The Ultimate Guide to a Level 1 SOC Analyst Interview
Discover our expert tips and advice for preparing for a SOC Analyst interview!
Are you preparing for a SOC analyst interview? Congratulations! Interviews may seem daunting, but they don’t have to be. You stand a greater chance of securing a role if you have carried out the legwork to become a suitable candidate and prepared for your upcoming SOC interview!
We previously looked at how to become a Level 1 SOC Analyst. In this guide, we’re diving into our expert tips and answering those all-important security operations center analyst interview questions, most specifically, for a Level 1 SOC Analyst position.
Research the company
Pre-interview research is vital in preparing for any interview, helping you make a great first impression on prospective employers.
As part of your company research, you should look at the company website, find out what clients they work with, and read through a handful of their blog articles and guides. Find out if they have recently been in the news, won awards, or announced any significant company developments. Meanwhile, a great way to better understand the company is by checking out review websites, including TrustPilot, Feefo, and Reviews.io, as well as any of the company’s social media accounts.
LinkedIn can be a powerful tool for discovering those who work at the company, including the hiring manager interviewing you. You could even check out their areas of expertise to find familiar topics to discuss to build rapport.
With a section dedicated to reviewing interview processes, Glassdoor can be invaluable for understanding the types of SOC Analyst job interview questions asked and the experience other candidates have had.
Keep up with the industry
To keep up with the rapidly evolving industry and increasingly sophisticated attacks, you will most likely be asked how you tend to keep up with the latest threats and advances.
Our SOC Analyst learning path teaches you everything you need to know in the role, including monitoring and investigating alerts, configuring and managing security tools, developing and implementing IDS signatures, and escalating security incidents. The path is great for learning and initially getting to grips with incident response, gaining a recap and refreshing your memory before a SOC interview!
Our incident response training covers tools and real-life analysis scenarios needed to become a SOC Analyst, regularly updated to keep up with the latest threats.
We also recommend exploring upcoming Infosec Conferences, Security BSides and DEF CON conferences, podcasts, webinars, and industry events, which all contribute to keeping up-to-date with security operations! Other mediums include Security Week, The Hacker News, PenTest Magazine, and the TryHackMe blog.
Getting to know you
As some critical skills required of SOC Analysts are collaboration, skill, and the ability to work under pressure, the interviewer will want to get to know you better. Stay relaxed, be honest in your answers, and most importantly, be yourself!
They will want to know why you want to become a SOC Analyst and understand your work ethic, strengths and weaknesses, goals and aspirations, and whether you’ll be a great cultural fit for the SOC team. While you must be the right person for the role, it is equally important for the company to be the right fit for you.
Examples of Security Operations Centre Analyst interview questions you may be asked include:
- How would your coworkers or your supervisor describe your work ethic?
- What is your greatest strength and weakness?
- Why do you want to work for us?
- Where do you see yourself in five or ten years?
- What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?
- Why should we hire you?
- What do you know about the job?
- Why do you want to be a SOC Analyst?
- Do you know any programming or scripting languages?
Preparing for technical questions
The interviewer will want to ensure you’re up to speed with the technical aspect of the SOC Analyst role and will therefore ask you technical SOC Analyst interview questions. You can expect to be asked in-depth technical questions, so make sure you brush up on your core technical skills with Network Fundamentals, Windows Fundamentals, Linux Fundamentals, and our How the Web Works modules.
Frequently asked Tier 1 SOC Analyst interview questions include:
How would you explain risk, vulnerability and threat?
- Risk refers to the level of impact on agency operations and the likelihood of that threat occurring
- Vulnerability looks at weaknesses in an information system, system security procedures, internal controls, or implementation that could be exploited or triggered by a threat source
- Threats have the potential to adversely impact operations, assets, individuals, or other organisations via unauthorised access, destruction, disclosure, modification of information, and/or denial of service
What is the difference between asymmetric and symmetric encryption?
Symmetric encryption uses the same key to encrypt and decrypt, while asymmetric encryption requires a pair of keys using a public key to encrypt and a private key to decrypt the data.
What is the difference between UDP and TCP?
It’s great if you can describe both and the advantages and disadvantages of the two! For example, UDP is a connectionless protocol, which functions in a way that the sender distributes the data without checking if the intended recipient receives them. TCP, on the other hand, is connection-oriented, best described as requiring a three-way handshake to be established before any actual data is transmitted, with the sender making sure each piece of information is received properly.
What port number does ping use?
Ping uses ICMP so it doesn’t use any port - some cheeky interviewers really ask this!
What is an IPS, and how does it differ from IDS?
IPS (Intrusion Prevention System) can prevent traffic, while IDS (Intrusion Detection System) can only detect traffic.
What is the difference between encoding, encryption and hashing?
Encoding ensures that different systems or programs can correctly interpret data in its proper format, but it does not provide any security or protection for the data. Encryption ensures the data is secure and that only those with an encryption key have access to the data, while hashing maintains the integrity of the data.
In summary, encoding is a reversible process that ensures data is correctly interpreted but does not provide any security, encryption is a reversible process that provides confidentiality and integrity protection, and hashing is a one-way process that ensures data integrity and authentication.
Give examples of algorithms or techniques used for encoding, encryption, and hashing.
- Examples of Encoding: ASCII, Unicode, UTF-8, Base64, etc.
- Examples of Encryption: AES, DES, RSA, Blowfish, etc.
- Examples of Hashing: bcrypt, MD5, SHA-1, SHA-256, etc.
When is "Base64" used in the context of encryption?
When the key supplied for encryption is binary data. As Base64 is a binary-to-text encoding scheme, it can be used to allow binary data to be supplied as the encryption key. An example of this can be seen when AES is used to encrypt an entire archive and the supplied key is the Base64 string generated from an entire document file.
What is the difference between VA and PT?
A Vulnerability Assessment (VA) identifies the security status of an infrastructure, while a Penetration Test (PT) is a simulated cyber attack to assess the implemented security measures.
What is the CIA triad?
The CIA triad model forms the basis of security operations, with three core principles - confidentiality, integrity, and availability.
- Confidentiality highlights the importance of ensuring data remains private and only accessible to those with appropriate authorisation.
- Integrity consists of making sure data remains accurate, reliable, and free from tampering
- Availability means that systems, networks and applications must be functioning and fully available when needed (this also refers to individuals having access when they need to)
How do you keep updated with information security news?
Ongoing training is a fantastic way to keep updated with the latest in the industry while attending conferences, podcasts, webinars, and industry events is also awesome! As mentioned (above) in the ‘keep up with the industry’ section, reading news articles and following relevant professionals on social media is highly recommended.
Some relevant influencers and content creators to follow include Katie Paxton-Fear, Nicole Enesse, Simply Cyber, Florian Roth, Chris Greer, Alyssa Miller, Tracy Z. Maleef, Lesley Carhart, and Marcus J. Carey.
Preparing for scenarios
At the end of an interview, the interviewer will typically give you a SOC analyst interview challenge. In most cases, this will likely be an in-depth scenario-based question to understand better how you might react during certain work-related scenarios.
Ultimately, the interviewer wants to understand how you would respond to threats and why you would take your chosen approach, so learning through real-world scenarios can be highly beneficial!
For example, you may be asked:
How would you test malicious software and what would your next action plan be?
Malicious software must be handled with care, therefore it should only be analysed in an isolated virtual machine, kept in a password-protected zip folder, and only extracted when in analysis.
(Hint: TryHackMe’s Intro to Malware Analysis room details the steps to take if you run into a suspected malware!)
How would you go about investigating an alert from start to finish?
This kind of question gauges the mindset of a candidate. The weight of the question depends on how specialized the position is as higher level members of the team require deeper levels of insight in terms of how they understand the process, and the decision making involved within that process.
Generally, you would want to check the alert itself - what triggered this finding? Is the analytic working properly or is it one of those alerts that need tuning as its more noisy than actionable? What kind of analytic triggered - is it a direct analytic that immediately shows suspicious behavior or is it one of those analytics that trigger just to inform you about a watchlist / correlation induced?
After that, you would want to check the actual finding. What exactly happened here and what kind of investigation do I need to do to further filter it out? What data sources do I need to check to correlate with the alert findings? Which people do I need to contact to confirm whether the specific behavior is expected in the business perspective?
After that, do the actual investigation which will hopefully give an outright conclusion and it depends here whether you will escalate it to trigger an incident response, escalate it for further investigation that needs more specialized skills like endpoint and memory forensics, or tune it down so it doesn’t alert under the same circumstances as you’ve already ruled it out before and most probably is a recurring behavior in the environment.
What steps would you take after identifying a ransomware attack?
After identifying a ransomware attack, you would first explore the nature of the attack and locate compromised accounts, affected devices, and affected applications. You should then contain the ransomware to protect malware from inflicting more damage, investigate to determine the extent of the issue, recover with the support of an action plan, and restore corrupted/damaged/deleted files from backups.
The world has recently been hit by an attack/virus. What would you do to protect your organisation as a SOC Analyst?
Discuss the steps you would take to handle the incident, including you would do at the physical layer and the network layer. Your answer should include monitoring and investigating the threat, and the ways in which you would mitigate risk for your organisation. For serious threats, you would likely escalate the threat to a Level 2 SOC Analyst. Try to think back to a recent news story and how you can implement this into your answer.
The following modules can provide you with an in-depth understanding of how to tackle scenario-based interview questions:
- Phishing Investigation - Learn how to analyse and defend against phishing emails, and investigate real-world phishing attempts using a variety of techniques
- Malware Analysis - Analyse malicious files to prevent malicious actions and identify attacks
- Endpoint Security Monitoring - Monitoring activity on workstations is essential, as that’s where adversaries spend the most time trying to achieve their objectives
- Network Security - Learn the basics of passive and active network reconnaissance, and understand how common protocols work and their attack vectors
- Cyber Threat Intelligence - Learn about identifying and using available security knowledge to mitigate and manage potential adversary actions
We hope our top tips help you feel more confident and prepared for your SOC Analyst interview. Follow the advice our SOC experts have mentioned above, and you’ll have a greater chance of securing the role!
Don’t forget to brush up on your skills before attending the interview. Our SOC Level 1 training path covers a wide array of tools and real-life analysis scenarios relevant to a SOC Analyst position.
We love to hear all about TryHackMe users’ journeys to achieving careers, so feel free to reach out on our Discord server if you’ve secured an interview or have recently been offered a SOC Analyst position. Check out Hayden’s Success Story to find out how Hayden, a dedicated TryHackMe user, secured a SOC Analyst role with the help of our SOC Analyst training!
Be prepared, enthusiastic, confident, and most importantly, good luck!