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Interview Guide: Cyber Security Engineer

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By: Tatianna

July 13, 2018

Locking Down the Job: Your Cyber Security Engineer Interview GuideCompanies are looking for skilled cyber security professionals. The challenge? These experts are getting harder and harder to find. As noted by data from NC Tech, there are now more than 740,000 open IT jobs across the United States and CSO Online reports that the cyber security skills gap is getting worse: This year, 51 percent of companies surveyed said their organization “had a problematic shortage of cybersecurity skills.”The result? Businesses are willing to pay for the right candidates; cyber security engineers can expect a median salary of more than $94,000 with the potential to earn over $130,000. But it’s one thing to want a job in cyber security and another to ace the interview and lock down the position. Here’s your guide to pre-interview prep and common interview questions.Getting ReadyThe first step in landing that cyber security engineer position? Make sure you know what you’re applying for. While this job is like others in the field — such as cyber security analyst or network engineer — there are critical differences. Unlike their network counterparts, security engineers focus on creating IT security environments which help protect network assets. And unlike their analyst brethren whose job it is to find weak points in security frameworks, cyber security engineers focus on repairing these weak points and reinforcing overall defense.Learn how to become a cyber security engineer >>Worth noting? Given the shortage of talent, many companies are adopting new recruitment policies which put real-world experience and personal skills above typical degrees and certifications. But here’s the caveat: If you’re interested in cyber security, chances are you’re already interested in problem-solving, thinking outside the box and have taken the time to find practical experience. By gaining popular certifications such as CASE, CISSP, Security+ and CEH you can boost the impact of your soft skills with recognized, accredited training. The result? You stand out from the crowd.Owning the InterviewCyber security is a broad topic that’s constantly evolving — so what kind of questions should you expect when you sit down for the interview?
  • Talk about your home network
Seems like a strange place to start but for interviewers, it’s about establishing an overall understanding of how you view and implement security. The question is also designed to force you a bit off-script — since you were prepared for more technical questions — which makes it ideal.You’re looking to touch briefly on encryption and even virtual private networks along with restricted access; cyber security pros typically have higher standards for their home networks than average users. If not, interviewers may wonder about your overall approach to security.
  • Define threat, vulnerability, and risk
They’re similar but different and relevant for any cyber security engineer. Vulnerabilities are weaknesses in your system that could be exploited by attackers. Risks are vulnerabilities that have been assessed to determine their impact if exploited. Threats are vulnerabilities exploited by attackers to compromise systems or steal data.
  • Have you handled a breach?
Sort of a trick question — since no system is foolproof breaches (or at the very least breach attempts) are commonplace. If you’ve dealt with a breach describe the incident, how long it took to identify, what steps were taken to fix the immediate problem and how you helped guard against future attacks.If you don’t have this experience, still make sure you’ve got an answer prepared. Talk about the need for early warning signs — these might come from automated tools or end-user monitoring (EUM) solutions — to help quickly identify potential breaches. Also highlight the need for a detailed response plan: Who gets contacted first? What are they responsible for? What are your recovery time objectives (RTOs) and how long can services reasonably be taken offline?
  • Tell me about social engineering — form and impact
Chances are you’ll get questions about social engineering since it remains a top-performing attack for cybercriminals. Key concepts here include phishing emails designed to look like they’re from corporate accounts and compel immediate action from users. Impacts range from advanced persistent threats (APTs) that hide in plain sight to more obvious ransomware infections. This is an ideal time to talk about the principle of least privilege; ensuring users only have access to the data and services they need to perform their jobs.
  • Describe some basic tests for injection and querying attacks on an SQL server
Query and injection attacks remain popular because they work; SQL databases with PHP controllers are often subject to both code injections and query requests. As a result, cyber security engineers need to test these databases — something as simple as /index.php?arg=1;system(‘id’) can determine if hosts return unintended information or error data which could be analyzed by attackers.
  • You need more funding. The C-suite is resistant. How do you convince them?
One evolving aspect of cyber security engineer positions is the ability to articulate complex infosec needs in layman’s terms, especially for the C-suite. While some security pros get frustrated by these roadblocks, interviewers want to hire candidates who can describe infosec requirements through a line-of-business lens: What could piecemeal security cost the company over time? How can reduced phishing impacts save money? What are the end-user benefits of secure SQL servers?Claim Your Cyber Security SpotIf you’re interested in a cyber security career, there’s room. The difference between claiming a mid-level salary and owning top spot? Laying the groundwork with a cyber security engineer career guide and being prepared for any question the interviewers toss your way.Learn more about cyber security jobs >>
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