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Network Security Interview

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.
Question 1 of 23
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.
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How to Answer
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.
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Top 20 Network Security Interview Questions with Full Content
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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?
Multitasking is a critical skill in many roles, but especially in a dynamic environment like Network Security. Being able to describe your ability in this area is important.

William's Answer #1
"My job has always involved managing multiple projects and tasks concurrently. I have found that the key to this is determining the relative importance of each task and weighing this against how critical it is. I then allot enough time for each task to ensure it is completed accurately and on time. This system also helps me identify which tasks can either be eliminated or delegated."
William's Answer #2
"During my career, I have developed the ability to effectively multitask. I was recently required to complete several network security tests, application upgrades and staff evaluations in a relatively short period of time. I created a plan which enabled me to allot the appropriate amount of time to each project daily. I was able to easily accommodate the changing priorities and urgencies of the projects by remaining flexible to changing my schedule when it was necessary. I also looked for ways to combine tasks, such as assigning a software upgrade to one of the staff as part of their evaluation. The result was that each project was completed successfully and effectively."
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