Information Security Analyst Interview Questions
An information security analyst is responsible for contributing to a company’s cybersecurity efforts. They work to protect the company’s information technologies from cyberattacks and maintain security standards within the organization.
Information security analysts also take notes, educate other employees on security practices, and maintain a record of security incidents and breaches. They operate as functional members of a company’s cybersecurity team while also providing specialized knowledge to other key members of the company such as shareholders and management.
An information security analyst's responsibilities include:
- Maintaining set security standards and practices
- Monitoring all information systems for abnormalities and breaches
- Working with other security experts to test safeguards
- Keeping the security team up to date on current security methods and software
- Keeping records of all security breaches and the measures taken against them
Skills required to be an information security analyst include:
- Extensive knowledge of information technology and computer systems
- Current knowledge of security practices
- Networking and security fundamentals
- The ability to respond to incidents quickly as they arise
- The ability to record and document incidents
At a minimum, an information security analyst's position requires a bachelor's degree in computer science, software engineering, or another related field. A master's degree in information technology or business administration will be required for higher-level positions, particularly leadership roles in information security.
Salaries for information security analysts range between $80K and $117K with the median being $98K.
Factors impacting the salary you receive as an information security analyst include:
- Degrees (associate's, technical certificate, bachelor's, master's)
- Size and Type of the Organization
- Reporting Structure (seniority of the manager or supervisor you report to)
- Level of Performance - exceeding expectations, etc.
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Information Security Analyst Interview Questions
Question: What do you do to relax outside of work when you’re not focused on cybersecurity?
Explanation: This is a general question which the interviewer will ask early in the interview to begin the conversation, learn more about you, and collect information they can use throughout the interview. This provides you the opportunity to move the interview in a direction you are comfortable with and will be able to address.
Example: “I believe in a strong work-life balance. When I am not addressing cybersecurity issues, I pursue what I call ‘high-touch’ activities. These include golf, surfing, reading, and spending time with my friends and family. These activities refresh my batteries so that I am ready to tackle tough cybersecurity issues when I return to work.”
Question: What steps do you take to ensure a server is secure?
Explanation: This is an operational question which the interviewer will ask to better understand how you go about doing your job. Operational questions are best responded to briefly and directly with little embellishment. The interviewer will ask a follow-up question if they need additional information or want to explore the topic in more detail.
Example: “There are many ways you can secure a server. However, the three most critical steps are to first shut down access which involves closing the ports opened when installing software or patching the server. Another step is to patch the server so it has the latest release of the operating system, bios, and applications. The final critical step is to tightly control user access. I only allow users that need direct access to the server to logon to it.”
Question: Can you discuss the differences between encoding, encrypting, and hashing?
Explanation: This is an example of a technical question. Technical questions usually ask you to define a term and then explain how it is used in your profession. Like operational questions, technical questions should be answered directly and briefly. You should also anticipate follow-up questions.
Example: “Encoding data is the process of adding a sequence of characters in a specific format to make the transmission of data more efficient. Encrypting data is a form of encoding, but it adds an additional layer of security by requiring a decryption key at the other end of the transmission. Hashing, on the other hand, is an algorithm that takes arbitrary input and produces a fixed-length strength which is then transmitted. Each of these are methods to make data transmission more secure.”
Question: What would you do first when preparing to transmit data, compress it or encrypt it?
Explanation: This technical question is meant to test your knowledge of a specific process. As an information security analyst, you should be able to discuss a variety of different processes used to secure data. When answering this type of question, you should address the question and then give your rationale behind your answer.
Example: “When transmitting data, I would first compress it and then encrypt it. The reason I would do it in this order is that once I’ve encrypted the data, it would be difficult to determine if I compressed it properly.”
Question: Can you define a traceroute and discuss how it is used?
Explanation: This is another technical question. During an interview for an information security analyst role, you should anticipate that most of the questions will be technical in nature. Remember to continue to answer these questions directly and succinctly, anticipating that the interviewer will ask a follow-up question if they have a specific interest in the topic or want to explore it in more detail.
Example: “A traceroute is a process that will identify any gaps or breakdowns in communications and show you where they occur. It will map the route the data takes and identify the routers along the path. It will also show you where a broken connection may have occurred so you can remedy it.”
Question: What methods do you use to strengthen user authentication?
Explanation: This is yet another operational question. As mentioned earlier, most questions you will be asked during an interview will be either technical or operational. Keep in mind that any time you give an answer, the interviewer may ask follow-up questions. This is why you should keep your answers brief and to the point because it allows them to follow up.
Example: “User authentication is a key element of data security. Simple user authentication requires a user to provide a username and a password. I recommend going one step further and using a technique known as two-factor authentication. This requires the user to identify themselves, provided a password, and then respond to either a security question or provide a code that was sent to a known device in their possession.”
Question: How do you address cybersecurity differently depending on whether the IT resources are in the cloud or on the premises?
Explanation: In today’s IT environment, IT assets can reside in several different places. These include on the organization’s premises, hosted by a third party, or shared in a cloud environment. Each of these presents different security challenges and needs to be dealt with differently. As an IT security analyst, you should be able to discuss the differences in these environments, the challenges they present, and how you would address them.
Example: “IT security challenges differ depending on where the IT assets, applications, and data reside. The easiest of these to manage is on the premises where access to the assets is under the direct control of the organization. The main threats are from unauthorized users or internal hackers. When the IT assets are moved to a hosted environment or the cloud, control becomes more complex. Security measures must be more stringent and access to the data more limited. It also requires a trusting relationship between the organization and hosting or cloud provider.
Question: What is the difference between symmetric and asymmetric encryption?
Explanation: You probably already recognize this as a technical question. It is requesting you to discuss the difference between the two terms used in your profession. Defining the terms and then discussing how they are used is the best way to respond to this type of question.
Example: “The main difference between symmetric encryption and asymmetric encryption is how the keys are used. Symmetric encryption uses a single key to encrypt and decrypt the data. Asymmetric encryption uses different keys for each process. Typically, asymmetric encryption is used during the initial conversation, followed by symmetric encryption. This is because symmetric encryption is faster and doesn’t require setting up PKIs.”
Question: Please define UDP and TCP and discuss their differences.
Explanation: This is yet another technical question. When preparing for an interview as an information security analyst, you should review the terms, concepts, and processes used in this role and be familiar with their definitions and how they are used. You should also practice questions like these so you will recognize the type of question you are being asked and know exactly how to respond to it.
Example: "UDP and TCP are both protocols used to send information across the internet. UDP stands for user datagram protocol while TCP stands for transmission control protocol. TCP is the more commonly used protocol, and it numbers the packets to verify they have been received. UDP does not have these error-checking capabilities which makes it faster but less reliable.”
Question: Do you believe DNS monitoring is important, and if so, why?
Some argue that this is not necessary and that saying otherwise indicates that there are weaknesses in the domain name services. Others say DNS monitoring is prudent because DNS queries are a data-exfiltration vector from networks that allow any host to communicate to the Internet on Port 53.
Explanation: While this appears to be a technical question, it is actually asking your opinion of a technical issue. You should respond to this question using your knowledge and experience in this area. It would be best if you had also done some research before the interview which would indicate what the organization’s position is on this topic. This will allow you to align your answer to their standards and demonstrate your qualifications to work with them.
Example: “I do feel that DNS monitoring is important. I’ve heard the argument against monitoring because it suggests there are weaknesses in the domain naming services that should have been addressed already. However, I feel it is important to monitor DNS because these types of queries allow any host to communicate directly with the internet through port number 53. This creates a security vulnerability that if not immediately identified can allow unauthorized users into the organization’s network.”
Additional Information Security Analyst Interview Questions
What encryption methods do you find most effective for safeguarding data?
How would you define a threat as opposed to a vulnerability?
When examining a system, what signs do you look for to indicate compromise?
How do you keep up to date on the world of cybersecurity?
What programming languages are you familiar with?
How do you manage a team under stressful circumstances?
How does one go about setting up and maintaining firewalls?
What antivirus software do you favor?
How often should a security team perform penetration tests?
What are your greatest achievements to date?
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