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DevSecOps Engineer Interview Questions That Matter

Updated: Aug 2, 2023


DevSecOps Engineer Interview Questions and Answers 2023

10 Important DevSecOps Engineer interview questions and answers

Explain how you would perform threat modeling in a DevSecOps pipeline and which tools you would use.

Why is this question asked?

Your interviewer is trying to test your understanding of threat modeling, a proactive measure crucial in a DevSecOps pipeline.


Your answer should showcase your ability to anticipate, assess, and address security threats by mapping potential attack vectors and building suitable defensive strategies, further improving the resilience of your applications.


Example answer:

It all begins with understanding the system’s architecture, I think. I’d identify all the assets, the data flow between these assets, entry and exit points, and the trust boundaries.

So, one of the first tools that I often use is Microsoft's Threat Modeling Tool, which is a core part of the STRIDE (Spoofing, Tampering, Repudiation, Information Disclosure, Denial of Service, and Elevation of Privilege) methodology.


STRIDE provides a framework to identify potential threats and analyze them based on their nature. Another tool that has proven to be valuable is OWASP's Threat Dragon, which offers both a web application for online modeling and a desktop application for offline tasks.


Once the system or application map is created, I identify threats using STRIDE or a similar methodology.


I systematically work through the model, questioning each asset, each interaction, each trust boundary to uncover potential vulnerabilities.


The idea is to think like an attacker, to anticipate what they could exploit.


Post threat identification, the next step is threat prioritization.


Here, I’d apply a model like DREAD (Damage, Reproducibility, Exploitability, Affected Users, and Discoverability) or CVSS (Common Vulnerability Scoring System) to rank the threats based on factors like potential damage, exploitability, and impact.


The final part of my threat modeling process is the mitigation strategy. For each identified and prioritized threat, I define countermeasures, which might involve code changes, changes to infrastructure, or even changes in processes or staff training.


Why is this answer good?

  • Demonstrates comprehensive understanding: The answer clearly shows that the candidate understands threat modeling and its crucial role in DevSecOps.

  • Showcases practical knowledge: The answer not only discusses the theoretical aspects but also provides practical examples of tools (Microsoft Threat Modeling Tool and OWASP Threat Dragon) and methodologies (STRIDE, DREAD, CVSS) that are used in real-world scenarios.

  • Indicates proactive approach: The detailed process and prioritization method indicate a proactive approach to security, which is a key attribute for a successful DevSecOps engineer.

  • Highlights system thinking: The candidate understands that mitigation may involve a broad spectrum of changes, not only in code or infrastructure but also processes and training, showing an awareness of systems thinking.


Describe how you would incorporate automated security testing into a DevOps pipeline.

Why is this question asked?

This question is particularly important because it tests your ability to integrate security checks into the continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipeline, thereby reinforcing the principle of "Shifting Security Left".


Successful incorporation of automated security testing can vastly improve software quality and security posture.


Example answer:

To incorporate automated security testing into a DevOps pipeline, I’d start by integrating security testing tools that can be automated right into the source code repositories.


These tools, known as SAST (Static Application Security Testing) tools, can analyze the source code for potential vulnerabilities and can be integrated into IDEs (Integrated Development Environments), thus providing developers with immediate feedback.


Next, I would utilize DAST (Dynamic Application Security Testing) tools as part of the CI/CD pipeline.


DAST tools interact with the running application, identifying vulnerabilities that might not be visible in the static code.


These tools can be used after the deployment of the application to a testing environment, allowing us to identify vulnerabilities before the application is pushed to production.


In addition, I would use IAST (Interactive Application Security Testing) and RASP (Runtime Application Self-Protection) tools. These tools operate from within the application, providing real-time vulnerability detection and protection while the application is running.


I would also incorporate automated security checks in the form of automated code review, dependency checks, and configuration checks.


Tools like SonarQube can be very useful in automated code reviews, providing immediate feedback on code quality, while tools like OWASP Dependency-Check can identify publicly disclosed vulnerabilities in application dependencies.


Also, automated penetration testing can be incorporated into the pipeline. Essentially, this allows us to simulate an attack on the system to identify potential security issues.


Finally, the output of these tools needs to be aggregated and analyzed. This is typically done using a security incident event management (SIEM) tool, which can compile and visualize the data, providing us with actionable insights.


Why is this answer good?

  • Comprehensive approach: The answer discusses a multi-pronged approach, utilizing different types of testing tools at different stages of the DevOps pipeline.

  • Recognition of continuous improvement: The candidate understands that security is an ongoing process, and the testing strategies must evolve to meet new challenges.

  • Prioritizes early feedback: By suggesting the use of SAST and automated code reviews, the candidate indicates an understanding of the importance of early feedback to developers.

  • Highlights importance of actionable insights: The candidate realizes the need for SIEM tools to compile, visualize, and analyze data for insights, demonstrating their strategic approach to security testing.


What strategies would you employ to securely manage secrets (such as API keys, passwords, and certificates) in a DevSecOps pipeline?

Why is this question asked?

The goal here is to understand your approach to secret management in a DevSecOps pipeline.


Secure handling of sensitive information like API keys, passwords, and certificates is critical to maintaining a strong security posture and preventing potential data breaches.


Example answer:

The first strategy I would employ is to centralize secret management using a dedicated secret management service.


Tools like HashiCorp's Vault, AWS Secrets Manager, or Azure Key Vault provide robust solutions for secret storage, access, and rotation. They encrypt secrets at rest and in transit, providing an additional layer of security.


The second strategy is the principle of least privilege. This means that any process or person should only have access to the resources they need and nothing more. By tightly controlling access to secrets, we reduce the risk of them falling into the wrong hands.


Another strategy I would employ is secret rotation. Regularly changing the secrets reduces the window of opportunity for an attacker who has obtained a secret to use it. This can be automated using secret management services.


For more granular control, I would also look into implementing just-in-time access. This is where secrets are generated dynamically and provided to processes only when they are required and for the minimum amount of time necessary.


Another thing — it’s also important to avoid hardcoding secrets in application code or configuration files. Not only does this present a security risk, but it also leads to challenges when secrets need to be rotated or when code needs to be shared or made public.


Instead, secrets should be injected into the application at runtime. This can be done using environment variables or better yet, by fetching them from a secure secret management service.


Lastly, I would set up alerts and monitoring for the secret management service. This allows us to detect any abnormal access patterns or other potential security concerns in real time.


Why is this answer good?

  • Utilization of dedicated tools: The candidate emphasizes the use of dedicated secret management services, indicating a strong understanding of industry-standard practices.

  • Emphasizes least privilege: The candidate suggests the principle of least privilege as a key strategy, demonstrating an understanding of essential security principles.

  • Highlighting importance of rotation: By mentioning secret rotation, the candidate shows awareness of methods to limit the window of opportunity for potential attackers.

  • Understanding of runtime secret injection: The candidate is aware of the dangers of hardcoding secrets and suggests runtime secret injection, further strengthening the answer's quality.


Discuss how you would approach container security in a Kubernetes environment.

Why is this question asked?

The idea here is to simply assess your knowledge of container security (Kubernetes, in this case). The security of the container’s environment is crucial to prevent potential breaches, safeguard sensitive data, and essentially, ensure the overall integrity of the applications.


Example answer:

I’ve found myself using multiple strategies for this, simply because of the scale of these things.


The first thing I would do is to ensure that the containers themselves are secure.


This includes using trusted base images and regularly scanning these images for vulnerabilities using tools like Clair or Anchore. I'd also minimize the use of third-party software in containers and include only the necessary dependencies.


For Kubernetes, I would enforce 'Role-Based Access Control' (RBAC), allowing me to specify exactly what actions a user, application, or other Kubernetes entity can perform. This ties in with the principle of least privilege – providing only the access necessary to perform a task.


Network policies are another critical aspect of Kubernetes security. These rules determine which pods can communicate with each other.


By default, all pods can communicate freely in Kubernetes, which isn't ideal from a security perspective. So, I would design and implement strict network policies to restrict this communication.


I would also use namespaces to isolate resources within the same cluster, preventing one compromised pod from affecting others. Each application can be given its namespace, creating a boundary for accessing objects.


The Kubernetes Secrets object is designed to store and manage sensitive information. But, by default, the secrets are stored as base64 encoded, not encrypted. So, I would ensure secrets are encrypted using tools like HashiCorp Vault for an added layer of protection.


Pod Security Policies (PSP) are another critical security measure. PSPs govern the permissions for pod creation and updates and can prevent the creation of pods that don't meet the defined security standards.


Finally, I’d ensure proper logging and monitoring of the Kubernetes environment.


Tools like Prometheus for monitoring and Fluentd or Logstash for log aggregation can provide valuable insights into the state of the Kubernetes environment and can help detect any anomalies or potential security threats.


Why is this answer good?

  • Depth of knowledge: The answer demonstrates an in-depth understanding of Kubernetes and its security aspects.

  • Range of strategies: The candidate suggests various strategies to handle different aspects of security, including container, network, and secrets management.

  • Emphasizes least privilege: The candidate once again emphasizes the principle of least privilege, a cornerstone of security.

  • Importance of logging and monitoring: By mentioning the tools for logging and monitoring, the candidate indicates an understanding of their role in maintaining a secure environment.


How would you secure an application that is entirely cloud-based, using multiple cloud providers and platforms?

Why is this question asked?

With the increasing adoption of cloud services, the need for effective multi-cloud security practices has grown, emphasizing the importance of cloud security skills.


This question tests your knowledge and strategies for securing a complex, multi-cloud environment.


Example answer:

Firstly, I would ensure data encryption both at rest and in transit across all platforms. Each cloud provider offers their own services for encryption, like AWS KMS, Azure Key Vault, and Google Cloud KMS. This helps protect sensitive data from unauthorized access.


To handle authentication and access control across the various platforms, I would use a centralized identity management solution supporting federated identity and single sign-on.


Solutions like Okta or even cloud provider services like AWS Cognito or Azure Active Directory provide robust IAM (Identity and Access Management) capabilities.


In a multi-cloud environment, consistency is key. This involves ensuring that security policies and controls are consistently applied across all platforms.


I would leverage cloud security posture management (CSPM) tools to maintain visibility and control over the security configuration across the different platforms.


I would also focus on network security. This includes segmentation of the network, securing the connections between the different providers with VPNs or dedicated connections, and applying appropriate firewall rules.


Another crucial aspect is ensuring secure interactions between the application and the cloud services. This involves securing the APIs used for these interactions, utilizing mechanisms like API keys, tokens, or mutual TLS.


Also, it is essential to have a robust incident response plan in place.


This includes monitoring and logging activities across all platforms, which can be achieved using cloud-native tools provided by the cloud services, or using third-party solutions like Splunk or Datadog.


Finally, compliance is a critical aspect when dealing with multiple cloud providers. It is important to ensure that all platforms comply with necessary regulatory standards. Tools like Dome9 or CloudGuard can help manage and verify compliance across different platforms.


Why is this answer good?

  • Demonstrates understanding of multi-cloud complexities: The candidate shows awareness of the unique challenges posed by multi-cloud environments and suggests strategies to tackle them.

  • Advocates for consistency: The answer emphasizes the importance of maintaining consistent security policies and controls across all platforms.

  • Stresses on compliance: The candidate underlines the necessity of ensuring that all platforms comply with regulatory standards, displaying a comprehensive approach to cloud security.

  • Emphasizes on a robust incident response plan: The mention of monitoring, logging, and incident response reflects the candidate's proactive approach to security.


Detail your approach to log management, monitoring, and anomaly detection in a DevSecOps context.

Why is this question asked?

Effective log management and anomaly detection are crucial for identifying security incidents, analyzing their impact, and making informed decisions to improve security measures.


This question gauges your understanding of monitoring and anomaly detection in a DevSecOps context.


Example answer:

My approach to log management begins with centralizing all logs.


Tools like Fluentd or Logstash can aggregate logs from various sources into a central location, such as Elasticsearch or a cloud-based service like AWS CloudWatch. This enables unified and efficient access to all log data for further analysis.


Once logs are centralized, the next step is to structure the log data. Unstructured logs are difficult to query and analyze. Structuring the data using common fields and standards can make searching and analysis more effective.


For monitoring, I'd employ a robust solution that provides real-time insights into the system.


Tools like Prometheus, Grafana, or cloud-native solutions like AWS CloudWatch or Google's Stackdriver provide in-depth metrics and can be used to create dashboards for at-a-glance understanding of system health and performance.


With a good monitoring setup in place, the next step is anomaly detection. Anomalies are deviations from the norm, which could be indicative of a security breach or a system failure.


For this, I'd use machine learning-based tools like Elastic's Machine Learning features or AWS GuardDuty that can learn the normal behavior of the system and alert on deviations from this behavior.


Anomaly detection should be followed by prompt and appropriate incident response. This requires well-defined procedures and automated responses where possible, such as automated rollbacks, or triggering additional security measures.


Also, I think it’s crucial to continuously review and update the log management and monitoring setup. As the system evolves, so should the logging and monitoring strategy to ensure it remains effective.


Why is this answer good?

  • Advocates for centralization: The candidate emphasizes the importance of centralizing logs, an essential practice for efficient log management.

  • Discusses monitoring: By discussing specific monitoring tools, the candidate demonstrates familiarity with industry-standard practices and tools.

  • Highlights anomaly detection: The candidate acknowledges the importance of anomaly detection and offers practical strategies to achieve it.

  • Emphasizes continuous review: The candidate's mention of continuous review reflects an understanding of the evolving nature of DevSecOps environments.


Describe how you would handle the process of vulnerability management, patch management, and change management within a DevSecOps framework.

Why is this question asked?

This question tests your understanding of crucial elements of the DevSecOps workflow: vulnerability, patch, and change management.


Handling these elements effectively is key to maintaining system security and ensuring the smooth functioning of the development and operations pipeline.


Example answer:

The process of vulnerability, patch, and change management is a continuous cycle in a DevSecOps framework.


Vulnerability management starts with vulnerability scanning and assessments using automated tools like Nessus, OpenVAS, or Qualys.


These tools scan your systems for known vulnerabilities and provide reports detailing the identified vulnerabilities and their severity. Beyond just identifying vulnerabilities, it's crucial to prioritize them based on their severity and the value of the assets they might affect.


Once vulnerabilities are identified and prioritized, we need to patch them. This is where patch management comes in.


The goal is to ensure patches are applied in a timely manner and without disrupting the system's normal operations. I'd use automated patch management tools, such as AWS Systems Manager Patch Manager, Puppet, or Chef, to apply patches at scale and track the patching process.


However, patch management should be performed carefully. A sudden change can potentially disrupt the system's stability or performance.


So, the patches should first be tested in a non-production environment. It's also important to have a rollback plan in case the patch leads to unexpected issues.


Change management is the final piece of the puzzle. It ensures that any changes, including patches, are reviewed and approved before they are implemented, minimizing the risk of disruptions.


In the DevSecOps context, it's crucial to automate as much of this process as possible. Tools like Jenkins or AWS CodePipeline can be used to create automated pipelines that include approval stages before changes are deployed.


This process also involves proper documentation of the changes, monitoring the impact of changes, and performing regular audits to ensure compliance with the established change management processes.


Why is this answer good?

  • Detailed process: The candidate clearly defines and describes each process, indicating a solid understanding of vulnerability, patch, and change management.

  • Emphasizes automation: By advocating for automation, the candidate demonstrates an understanding of the DevSecOps philosophy and the practicalities of managing complex systems.

  • Prioritization and testing: The candidate's focus on prioritizing vulnerabilities and testing patches shows a nuanced approach to security and stability.

  • Importance of compliance: The mention of regular audits signals an awareness of the need for compliance with established processes and standards.


Explain the approach you would take to ensure the security of a large-scale distributed system.

Why is this question asked?

In today's IT landscape, large-scale distributed systems are common. This question tests your understanding of the unique security challenges such systems present and your ability to implement strategies to protect them.


Example answer:

To begin with, I'd start with a strong authentication and authorization strategy. Centralized identity management systems, such as OAuth or OpenID Connect, can ensure that only authorized individuals have access to the system.


Additionally, Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) can limit user privileges, further minimizing the risk of unauthorized actions.


For network security, I would implement segmentation and isolation techniques to separate different components of the system. This can help prevent an attacker from easily moving laterally through the system if they manage to gain access.


In terms of data security, it's important to encrypt sensitive data at rest and in transit. Tools like AWS KMS, Azure Key Vault, or Google Cloud KMS can be used for managing encryption keys.


In a distributed system, the communication between system components should be secure. I would use mutual TLS for service-to-service communications, where both the client and server verify each other's identity.


Next, I would focus on continuous monitoring and anomaly detection.


Given the large scale of the system, it's important to have a monitoring solution that can handle the volume of data and provide actionable insights.


Solutions like Elastic Stack or cloud-native monitoring tools like AWS CloudWatch or Google's Stackdriver can be used. Machine learning-based anomaly detection can identify unusual patterns that might indicate a security incident.


Finally, it's crucial to have a robust incident response plan in place. This includes automated responses to certain types of incidents, as well as well-defined procedures for handling incidents that require manual intervention.


Why is this answer good?

  • Comprehensive approach: The candidate outlines a complete strategy covering all major aspects of security - authentication, network, data, communication, monitoring, and incident response.

  • Emphasizes on continuous process: The candidate acknowledges that maintaining security is a continuous process, emphasizing the need for regular audits and reviews.

  • Suggests appropriate tools: By suggesting specific tools for different tasks, the candidate demonstrates a practical understanding of how to implement their strategy.

  • Prioritizes both proactive and reactive measures: The candidate not only discusses proactive measures (like strong authentication and data encryption) but also reactive measures (such as incident response), indicating a balanced approach to security.


Discuss a time when your understanding of security standards and regulations significantly affected a project's outcome. What were the challenges, and how did you overcome them?

Why is this question asked?

This is an open invitation for you to brag and show off. Compliance is a huge part of the DevSecOps role and the idea here is to understand how you implement changes to achieve compliance.


Example answer:

One instance where my understanding of security standards and regulations had a significant impact was during a project that involved the development of a healthcare application, where we needed to adhere to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations.


One challenge was storing and transmitting Protected Health Information (PHI). HIPAA mandates that PHI must be encrypted at rest and in transit. Initially, the project didn't have the necessary measures in place.


We had to incorporate data encryption solutions, but this proved challenging due to the scale of the data we were dealing with.


Another challenge was ensuring that only authorized personnel had access to PHI. This required us to redefine user roles and privileges within the system, which was initially a broad set of access privileges.


To overcome these challenges, we first conducted a thorough review of the existing system and identified areas that weren't HIPAA compliant. We then drafted a detailed plan outlining the changes needed and set about implementing these changes.


For the data encryption issue, we implemented an end-to-end encryption strategy using AWS KMS for managing encryption keys. We also used AWS's built-in features to encrypt data stored in S3 buckets and RDS databases.


To tackle the access issue, we used AWS IAM's Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) to limit access based on user roles. We defined granular roles and associated privileges, ensuring only necessary access was granted.


Finally, we conducted regular audits and used AWS Config for continuous monitoring of our resources to ensure they remained compliant with HIPAA regulations.


It was a challenging process, but ultimately, we successfully built a HIPAA-compliant application without sacrificing functionality or performance.


Why is this answer good?

  • Recognizes the importance of regulations: The candidate understands the significance of adhering to security standards and regulations and demonstrates this through the example.

  • Proactive problem-solving: The candidate takes a proactive approach, identifying non-compliance areas and developing a plan to address them.

  • Technical knowledge: By discussing specific AWS services and how they were used to achieve compliance, the candidate exhibits practical technical knowledge.

  • Emphasizes audits and monitoring: The candidate's focus on regular audits and continuous monitoring demonstrates a thorough approach to maintaining compliance.


Can you describe a situation where your recommendation for a security measure was initially rejected? How did you handle this, and what was the outcome?

Why is this question asked?

The question assesses your ability to advocate for best security practices and how you navigate disagreements or challenges to your recommendations.


It also tests your skills in communication, negotiation, and persistence, which are crucial in ensuring the successful implementation of security measures.


Example answer:

In one project, we were developing a web application, and I noticed that the team was planning to store user passwords in plaintext in the database.


I recommended that we should hash and salt the passwords for enhanced security, but my suggestion was initially rejected due to the additional time and effort involved.


The challenge was to convince the team and the project manager of the importance of this security measure. They were concerned about project deadlines and additional complexity.


To address this, I first gathered evidence to support my case. I found articles and case studies demonstrating the risks of storing plaintext passwords and the potential legal and reputational consequences of a data breach.


I also explained how hashing and salting work and demonstrated that implementing them wouldn't be as time-consuming or complex as they feared.


I then requested a meeting with the project manager and the team to present my findings. I laid out the potential risks of not implementing the measure, explained the benefits of hashing and salting passwords, and addressed their concerns about the additional time and complexity.


After a thorough discussion and some negotiation, they agreed to include the security measure in our application.


The project was slightly delayed, but the measure significantly improved the application's security posture.


In hindsight, the team and project manager agreed that it was the right decision, as the application passed a rigorous third-party security audit without any major issues.


Why is this answer good?

  • Strong advocacy for security: The candidate identifies a security issue and advocates effectively for a solution, demonstrating a commitment to security best practices.

  • Excellent communication and negotiation skills: The candidate uses research and logical arguments to persuade their team and doesn't give up when their initial recommendation is rejected.

  • Positive outcome: The candidate’s persistence results in a more secure application and subsequent successful audit, showing the practical impact of their decision.

  • Learning and growth: The example demonstrates that the candidate can learn from challenges and can help others learn as well, fostering a culture of security awareness and learning.


Conclusion:

There you have it — 10 important DevSecOps Engineer interview questions and answers. The reason we’ve gone with only ten questions is that we’ve answered quite a few smaller, simpler questions within these elaborate answers.


Also, given that we’re a job board, the main focus is on concepts and questions that are more likely to appear in an interview. On that front, if you’re looking for a remote DevSecOps role, check out Simple Job Listings. We only post verified, fully-remote jobs that pay well. What’s more, a huge number of jobs that we list aren’t listed on any other job board.


Visit Simple Job Listings and find amazing remote DevSecOps jobs. Good luck!


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