20 Questions: CISSP Edition
Below are 20 questions you can use when preparing for the CISSP exam. They are a combination of easy, complex and scenario based questions. Want more than just 20 questions? At the end of the questions, I’m going to show you how to make your own anytime you want. I’ve also included some tips on the mindset you should have when taking your exam.
It’s important to note the real CISSP exam will contain a combination of questions like these. The passing score is 700/1000. This does not mean 70%! Every question has a score associated with it. Easy questions might have a score of 5 points, more complex questions may have a score of 10 points.
The CISSP covers 8 wide-ranging domains. Here’s a breakdown of the CISSP exam domain weightings as of April 2024:
Domain 1 Security and Risk Management 16%
Domain 2 Asset Security 10%
Domain 3 Security Architecture and Engineering 13%
Domain 4 Communication and Network Security 13%
Domain 5 Identity and Access Management (IAM) 13%
Domain 6 Security Assessment and Testing 12%
Domain 7 Security Operations 13%
Domain 8 Software Development Security 10%
Question 1: “An organization’s security operations team has detected an unusual outflow of data to an external server. Preliminary analysis indicates that the data includes confidential client information. The organization’s incident response plan is activated. Which of the following immediate actions is MOST critical to safeguard the organization’s interests?
A) Isolating the affected systems to contain the breach
B) Notifying law enforcement agencies for potential legal action
C) Conducting a detailed forensic analysis to identify the source of the breach
D) Communicating with stakeholders to manage public relations”
Answer: A) Isolating the affected systems to contain the breach
Explanation: In the event of a data breach, the immediate priority is to contain the breach to prevent further data loss. This is typically achieved by isolating the affected systems. Notifying law enforcement, conducting forensic analysis, and stakeholder communication are also important but are secondary steps that follow containment.
Question 2: “A multinational corporation with diverse business units is implementing a new IAM solution. The corporation has a mix of legacy systems and cloud-based applications. The Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) wants to ensure that the IAM solution supports centralized management of user identities and access while minimizing administrative overhead. Which of the following solutions would BEST meet the CISO’s requirements?
A) Implementing a federated identity management system with SAML (Security Assertion Markup Language)
B) Deploying a directory service that synchronizes with each business unit’s local user directory
C) Establishing a cloud-based single sign-on (SSO) service for all applications
D) Utilizing a role-based access control (RBAC) model with manual provisioning and deprovisioning”
Answer: A) Implementing a federated identity management system with SAML (Security Assertion Markup Language)
Explanation: For a multinational corporation with diverse business units and a mix of legacy and cloud applications, a federated identity management system using SAML is ideal. It allows for centralized management while supporting integration with various systems and applications. This approach reduces administrative overhead and provides a seamless user experience. SAML is a standard for exchanging authentication and authorization data between parties, particularly between an identity provider and a service provider, making it suitable for this scenario.
Question 3: “A financial services company is planning to launch a new online trading platform. To comply with industry regulations and ensure data security, the Chief Information Officer (CIO) has been tasked with assessing the risks associated with the platform. What should be the FIRST step in conducting this risk assessment?
A) Identifying the specific regulations and standards applicable to the online trading platform
B) Performing a Business Impact Analysis (BIA) to understand the potential consequences of a security breach
C) Cataloging the assets associated with the platform, including hardware, software, and data
D) Evaluating existing security controls and their effectiveness in protecting against potential threats”
Answer: C) Cataloging the assets associated with the platform, including hardware, software, and data
Explanation: The first step in conducting a risk assessment is to identify and catalog all assets associated with the system or platform in question. This includes understanding what hardware, software, and data are involved and how they are used. Only after identifying these assets can the organization effectively assess the risks, vulnerabilities, and potential impacts. While understanding regulations and conducting a BIA are important, these steps are more effectively performed after a comprehensive understanding of the assets involved.
Question 4: What is the PRIMARY purpose of implementing a security governance framework within an organization?
A) To ensure compliance with legal and regulatory requirements
B) To align information security with business objectives
C) To implement technical controls effectively
D) To reduce the overall cost of information security
Answer: B) To align information security with business objectives
Explanation: The primary purpose of a security governance framework is to ensure that the organization’s information security strategies align with its business objectives and support them. While compliance, cost reduction, and technical controls are important aspects, they are secondary to the alignment of security strategies with the business goals.
Question 5: Data classification schemes are MOST effective when they are:
A) Aligned with the organization’s culture
B) Based on a generic industry standard
C) Focused on the protection of digital assets
D) Consistently applied across all departments
Answer: D) Consistently applied across all departments
Explanation: The effectiveness of data classification schemes largely depends on their consistent application across all departments of an organization. While alignment with the organization’s culture and focusing on digital assets are important, consistency ensures uniform protection standards and understanding across the organization. Generic standards may not always fit the specific needs of an organization.
Question 6: In a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), the role of the Certificate Authority (CA) is to:
A) Generate public and private keys for users
B) Store and archive all organizational keys
C) Issue and revoke digital certificates
D) Encrypt and decrypt messages
Answer: C) Issue and revoke digital certificates
Explanation: In PKI, the primary role of a Certificate Authority (CA) is to issue and revoke digital certificates. The CA authenticates the identity of entities and issues a certificate linking that identity with a public key. Generating keys is typically the responsibility of the end-user or their systems, and encrypting/decrypting messages is not the function of a CA.
Question 7: Which of the following is a primary security concern when using IPv6 compared to IPv4?
A) Larger address space leading to increased scanning times
B) Lack of support for encryption and authentication
C) Inherent vulnerabilities in the protocol itself
D) Increased complexity in implementing network security controls
Answer: D) Increased complexity in implementing network security controls
Explanation: The transition from IPv4 to IPv6 introduces increased complexity in network configurations and security control implementations. The larger address space and new features (like auto-configuration) can complicate network management and security enforcement. IPv6 does support encryption and authentication (through IPsec), and while it has a larger address space, this is not a primary security concern.
Question 8: Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) is LEAST suitable for which of the following environments?
A) Environments with high employee turnover
B) Environments where job functions rarely change
C) Organizations with well-defined job roles
D) Small organizations with few users
Answer: A) Environments with high employee turnover
Explanation: RBAC can become cumbersome in environments with high employee turnover because roles need to be constantly updated and reassigned. RBAC works best in stable environments where job roles are well-defined and do not change frequently. In contrast, it is less suitable in dynamic environments where users’ roles change often or are not clearly defined.
Question 9: During a security audit, what is the MOST critical factor to ensure the effectiveness of the audit process?
A) The technical skills of the audit team
B) The independence of the audit team
C) The tools and technologies used in the audit
D) The cooperation of the department being audited
Answer: B) The independence of the audit team
Explanation: The independence of the audit team is crucial to ensure the objectivity and credibility of the audit process. While technical skills, tools, and cooperation are important, the audit team must be able to perform its duties without bias or undue influence from the organization being audited.
Question 10: In the context of software development, what is the PRIMARY security advantage of using open source software?
A) It is generally more secure than proprietary software
B) Its source code is available for public review and contribution
C) It is less expensive than proprietary software
D) It provides better compatibility with existing systems
Answer: B) Its source code is available for public review and contribution
Explanation: The primary security advantage of open source software is that its source code is open for public review and contribution. This transparency allows for more eyes to examine and identify potential security flaws, leading to more robust and secure code over time. However, this does not inherently mean it is more secure than proprietary software, as security depends on many factors including how actively the code is maintained and reviewed.
Use the following scenario for the next 3 questions
Imagine a multinational corporation, “TechSecure Inc.”, which specializes in cybersecurity solutions. TechSecure Inc. operates across multiple continents with a centralized data center in the USA and smaller regional data centers in Europe and Asia. The company is currently transitioning to cloud services and implementing a hybrid cloud model. They have also recently acquired a smaller cybersecurity firm, “SafeNet”, and are in the process of integrating SafeNet’s systems and staff.
Question 11: In the context of TechSecure Inc.’s business continuity planning (BCP), what should be the PRIMARY focus when considering the integration of SafeNet?
A) Ensuring the physical security of SafeNet’s data centers
B) Migrating SafeNet’s data to TechSecure’s centralized data center
C) Assessing and aligning SafeNet’s BCP with TechSecure’s BCP
D) Updating network infrastructure to support additional load from SafeNet
Answer: C) Assessing and aligning SafeNet’s BCP with TechSecure’s BCP
Explanation: When integrating a new company, it is crucial to assess and align the acquired company’s BCP with the parent company’s BCP. This ensures continuity of business operations and minimizes risks associated with the integration process. While physical security, data migration, and network infrastructure are important, the primary focus should be on aligning the business continuity plans to ensure a cohesive and comprehensive approach to potential disruptions.
Question 12: As TechSecure Inc. transitions to a hybrid cloud model, what is the MOST critical factor to ensure effective information security governance?
A) Implementing robust encryption for data at rest and in transit
B) Establishing clear policies and procedures for cloud resource usage
C) Selecting cloud service providers with the highest security standards
D) Training staff on the nuances of cloud security and data protection
Answer: B) Establishing clear policies and procedures for cloud resource usage
Explanation: While all the options are important for cloud security, establishing clear policies and procedures for cloud resource usage is crucial for effective information security governance. This ensures that all employees understand the security implications and responsibilities when using cloud resources. It also helps in maintaining control over the cloud environment and reduces the risk of data breaches or non-compliance with data protection regulations.
Question 13: Considering the multinational nature of TechSecure Inc. and its new hybrid cloud environment, which IAM approach would BEST address their need for secure, scalable, and efficient access management?
A) Implementing a federated identity management system
B) Relying on local IAM solutions for each regional data center
C) Centralizing IAM on the main data center with manual replication to the cloud
D) Utilizing a cloud-based IAM solution for all locations and systems
Answer: A) Implementing a federated identity management system
Explanation: A federated identity management system is ideal for a multinational company like TechSecure Inc. as it allows for the integration and management of multiple identity repositories. This approach enables users to securely access systems and resources across different domains (including the cloud) using a single set of credentials, enhancing both security and user experience. Federated IAM is scalable, efficient, and well-suited to the complexity of a hybrid cloud environment and a geographically dispersed organization.
Question 14: What is the PRIMARY purpose of an Information Security Policy within an organization?
A) To define specific technical controls
B) To outline acceptable use of IT resources
C) To provide detailed step-by-step procedures
D) To establish a general framework for data protection
Answer: D) To establish a general framework for data protection
Explanation: The primary purpose of an Information Security Policy is to establish a general framework for data protection within an organization. This policy sets the tone and direction for how security will be handled and lays down the guidelines for acceptable behavior, roles, and responsibilities. While it might touch upon acceptable use of IT resources, it typically doesn’t delve into specific technical controls or detailed procedures, which are usually covered in separate, more specific documents.
Question 15: What type of data classification is typically used for information that, if disclosed, could reasonably be expected to cause serious damage to national security?
D) Top Secret
Answer: D) Top Secret
Explanation: In the context of data classification, “Top Secret” is the highest level of classification and is used for information that, if disclosed, could cause exceptionally grave damage to national security. The other classifications (Public, Sensitive, and Confidential) represent lower levels of sensitivity. “Public” is information that can be freely disclosed, “Sensitive” often refers to personal data that needs protection, and “Confidential” is a lower level of classified information.
Question 16: Which of the following is a common physical security measure used to protect data centers?
B) Biometric access controls
C) Antivirus software
D) Intrusion detection systems
Answer: B) Biometric access controls
Explanation: Biometric access controls are a common physical security measure used to protect sensitive areas such as data centers. They use unique biological traits (like fingerprints or iris patterns) to verify an individual’s identity, providing a high level of security. While firewalls and intrusion detection systems are important for network security, and antivirus software is crucial for protecting against malware, they are not physical security measures.
Question 17: In the context of Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs), which of the following strategies is MOST effective in mitigating the risk of a targeted attack on an organization’s network?
A) Implementing a stateful firewall at the network perimeter
B) Conducting regular penetration testing on external-facing services
C) Employing a comprehensive threat intelligence and analysis program
D) Increasing the frequency of antivirus signature updates
Answer: C) Employing a comprehensive threat intelligence and analysis program
Explanation: While all the options contribute to network security, a comprehensive threat intelligence and analysis program is most effective against APTs. APTs are sophisticated, coordinated attacks that often use advanced techniques and remain undetected for long periods. A robust threat intelligence program that analyzes patterns, understands attacker behavior, and employs proactive strategies for detection and response is crucial in identifying and mitigating such threats. The other options, while important, are more reactive and less effective against sophisticated, targeted attacks.
Question 18: The Bell-LaPadula model is focused primarily on maintaining which of the following security aspects?
A) Data Integrity and Authenticity
B) Data Confidentiality and Prevention of Leakage
C) Data Availability and Redundancy
D) User Accountability and Auditing
Answer: B) Data Confidentiality and Prevention of Leakage
Explanation: The Bell-LaPadula model is a formal security model focused on maintaining data confidentiality and preventing data leakage. It’s known for its “no read up, no write down” principle, which restricts access to information based on security clearances and classification levels, ensuring that a subject at a certain level cannot read data at a higher level (no read up) or write data to a lower level (no write down). This model is particularly relevant in military and government contexts where confidentiality is paramount.
Question 19: In an Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC) system, which factor significantly contributes to its security compared to RSA, assuming equal key lengths?
A) The complexity of the elliptic curve discrete logarithm problem
B) The implementation of larger key sizes
C) The use of symmetric encryption algorithms
D) The reliance on the factoring of large prime numbers
Answer: A) The complexity of the elliptic curve discrete logarithm problem
Explanation: The primary factor contributing to the security of ECC, especially compared to RSA with equal key lengths, is the complexity of solving the elliptic curve discrete logarithm problem. ECC can achieve the same level of security as RSA with much smaller key sizes because the elliptic curve problem is harder to solve. RSA’s security relies on the difficulty of factoring large prime numbers, which requires larger key sizes to maintain equivalent security levels.
Question 20: Under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a data controller has specific responsibilities. Which of the following actions is LEAST likely to be a responsibility of a data controller?
A) Determining the purposes and means of the processing of personal data
B) Implementing technical measures to secure data processing
C) Obtaining consent from data subjects for data processing
D) Conducting regular audits of third-party data processors
Answer: D) Conducting regular audits of third-party data processors
Explanation: Under GDPR, the primary responsibilities of a data controller include determining the purposes and means of processing personal data, ensuring that technical measures are in place to secure data processing, and obtaining necessary consent from data subjects. While controllers are responsible for ensuring that third-party processors comply with GDPR, conducting regular audits of these processors is more typically a role of a data protection officer or an external auditor, rather than a direct responsibility of the data controller.
Now, as for the promise of telling you how you can make endless practice CISSP questions on your own…As you may have guessed, it involves generative AI. I used ChatGPT to create these questions. Here are the prompts I used to generate these:
First off, I asked “can you create 3 complex questions for the CISSP exam. Please include answers and detailed explanations.”
Then, I asked the following for the next set: “Can you create 7 difficult CISSP practice questions and give detailed answers and explanations?”
After these were generated, I asked the following: “Can you create 3 complex CISSP questions based on a imaginary scenario? Please include answers and detailed explanations”
Then, to replicate the way the actual exam will be, I asked “Can you create 3 easy CISSP questions with answers and explanations?”
To wrap up the 20 questions, I asked the following: “can you create 4 extremely difficult CISSP questions that will really test someone’s readiness for the CISSP exam. Include answers and detailed explanations”.
If you review the questions, you’ll see how the system interprets each command to create the questions. Of course, if you want to focus on a particular domain or subject, you can ask to limit the questions to that area.
I want to warn you of one thing. Even though I have tried to replicate the actual exam as much as possible, it is realistically impossible to fully replicate what the real exam will throw at you. With this in mind, here are some parting tips for successfully passing your CISSP exam:
Tip 1: The CISSP is for directors and managers. If your answer is the most technical one, it may not be the right answer. Quite often, you will be tested on what something is, when you would use it (what purpose it serves), and how it serves the business.
Tip 2: If the question is a direct technical question, answer with a direct technical answer. If it’s not a direct technical question, refer to tip 1 above.
Tip 3: Management buy-in and management policies always come first…Well, after human life of course. If you’re asked a question that deals with deploying a new technology, sponsorship (budget) and policy always come first.
Tip 4: Technology is useless if people don’t know how to use it. Training staff is another item that item that needs to be done before implementation.
Tip 5: If it’s important, don’t compromise. If you have employees that require CISSP training, we would love to talk with you! Check out our official CISSP training page here.