• Ben Tasker Dip.pc rep S.A.C Cert

    Ben Tasker Dip.pc rep S.A.C Cert

    About Me

    I am an experienced Suffolk (UK) based IT Professional, with a strong foundation in Linux based systems and software development. I currently specialise in system administration and network security, however, as part of my role at Virya Technologies Ltd, I have also developed a strong grounding in post-compromise forensics.

    Most of my recent software development activities have been in PHP, using Agile methodologies to develop both standalone applications and extensions for the popular Joomla! Content Management System.

    I pursue a range of hobbies including mechanics and photography. In addition to being a Linux Foundation member, I am also an active member of the Joomla! Bug-squad, with a number of commits merged into the core CMS.

    I'm always been keen to expand my knowledge and understanding of a wide range of subjects and where possible seize every opportunity to complete further training.

     

    Secondary Education

    • 10 GCSEs Graded B-C
    • 5 AS Levels Graded B-D
    • 4 A2 Levels Graded C-D

     

    Further Education

    • iTQ (User) Diploma (Level 3)
    • Advanced Level Apprenticeship for IT Users
    • iTQ (Level 3)
    • Health and Safety NCFE (Level 2)
    • PC Repair Diploma (Level 2)
    • Functional Skills English Reading (Level 2)
    • Functional Skills English Writing (Level 2)
    • Functional Skills English Speaking (Level 2)
    • English Law NCFE (Level 3)
    • WSET Intermediate (Level 2)
    • National Certificate for Personal License Holders (Level 2)
    • Certificate in Retail Operations (Level 2)
    • Retail Operations NVQ (Level 2)

     

    Employment Related Courses

    During the course of employment, I've completed the courses listed below in addition to mandatory training (such as Fire Safety).

    • Emergency First Aid
    • Portable Appliance Testing
    • Protecting Information Level 1
    • APM Introductory Certificate
    • ITIL V3
    • Project Management
    • Information Gathering
    • Local Security Officer
    • Fraud Awareness
    • Decision Making Models
    • Validation, Verification and Testing
    • JAVA 2
    • Encryption Technologies
    • Processor System Administrator
    • Computer Network Defence
    • Diagnosing & Troubleshooting
    • ECDL Unit E
    • ECDL Modules 1 - 7
    • UNIX Use and Administration
    • Electronic Defence Writing

     

    Skills

    I continually work to develop new skills, whilst keeping existing skills current. Some of my current skill set is listed below

    • Software Development including testing
    • System Design
    • Joomla! Extension Development
    • GIT SCM
    • Joomla! Website Design and Management
    • Website design in HTML 4 and 5 with CSS
    • Javascript (including AJAX)
    • Semantic Markup
    • Penetration Testing
    • API Design
    • Data Migration
    • System Integration
    • Linux and AIX Server Administration
    • Xen and KVM Hyper-visor Management
    • Business Continuity planning
    • Project Management
    • Migration to Cloud based systems
    • Amazon EC2 Deployment
    • Apache Deployment and Management
    • Nginx Deployment and Management
    • MySQL

     

    Software Development Languages

    I've developed software in a range of languages, some of which are listed below.

    • PHP
    • ECMA/Javascript
    • BASH Shell Scripting
    • Python
    • LUA
    • C
    • C++
    • Ada
    • Java
    • BASIC
     

     

    Portfolio

    My Online Portfolio contains examples of past Software Development activities and also of past Website development activities. Some examples of my code (and contributions to other projects) can be seen on GitHub.

    I take great pride in my problem solving abilities, especially when translating requirements or documentation into programmatic code. As an example, when Joomla! 3.0 was nearing final release, I used the list of backwards compatibility issues to create an extension compatibility checker - allowing extension developers to quickly identify which areas of their extensions were likely to require a rewrite.

    I've worked with a number of API's, ranging from enhancement of Account Expiration & Control (AEC) to the creation of an API for my PHPChangedBinaries project, which includes a custom cryptographic authentication mechanism.

    Although the supporting website is currently incomplete, I've also created and documented an API designed to serve Lottery Results from around the world.

     

     

     

    Employment History

     

    Operations Architect Conversant Networks Ltd

    Conversant Networks Ltd is a Content Delivery Network provider, with a customer base primarily located in South East Asia.

    I was promoted to Operations Architect in March 2018. This is a senior position reporting to (and regularly working with) the CEO and other senior stakeholders.

    The role involves overseeing architectural aspects of the network’s growth, including identifying desirable new deployment locations - based upon current network demand - in order to optimise delivery whilst ensuring that hardware related capital is spent as efficiently as possible during network expansion.

    It also requires that I liaise with engineering teams in order to help drive product direction and priorities, and to perform acceptance testing on the CDN team’s output, ranging from ansible playbook submissions to entirely new products and appliance types. In particular, I’ve worked with engineering to develop the next generation Command & Control Infrastructure, Distributed File Storage appliances.

    When requests for specialised work are received, it’s passed to me to gauge viability when measured against various business concerns (including the potential general applicability of the resulting technology, likely cost of implementation etc). These have ranged from developing specialised mid-tier solutions (with an aim of also pushing towards a productisable generic solution) to assessing requests for complex media protection mechanisms.

    When non core departments release new software to integrate with the CDN, it is my responsibility to perform and/or oversee integration and acceptance testing to ensure that they integrate without impacting existing delivery. These range from new software stacks to entirely new appliances.

    As the subject matter expert, I retain ownership of the DNS routing system whilst also acting as a CDN Technical Authority. In that capacity, I’ve worked with partners and suppliers in order to improve network Peering relationships so that we might increase our delivery throughput.

    When necessary, I act as an escalation point for the operational support team and help to troubleshoot complex customer delivery issues, as well as to identify weaknesses in any existing delivery mechanisms. The ability to quickly troubleshoot complex issues is an essential component of the role.

    The customer facing portion of my role requires quickly developing close relationships with customers and potential customers so that technical matters can be discussed as freely as possible. This is particularly important when I work with them to beta test new features and major releases.

    Operations & Platform Engineer Swiftserve / Conversant Networks Ltd

    As well as providing Operational support for the company’s federated Content Distribution Network (CDN), this role involved developing and maintaining new features and complimentary systems in order to meet both internal operational and customer requirements. The latter required a lot of rapid prototyping, with successful implementations then needing to be productised further.

    Implementations included a DNS routing system, distributed Real Time Media Protocol (RTMP) stack customised to meet requirements common in the Asian markets, and support for a number of custom authentication and tokenisation requirements for HTTP delivery within the Chinese market. Many prospective customers had an existing supplier, so the requirements had to be adhered to exactly (with little room for negotiation) to ensure we could provide a directly compatible offering.

    Projects were often started (and had to be completed) with very little advance notice.

    NOC Specialist Velocix / Alcatel-Lucent / Nokia

    I was promoted into a role specialising in Operational Security and am expected to ensure that both infrastructure and operational procedures reflect the highest possible level of security and professionality.

    In addition to this, I act as an escalation point for the NOC (as well as the wider operations team) and am also expected to undertake project work in order to maintain and develop tools as part of our Continuous Improvement regime.

    In the past, I have also acted as a Customer Resident Engineer - integrating with a customer’s Operations Team in order to provide on-site support during the transition of their CDN from a Managed Service to an Owner Operated model.

    My prescribed role also includes

    • Network Management
    • Incident/Problem Management
    • Supplier Management
    • Proactive Management

    NOC Engineer Velocix

    Velocix is a world leading provider of Digital Media Delivery Platforms

    My role is to provide first and second level support on all Velocix products and services, including monitoring, managing and configuring the worldwide Content Delivery Network. The core role being to ensure that both internal and external customers are provided with maximum service availability

    Core responsibilities

    • 24/7 network surveillance, proactively responding to issue that are detected or reported, including analysing all available data and identifying trends
    • General System Administration tasks on all elements of the CDN and also of the company network
    • Observe configuration and change management procedures
    • Pro-actively escalating problems to Third-level support where they cannot efficiently be resolved within the Network Operations Centre
    • Identify areas of concern, whether due to potential service impact or directly affecting customer satisfaction

    Linux Specialist & IT Manager Virya Technologies Ltd

    My role at Virya primarily involved

    • managing customers' servers (primarily Linux based infrastructure but also Windows)
    • developing software (primarily web-based applications in PHP, including extensions for the Joomla! CMS)
    • Managing the company's Hosting infrastructure (Shared, Virtual and dedicated servers)
    • Conducting security audits (including penetration testing)
    • providing emergency server support where it is requested by a customer (including post-compromise forensic analysis)
    The role requires an intimate understanding of networking protocols, system (and database) administration and agile development techniques.

    Being a small business, my responsibilities stretch beyond those within my job description, and additional roles include marketing the business, providing quotes for work and management of the business in the Director's absence.

    I initially contracted for this role, becoming a full-time employee in February 2012.

    Inventory Clerk Ministry of Defence

    Primary role involved controlling 180 inventories at a number of globally distributed units for the purpose of correctly provisioning aircraft spares. Responsibilities involved hastening the return of unserviceable spares and ensuring accountability for all issued items.

    As a secondary role, I became a trained Processor System Administrator for the unit's bespoke (AIX and Oracle based) Supply Control System. This involved being the units point of contact and support for all technical issues relating to the MJDI system, including assisting other units during the roll out of the system across the Ministry's estate.

    Additionally, I acted as the unit's Systems Manager, assuming the roles of Local Security Officer and Authorised Demander.

    More...

     

    Client Testimonials

    – Server Support

    Ben at Virya Technologies was recommended to me by a colleague when looking for a provider of system admin for my dedicated server. Ben, Ruth and the team at Virya Technologies have been absolutely brilliant from day one. Patient, understanding and extremely helpful, I have no hesitation in recommending their efficient and knowledgeable service.

     

    Ben has worked in a support/development capacity for the ISSBA website which is Joomla based. He has always been happy to help, has kept me up to date with progress and has endeavoured to find the best solutions to any issues with the site. I would be happy to recommend his services.

     

    Ben is an extremely competent and dependable Joomla expert and server security specialist. He has been fundamental to the deliverability, on-going support and maintenance of Seatrade's news sites (amongst other projects).

    Ben has always being very personable and uses his extensive knowledge and people skills to ensure that he employs the best solution, whilst ensuring that we understand the rationale to any suggestion, issue or enhancement that he has deployed or recommended to improve the usability and functionality of Seatrade's news sites.

     

    Additional Information

    The following additional details are available upon request;

    • Full Education History (including all courses completed)
    • Full Employment History
    • References

     

  • Benscomputer.no-ip.org

    Benscomputer.no-ip.org was the precursor to bentasker.co.uk.

    It was self-built, self-run and self-hosted, using server side includes in order to dynamically load content into otherwise static templates. As antiquated as that might sound now, it attracted a reasonable level of traffic, particularly during the Phorm Debacle.

    I moved over to using a properly hosted Joomla install in November 2010

    Some of the history behind how benscomputer.no-ip.org came to be, and how it evolved is detailed in this March 2013 blog post.

  • BenTasker.co.uk V1

    The first version of BenTasker.co.uk was based on Joomla 1.5, and being something of a rushed affair, it showed.

    Having stored much of the Benscomputer.no-ip.org content in a CSV based database, importing content was reasonably easy with a few scripts. To my regret though, I was overly conservative with the content I imported, and so some content was never migrated over and has been lost to time as a result, despite my more recent efforts to find and republish content in backups etc.

    The Joomla 1.5 version of the site was relatively short-lived, as I migrated to Joomla 2.5 in June 2012

  • BenTasker.co.uk V2

    The second version of BenTasker.co.uk sported a template very similar to the first, albeit with some colour changes

    Content came across automatically, as it was simply an upgrade and re-templating of the Joomla CMS that underpinned the site

    The migration from Joomla 1.5 to Joomla 2.5 was completed in June 2012 and the changes went live with the site sporting a much darker look

    The history of the site is discussed in a little more depth in this post announcing the migration to Joomla 3 in March 2013

  • BenTasker.co.uk V3

    BenTasker.co.uk was migrated to Joomla 3 in March 2013

    Content came across automatically, as it was simply an upgrade and re-templating of the Joomla CMS that underpinned the site

    An entirely new template had to be used for Joomla 3 due to the old one not being compatible, but the original build continued the tradition of light text on a black background.

    Going from the 2.x branch of Joomla to 3.x was a big step - whilst the upgrade itself wasn't as painful as from Joomla 1.5 - 2.x, extension compatibility was a serious issue.

  • BenTasker.co.uk v3.1

    In April 2013, following feedback from others, the site was switched over to using a different default colour scheme (with the old one still supported via a toggle on the pages)

    A number of other important improvements were made too, including reducing the site's use of cookies, improving transparency (via the launch of mod_yourData) and the addition of some basic privacy options to the left-hand side of the site.

    In the ensuing time, those privacy options have changed/improved and new privacy features have been added - including multihoming the site so that it's accessible as a Tor .onion, and enabling opportunistic encryption. Others, like support for the dark theme have been removed (though the theme seemingly still works, as that's how I got the screenshot for the V3 information page

  • Freedom4All

    Freedom4All was a small Human Rights focused blog I ran between 2008-2010

    It was a small Wordpress based blog, with a mixture of dedicated content and "news" posts highlighting things of focus/importance on other sites.

    Much of the earlier content was lost following issues with the hosting provider (and the backups they'd been paid to take), but content from 2010 onwards can be located in the Freedom4All Archive

  • HLS Stream Creator

    HLS Stream Creator is a script which acts as a wrapper to FFMPEG in order to simplify remuxing video into HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) format.

    Originally written as research into HLS for a job interview, I've continued to develop it and since used it for a range of projects, including creating a raspberry-pi based transcoding cluster.

  • Lotto Predict

    LottoPredict was a simply statistical exercise to see whether analysis of ball draw rates could lead to predicting some of the balls to be drawn

    The underlying engine compromised of a site scraper (in order to collect and collate lottery results), the analysis engine and a simple REST API in order to retrieve results, generate predictions etc.

    The concept ultimately led to the development of a better API, and the release of my mod_lotto Joomla extension.

  • Onionstroke

    I was contacted for this, as a result of research I'd previously conducted into the feasibility of delivering high resolution video via encrypted overlay networks (in this case, Tor).

    The customer was a small group of people who had an idea, but weren't sure on how best to implement it - the idea being a privacy sensitive service delivering legal adult content, in effect a PornHub without all the tracking and profiling that MindGeek does.

    My role was to help them design and develop the infrastructure required to deliver this. This included working out how best to route users who simply cannot be geolocated, in order to achieve the minimal possible latency, as well as designing the CDN upon which it would all be built.

    The site worked well on a technical level, and delivered full-HD content over Tor quite successfully. However, the group's plan to financially support the site proved to be a little over-optimistic, and so the site was ultimately shuttered.

  • RequestRouter

    Request Router is a routing engine. The default install methodology exposes a Geolocating DNS Load Balancer.

    It features:

    • Geolocation cost based routing (with overrides)
    • Protocol Aware
    • Delivery Status/Load Aware
    • EDNS Client Subnet (ECS) support
    • Wildcard support
    • HTTP Redirect (302) Routing Support
    • Content Optimised Routing in HTTP Routing
    • Alt-Svc Header Support

  • Vehman

    Vehman was a system to track the Total Cost of Ownership for vehicles

    The primary component was a fuel consumption tracker, allowing you to generate reports on average MPG, distance travelled by month etc.

    It ultimately evolved into a purely API based system, with the front-end being presented as a custom Joomla extension on VehicleFuelTracker.co.uk