

Traceroute is a command that shows the path a packet of information takes from your computer to a specified destination, listing all the routers it passes through. It tells how long each hop from router to router takes.

Common Cyber Attacks

27: What are the common cyber attacks that plague us today?

  1. Malware: Includes Trojans, viruses, and worms, aiming to steal data or destroy systems.
  2. Phishing: Fake emails that trick users into providing personal data.
  3. Password Attacks: Methods like brute force or dictionary attacks to crack passwords.
  4. DDoS Attacks: Overloading networks with high volumes of data to disrupt services.
  5. Man-in-the-Middle Attacks: Impersonating endpoints in online exchanges.
  6. Drive-by Downloads: Malware downloaded by simply visiting a compromised site.
  7. Malvertising: Malicious code hidden behind advertisements.
  8. Rogue Software: Malware masquerading as legitimate security software.

OSI Layers and the Network Layer

28: What are the different OSI layers, and what is the job of the network layer?

The OSI model consists of seven layers: Application, Presentation, Session, Transport, Network, Data Link, and Physical. The network layer controls the operations of the subnet, delivering packets from a source to a destination across multiple links.

Resetting a Password-Protected BIOS Configuration

29: How would you reset a password-protected BIOS configuration?

Since BIOS is a pre-boot system with its storage mechanism, you can reset it by removing the CMOS battery, using a jumper or physical switch on the motherboard, or reprogramming the memory. Sometimes, the factory default password might be “password.”

Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)

30: What is cross-site scripting (XSS)?

XSS refers to client-side code injection attacks where attackers execute malicious scripts into legitimate websites or web applications, exploiting vulnerabilities within a website to deliver malicious scripts to a victim’s browser.

Data Protection in Transit vs. Data Protection at Rest

31: What is data protection in transit versus data protection at rest?

  • Data in Transit: Data actively moving across networks, protected to ensure security during transfer.
  • Data at Rest: Inactive data stored on devices or networks, protected to secure stored information from attackers.

Cybersecurity vs. Network Security

32: Tell me the differences between cybersecurity and network security.

  • Cybersecurity: Policies and procedures to avoid unauthorized access, exploitation, modification, or denial of network resources.
  • Network Security: Processes to protect network computers, programs, and data from attack, damage, or unauthorized access, focusing on internal threats and network connections.

Preventing Data Leakage

33: How will you prevent data leakage?

Data leakage can be prevented by restricting uploads to public websites, using internal encryption solutions, limiting email communications to internal networks, and restricting the printing of confidential data.

Address Resolution Protocol (ARP)

34: What is ARP, and how does it work?

ARP is a protocol for mapping an IP address to a physical machine address (MAC address) on a local network. When a packet arrives at a gateway, ARP looks into its cache or broadcasts a request to find the matching MAC address for the IP address.

Two-factor authentication (2FA)

35: What is 2FA, and how can it be implemented for public websites?

2FA adds an extra layer of security, requiring not only a password and username but also something only the user has, like a physical token or authenticator app. For websites, users type in their username and password and then provide a verification code from their 2FA method.

Preventing Brute Force Login Attacks

36: What techniques can be used to prevent brute-force login attacks?

To prevent brute force attacks, implement password best practices, especially on critical resources like servers and routers. Using software to limit login attempts and employ CAPTCHA can also help.

Cognitive Cybersecurity

37: What is cognitive cybersecurity?

Cognitive cybersecurity uses artificial intelligence technologies modeled on human thought processes to detect threats and protect systems. It involves self-learning security systems using data mining, pattern recognition, and natural language processing.

Port Blocking within LAN

38: What is port blocking within LAN?

Port blocking restricts users from accessing certain services within a local area network by stopping access to destination nodes via ports, effectively securing the network infrastructure.


39: What is the difference between VPN and VLAN?

  • VPN (Virtual Private Network): Provides remote access to a company’s network, encrypting data in transit to protect it from prying eyes.
  • VLAN (Virtual Local Area Network): Logically segregates networks for management and security, without physical separation, but does not involve encryption.

TCP/IP Internet Layer Protocols

40: What protocols fall under the TCP/IP internet layer?

The TCP/IP protocol suite consists of five layers:

  • Physical Layer: Ethernet, RS-232.
  • Data Link Layer: PPP, IEEE 802.2.
  • Network Layer: IP, ARP, ICMP.
  • Transport Layer: TCP, UDP.
  • Application Layer: NFS, NIS+, DNS, Telnet, FTP, RIP, SNMP, and others.

By understanding these key concepts and questions, you can better prepare for a cybersecurity interview or expand your knowledge in the field.

Cybersecurity Scenario-Based Interview Questions and Answers

Scenario 1: Suspicious Email from Help Desk

Scenario: You receive an email from the help desk stating:

  • Dear UCSC email user,
  • Beginning next week, we will be deleting all inactive email accounts to create space for more users. You are required to send the following information to continue using your email account:
    • Name
    • Email
    • Login
    • Password
    • Alternate email
  • If we do not receive this information from you by the end of the week, your email account will be closed.
  • Please contact the Webmail team with any questions, and thank you for your immediate attention.

Question: What do you do, and justify your actions?

Answer: This email is a classic example of phishing, attempting to trick you into divulging personal information. The justification for recognizing this as phishing includes:

  • The generalized greeting (e.g., “Dear UCSC email user”) is typical in mass spam emails.
  • Legitimate organizations will never ask for personal details via email.
  • Never disclose your password to anyone, even if they claim to work for a reputable organization like UCSC ITS.

You should:

  • Not respond to the email.
  • Ignore and delete the email.
  • Report the email to your IT support or help desk.

Scenario 2: Electronic Greeting Card from a Friend

Scenario: A friend sends you an electronic Hallmark greeting card to your work email, requiring you to click an attachment to see the card.

Question: What do you do, and justify your actions?

Answer: Do not click on the attachment. The risks include:

  • Attachments may contain viruses or malicious programs.
  • Clicking on malicious links can infect your computer.
  • Email addresses can be spoofed, so the sender may not be who you think.
  • Some links may lead to phishing websites designed to steal your information.

Scenario 3: Subscribing to IT Magazines

Scenario: An IT staff member subscribes to several free IT magazines. One magazine asks for the month of birth, another for the year of birth, and a third for the mother’s maiden name.

Question: What do you infer is happening, and justify your inference?

Answer: All three magazines are likely from the same parent company or service, which can compile seemingly harmless information to use or sell for identity theft. It’s possible that a fourth newsletter could ask for the day of birth, completing a full set of personal information.

Scenario 4: Incorrect Print Billing

Scenario: In the computing labs and departments, print billing is tied to users’ logins. Sometimes people complain about bills for prints they didn’t do, but the bills are correct.

Question: What do you infer is happening, and justify your inference?

Answer: Users might have shared their account credentials with friends, or someone may have used their account after they failed to log out properly. Always log out of shared or public computers, quit programs, and close browser windows before leaving.

Scenario 5: Yahoo Account Misuse

Scenario: Someone used a Yahoo account on a campus computer and ensured the account was no longer open in the browser before leaving, but another person accessed the account afterward.

Question: What might have gone wrong?

Answer: The user likely didn’t log out of the account properly, allowing the next user to access it through the browser’s history. Alternatively, the user might not have cleared the web cache, which can store session information.

Scenario 6: Emailing Sensitive Information

Scenario: Two offices on campus are resolving a direct deposit error. Office 1 emails the correct account and deposit information to Office 2, which fixes the problem.

Question: What is wrong here?

Answer: Sending sensitive information like account and deposit details via email is risky because email is not private or secure. A more secure method, such as a phone call or encrypted communication, should be used.

Scenario 7: Mouse Moving on Its Own

Scenario: Your computer mouse starts moving and clicking on its own.

Question: What do you do in this situation?


  • B: Disconnect your computer from the network.
  • D: Tell your supervisor.
  • F: Run antivirus software.

This indicates potential remote control or malware. Report the issue immediately, disconnect from the network to prevent further unauthorized access, and use antivirus software to scan for malware.

Scenario 8: Password Requirements

Scenario: Identify the password that meets UCSC’s password requirements:

  • It has at least eight characters.
  • It contains at least three of the four types of characters: lowercase, uppercase, numbers, and special characters.
  • It is not a word preceded or followed by a digit.

Answer: The third password (option C) meets these criteria.

Scenario 9: Email from Your Bank

Scenario: You receive an email from your bank saying there is a problem with your account and providing a link to log in and fix it.

Question: What should you do?


  • Delete the email.
  • Report it as spam or phishing using your email client.
  • Do not click on any links or provide any information.
  • Contact your bank directly using a known, legitimate method to verify the email’s authenticity.

Scenario 10: Computer Sending Spam Emails

Scenario: A campus computer was sending out Viagra spam. A hacker had installed a program on it.

Question: How do you think the hacker got access?

Answer: This was likely due to a hacked password. Other potential causes include outdated software patches, lack of antivirus protection, or clicking on malicious links or attachments. Always use strong, unique passwords and keep the software updated.

These scenarios highlight important cybersecurity practices and their reasoning, preparing you for real-world challenges in the field.

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