Penetration Tester - Cyber Operations Specialist Ref. 2619

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Specialist Roles
Between £44,139 and £76,439.
  • Senior: 35,450 basic salary + 6,500 to 30,000 skills payment.
  • Principal: 43,957 basic salary + 6,500 to 30,000 skills payment.


At GHCQ, we unlock the complex world of data and communications to keep the UK and its citizens safe, both in the real world and online.  Working closely with our British intelligence partners in MI5 and MI6, we protect the UK from threats including serious organised crime, terrorism, and cyber-attacks. A role at GCHQ means you’ll have varied and fascinating work in a supportive and encouraging environment that puts the emphasis on teamwork. 


For those who are passionate about problem-solving, can think outside the box and deliver creative solutions to often complex challenges, this role will present a truly unique opportunity.

Our Cyber Operations teams use bespoke technology to legally infiltrate the computers of terrorists and criminals to discover and disrupt their plans. Under strict legal safeguards and oversights, we have the scope to do things that wouldn’t be possible elsewhere.

Working collaboratively in teams, we utilise a broad spectrum of technologies to develop the solutions required to gather intelligence and disrupt those that seek to harm the  UK and its citizens.  One of the greatest things about working here is knowing that each individual’s contribution is helping to keep the nation safe.

The roles we’re offering are split into Developer and Operator categories. This is the description for Operator role. See the ‘Developer Cyber Operations Specialist job description for details on the Developer role.

Applications from individuals with skills and experience spanning both categories are welcome.

We’re looking for individuals to become part of our cyber specialists team, using your specialist knowledge, you’ll guide the team in exploring hostile environments and collect strategically important information. Working on the front line of our efforts to pursue our targets and complete our mission, this role involves working collaboratively with our Developers and Intelligence Analysts across a wide section of the business to understand our mission.  It requires you to have a combination of technical aptitude and advanced understanding of the target and target environment.  You’ll utilise a range of technical tools and tradecraft to support the mission. Though there is not a firm requirement for programming experience and networking knowledge here, aptitude to learn those skills is extremely valuable.

With your skills and experience our teams will be able to overcome technical challenges and make a real difference. At times, the pace of work may be driven by real-world events, and your skills will help shape the outcome.

At GCHQ, we’ll invest in your skills and adapt to the way you like to learn. We’ll support and encourage you, helping you to become an integral part of our world-class team. Your skills could cover numerous technical areas, from complex operational infrastructure to the development of sophisticated software, and everything in between. We want people who have an affinity for technology, with a keen desire to learn and an ability adapt to an ever-changing set of adversaries.

Our flexible working policy ensures a healthy work-life balance. We also look to accommodate reduced hours or job share options balanced against business needs.

Current opportunities are based in Gloucestershire, but future roles will be available at the new National Cyber Force base in Samlesbury in Lancashire too.

About You

This role will suit a Cyber Security Professional  with experience in one or more of:

  • Penetration testing and vulnerability testing
  • Good breadth and depth of knowledge relating to penetration testing, from low-level vulnerability research to high-level network expertise
  • technical leadership and people management
  • Knowledge of researching new or novel security issues would be advantageous

Depending on your prior experience, especially leadership, you may be offered a senior or principal role 

Candidates will be asked to demonstrate an aptitude and desire to learn new skills and to solve interesting problems.

You’re the type of person that  relishes solving problems and are willing to experiment to find a solution in a fast-paced environment. You recognise the breadth of internet technologies and both the benefits and drawbacks that they offer the world. You’re able to grasp computing concepts and apply your knowledge to your work, along with an ability to work lawfully and ethically at all times.

The set of technologies we already use is varied and constantly growing all the time. As such, we don’t expect any one candidate to have experience with them all, the important thing is to have some understanding of technology, an aptitude and desire to learn new skills and to solve interesting problems with them.  To help demonstrate that, a good understanding of some of the following is desirable:

  • Network Administration fundamentals (LAN and WAN technologies E.g Cisco, Juniper)
  • Internet and network technologies, such as IP, TCP, UDP, HTTP, DNS, etc.
  • Windows and Linux operating system and security fundamentals
  • Network analysis and troubleshooting tools, such as Wireshark, Process Monitor, Splunk, etc.
  • Good interest in technology, automation, and virtualisation
  • Penetration Testing
  • Vulnerability Testing


At GCHQ, we’ll invest in your skills and adapt to the way you like to learn. We’ll support and encourage you every step of the way, helping you to become an integral part of our world-class team.

If you have an affinity for technology, a keen desire to learn and the ability to adapt to the ever-evolving challenges and adversaries we face, we'll give you all the training and development you could wish for.

The skills you develop with us could cover numerous technical areas, from complex operational infrastructure to the development of sophisticated software, and everything in between.

We'll cover the cost and provide support with regard to formal technical courses such as SANS, CCNP and OSCP. A bursary scheme is also available to help you gain a Masters or top up your degree.

From day one, you'll have access to mentors and subject matter experts. We'll help you create a structured development plan that's right for you.

At GCHQ, diversity and inclusion are critical to our mission. To protect the UK, we need a truly diverse workforce that reflects the society we serve. This includes diversity in every sense of the word: those with different backgrounds, ethnicities, gender identities, sexual orientations, ways of thinking and those with disabilities or neurodiverse conditions. We therefore welcome and encourage applications from everyone, including those from groups that are under-represented in our workforce such as women. Those from an ethnic minority background, people with disabilities and those from low socio- economic backgrounds.

Find out more about our culture, working environment and diversity on our website:

We’re Disability Confident

GCHQ are proud to have achieved Leader status within the DWP’s Disability Confident scheme.  This is aimed at encouraging employers to think differently about disability and take action to improve how they recruit, retain and develop disabled people.  Being Disability Confident, we aim to offer a person-to-person interview to any candidate who self-identifies as disabled and meets the essential criteria for the role.  This is our “offer of Interview” (OOI).  To secure an interview for this vacancy, the essential criteria are:

  • Demonstrate experience in penetration testing or vunerability analysis – measured within the technical questions asked on application form
  • Demonstrate an ability to identify and implement solutions to complex technical problems and where you’ve applied creativity to design a solution – assessed at sift
  • Demonstrate experience of leadership within a team, the ability to motivate, inspire, guide, encourage and support others – assessed at sift
  • Demonstrate your ability to work within a group of people to achieve a shared goal or outcome in an effective way, including planning and balancing priorities – assessed at sift.

 What to Expect

Our recruitment process is fair, transparent, and based on merit.  Here is a brief overview of each stage, in order:

  • Application sift
  • Online interview
  • Online Skills interview
  • Drugs test

Please note, you must successfully pass each stage of the process to progress to the next.  Your application may take around 6 – 9 months to process including vetting, so we advise you to continue any current employment until you have received your final job offer. 

Before You Apply

To work at GCHQ, you need to be a British citizen or hold dual British nationality. You can read our full eligibility criteria here. (Penna link to appropriate website Eligibility sections)

This role requires the highest security clearance, known as Developed Vetting (DV).  It’s something everyone in the UK Intelligence Community undertakes.  You can find out more about the vetting process here. (Penna link to org website vetting page).

Please note we have a strict drugs policy, so once you start your application, you can’t take any recreational drugs and you’ll need to declare your previous drug usage at the relevant stage.

The role is based in Gloucestershire, so you’ll need to live within a commutable distance.  Please consider any financial implications and practicalities before submitting an application, as we do not offer relocation costs.

Please note, you should only launch your application from within the UK. If you are based overseas, you should wait until you visit the UK to launch an application. Applying from outside the UK will impact on our ability to progress your application. You should not discuss your application, other than with your partner or a close family member.

Right to Withdraw Statement:

Please be aware that we withhold the right to bring forward the closing date for this role from the original closing date once a certain number of applications have been received. Please be mindful of this and submit your application at your earliest convenience to avoid disappointment.