35 cyber security interview questions, with sample answers

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 7 November 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Cyber security roles offer strong career prospects for anyone with a background in IT and information security. Jobs in cyber security involve researching and analysing potential threats to computer systems and networks, identifying weaknesses, designing security systems and monitoring and responding to security threats and breaches. If you're applying for cyber security roles, you can prepare for interviews by reviewing questions interviewers may ask and prepare some answers in advance. In this article, we list some typical questions for cyber security interviews and provide five sample answers for you to review.

General cyber security interview questions

Before asking specific cyber security interview questions, interviewers typically ask a few general questions to establish some facts and learn a little about your personality and attitude towards work. It can be useful to prepare answers to some of these questions, as they're likely to occur regularly in interviews for different roles. Here are some common general interview questions:

  1. Why do you want to work for this organisation?

  2. What led you to apply for this position?

  3. What makes you a suitable candidate for this role?

  4. Where do you see yourself in five years?

  5. What are your main strengths?

  6. What are your weaknesses, and how are you trying to improve upon them?

  7. Tell me about a time when you overcame adversity in the workplace.

  8. Have you ever experienced failure at work? What did you learn from the experience?

  9. How do you react to conflict in the workplace?

  10. How do you ensure you manage a busy workload?

Related: What are cyber security roles? With salary expectations

Questions about your experience and background

Hiring managers often ask questions about your background and work experience to establish facts on your CV. These questions also help interviewers to assess your familiarity with the role and specific knowledge or skills for the job. Before your interview, make sure you're familiar with the details of your CV and consult the job description to get an idea of what types of questions the interviewer may ask you. Here are some examples of questions about your experience and background for cyber security roles:

  1. What's your previous experience of working in cyber security roles?

  2. What are the main duties in a cyber security job?

  3. What's the difference between a threat, a vulnerability and a risk?

  4. What's a firewall, and how do you set one up?

  5. What's data leakage?

  6. What lessons have you learnt in your previous cyber security roles?

  7. What practical training have you carried out in your current or previous role?

  8. Do you have any experience of handling cyberattacks?

  9. How have you used teamwork skills in previous cyber security roles?

  10. Do you have experience in training colleagues on cyber security threats?

Related: How to become a cyber security analyst (plus skills)

In-depth questions for cyber security interviews

In-depth interview questions help the interviewer understand the way you think, your personal qualities and your ability to add value to the role and the organisation. Thinking about how you'd respond to different situations related to cyber security can help you discuss technical concepts and processes when responding to these questions. Here are some in-depth questions for cyber security interviews:

  1. How would you ensure a server is secure?

  2. What steps can you take to prevent identity theft?

  3. Explain social phishing and the steps you can take to prevent it.

  4. What are spyware attacks, and how do you prevent them?

  5. What are some of the most common types of cyberattacks?

  6. What is a brute force attack, and how could you take steps to prevent it?

  7. What unique qualities could you bring to our cyber security team?

  8. How would you add value to our organisation?

  9. How do you keep up to date with the latest cyber security trends?

  10. Explain the CIA triad and why it's useful for data security.

Related: How to become a cyber security engineer (with duties)

Cyber security interview questions with example answers

Here are some typical questions for cyber security interviews, along with sample answers that you can review when preparing for your own cyber security interview:

1What made you interested in working in cyber security?

With this question, the interviewer seeks to understand your motivations for pursuing a career in cyber security and establish whether you're suited to the demands of the role. In answering, you could mention your general interest in IT and any situations you've encountered that drew your attention to the importance of cyber security. You may also want to describe any personal qualities, such as key skills or personality traits, that make you suited to the role.

Example answer: 'I've always had an interest in computer systems, and I used to build and fix computers for friends and family in my spare time as a teenager. I helped my grandparents when they experienced a phishing attack that led to someone stealing their credit card details. I realised the importance of cyber security and created a more secure computer system for them. This led me to studying cyber security at university and pursuing it as a career. My personality suits this role because I'm analytical, inquisitive and have a strong eye for detail.'

Related: List of cyber security certifications to boost your career

2. Tell me about a work situation where you identified a threat and created a fix for it.

Interviewers may ask questions about your previous work to determine whether you have the necessary experience and skills for the role. This question lets you speak at length about your experience and display your knowledge, skill, initiative, problem-solving and analytical thinking. These are qualities hiring managers may be looking for in cyber security job candidates.

Example answer: 'While monitoring the security system in my current role, I identified a potential breach from a brute force attack. The attacker was using an automated system to try to unlock password-protected files containing personal information about our clients. First, I analysed the server logs to determine the source of the threat. I then made the root user inaccessible using Secure Shell Protocol and installed two-factor authentication on all encrypted files logged on our server. This prevented the attacker from gaining access and prepared the system for future attacks.'

Related: How to write a cyber security CV (with template and example)

3. Discuss the role of teamwork when analysing and preventing cyber security threats.

Cyber security teams work as part of a wider IT team and, as such, communication and teamwork are essential to maintaining secure, reliable IT systems. Interviewers may ask you about teamwork to establish how well you work with others and assess your interpersonal and communication skills. In answering, you might provide examples to show how you've worked well in a team and used your communication skills.

Example answer: 'Teamwork is an essential part of cyber security work. The wide range of threats require cyber security teams to have a variety of specialists who all communicate with each other to make sure the system remains secure. Cyber security teams also work closely with network administrators and other IT professionals, so open communication and teamwork is necessary for ensuring the system remains reliable and functions effectively for those using it.'

Related: Unique interview questions to ask an employer (with tips)

4. How do you identify a phishing threat, and what can you do to prevent them?

Interviewers may ask questions about types of cyberattacks, such as phishing, to determine your specialist knowledge and whether you know how to prevent different attacks. This question allows you to display your knowledge and skills regarding different forms of cyberattacks. Prepare for your interview by familiarising yourself with different threats and considering how you would fix or prevent them.

Example answer: 'Phishing attacks are becoming more sophisticated, but there are still things you can do to identify and stop a threat. Training employees to identify the signs of a phishing email can help prevent the threat. You can also make sure all software and applications have the most up-to-date security patches and limit employees' ability to install software on their computers. You can then implement email filters and blocks to deny access to suspicious email addresses, add two-factor authentication and set up a proxy server to provide a buffer between users and the internet.'

Related: Smart answers to interview questions (with examples)

5. What are some future challenges facing the cyber security industry?

Interviewers might want to determine your analytical thinking and knowledge of trends in the industry. If you can identify future threats and risks, you can be proactive and take preventative measures to ensure the system's integrity rather than responding to threats reactively. This question enables you to demonstrate your knowledge of future developments in the cyber security industry.

Example answer: 'The increasing use of cloud storage creates vulnerabilities for networks, which you can combat by introducing zero-trust security architecture. As mobile device usage increases with advances in remote working, it's necessary for organisations to put the appropriate systems in place. Another growing threat is from third-party exposure, where hackers can gain access to systems through less-secure third-party networks and applications. You can address this by including certain clauses in contracts and service-level agreements with suppliers and contractors who have access to your system.'

Disclaimer: The model shown is for illustration purposes only, and may require additional formatting to meet accepted standards.

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