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IT Security Interview

How to Prepare for a Great IT Security Interview and Get Hired

As more and more people are shifting toward digitalization, the problem of data susceptibility has grown, too. Cybersecurity has become a priority today, and the industry is open to providing a variety of employment prospects. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics, the job demand for cybersecurity experts will go up by 35% by 2031. Just as this number is growing with each passing year, so are the number of applicants preparing for IT security interviews. 

The prime responsibility of IT security engineers includes providing protection against hackers, cyberattacks, and other online dangers. Let’s look at the role of a cybersecurity engineer and describe what a typical interview procedure for one would look like.

IT Security Interview

What is the Interview Process for IT Security Professionals?

The IT security interview process depends on several factors: the type of company you are applying to, the positions to be filled, and the number of vacancies. To start the process, you are likely to go through a 30-minute phone interview with a recruiter. This step involves a formal introduction on both sides. There will be questions about your prior experience, your qualification, and other behavioral questions. 

The next step will be a technical interview with a team member. Once you finish this, a full-day interview could be conducted on-site or virtually, with five to six rounds of questions. In each round, the interviewer will test your unique technical and soft skills.

How to Prepare for an IT Security Interview

IT Security Interview

Due to the rise in the volume of cyberattacks, organizations are actively looking for IT security professionals and more often than not, are willing to offer handsome pay packages. This creates a fierce competition for positions in this industry. Hence, a thorough preparation by going through sample interview questions and answers is always helpful. However, while preparing for the IT security interview, keeping the following things in mind can be a bonus.

  • A well-written resume can give recruiters an overview about your qualification, experiences, skills, and extracurricular activities. It’s a first step towards cracking the deal
  • While applying to any organization, do some research on the firm where you are appearing for an interview. It will show the interviewer that you are interested in the company and are informed about it
  • If you are applying for a senior position, you should mentally prepare yourself to answer a series of advanced-level questions, which we will discuss in the later part of the article

Common IT Security Interview Questions

This list of IT security interview questions are designed to test and evaluate the foundational knowledge of candidates regarding cybersecurity concepts and techniques.

We’ve listed out some of the most common IT security interview questions and answers to help you prepare.

1. What is a VPN?

A virtual private network (VPN) entails creating a private network over a public internet connection by hiding the user’s IP address. Simply put, the private network is established through a tunneling protocol. This data tunnel will make it appear like you are accessing the internet from a new location. It can be a different city or even a different country on a different continent. As the data is encrypted, neither internet service providers nor possible listeners can decode it.

2. What are the Different Layers of the OSI Model? 

There are seven layers in all. 

Layer one is the physical layer that represents the system’s electrical and physical representation. It is at the bottom of the OSI model. 

The second layer is the data link layer, which generates and ceases the link between two physically connected nodes on a network. 

The next is the network layer, which is in charge of packet forwarding, including routing across several routers.

Transport, or the fourth layer, refers to the coordination of data transit between hosts and end systems. 

The fifth layer is called session. A session  is created whenever two computers or other networked devices need to communicate with one another.

After that is the presentation layer, which includes the preparation, translation, or conversion of application format to network format or vice versa.

The final layer is application. This represents the incoming data to the user after immediately receiving information from users. Some examples are web browsers like Google Chrome, Firefox, etc. It is the closest layer to the end user.

3. Explain the CIA Triad

The CIA triad refers to an information security concept comprising three fundamental components — confidentiality, integrity, and availability. 

Confidentiality is linked to secrecy and the usage of encryption. This element ensures that the data is only available to authorized parties. Data integrity is the assurance that the data has not been altered or degraded before, during, or after submission. Availability indicates that the data is accessible to authorized users at any time. 

4. What are the Differences Between VA (Vulnerability Assessment) and PT (Penetration Testing)?

VA has a broad reach and keeps track of the resources and assets in one system, while PT narrows in on a single weakness and establishes the breadth or depth of an assault. 

The objective of VA is to identify possible weaknesses in every resource. On the other hand, PT exploits the identified danger to get to the source and test the acquisition of sensitive data. Compared to PT, VA is more affordable and automated.

VA provides a crude description of the vulnerabilities and does not offer a robust strategy for mitigating those. PT discloses all pertinent information about the threat exploited and how to reduce the risk.

VA works well in lab settings while PT is the best for real-time systems.

5. Explain Data Leakage.

Data leakage means an unauthorized data transfer within a company or to an external or internal recipient. The leaks can be physical or digital (both intentionally or unintentionally). Types of data leaks are:

  • Accidental data leaks 
  • Malicious communications
  • Ill-intentioned or malicious internal employees
  • Physical data theft

6. What are the Differences Between HIDS and NIDS?

The Host Intrusion Detection System (HIDS) is responsible for monitoring the computer infrastructure by analyzing traffic on the computer network and tracking any dangerous activity. It works by looking at the files and data coming into and going out of the host it is running on. It operates by comparing the snapshots of the current file system to the one that was previously taken. For example, the HIDS can disable a harmful file’s access and quarantine it. 

The Network Intrusion Detection System (NIDS) is responsible for detecting malicious traffic on a network. In the presence of anything harmful or strange or in any other mixed environment, alerts will be sent out. NIDS excels at protecting several computer systems from a single network site. Plus, it is cost-effective and also easy to implement. The system offers protection against bandwidth floods and Denial of Service (DoS) attacks, as well as versatility with numerous operating systems and devices.

7. What is the Best Way to Secure a Server?

To secure a server, make sure you perform the following activities:

  • Update the operating system and applications regularly
  • Preserve a copy of your files and plan for recovering them if necessary
  • Restrict the access as it helps in protecting your servers from insider attacks
  • Install secure socket layer certificates to scramble data in transit and protect sensitive and private information
  • Use VPN to link various computer equipment

8. What is a Brute-Force Attack? What is the Best Way to Prevent it?

A brute-force attack is defined as a method of cracking passwords that involves repeatedly attempting all conceivable combinations of letters, numbers, and symbols until you find the one that works. Your website becomes a prime target for a brute-force assault especially if user authentication is required.

Effective ways to prevent such attacks are:

  • Use secure, unique passwords
  • Reduce the number of login attempts and disable root Secure Socket Shell (SSH) logins
  • Utilize network security and threat-detection techniques
  • Use IP address tracking
  • Use two-factor authentication 
  • Implement web application firewalls (WAFs)

9. What is Port Scanning?

Port scanning process involves a technique of finding weak nodes in a network by accessing multiple ports on a host or the same port on various hosts. Cybercriminals use this technique to gather data about the target host during the planning stage of an attack. On the other hand, some IT security professionals can use port scanning to identify weak points in the IT infrastructure. There are two popular typeshorizontal scanning or network scanning and vertical scanning.

10. Tell Me the Difference Between IDS and IPS.

An intrusion detection system (IDS) is a method to monitor and analyze network traffic for suspicious activity and other indications of network infiltration. On the other hand, an intrusion prevention system (IPS) is a type of network security tool that is located between the internal network and the public internet in the same location as a firewall. 

Both IDS and IPS technologies are meant to provide security and examine a database of cyber threats. The main distinction between the two is that one does monitoring while the other performs control. Besides that, an IPS is an active control system whereas an IDS is passive. In terms of protection, an IDS arguably provides less assistance if you are facing any threat. You need to determine what to do and when to do it on your own. In the case of IPS, all of these tasks are done already by the system. 

11. What is the Purpose of a Firewall?

A firewall is a network security tool that keeps track of incoming and outgoing network traffic and allows or denies data packets depending on a set of security criteria. Its prime objective is to provide protection to your computer or network from external cyberattackers by blocking malicious or unnecessary network traffic.

12. What is a Traceroute? Why is it Used?

A traceroute is a command-line tool that shows the route taken by data as it moves from your computer to its destination across the internet. Using traceroute, you can figure out the data routing hops and response times as they pass between nodes. Along with that, you can also find locations of failure. You can use the traceroute command to know the names or the IP address of any router between two devices.

13. Can You Explain SSL Encryption?

A secure sockets layer (SSL) encryption is standard technology to keep the internet connection secure and protect sensitive and confidential data. This technology stops criminals from reading and altering any information transferred, including personal details.

Even if your website doesn’t handle sensitive data like credit cards, SSL is crucial for security. It guarantees data integrity, privacy, and essential security for both your websites and the private information of your users. 

ALSO READ: What is Cybersecurity and Why is it a Great Career Choice for You

What Questions Should the Interviewee Ask at the End of the Interview?

IT Security Interview

Depending on the job specification and roles and responsibilities, an interviewee can ask multiple types of questions at the end of the interview. Some common ones are:

  • What are your expectations from me for this position?
  • Will I need to coordinate with any other departments or units?
  • How many members are there in the team I will be working with? What is the hierarchy like?
  • How long will my learning curve expected to be?

Tips for Preparing for Your IT Security Interview

  • Prepare for the interview by thoroughly researching the business or the company you are applying to
  • Review your resume and prepare talking points for every piece of information, it contains
  • Prepare thorough answers to the questions in this guide
  • Prepare a collection of insightful questions to ask your prospective employer

According to LinkedIn, there are more than  200 thousand cybersecurity jobs available worldwide. If you are looking for a career in IT security, you can explore online cybersecurity courses on Emeritus to stay up-to-date in a constantly changing technical field. 

By Mikhil Pathak

Write to us at content@emeritus.org

IT Security Interview

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