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Information Security Analyst Interview
Questions

25 Questions and Answers by William Swansen
| William Swansen is an author, job search strategist and career advisor who assists individuals from all over the world.

Question 1 of 25

Can you discuss the differences between a threat and a vulnerability?

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Information Security Analyst Interview Questions

  1. 1.

    Can you discuss the differences between a threat and a vulnerability?

      Yet another technical question. While these may not seem like technical terms, used in the context of the information security analyst interview, they are. It is not uncommon for a technical question to ask you to compare two different terms. Technical questions can also ask you to define a single term. Keep in mind that you need to answer technical questions directly and briefly. You should anticipate follow-up questions.

      William's Answer

      "While these two terms may seem similar, there are subtle differences between them. A vulnerability defines a weakness in the organization's IT infrastructure, which can be exploited by malicious individuals. Vulnerabilities may sit dormant for long periods and go undetected until hackers use them to gain access to the network and the data contained within it. Threats, on the other hand, are active issues or incidents which are in the process of attacking an organization or working to gain access. Vulnerabilities can be addressed by constantly monitoring the network to identify them, and then addressing them with patches, software upgrades or other methods. Threats can only be resolved by creating defenses against them. This requires constant monitoring, awareness, and active remediation or the development of protections."

  2. 2.

    What sorts of things have you done to become better qualified for your career?

      Employers are looking to hire people, not for the job they are qualified for, but rather the one they can become qualified for. This requires that the candidate of a plan for continuing education and constant improvement. You should have such a plan in place and be able to describe it in detail when asked.

      William's Answer

      "I recognize that the IT industry is continually evolving, and to stay current to and get ahead, I must keep my skills up to date. I do this by reading a lot of industry publications and journals, attending conventions, meeting with vendors and other industry players, being a member of relevant local user groups, and networking with my industry peers and associates to discuss new ideas and developments in IT."

  3. 3.

    What is the most competitive work situation you have experienced? How did you handle it? What was the result?

      By asking this question, the interviewer seeks to understand the scope of the work you do and some of the more challenging situations you have encountered in your past jobs. Your answer to this question should align with the work the organization with whom you are interviewing does and the type of issues you may encounter in this role. You can discover this by researching the company and the job before the interview. Aligning all of your answers with the issues the company faces will help you to establish your qualifications for this job.

      William's Answer

      "The most competitive work situation I've experienced was when our CIO was considering engaging outside consultants to assist with security issues. While I understand the rationale behind this, I felt that our organization could do just as good of a job for less money. I met with the CIO and explained the competencies of our team, the technologies they were trained on, and our track record of keeping the company's IT assets safe and secure. The result was is that the CIO allocated a smaller budget for the consulting services and put me in charge of interfacing with outside resources as an extension of our internal team."

  4. 4.

    What are the differences between encoding, encrypting, and hashing?

      This is an example of a technical question. Technical questions ask you to define a term and then explain how it is used in your profession. As an information security analyst, you can anticipate that the majority of questions you will be asked during an interview will be operational or technical. Like operational questions, technical questions should be answered briefly and directly. You should anticipate follow-up questions any time you provide an answer.

      William's Answer

      "All of these are methods used to protect data in motion. Encoding as a sequence of characters in a specific format that makes the transmission more efficient and safe. Encrypting as a more advanced form of encoding, and requires that the receiving device be able to decrypt the data using a key provided by the technician. Hashing uses algorithms that take arbitrary input and converts it to a fixed-length string, which is then transmitted over the internet."

  5. 5.

    What is traceroute, and how is it used?

      Yet another technical question. As stated earlier, most of the questions you will be asked during an interview will be technical questions. The best way to prepare for these is to review the terminology, processes, and procedures you use as an information security analyst. You should also spend time practicing these questions, reading both the question and the answer out loud. You can then formulate your own answer to the question. The three keys to a successful interview include research, preparation, and practice.

      William's Answer

      "Traceroute is a process used by a systems analyst to uncover any breakdowns or gaps in communications and pinpoint where they are occurring in the network. This technique follows the data and the route it takes, identifying the network devices along its path. Once you've identified where the connection break has occurred, you can repair it with either software or hardware."

  6. 6.

    Have you ever met resistance when implementing a new idea or policy to a workgroup? How did you deal with it? What happened?

      This question is similar to 'Tell me about a time when you and your previous supervisor disagreed, but you still found a way to get your point across.'. It is not unusual for interviewers to ask several questions about the same topic. This enables them to calibrate your answers to ensure that you are consistent throughout the interview. Answering truthfully and taking brief notes during the interview will help you achieve this. Practicing these questions also helps you to better prepare and be consistent throughout the interview.

      William's Answer

      "It is unusual, but sometimes I do encounter resistance when trying to implement new policies to the workgroups I manage. When this occurs, I gather evidence supporting my recommendation. I also perform a cost-benefit analysis to demonstrate the effectiveness of my recommendations. This usually overcomes the resistance and allows us to move forward with the updates with everyone being on the same page."

  7. 7.

    Describe a time when you made a suggestion to improve the work in your organization.

      When employers interview candidates, they're looking for somebody who can help them make money, save money, or save time. Being able to describe a situation in which you made a recommendation to improve the workflow of the organization will help you stand out amongst the other candidates. This doesn't necessarily have to be a large improvement. It can involve something minor but which helped you or other people do their jobs better. Continuous improvement as a priority with most organizations, and your ability to demonstrate experience in this area will help you during the interview.

      William's Answer

      "I am always looking for opportunities to reduce costs, save time, or improve processes. I recently noticed that my team was documenting their activities both in writing and with emails. This didn't make sense since very few people ever read the written reports. I created report templates which the team could use online to document their work. This not only eliminated the redundancy but allowed the team to complete the forms while waiting for other processes to run, thereby reducing the overall time to complete this task."

  8. 8.

    Can you define symmetric and asymmetric encryption, and discuss their differences?

      At this point, you can probably already recognize this as a technical question. This is obvious because it is both asking you for a definition and to discuss the differences in these terms and how they are used in your profession. Keep in mind that technical questions are best answered directly and briefly. The interviewer will ask you additional questions if they need more information or want to explore this topic in more detail. So be prepared for follow-up questions.

      William's Answer

      "Symmetric encryption is the process of encrypting data by creating a key which can then be used to decrypt it. In this process, a single key is used for the encryption and decryption of the data. Asymmetric encryption is similar but uses different keys for each transmission. Typically, technicians will use asymmetric encryption during the first transmission of data, followed by symmetric encryption for subsequent transmissions. Using the different types of encryption in this manner ensures that security of the data while expediting transmissions once the communication channel has been established."

  9. 9.

    Is it necessary to approach cybersecurity issues differently based on whether the IT resources are in the cloud or on-premises?

      Organizations have the option to manage their IT resources on their own premises, at a site hosted by a third party, or using cloud resources, such as AWS or Azure. Cybersecurity issues will differ depending on the physical location and type of resources the organization uses. In some instances, the company will use all three of these, making the cybersecurity process even more complex. You should be able to address each one of these and briefly discuss how they differ and what measures you need to take based on the location of the resources and how they are accessed.

      William's Answer

      "It used to be very simple to manage an organization's cybersecurity issues when everything was onsite at the company's datacenter. However, in today's environment, IT assets are spread across a variety of locations. These include the on-premise datacenter, a third-party hosted site, and in the cloud. While this helps ensure the security of the data through replication, it also presents challenges when transmitting data. Measures such as data encryption, replication, and tracerouting all help to ensure the data is secure and safe. Other techniques include strong user authentication and specific security measures built into the contracts with the third-party providers."

  10. 10.

    When tasked with strengthening user authentication, what methods would you use to?

      You probably already recognize this as an operational question. This is specifically asking you about the process you use to perform a task. As a reminder, operational questions should be answered directly and succinctly, and you should anticipate follow-up questions.

      William's Answer

      "One of the key elements of data security is user authentication. The most basic form of user authentication is supplying the user with a username and password. This is needed at any time the user logs in to the application or the network. A higher level of security is known as two-step authentication. In addition to the user ID and password, a code is sent to a device the user has pre-registered. They are then required to input the code before they are allowed to access the network."

  11. 11.

    When preparing to transmit data, what would you do first, compress it, or encrypt it?

      This is both a technical as well as a follow-up question. In your answer to the question 'What are the differences between encoding, encrypting, and hashing?', you discussed encryption. This technical question is asking a follow-up question about how you go about performing the encryption process. As discussed earlier, you should always anticipate follow-up questions once you've answered an inquiry from an interviewer. By keeping your previous answer brief and to the point, you encouraged the interviewer to explore this topic in more detail. Since you have expertise in this area, the questions should be easy for you to answer. This is also an example of how you can guide the interviewer through the interview.

      William's Answer

      "When using encryption to secure data, you should always encrypt the data before compressing it. If you compress the data first, you could not encrypt it properly or decrypt it when received by another device. The exact process is to create an encryption key, encrypt the data, compress it, then transmit the data and the decryption key to the receiving party."

  12. 12.

    What do you consider to be your professional strengths? Give me a specific example using this attribute in the workplace.

      Many interviewers will ask about your strengths and weaknesses. This is an easy question to prepare for. You should anticipate being asked this in any interview you attend. Creating a list of 5 to 10 strengths and weaknesses related to your job will prepare you to respond to this question. The strengths should be relevant to the work you do and contribute to your success. The weaknesses, on the other hand, should not be job-related or should be easily overcome.

      William's Answer

      "I believe that my strengths relevant to this position include my professionalism, attention to detail, focus on constant improvement, and ability to collaborate with both my team as well as organizations outside of IT. Combined, these enable me to do my job to the best of my ability and to achieve the business results the organization is looking for. I make an effort to try to improve these strengths through continuing education, research, and feedback."

  13. 13.

    Some people work best as part of a group - others prefer the role of individual contributor. How would you describe yourself?

      The purpose of this question is to discover your collaboration skills. There are benefits to both working by yourself and functioning as a member of a team. You should be able to discuss both of these, their benefits, and challenges. You then complete your answer by describing which one you prefer and why you like to work in this manner.

      William's Answer

      "I am able to work both as an individual contributor or as a member of a highly functional team. The benefit of working as an individual is that you move faster and can complete a project in less time. However, you are also limited to your ideas, experience, and skills. As a member of a team, you move slower due to the need to collaborate and discuss actions and topics related to the project you're working on. However, the benefit is that many individuals contribute to the project, each providing a unique set of experiences, skills, and talents. The output of a team often eclipses the data and up to that of an individual contributor. Given a choice, I would rather function as a member of a team."

  14. 14.

    When you have been made aware of, or have discovered for yourself, a problem in your work performance, what was your course of action? Can you give an example?

      Being self-aware of issues that impede your work performance and correcting them is a characteristic that employers look for in candidates they are interviewing. Many people become defensive when asked a question like this, claiming that they do not have any issues that impact their work. This is the wrong approach. Since the question asks for an example, you should discuss a minor issue that may have impacted your performance and how you resolved it. Ideally, the issue should not be relevant to the position for which you are interviewing.

      William's Answer

      "I constantly perform self-checks to make sure there are no issues which are impacting my job. I also occasionally conduct 360 interviews with my peers, management, and the people I manage to make sure I'm doing everything right. If I do discover an issue, I take immediate action to correct it. I recently became aware of the fact that I did not return emails promptly. This was impacting people who were waiting for my response. Once I was aware of this, I created a system to prioritize my emails so I could respond to the important ones, and delay reading the less critical emails."

  15. 15.

    Can you think of a situation where innovation was required at work? What did you do in this situation?

      This question is similar to 'Give an example of a problem that you faced on any job that you have had and tell me how you went about solving it.'. These types of questions are behavioral. They require you to discuss how you would react to a specific scenario the interviewer presents to you. Behavioral questions are best answered using the STAR framework. You state the Situation, describe the Task you needed to complete, discuss the Actions you took, and then talk about the results you achieved. Situational questions can address past actions or hypothetical situations that may occur if you are hired for this position.

      William's Answer

      "In one of my past positions, the department's budget was reduced due to a downturn in sales for the entire company. We were asked to do more with less and still maintain the security of the company's IT infrastructure. I met with my team, and we discussed ways we could consolidate our hardware while still providing security to the network. We were able to remove 30% of our network servers and half of the routers without impacting either the performance or the security of the network. This resulted in cost savings plus an inventory of spare parts we could use if something broke."

  16. 16.

    Tell me about an important goal that you set in the past. Were you successful?

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  17. 17.

    Tell me about a time when you and your previous supervisor disagreed, but you still found a way to get your point across.

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  18. 18.

    What do you do in your spare time when you're not working on securing an organization's IT infrastructure?

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  19. 19.

    What methods do you use to confirm that a server is secure?

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  20. 20.

    Is anything online safe?

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  21. 21.

    How do you keep current on new security threats?

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  22. 22.

    Give an example of a problem that you faced on any job that you have had and tell me how you went about solving it.

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  23. 23.

    What are UDP and TCP, and how do they differ?

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  24. 24.

    What is your position regarding DNS monitoring? Do you feel it is important, and if so, why?

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  25. 25.

    Have you ever had a situation where you had a number of alternatives to choose from? How did you go about choosing one?

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