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Network Security Interview
Questions

23 Questions and Answers by William Swansen

Updated December 15th, 2019 | William Swansen is an author, job search strategist and career advisor who assists individuals from all over the world.
Job Interviews     Careers     Computer Science    
Question 1 of 23
What do you see as the primary business objective of someone in this position?
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How to Answer
This is another question which the interviewer may use to determine the strength of your leadership skills and the vision you will bring to the role. Your answer has to address three key elements: The company's priorities, industry trends and your ability to merge these into a cohesive strategy. You can organize your answer as follows (inserting the specifics relative to the job you are interviewing for:
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Answer Examples
1.
What do you see as the primary business objective of someone in this position?
This is another question which the interviewer may use to determine the strength of your leadership skills and the vision you will bring to the role. Your answer has to address three key elements: The company's priorities, industry trends and your ability to merge these into a cohesive strategy. You can organize your answer as follows (inserting the specifics relative to the job you are interviewing for:

William's Answer #1
"Recent developments in the field of network security indicate that intrusion attempts are utilizing more sophisticated methods and are originating from new sources around the world. I've also noted the company's global expansion and the recent acquisition of organizations with less secure networks. Therefore, the primary objective of the Network Security department is to unify the entire organization under a compressive security system utilizing the most up to date tools and technologies."
William's Answer #2
" The primary objective of the Network Security department is to ensure the safety and security of the organization's data assets. However, the primary business objective of the department is to achieve security in a cost-effective and efficient manner. Since the standard for network security is zero incidents, services can't be compromised, So the Network Security Manager needs to find the right resources at the lowest cost and to implement best practices to leverage both technology and personnel resources in the most efficient manner possible."
2.
What would you do if a fellow manager on your own level wasn't pulling their weight and this was hurting your department?
This is a behavioral question. The interviewer is creating a scenario (which may never happen) and trying to determine how you would deal with it. Remember that 'Behavioral' questions are best answered using the 'STAR' methodology - Situation, Task, Action, Results. If you have experienced this scenario in the past, give a STAR description of how you handled it. If you don't have direct experience with the scenario, create a forward STAR story.

William's Answer #1
"If I encountered this situation, where a fellow executive wasn't cooperating and it impacted my department (S) I would look for ways to get them on board with the goal we were tasked with achieving (T). First, I would discuss it with them to see if I could get them to understand the impact they were having on the task (A). If this wasn't successful, I'd describe the situation to my manager and suggest that they have a conversation with the other person's supervisor, using accomplishing the goal as the incentive for us all to work together (R)."
William's Answer #2
"This has actually happened to me in my current position. I needed the Data Center Manager of our organization to provide me with some resources so my group could add a new firewall to our network. He agreed to do this but kept delaying providing us with what we needed. His rationale was that his team was focused on completing more "urgent" tasks. I met with my manager, explained the situation and suggested he have a conversation with the company's CIO, describing the potential consequences of delaying the implementation of the new firewall. The CIO spoke to the Data Center Manager, who agreed that our project was in fact more urgent than he had originally thought and we received the resources we needed shortly thereafter."
3.
Can you discuss the key features of a Class 1 Firewall?
This is a very straight forward question which is meant to learn about your knowledge of a basic network security technology. Answer it directly and succinctly with minimum additional details. The interviewer will request more details if they are interested in them.

William's Answer #1
"The four key components of a Class 1 firewall are it is host-based, performs both packet filtering and stateful packet inspection, may offer Network Address Translation and can filter or allow applications to access the network based on specific HTTPS and DNS rules."
William's Answer #2
"There are four key components of a Class 1 firewall, each of which distinguishes this enterprise-level firewall solution from less robust ones. The first and second features are that it is host-based, performing both packet filtering and stateful packet inspection. The firewall may offer Network Address Translation, providing the organization with more flexibility. Finally, the firewall can filter or allow applications to access the network based on specific HTTPS and DNS rules. Together these features create the most secure firewall available."
4.
What motivated you to enter the field of Network Security?
The purpose of this question is to explore your passion for your profession and determine how committed you are to pursuing this career path. Your answer to this question should be delivered with enthusiasm, thereby demonstrating your desire to attaining this position and advance in the career.

William's Answer #1
"Ever since I was a child I enjoyed solving puzzles and addressing new challenges. The field of Network Security is very dynamic and changes daily. This is what originally attracted me to pursue a career in the filed and is what has kept me interested in it. I wake up every day knowing that I will be encountering a new challenge and will likely be successful in overcoming it. This is extremely rewarding and keeps me motivated at work."
William's Answer #2
"When I was exploring different careers and trying to decide what type of work I wanted to do, the key criteria were something that was challenging and that changed quickly. I also wanted a job where I could make an impact and the results of my work were tangible. Network Security met all of my requirements. The field is dynamic and changes daily, it requires me to stay up to date and to continuously learn new things, and the results are immediately visible, having countered an attempted breach or prevented it from happening in the first place. I can't think of any other career that would provide me with these same benefits."
5.
Describe a situation in which you embraced a new system, process, technology, or idea at work that was a major departure from the old way of doing things.
Although this appears to be a technical question, eliciting a response with a specific solution, it is actually a behavioral question meant to learn about your adaptability and openness to innovation. Rather than describe the innovation and its benefits, focus on how it was presented to you and how you went about implementing it.

William's Answer #1
"Recently, one of our team proposed that we consider adding another layer of protection to our network security infrastructure. This involved adopting a technology we had never used and didn't have a great deal of proficiency with. The team member's presentation in support of this innovation was compelling and well researched, so I approved the project with the condition we run a pilot program on a subset of our data. This proved to be successful and led us to implement the addition across our entire network."
William's Answer #2
"The field of network security evolves quickly, especially with the proliferation of more complex threats from a growing number of sources. To be effective, you need to be open to exploring new technologies and resources to add to the organization's arsenal of defenses against intrusions and attempts to compromise the company's data. Recently we became aware of a new technology which promised to exponentially increase our security at a modest cost. However, we didn't have any expertise in this area and would have to update our skills in order to implement the new system. I encouraged our team to commit themselves to take the steps needed to upgrade their knowledge and we eventually integrated the new technology into our network security strategy with great success."
6.
Why should I hire you from the outside when I could promote someone from within?
An interesting question, since research shows that the majority of jobs are either filled by an internal candidate or through a referral from an employee or someone the hiring manager knows. This a great opportunity for you to summarize your qualifications for the job and state how you can help the company achieve its business objectives.

William's Answer #1
"I have all the qualifications you mentioned in the job posting and I'm confident my expertise and experience in network security will enable me to excel in this position. Additionally, since I am coming from outside of the organization I will be able to contribute new ideas and techniques that have been proven at the other organizations I have worked for. I will bring a fresh set of eyes that can spot opportunities for process improvements and won't have the bias based on the legacy of how things have been done in the past."
William's Answer #2
"Hiring from within the organization is always an option and rewards the current staff by providing them with advancement opportunities. However, when you bring in someone from outside of the organization, you get a fresh set of eyes and a new perspective on how things are done. Since I have worked with organizations similar to yours, I will be able to share my experience and knowledge from my previous jobs and will provide an unbiased and objective opinion on where processes and procedures can be modified and improved. I also bring with me a new network of industry connections that may be helpful in developing additional partnerships and recruiting new employees."
7.
Are you familiar with the concept of 'Unified Threat Management' and can you describe it?
This is another technical question which the interviewer is using to test your knowledge, discover more about your experience and determine if you make it a practice to keep up with trends in the network security space. You should be able to answer this, but if you can't simply explain that while this is something you are unfamiliar with, you are eager to learn and expand your expertise.

William's Answer #1
"Unified Threat Management, or UTM, is described as the 'next-generation firewall.' In addition to a firewall (Class 1-5,) it incorporates intrusion prevention, antivirus software, data loss prevention policies, and content filtering. Together, this solution provides the most secure network environment an organization can attain."
William's Answer #2
"While I have heard of the concept of Unified Threat Management (UTM) and read some information about it, I am not first-hand familiar with this approach to network security nor have I used it in my previous roles. However, I strive to stay abreast of developments in the network security field and find it easy to learn about new technologies and adopt proven solutions into my network security strategy. I'm confident I can become competent in UTM and implement it into your network."
8.
We recently had a situation occur where a security problem occurred on our network and the person who detected it wasn't directly responsible for resolving it, even though they had the skills to do so. How would you have handled this situation?
This type of question is known as a 'behavioral question'. It is meant to determine how you react to a common scenario and if your response is compatible with the company's policies. The best way to answer this type of question is to describe how you performed in a similar situation in your current or previous position. You can use the 'STAR' method to answer this - Situation, Tactic, Action, Result.

William's Answer #1
"I had to face a similar situation recently at my current job. I discovered a threat to one of our customer's network security, but it wasn't within the scope of my job to notify the network administrator since they worked on another team. I could have easily just asked one of our team members to log in and fix the problem, but this would have gone against our company's policy. Instead, I notified the manager of the other team, identified the issue and suggested a way to resolve it. The manager appreciated my help, and his team quickly fixed the problem. He even let my manager know how I had helped."
William's Answer #2
"When I encounter an issue outside my sphere of influence, I always follow company protocol. This is not always the quickest way to address the issue, but the final results usually justify the slight delay. I recently discovered a hole in our network security that could have easily been patched by one of our network administrators, but it was on a piece of equipment our team wasn't responsible for. Since there was no immediate threat, I notified the Sys Admin from another group who was responsible for the hardware of the issue. They immediately fixed the problem and thanked me for bringing it to their attention. "
9.
How do you determine if a Network Security project has been successful? How do you measure up to your own definition?
This is a two-part question that seeks to understand both your knowledge of Network Security and the standards you hold yourself to. The interviewer may also be attempting to see if you have direct experience in the areas they need help with. Answer this question directly by first define the metric you use to measure success in either a common criteria or one you know the company uses. You can then describe a situation in which you exceed this metric.

William's Answer #1
"When managing the security of a network infrastructure, I strive to attain zero successful intrusions despite a high number of attempts. In my previous position, I was successful in achieving this during my entire tenure with the company."
William's Answer #2
"I hold both myself and my team to very high standards, realizing that our efforts are the only thing standing between the company's safety and a hostile attack which would put the company's data and financial security at risk. During my career and despite a growing number of cybersecurity threats and bad actors, I have a record of zero successful intrusions into the networks my team and I have managed."
10.
Since you are interviewing for a position in which you will make recommendations to customers about protecting their company's network, I'm curious about what you do to protect your own network at home.
This is a 'trick' question which many applicants won't expect. You need to be prepared for this and should answer it honestly.

If you do not protect your own home as you would a client's network, then suggest to the interviewer the main reason being is that you don't work from home.

William's Answer #1
"That's a great question and one I've never been asked before. I take my family's security as serious as I do that of the companies I work with. My home network has all the same security measures I recommend to my customers at work. These include a strong firewall, user authentication, access control, and frequent audits. I also upgrade my network hardware, such as routers and NICs periodically as new security features are released."
William's Answer #2
"Funny you should say that. Many of the practices I recommend to secure a company's network I learned while setting up my personal network. These include using the latest versions of the network hardware and software with the most current virus protection, maintaining a strong firewall, and implementing strong user authentication, or passwords, which are updated frequently. I also monitor the network traffic on my home system to determine if any threats exist. To date, I have discovered many attacks on my system from sources around the world, but so far none of them have been successful at breaching my network."
11.
What's the most difficult part of being a Network Security Manager?
This question is meant to elicit comments about any hesitation you may have about the position. It provides you with an opportunity to redefine the term used by the interviewer and answer the question in a positive manner, such as using the word 'challenging' in place of difficult. State that a particular aspect of the job is challenging, but that you enjoy challenges and work extra hard to overcome them. Some of your greatest successes have come from challenges because they present opportunities for development and self-improvement.

William's Answer #1
"One of the most challenging aspects of my job is staffing. Network Security Engineers are in high demand. This has resulted in both a shortage of skilled people and the labor pool being populated with credentialed engineers whose training and skills don't match their credentials. I've overcome this by leveraging my network within the industry to identify viable candidates. I then put them through a rigorous interview process to verify their skills and experience. Finally, I've created a program within the organization which provides them with training opportunities and a path to promotions with more responsibility if they meet our strict performance metrics. This has resulted in us being able to both attract and retain the talent we need."
William's Answer #2
"As with any IT organization, one of my biggest challenges has been maintaining a secure network in the face of increasing threats and decreasing resources. We are constantly being asked to do more with less. My solution to this has been to develop strong relationships with our vendors and partners so that we get preferential treatment. Our group has been designated as a beta test site for many of the technology providers we work with. We get early access to some of the most recent technological developments. In return for our willingness to test the products in a production environment and provide feedback to the vendor, we are given free licenses and other benefits. This helps us to keep up with the evolving threat environment while staying within budget."
12.
What immediate changes would you make if you came on board?
This is a dangerous question. Many people will jump at the opportunity to suggest improvements, thinking that this will make them look smart and impress the interviewer. However, just the opposite is true. The interviewer is testing whether you will make decisions and recommendations based on insufficient information. Even if you have done a lot of research about the company, you are not in a position to make recommendations for changes.

William's Answer #1
"Since I really don't know all the details about your network operations, I'd prefer not to make any recommendations for changes at this time. However, once I am hired I will strive to learn as much about the company as quickly as I can and will be on the lookout for opportunities to improve the way things are done. Any recommendations I make will be based on a full understanding of the current situation and will include the costs and benefits of the changes I am suggesting."
William's Answer #2
"Although I've done a lot of research on your organization and am familiar with your network topology and the technology you employ, I don't have firsthand knowledge of your network operations, the threats you face, the IT department's operating strategy or the budget the network security team works with. Once on board, I will come up to speed quickly on each of these issues and can then begin to make recommendations to optimize the network security operations and address the issues the organization is dealing with."
13.
Describe a situation in which you embraced a new system, process, technology, or idea at work that was a major departure from the old way of doing things.
The purpose of this question is to find out how flexible and adaptable you are and if you are willing to learn and expand your knowledge. Provide the interviewer with a brief description of how you evaluate a new item in the process of doing your job and how you incorporate it into your portfolio of processes, procedures, and skills. State the benefits to the company because of the way you reacte to this situation.

William's Answer #1
"Technology evolves very quickly in the field of network security so one has to be open to considering new processes and systems as part of the job. I always approach new technology with an open mind, gathering as much information as I can in a reasonable amount of time. I then seek out the opinions of my team and other people within the organization whom I trust. Finally, I do a cost/benefit analysis to see what the impact on the organization may be. Once I've completed this process, I make a decision and commit myself to implement it."
William's Answer #2
"New systems, processes, and technologies that depart from the old way of doing things are the 'shiny baubles' of the network security industry. It is tempting to jump on these new developments and implement them immediately. However, I have seen organizations spend a lot of time and money on new technologies only to realize that they are ineffective or even dangerous. My approach is to keep an open mind about new developments in network security systems and processes but to perform due diligence to verify their claims. If I decide to move forward, I run a pilot of the new system to ensure it works before deploying it across the entire network infrastructure."
14.
Give me an example of your analytical skills and how you apply them in the field of network security.
This question is meant to address one of the key requirements for someone working in the field of network security. The ability to quickly analyze an issue, identify several alternative solutions for it and then select the course of action that will resolve the situation in a timely and effective manner is key. You should expect this question and prepare for it by having several examples of the process you use to analyze and fix network security problems.

William's Answer #1
"When managing the security of an organization's network, issues occur, the cause of which is sometimes difficult to identify. It often requires a systematic analysis of the problem, research of the probable solutions, then a determination of which fix is most likely to work. I do this in an orderly manner, employing the same process each time and documenting the results in the operations manual for future reference. This methodology helps the team to arrive at a solution in less time and prevents the need to repeat the process when the same or similar problems recur."
William's Answer #2
"Analyzing network security issues and developing solutions to problems quickly is a key skill for a Network Security Manager. I learned to do this both in my initial training and from on the job experience. I have developed a methodology that helps me solve the problem in less time, prevents me from considering ineffective solutions and ensures the issue is less likely to recur. The key to this is documenting all of the team's activity and processes in an operations manual which can then be referred to when issues crop up. The staff can then check the manual to see if the issue has been addressed before, and if not, use a methodical analytical process to search for the solution, which is then added to the operations guide after it has been confirmed that it works."
15.
The three key components of network security are securing the network infrastructure, user policies, and physical access. You've addressed how to secure the network infrastructure, so how do you address the other two challenges?
This question is two-fold; it is attempting to both discover your expertise in completely securing the network while also exploring your ability to collaborate with other organizations whose resources will be needed and over whom you have no direct control. Make sure your answer addresses both of these issues.

William's Answer #1
"You're correct, in order for the network to be secure, measures must be taken to prevent unauthorized access to the information from online, internal and physical threats. Online is actually the easiest to manage since it is addressable with a wide array of technical resources. Creating user policies such as authorizations, password policies and information sharing within the organization requires the cooperation of other departments within the company. The same is true when preventing unauthorized persons from physically accessing the network infrastructure. My approach to this is to develop strong relationships with all the stakeholders and create policies and procedures which enable them to accomplish their business objectives while still ensuring the security of the information the company depends on."
William's Answer #2
"I have found that protecting the network infrastructure from online intrusion is the easiest part of my job. This is because there are many tools and resources available to address this and the IT organization has complete control of this component of network security. Creating policies and procedures for the organization's other stakeholders and preventing unauthorized physical access to the network is more difficult. This is due to the need to work with a wide range of stakeholders and having to negotiate for their cooperation and the necessary resources. What has been effective for me is to provide the other decision-makers with compelling reasons to cooperate with our group, demonstrating the benefits to their departments and the consequences of not fully securing the organization's information assets."
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23 Network Security Interview Questions
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Interview Questions
  1. What do you see as the primary business objective of someone in this position?
  2. What would you do if a fellow manager on your own level wasn't pulling their weight and this was hurting your department?
  3. Can you discuss the key features of a Class 1 Firewall?
  4. What motivated you to enter the field of Network Security?
  5. Describe a situation in which you embraced a new system, process, technology, or idea at work that was a major departure from the old way of doing things.
  6. Why should I hire you from the outside when I could promote someone from within?
  7. Are you familiar with the concept of 'Unified Threat Management' and can you describe it?
  8. We recently had a situation occur where a security problem occurred on our network and the person who detected it wasn't directly responsible for resolving it, even though they had the skills to do so. How would you have handled this situation?
  9. How do you determine if a Network Security project has been successful? How do you measure up to your own definition?
  10. Since you are interviewing for a position in which you will make recommendations to customers about protecting their company's network, I'm curious about what you do to protect your own network at home.
  11. What's the most difficult part of being a Network Security Manager?
  12. What immediate changes would you make if you came on board?
  13. Describe a situation in which you embraced a new system, process, technology, or idea at work that was a major departure from the old way of doing things.
  14. Give me an example of your analytical skills and how you apply them in the field of network security.
  15. The three key components of network security are securing the network infrastructure, user policies, and physical access. You've addressed how to secure the network infrastructure, so how do you address the other two challenges?
  16. Tell me about a time when you had to juggle several projects at the same time. How did you organize your time? What was the result?
  17. Tell me about a project that you planned. How did you organize and schedule the tasks?
  18. What are the three things that are most important to you in a job?
  19. What do you consider the greatest obstacle you've had to overcome as a Network Security Professional thus far? What steps did you take to overcome it?
  20. Why are you looking to change jobs?
  21. Although you are not an experienced network administrator, you should be fluent in the terminology used in our industry. Can you explain to me the difference between symmetric and asymmetric encryption and the benefits of each one?
  22. Many of our clients have been subject to repeated attempts to access their network from unauthorized sources. One type of attack we often see is brute force logins. How do you recommend they defend against this type of attack?
  23. As I understand it, the network is the most vulnerable part of a company's IT infrastructure. What is your opinion of this and how would you define the threat and risk to a company in terms of network security?
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