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STEVE SLAYO sat glued to his bedroom computer into the early morning hours, stewing over plans by the Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, to impose filters on internet content. Slayo wrote a protest letter to Mr Conroy that he never posted, but the bright VCE student later flexed his considerable computer skills in helping to launch damaging ”hacker” attacks on Australian government websites. A court yesterday heard Slayo, 19, incited ”distributed denial of service attacks” organised by an American mastermind on government websites that included Mr Conroy’s and then prime minister Kevin Rudd’s.
Student with a grudge … Steve Slayo with his girlfriend Lisa outside court yesterday.
Defence lawyer Melainie Vinton said Slayo had ”repeated directives given by others further up the chain”, including an American nicknamed ”Pulsar”, the main co-ordinator of the raids. Ms Vinton said Slayo once sat in his bedroom at his computer to ”all hours of the night”, but his lifestyle was now more balanced – he had a girlfriend, played sport and piano and focused on his studies in pharmaceutical science. With the operator privileges and through his ”fight censorship” website and forum he later allowed unknown people to enter the channel. Commonwealth prosecutor Stephen Young said Slayo’s sophisticated and co-ordinated offences exploited the ”anonymity of the internet” to bring down the websites and attract media attention. Slayo, using the online pseudonym, Rand, became a ”channel operator”, able to remove people from forums and to moderate discussion. Ms Vinton said Slayo, who had legitimate concerns about planned filters, believed the internet ”should be fully accessible to everyone”. Mr Young said an Australian Federal Police high-tech crime investigations team acted on February 5 after a group posted plans to attack the sites through an ”internet relay chat”. ”Unfortunately, he chose very much the wrong way to go in sticking his hand up.”

She told magistrate Donna Bakos, who questioned his motivation, that police found a letter to Mr Conroy in his mother’s home that ”detailed his legitimate concerns in relation to censorship of the internet”. He said Mr Conroy’s website was forced off-line ”for some time” and the parliamentary site was unavailable for more than five hours. Mr Young said the attacks, also unleashed on the parliamentary and Australian government websites, were designed to disrupt electronic infrastructure and ”embarrass the government over its stated policy of imposing internet filters”. Melbourne Magistrates Court heard that the attacks last February were designed to make certain websites inaccessible by flooding the host server with requests to establish connections. Ms Bakos will sentence him next month. After his arrest, Slayo admitted he encouraged others to ”attack Commonwealth computers” but had not participated. Mr Young said that, on February 10, Slayo used a channel to call for attacks on the Parliament site then redirected participants to Mr Conroy’s site. Slayo, a university student, of Roxburgh Park, pleaded guilty to four charges including one of inciting others to impair electronic communications and two of unauthorised access to restricted data.
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This caused some computers to get delayed responses from those servers, and an older version of Skype’s Windows software improperly processed the responses, crashing Skype for about 20 per cent of users. Rabbe said the issue, which began last Wednesday, started when a group of servers running offline instant messaging overloaded. A software glitch caused Skype’s major outage last week, the internet calling and messaging service said. In a blog post, chief information officer Lars Rabbe said the 24-hour outage that cut service for nearly all of Skype’s users stemmed from a problem in a version of Skype’s software for computers running Microsoft’s Windows operating system.

That was 10 per cent less than the usual traffic for the time of day, as some people still could not log on. A year ago, eBay sold its majority stake in the business for about $2 billion to an investor group that includes Skype’s founders. Skype’s popularity around the globe stems in large part from the free or cheap calls it provides. Skype has indicated that it wants to list its shares on the Nasdaq Stock Market. Subscribers will be credited with a week’s extra subscription service. At that point, voice calling, video-chatting and text-based instant messaging were working for most users, Bates said, but other features, such as offline instant messaging and group video calls, were still down. Skype’s software offers a range of free services, including the ability to make voice or video calls and send instant messages to other Skype users. In a video posted on the Skype blog, Bates said the problems “completely took almost every user offline.”

The service went down for almost all of its users starting at midday Eastern time on Wednesday. Computers that crashed included numerous “supernodes” – computers Skype likens to phone directories, helping users connect with each other – which resulted in a much larger outage as other available supernodes couldn’t handle all the user traffic. Users pay for services such as making calls from a PC to a landline or cell phone. On average, 124 million people use Skype each month, though the total number of registered users is more than four times that. The Luxembourg-based company said customers who pre-pay for service or are on pay-as-you-go plans will receive an e-mail with a voucher for 30 minutes of free calling to landlines anywhere in the world. AP Skype has since returned to operating normally. By Thursday afternoon, things had improved to the point where about 21 million users were logged in, said CEO Tony Bates. Other internet-based calling services that compete with the traditional phone system also have problems with consistent service. Earlier this year, AT&T Inc.’s Internet-based “U-verse” phone system went down for several hours, affecting 1.15 million customers.

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  TraintDroid’s findings suggest that smartphones are becoming another outlet for advertisers to track people. Two also shared mobile phone number and sim card identifiers with random servers, whose owners could not be identified. The study’s lead author, William Enck, who is completing his PhD at Pennsylvania State University, said: ”We were surprised by how many of the studied applications shared our information without our knowledge or consent.”

A spokeswoman from Google said on all computing devices, desktop or mobile, users needed to entrust at least some of their information to the developer of the application. The applications assessed included BBC News Live Stream, MySpace and Solitaire, which can be downloaded on smartphones using the popular Google-owned Android operating system. Using a technique called ”taint tracking”, the researchers tagged sensitive information held within their test phone, such as the phone’s ID numbers and location, which can be traced when accessed by an application or if it leaves the phone via its wireless internet connection. ”We provide developers with best practices about how to handle user data.”

Users were also free to uninstall applications at any time, the spokeswoman said. Do you know more?

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POPULAR mobile phone applications are sharing sensitive information about users, including their location, with advertising companies, a study has found. Of the 30 applications, 15 sent sensitive information, including the phone’s location, to several advertising companies’ servers. A group of computer engineers wrote a computer program called TaintDroid and installed it on a smartphone to monitor how 30 apps – mobile phone programs for the likes of social networking and downloadable games – were using sensitive information.

Ten popular Facebook applications have been reportedly transmitting user IDs to advertising and Internet tracking companies.

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Pippa Leary, managing director media at the publisher’s digital arm, Fairfax Digital, said users could chose from 100 sections whose genres of news were displayed on the screen. Respondents to a Fairfax survey said that they were willing to pay for the ability to customise and personalise news on their iPhones. Readers who subscribe over a six-month period to Fairfax’s apps will pay $12.99, representing a discount of 15 per cent. Fairfax Media chief executive and managing director Brian McCarthy called the development a ”milestone” in the company’s ”delivery of content through digital platforms”. More than 1.1 million access Fairfax’s news websites on mobile phones, the vast majority of which are iPhones. The amount of content available to view on the apps will be comparable to that found on Fairfax’s news websites, but considerably more than the snapshot made available on the company’s mobile-enabled sites. au, WAtoday.com.au, and brisbanetimes.com.au. It is aimed at what we call newsphiles – those people who access a news website four to six times a day,” said Ms Leary. ”We have built this app specifically for this screen to give people the best viewing experience. Fairfax is among many newspaper groups around the world looking to smartphones and tablets such as the iPad as a source of revenue, as people turn increasingly to the internet and mobile devices for news and weather. It is thought to be the first time a publisher has introduced a subscription model for iPhone apps. Until now most newspaper publishers have charged a one-off fee. FAIRFAX Media today releases a suite of applications to enable readers to customise their news on their Apple iPhones. Readers will be charged $2.49 a month to download the apps from Apple’s iTunes store for smh.com.au, theage.com. Apps for other smartphones are in development, Fairfax said.

Soviet product … Photo: Getty Images among Alexander Lebedev’s residences is a stately home in Hampton Court Palace.

“Assange said that Russians will soon find out a lot about their country and he wasn’t bluffing,” Novaya Gazeta said. Novaya Gazeta, the Moscow newspaper controlled by former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and billionaire Alexander Lebedev, said it agreed to join forces with WikiLeaks to expose corruption in Russia. “Our collaboration will expose corruption at the top tiers of political power. Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, which publishes secret government and corporate documents online, has materials specifically about Russia that haven’t been published yet and Novaya Gazeta will help make them public, the newspaper said on its website today. No one is protected from the truth.”
diplomatic and military documents. The newspaper will start releasing materials next month. Novaya Gazeta correspondent Anna Politkovskaya, who wrote about graft under then-President Vladimir Putin and chronicled abuses by military forces in Chechnya, was shot dead in her Moscow apartment building in 2006, on Putin’s birthday. He turned himself in to British authorities Dec. WikiLeaks was condemned by the U.S. The weekly newspaper is known in an industry dominated by state-run companies for its critical reports of the Kremlin and investigative coverage of Russian affairs. Assange was released from a London prison on bail on Dec. Novaya Gazeta received unlimited access to the WikiLeaks database, which has a “wide range” of materials, including documents about Politkovskaya’s murder as well as information about Russian politicians’ ties to organized crime, Nadezhda Prusenkova, a Novaya Gazeta spokeswoman, said by phone from Moscow. Bloomberg 16. government for posting thousands of classified U.S. 7 after Sweden issued a warrant for his extradition on counts of sexual molestation and rape. “When people communicate, they sometimes use very harsh language and if such a leak had happened from our Foreign Ministry or secrete services, many of our partners, including Americans, would have got an emotional charge after reading ‘kind words’ about themselves,” Medvedev said during a meeting with students in Mumbai today. ‘Kind words’

President Dmitry Medvedev said the documents published by WikiLeaks don’t hurt Russia’s interests and that the Russian authorities don’t care what’s being discussed in diplomatic circles.

Photo: AFP Famous friends … Lebedev with J.K. Rowling and the former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev.

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”If infrastructure is built, we will ensure we make the best use of it.” He ruled out removing cables that are being installed around the country by the government-owned NBN Co. The opposition’s communications spokesman, Malcolm Turnbull, has conceded the Coalition would not ”tear up” what had already been built of the national broadband network if it won the next federal election, saying it would put any infrastructure to good use. ”Clearly, we would not be tearing anything up,” he said at a banking conference. After being appointed to ”demolish” the Gillard government’s planned network, Mr Turnbull yesterday told a business audience in Sydney the Coalition would take a ”hard-headed” look at the project if elected.

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Paul Budde, a telecommunications consultant who supports the network, said Mr Turnbull’s comments made sense because the public was growing tired of the Coalition’s ”black-and-white” attacks on the network. Mr Turnbull is expected to provide further details on his thinking on competition in the sector in a speech in Melbourne today. So far, the network has been introduced to test sites in Tasmania and work has also begun in mainly rural areas. However, he did not endorse this approach. NBN Co is expected to provide fresh details soon on how the government’s promise to prioritise rural areas will affect the costs and timetable of the installation. The executive chairman of NBN Co, Mike Quigley, will also speak today in Melbourne, making his first public comments since the election campaign. In a possible clue into the opposition’s thinking, Mr Turnbull explored a ”structural separation” of Telstra – of its wholesale and retail arms – without building a whole new broadband network. Mr Turnbull’s concession reflects pressures on the Coalition to explain where it stands on broadband. The opposition has so far focused on attacking the cost of the network and calling for a cost-benefit analysis, but it is understood some senior Liberals see developing a clearer policy on how they would support wider access to broadband as a high priority.

Furthermore 39 per cent asked for directions to their nearest restaurant. But marketers are also considering the use of global satellite technology to verify market research. All too often when asked by market researchers to recall where we were, what we did and how long we spent doing it, the mind goes blank. Location-based marketing – whether it be harvesting information about your whereabouts or simply sending you ads – is the next boom area for marketers. In trials Navteq ran in Europe for a fast food chain, recipients were 14 times more likely to click through for more information than a regular banner ad on a mobile phone.   Increasingly advertisers are opting to have their location shown on Google’s map products so that when a query is typed into Google’s search engine on a mobile phone up comes an address and phone number for that business and, most importantly, how to get there. WHERE you are rather than who you are appears to be what the marketers want to know. Similar ads will appear on car satellite navigation systems as soon as the company that owns the technology is able to figure out how to prevent the ads from distracting drivers. Mobile phones and satellite navigation systems are emerging as tools for companies to help them investigate shopping habits as well as serve up ads based on your location. The technology could be used to track young people’s safe driving habits so that they could get better deals from insurers. ”Location is the new demographic. By the end of the year ads for fast food operators, petrol stations, hotels and pharmacies will begin appearing on mobile phones that have opted in to receive advertising messages. ”Now an advertiser can reach consumers when they are in a geographic position to buy and, in many cases, compel them to do so with coupons and special offers.”

Google reports one in three searches made by people on their smartphones is for information about services close to their location. Jason Buchanan of GPS Innovations, a company specialising in satellite positioning technology, said devices can be fitted on handbags, suitcases or simply clipped on to a person to help market researchers track their movements as they move around the city. It’s not just about age, gender and socio-economics,” said Kirk Mitchell vice-president of sales at Navteq, which is behind the new technology.

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Photo: Andrew Meares Nick Xenophon … backing the legislation.

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The federal opposition has mounted a last-ditch effort to stymie the national broadband network by delaying until Monday a vote on the bill to structurally separate Telstra. Yesterday, as the government brushed aside the concerns of 10 chief executives from small carriers regarding affordability of internet services, the opposition successfully employed tactics to mire the Senate in procedural quicksand and delay the vote as long as possible.
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The two independent senators, Steve Fielding and Nick Xenophon, and the Greens support the bill to separate Telstra’s retail and wholesale arms, which is critical to the $35.7 billion network being introduced. The vote to structurally separate Telstra was scheduled for Wednesday night, but the Coalition succeeded in shutting the Senate down at 7.20pm and yesterday, used procedural tactics to further the delay until Monday. There was tension yesterday when the government tried to water down the agreed amendments, under pressure from Telstra. The government has been under fire for being unable to ”land” its policies and needs to go to the Christmas break with the legislation under its belt. The deal involves Telstra being paid $13.8 billion for the use of its infrastructure to roll out the national fibre network. The delay forced MPs and senators to sit on Monday, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Shareholders must vote to approve the deal early next year. The opposition used the delay to pressure Senator Xenophon to change his mind, but both he and Senator Fielding said last night they would not move. Senator Xenophon won several concessions from the government, including amendments to increase competition and to ensure all retailers receive access to the network equal to that of Telstra. During the last question time for the year, Ms Gillard rounded on the Opposition leader, Tony Abbott for the delaying tactics. Parliament was due to rise for the year last night. The biggest investor in Telstra, the Future Fund, said yesterday it would not guarantee its support for the deal between Telstra and NBN Co until it saw more details. ”I expect everyone to stick to the agreement.”

After the government this week released a business case summary, the chief executives of the 10 telco firms that make up the Alliance for Affordable Broadband wrote to the chairman of NBN Co, Mike Quigley, saying a failure to allow price falls would limit competition. But Senator Xenophon stood firm. The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, rejected the criticism from the Alliance, saying real prices would fall once inflation was taken into account. Independent analysts also raised doubts over the pricing strategy, saying it went against the experience of most new telecommunications networks. ”It’s time to stop being stranded as human history marches past you,” she said. She said he was good at running a protest vote in the lead-up to an election but ”you can’t run one over three years”.

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It comes as FetchTV’s first major distributor, the internet service provider iiNet, prepares to kick off a marketing campaign promoting the pay TV service, and others such as Sony Playstation, Microsoft’s Xbox and Foxtel ramp up their video on demand activity. NEWS CORPORATION has snubbed Telstra by handing the rights to show 20th Century Fox movies to a rival, FetchTV, as competition among a new breed of pay TV services heats up. FetchTV, which is backed by the Malaysian billionaire T. Ananda Krishnan, will be able to show new release movies from Fox from the beginning of next month, despite the fact that Telstra is a joint shareholder with News Corp in the pay TV company Foxtel.

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Sony is gearing up to offer more pay per view content on its PlayStation 3 gaming console. Since May Sony’s 1 million PS3 customers have been able to rent or buy new releases without any continuing subscription fees. Next month it is adding arthouse and independent movies. T-Box customers then have to pay $11 a month over that period for the T-Box, compared to iiNet’s $29.95 monthly fee. Users of the gaming console will pay less than $20 a month for 11 channels and an extra $10 for access to some movies. At its annual results, Telstra said it had sold 40,000 T-Box units since its launch in June and it says the number of movies downloaded has rocketed to 90,000 in the past month off the back of sales of set top boxes. But he admitted that it was hard to communicate the fact that FetchTV’s content is broadcast quality and delivered over the internet but not streamed from the internet which can experience buffering. ”Education is going to be a tough ask,” he said, but that word of mouth was key to driving up take of the service. Greg Bader, the chief technology officer at iiNet, said marketing to its 630,000 broadband customers, which will begin next week, would talk about the size of the box’s hard drive and the features such as channels and films. The parity in Hollywood output puts the focus for future marketing back on the price of subscriptions and quality of delivery between Telstra and iiNet, which has confirmed it is waiving the $99 up-front installation fee for FetchTV’s set top box. This puts pressure on Telstra, which charges a $35 upfront fee for its internet-enabled digital video recorder, T-Box, over a 24-month contract. Sony Pictures is the last remaining studio not to sign with FetchTV. A Telstra spokesman, Craig Middleton, said : ”We are in talks with a number of studios but we cannot discuss that without their approval.”

  The Fox deal puts FetchTV and Telstra’s BigPond on an equal footing in terms of the output deals with the Hollywood studios. A PlayStation spokeswoman said the number of movie downloads was ”exceeding our preliminary targets”. There is mounting speculation that Foxtel will release a ”lite” package of limited channels on T-Box, similar to the one it outlined earlier this week on the Microsoft Xbox 360 console.

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But later, some mischievous users of the site started using the exploit to make people “retweet” infected messages (when they hovered over a tweet with the code inserted) that they had not authorised. “I analysed the code within these ‘rainbow tweets’ more carefully, and it became evident that you could use any Javascript or HTML [code] rather than just CSS [code] - which meant that instead of just changing the appearance of the tweet, you could actually execute commands within the user's browser."

He said that after he started noticing the exploit, some of his followers "realised the power" of the vulnerability, "and within a matter of minutes scripts had taken over my [Twitter] timeline". "First, someone created an account that exploited the issue by turning tweets different colors and causing a pop-up box with text to appear when someone hovered over the link in the Tweet. "In all the four years of using Twitter, this is the first time I recall a security hole spreading at the rate it did."

Asked what he had gained from discovering the exploit, he laughed, saying: "Apart from [Twitter] followers?"

More seriously, he added: "I guess I have gained knowledge of how easy information can spread throughout social media networks. Twitter user @judofyr was then the first one to create a self replicating retweet worm by accident, he said, while some New Zealand Twitter users used the vulnerability to create a malevolent worm deliberately. "The effects on the site had it been day time there could have been a lot worse. "I guess regardless of power or fame, on the internet you have to be as careful as everyone else about security risks; this is one of the few areas that affects everyone on an equal scale."

News site Netcraft said it appeared as though Pearce found the exploit by looking at another Twitter page that took advantage of a similar exploit but only changed the colour of Twitter messages. Literally moments after I had tweet[ed] the ... He said it was first discovered by Twitter user @kinugawamasato, who changed the colour of tweets. "Luckily when this vulnerability first got out, it was apparently the middle of the night in North America," he said. He said "theoretically this could be used to maliciously steal users' account details". exploit prior to it being touted in public. Pearce was then the "first person to report the Javascript vulnerability", he said, which made alert boxes appear when users hovered over tweets. But "the problem was being able to write code that can steal usernames and passwords while still remaining under Twitter's 140 character tweet limit", he said. "Other users took this one step further and added code that caused people to retweet the original Tweet without their knowledge."

It said the "vast majority" of exploits related to this incident fell under the "prank or promotional" categories. He said it was Twitter's responsibility, not his, to keep the site secure. However, we are not aware of any issues related to it that would cause harm to computers or their accounts," it said. Twitter engineers were pressed into finding a fix for the exploit within hours of it being discovered. Twitter, which allows users to pepper one another with messages of 140 characters or less, has more than 145 million registered users, co-founder Evan Williams said recently.The author of this post is on Twitter: @bengrubb

With AFP Speaking to this website, Pearce, who is studying year 12 at Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School, said that he was surprised that "so many famous people got infected". "Not wanting to get my account banned, since I've been a Twitter user since 2006, I was very careful to the kind of script I posted (unlike some, who were very liberal at posting self replicating worms like @Matsta, who subsequently got their account suspended)," he said. Pearce confirmed this, however, there has been some confusion over who first created certain parts of the exploit. script, I had dozens of replies in shock, questioning how I managed to do that."

Realising this, he said, it got him thinking how hard it would be to extract personal information from a user using the exploit. However, the fact that this vulnerability was omnipresent for hours, with no word from any of the Twitter staff, before it was fixed, meant there was lots of confusion and distress within the Twitter community, as the safety of the site was questioned."

Asked whether he thought it was irresponsible to discover and then tweet the exploit he had found, he said: "The situation could have been handled better if Twitter had been notified of the ... Pearce added that this was "the first time" he had found any kind of exploit on Twitter. Pearce said Twitter "probably could have handled it better" when questioned on its ability to fix the exploit. After a "little bit of coding", he said he "managed to generate a dialog box containing the data from within the Twitter cookie file". "And, there is no need to change passwords because user account information was not compromised through this exploit."Security expert Graham Cluley of computer security firm Sophos said the bug only affected users of the Twitter.com website and not third-party programs developed to access the popular microblogging service.Mr Cluley said the bug was allowing messages to pop-up and third-party websites to open in a web browser including links to pornography sites.He said that Brown's tweets had redirected followers to "a hardcore porn site based in Japan"."It looks like many users are currently using the flaw for fun and games," Cluley said. "But there is obviously the potential for cybercriminals to redirect users to third-party websites containing malicious code, or for spam advertising pop-ups to be displayed," he said.The infected links look like regular "tweets", but contain lines of random computer code or are completely blacked out like a message that has been redacted. "Users may still see strange retweets in their timelines caused by the exploit. "When one considers entities like the White House, you don't expect someone to actually be sitting there refreshing the Twitter home page and mousing over links from whoever they're following," he said. He said he gained an extra 130 followers from tweeting about the exploit. "However, it is not the job of the user to protect the integrity of a third party site; Twitter ultimately has a responsibility of ensuring its site is safe for its users itself."

Computer security firms said thousands of users, or more, were affected by the exploit.Those whose accounts were hit included Sarah Brown, the wife of the former British prime minister Gordon Brown, who has more than a million Twitter followers, and White House press secretary Robert Gibbs."My Twitter went haywire - absolutely no clue why it sent that message or even what it is ... paging the tech guys," Gibbs wrote on the site.Twitter said it had identified the attack and that it had been "fully patched". "Early this morning, a user noticed the security hole and took advantage of it on Twitter.com," Twitter said on its blog.

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An Australian teen has caused havoc on Twitter by discovering an "exploit" that hit thousands of users, including US President Barack Obama's press secretary, and resulted in the tweets of a former British PM's wife linking to hardcore porn. Illustration: Ben Grubb/wires Twitter CEO Evan Williams and Pearce Delphin (@zzap). Melbourne student Pearce Delphin, 17, triggered the Twitter scare by testing computer code that opened alert boxes in web browsers saying "uh oh" when a user hovered over infected messages or tweets, with their mouse.

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