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Prepare for your next cloud security manager interview

When interviewing for a cloud security manager position, candidates should be ready to talk about everything, from encryption technology to DevOps.

Security can be a major issue for cloud adopters. Both private and public clouds require a comprehensive security posture to ensure only authorized users can access cloud resources, that users adhere to company policy, and that cloud traffic and data remain safe.

A cloud security manager role offers exciting and rewarding opportunities for IT professionals, but it can also present a challenging job interview. If you're hoping to break into the cloud security field, or advance your existing cloud security career, prepare to address these cloud security interview questions.

What's your background in IT security?

A cloud security manager interview usually starts off with a review of your education and experience. When it comes to security -- and especially cloud security management -- it benefits IT pros to complete a formal training and have vendor-neutral certifications.

For example, cloud security manager candidates should typically hold a current Certified Information Systems Security Professional certification. The CISSP program covers a range of security-related issues, including risk management, security engineering, identity and access management, network security, assessment and testing, as well as security risks related to software development.

In addition, a candidate should demonstrate a keen understanding of IT governance and compliance issues, as well as standards such as Sarbanes-Oxley, or SOX, and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, or PCI DSS.

What do your current security responsibilities entail?

This is one of the most asked cloud security interview questions. The purpose is to see what you're doing now to gauge how well you might match the demands of the new role.

Any security administrator should know how to secure modern server, desktop and mobile operating systems. But cloud security management reaches throughout an organization. A cloud security manager must design, execute and maintain a strategy that secures all elements of the local and public cloud infrastructure. The scope of cloud security management is also extending into software development, which could involve DevOps and systems engineering teams.

In addition, a cloud security manager needs to prioritize and coordinate between different security technologies, and collaborate with other IT staff to deploy and maintain those technologies.

How should a cloud security strategy differ from an on-premises security strategy?

While there isn't a single, "right" way to respond to this, it's good to note that security in the public cloud involves compromise; organizations have less visibility and control over their infrastructure. The real difference when securing a cloud versus an on-premises environment is addressing this loss of visibility and control.

This raises the stakes for technologies such as encryption for data in-flight and at rest, and underscores the need for multifactor authentication, strong access controls, and tight user policies and processes. There are also new applications, such as those based on microservices, being developed specifically for cloud. This means a cloud security manager must reduce the attack surface for cloud applications and their components. For example, microservices typically communicate through APIs, so IT teams should encrypt API calls or data payloads.

How does software development effect cloud security?

A cloud security manager should understand modern software development approaches, including Agile, continuous integration and continuous delivery, and DevOps.

Cloud security managers are increasingly involved in software development, so familiarity with development paradigms can improve security during app development, testing and deployment.

A cloud security manager should understand modern software development approaches, including Agile, continuous integration and continuous delivery, and DevOps. While you don't need to be an expert coder, you should know how to guard software against cloud security threats and deploy app releases securely. For example, cloud security managers might suggest using encryption with APIs or integrating a cloud provider's identity and access management services with developers' APIs.

Cloud security managers should also be comfortable performing risk assessments with cloud-based enterprise applications, such as Google Drive, Dropbox, Workday and Slack, as well as finance systems, like PeopleSoft, and CRM tools, such as Salesforce.

What are your current management responsibilities?

A cloud security manager develops policies, standards and baselines to promote a consistent and secure IT infrastructure. In addition, they need to constantly monitor the changing threat landscape to identify and address new concerns.

Candidates must possess great oral and written communication skills, and be able to clearly communicate technical issues and risks to engineers, project managers, product teams and senior management. A cloud security manager must also be able to organize and motivate people across numerous skill sets. There is always a lot to learn in the security field, so show that you're an expert team builder who can enable the career development of your direct reports.

For example, talk about how you rallied a team to identify an emerging threat and design the appropriate defenses.

Where do you really add value to this role?

It is common for cloud security interview questions to try and see not only if you can do the job, but also what you bring to it. Show a prospective employer that you're a person worth having on staff.

Demonstrate value by discussing how you've adopted security standards or applied those standards to your current job in ways the prospective employer has not. For example, talk about your experience with security tools or frameworks the interviewer doesn't yet use. Also, discuss how your work has benefited a business, including an improved compliance posture, increased user safety and so on.

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