Top 20 Cybersecurity Interview Questions & Answers [For Freshers & Experienced]

Cybersecurity risks have tremendously increased in the past few years. As our reliance on the internet for carrying out business operations increases, it is also giving ample opportunities for cybercriminals to hack, steal, and exploit data for unfair usage. Enterprises are thus actively looking to implement measures that can help protect their business-critical data.

In turn, it has given rise to cybersecurity jobs that have seen an unprecedented demand. But, with increasing demand, there is also increased competition. To get a cybersecurity job, you will have to be one of the best and answer any cybersecurity interview questions presented to you.

In your quest to land a cybersecurity job, we are extending our helping hand. We have compiled a list of twenty cyber security interview questions you are likely to encounter. The cybersecurity interview questions & answers will help you be better prepared for your upcoming interviews and land your dream job.

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Basic Cybersecurity Interview Questions & Answers

1. What is cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity can be defined as the process of protecting the enterprise’s internet-connected components such as hardware, software, and data from being compromised by hackers. In simpler terms, cybersecurity refers to protection from unauthorized access.

2. What are the elements of cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity elements can be classified into seven types:

  • Network security: This involves protecting your enterprise’s network (WiFi and internet systems) from hackers. It is also called perimeter security.
  • Information security: Information security includes protecting data such as employee login details, customer data, and any other business-critical data such as software development codes and intellectual property data.
  • Application security: Enterprises need to have a secure application to safeguard themselves from cyberattacks.
  • Operational security: It is used to protect the enterprise’s functions and track vital information to spot shortcomings in the current methods.
  • Business continuity planning involves analyzing how operations might get affected by a cyberattack and how enterprises can overcome such attacks without major impact on business operations.
  • End-user education: For an enterprise to have a strong cybersecurity measure, it is vital to train every employee about cybersecurity. They need to be informed about the various cybersecurity threats and how they can respond to them.
  • Leadership commitment: Without the right leadership, developing, implementing, and maintaining a cybersecurity program becomes difficult.

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3. Can, you explain the difference between threats, risks, and vulnerabilities?

Although they may sound and seem similar, threats, risks, and vulnerabilities are vastly different.

  • Threat: A threat is someone or something that can cause potential harm and damage to your organization.
  • Vulnerabilities: Vulnerabilities refer to the weakest points in your systems that can be exploited by a cyber-criminal.
  • Risks: Risks are the damages that can be caused to the organization by exploiting vulnerabilities.

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4. What is a firewall?

A firewall is a system that monitors incoming and outgoing traffic on the network. It analyses all the activities carried out by users on the network and matches it with predefined policies. If there are any violations or deviations from the set policies, the traffic is blocked. It is highly helpful against common cybersecurity threats such as trojans, viruses, malware, etc.

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5. What is a VPN?

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. It is used for data protection against spoofing, censorship, and interference from higher authorities. 

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Intermediate Cybersecurity Interview Questions & Answers

1. What are perimeter-based and data-based protection?

Perimeter based cybersecurity approach involves protecting your enterprise’s network from hackers by applying security measures to it. It analyses individuals trying to gain access to your network and blocks any suspicious infiltration attempts.

Data-based protection means applying security measures to the data itself. It is independent of the network connection. Thus, you can monitor and secure your data no matter where it resides, who uses it, or which connection is used to access the data.

2. What is a brute-force attack? How can you prevent one?

A brute-force attack happens when hackers try to access your organization’s network by finding out the login credentials, such as usernames and passwords, of authorized users. Most of the brute-force attacks are automated, wherein the software is used to ‘guess’ various combinations of usernames and passwords.

Brute-force attacks can be prevented using,

Long password lengths: The lengthier the passwords, the more difficult it will be to determine the password’s right strings. You can set a minimum password length of 8-12 characters to ensure that employees don’t end up creating an easy-to-guess password.

Increasing complexity: Along with long lengths, having mandatory inclusion of special characters, numbers, uppercase letters in the password can help increase the complexity of the passwords, making them more difficult to hack.

Limiting attempts: You can set a maximum login attempt limit. If the login fails for the set limit, have the policy stop the user from any more login attempts. For example, you can set three login attempts, as users usually forget their unsaved passwords. However, if the login fails after three consecutive attempts, the user shouldn’t be allowed any more attempts.

3. Explain SSL

SSL is a security protocol that allows encrypted connections on the internet. It stands for Secure Sockets Layer. It is usually used for security purposes involving digital payments to ensure that data confidentiality and privacy of sensitive information such as credit card numbers is maintained while carrying out online transactions.

4. SSL or HTTPS, Which is more secure?

Like SSL, HTTPS is a security protocol that allows data protection on the internet through encryption. It stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure and is a combination of HTTP and SSL. When it comes to security, SSL is more secure.

5. What are the common types of cyberattacks an enterprise is likely to face?

The most likely cyber attacks an enterprise can face are:

  • Phishing
  • Brute-force attacks
  • DDoS attacks
  • Malware
  • Data leaks
  • Ransomware

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6. Can you name a few high-profile recent cyber attacks that have happened?

Twitter data breach: A data breach occurred in July, where accounts of influential and well-known personalities such as Barack Obama, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates were hacked. Spam tweets were then posted from the hacked accounts asking Twitter users to send money to a Bitcoin address, in exchange for higher returns.

Zoom data breach: The popular video-conferencing app Zoom faced a major cyber attack where five lakh Zoom user accounts and passwords were compromised and were sold on the dark web.

Social media data breach: This data breach included popular social media sites and platforms such as TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram. Around twenty-five million user profiles were compromised, and details such as age, gender, analytics, and other private information were made public.

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Advanced Cybersecurity Interview Questions & Answers

1. What is symmetric and asymmetric encryption? Can you explain the difference between the two?

Symmetric encryption requires a single key for encryption as well as decryption purposes. It is preferred for transferring large volumes of data as it is faster.

Asymmetric encryption requires a public and a private key to encrypt and decrypt data. It is used for small data transfer and is slower than symmetric encryption.

2. Define salting. Why is salting used?

Salting is adding extra values to extend the length of the password and change its hash value. It is used for password protection as it adds complexity and helps prevent hackers from easily guessing simple passwords.

3. What is a traceroute?

Traceroute is a tool that is used for tracking the packet path from source to destination. It helps identify where a connection breaks and is used if the packet is not reaching the destination.

4. What are the differences between stream cipher and block cipher?

Steam cipher is an encryption method where plain digits are combined with a pseudorandom stream to produce ciphertext one bit at a time. It is used to implement hardware and is used in Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). 

A block cipher is an encryption method in which a cryptographic key and an algorithm are applied to a block of data, as a group, to produce ciphertext. It is used for file encryption and databases.

5. Can you tell us about social engineering attacks?

Social engineering attacks are used by cybercriminals to fool people into believing them as credible individuals to get them to reveal confidential information such as credit card details, internet banking credentials, and other sensitive data.

Social engineering attacks are carried out in three ways:

Computer-based: Computer-based attacks are usually carried out through embedding spam links in emails. The emails ask users to click on the link, installing malicious codes and software on the device.

Mobile-based: These attacks are carried out by sending fake SMS or asking users to download malicious apps that can automatically extract or grant hackers access to private information stored on the mobile device.

Human-based: These attacks are carried out in person where a cybercriminal may pretend to be an authoritative individual and trick employees into revealing sensitive information.

6. What are some of the authentication methods for cybersecurity?

Multi-factor authentication: Multi-factor authentication requires the user to verify their identity using multiple methods. For example, along with providing a username and password, the user will need to provide an OTP that will be sent to the registered mobile number.

Biometric authentication: Biometric authentication uses physical attributes such as fingerprint data, facial data, and iris scans to verify and authenticate users.

Token-based authentication: In this method, the user is sent an encrypted string of random characters as a token, which can be used in place of passwords. However, to receive the token, the user must enter the right credentials for the first time logging in.

Certificate-based authentication: In certificate-based authentication, the user identity is verified using a digital certificate. The certificate stores information such as the user’s identity, public key, and an authority’s digital signature.

7. Explain white hat, grey hat, and black hat hackers.

White hat hackers: White hat hackers are also known as ethical hackers. They are hired by an organization to find vulnerabilities and loopholes in their cybersecurity programs to be fixed quickly. White hat hackers help improve the security of the organization.

Grey hat hackers: Grey hat hackers lie in between white hackers and black hat hackers. They are hackers who violate ethical standards (carrying out hacking without the organization) to find system vulnerabilities. However, they do it so without any malicious intent. If they find any vulnerabilities, they report it to the organization.

Black hat hackers: Cybercriminals carry out cyberattacks with malicious intent for financial gains or damage the organization’s reputation.

8. What is an SQL injection attack? How can you prevent it?

SQL injection attacks are cyberattacks in which a hacker injects malicious code in the data to execute malicious SQL codes that allow them to control database servers.

SQL injection attacks can be prevented by using prepared statements, validating user inputs, and using stored procedures.

9. What is the OSI model? Can you explain its layers?

The OSI (Open Systems Interconnection) model shows how applications communicate over a network. It consists of seven layers. They are:

  • Application layer: Applications can access the network services in this layer.
  • Presentation layer: Data encryption occurs in this layer, and it ensures that the data is in a usable format.
  • Session layer: It is responsible for controlling ports and sessions.
  • Transport layer: Responsible for end-to-end communication over the network. It uses TCP and UDP transmission protocols, among others.
  • Network layer: It is responsible for providing routing paths for communication.
  • Data Link Layer: Defines the format of data and is responsible for encoding and decoding it.
  • Physical layer: It is responsible for transferring the raw data through the communication medium.

The OSI model is important in understanding and isolating the source of the problem and is generally used for troubleshooting purposes.

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Summing it up

We hope that these cybersecurity interview questions & answers will help you with your interview preparation, and surely you will ace your interviews. If you are a newbie and want to start your cybersecurity journey, you can consider enrolling in upGrad’s Executive PG Programme in Software Development – Specialisation in Cyber Security.

The course is developed to teach students various concepts related to cybersecurity, such as application security, data secrecy, and cryptography, to name a few. You get access to online sessions and live lectures delivered by world-class faculty members. You are also provided upGrad’s 360-degree career support, including mock interviews, that can help you get started on your journey of becoming a cybersecurity expert. 

What are the five different types of cybersecurity?

Critical infrastructure security, application security, network security, cloud security, and Internet of Things (IoT) security are the five types of cybersecurity. Critical infrastructure security is concerned with safeguarding the cyber-physical structures, networks, and assets on which modern societies rely. Application security safeguards the code and data of software applications against internet threats and breaches. While cyber issues are concerned with external threats, network security protects your internal systems from unauthorised intrusion due to malicious intent. Cloud security is a software-based security feature that protects and monitors your cloud resources' data. IoT security is the act of protecting web browsers and the networks to which they are linked from cyberattacks and threats.

What are the most serious cybersecurity threats today?

During the pandemic, businesses had to quickly adjust to new working conditions, which opened up new doors and opportunities for cybercriminals. The following are the primary threat groups: Ransomware is a type of malware in which attackers encrypt an organisation's data and demand payment to restore access. Cryptojacking occurs when cybercriminals use a victim's computer processing power to produce cryptocurrency in secret. Threats to data where data breaches/leaks occur. Malware is software that initiates a process that harms any given system. Non-malicious threats are caused by human errors and system misconfigurations. Finally, threats to availability and integrity are attacks that prevent system users from accessing their data.

What are the benefits of cybersecurity?

The benefits of cybersecurity include the protection of the data from unauthorised access, loss, or deletion. It is safe from economic fraud and corruption. Cybersecurity also keeps your system secure from intellectual property theft. Cyber espionage is also prevented. This way, you can be assured that all your business data remains within the network premises and will not be misused to cause financial, reputational, or social harm to your employees.

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