Cybersquatters descend on royal baby

The Duke and Duchess of CambridgeDomains were snapped up almost from the moment Prince George was born

Cybersquatters have leapt at the chance to register domain names referring to the new royal baby, Prince George.

Within moments of the baby’s name being announced, domains such as and were taken.

Purchases of domain names mentioning the name “George” rose by 106.9%, reseller said.

One buyer of a royal baby-related domain has put it up for sale at £10,000.

The owner, Matt James, snapped up on 24th July – the day of the naming announcement.

He told the BBC: “Like most British people, I was glued to the TV, excited about the birth and thought a baby Prince domain name had potential.

“If it does sell for £10,000, I will definitely give half to a charity associated with Will and Kate.”

Between 22 and 25 July, noted 413 individual domains that contained one or more of the words Royal, Baby, HRH, Prince, George, Alexander and or Louis.

Opportunistic buyers were busy snapping up royal baby-related names well before the prince was even born – the less-than-appealing name was bought in December last year.

Rainforest wrangles

Cybersquatting is a common concern for companies who are determined to protect their brand online.

Firms like Google go to great lengths to prevent embarrassment by buying up hundreds of domains like – but also domains used to imitate brands for more malicious reasons, such as “phishing” scams which seek to trick users into thinking they are on a legitimate website.

Soon, Icann – the body responsible for overseeing the domain name system – will roll-out custom top level domains, paving the way for suffixes like .google and .apple as well as the more typical .com and The BBC has applied to have .bbc.

The Amazon rainforestCountries in the region want to protect the online identity of the Amazon rainforest

Companies have been invited to request ownership of domains which relate to trademarks they own.

The process has stirred some controversy, however – online shop Amazon has been denied the use of .amazon after a challenge from several Latin American companies.

They argued the domain should be used to reflect the rainforest region rather than the retail giant.

“‘.amazon’ is a geographic name that represents important territories of some of our countries which have relevant communities, with their own culture and identity directly connected with the name,” said a letter from the countries.

“Beyond the specifics, this should also be understood as a matter of principle.”

An Icann sub-committee agreed with this argument, but its decision is not final and can be overruled by the Icann board.

At the time of writing, .prince is still available as a suffix, however .george has been requested by Wal-Mart, presumably in relation to the clothing brand.

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Man held over Twitter abuse case

Caroline Criado-Perez with Mark Carney and two female MPsCaroline Criado-Perez (right) says the abuse started after her successful bank note campaign

A man has been arrested after a feminist campaigner was deluged on Twitter with abuse and threats of rape, Scotland Yard has confirmed.

The 21-year-old was detained earlier in the Manchester area on suspicion of harassment offences.

Caroline Criado-Perez faced abuse after successfully campaigning for a woman’s face to appear on UK banknotes.

Labour has complained to Twitter about what it says was an “inadequate response” to the abuse.

Ms Criado-Perez, who had appeared in the media to campaign for women to feature on banknotes, said the abusive tweets began the day it was announced that author Jane Austen would appear on the newly designed £10 note.

She reported them to the police after receiving “about 50 abusive tweets an hour for about 12 hours” and said she had “stumbled into a nest of men who co-ordinate attacks on women”.

‘Malicious communications’

Via her Twitter page on Sunday evening she said she was at a police station making a statement and that there were “many more threats to report”.

The Metropolitan Police said an allegation of “malicious communications” had been made to officers in Camden on Thursday.

An online petition set-up in response to the abuse called on Twitter to introduce a “report abuse” button and received thousands of signatures.

Labour said on Sunday that it had written to Twitter complaining that it had been “weak” to tell Ms Criado-Perez to take her complaints to the police.

“Of course it is right to report such abuse to the police,” shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper wrote.

“But social media platforms also have a responsibility for the platform they give users.”

Ms Cooper said Twitter should carry out a full review of its abuse and complaints policies.

Guidelines published by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, in June said there should be a “high threshold for prosecution in cases involving communications which may be considered grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or false”.

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Co-founder of Russia’s Yandex dies

Ilya Segalovich with Arkady VolozhIlya Segalovich (left) founded Yandex with school friend Arkady Volozh

The man who co-founded Russia’s biggest search engine, Yandex, has died aged 48 after suffering from cancer.

Ilya Segalovich set up the web company with business partner and school friend Arkady Volozh in 1997.

He was diagnosed with stomach cancer last year and went into a coma on Thursday, the company said.

Yandex is one of Russia’s biggest internet companies – valued at £6.5bn ($10bn) and has more than double Google’s market share in the country.

Mr Segalovich went to hospital on Wednesday with head pains before suddenly deteriorating, the Financial Times reported this week.

Yandex director general Mr Volozh said he had been responding well to chemotherapy but developed cancer in his brain, which led to his death.

On Thursday the company announced he had died before saying he was on life support with no brain function.

“The only hope we had was a diagnosis error,” Mr Volozh said. “We couldn’t make a miracle. We only could offer a chance for it to happen.”

A statement on a tribute page set up by the company described Mr Segalovich as: “A scholar and a citizen with an active lifestyle… father of five children, friend, colleague, teacher and hilarious clown”.

His business partner and friend, Mr Volozh, said he died in a London hospital on Saturday.

As well as setting up the company, he was its chief technological officer and came up with the name Yandex – a shortened version of “Yet Another Index”.

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Bots help geeks nab best tables

The IvyRegulars at many London restaurants rely on their relationship with staff to secure a table

If you want a good table at a top restaurant in Silicon Valley you had better be a good programmer.

Coders in San Francisco are using custom written programmes, or bots, to grab the good tables leaving other diners frustrated.

The bots watch restaurant websites to spot when tables become available then reserve them before humans can react.

The use of bots has made it almost impossible to get good tables at some of the most popular Valley eateries.

Dinner mix

The growing use of bots was uncovered by programmer Diogo Monica who wrote a small programme to help him spot free tables at his favourite San Francisco restaurant State Bird Provisions (SBP).

The code emailed Mr Monica when other diners cancelled reservations or SBP released more tables. While the code helped him get a table now and then it quickly became ineffective. Close scrutiny of the SBP website revealed why.

“I found myself looking at it and noticed that as soon as reservations became available on the website (at 04:00), all the good times were immediately taken and were gone by 04:01,” he wrote.

“It quickly became obvious that these were reservation bots at work,” he said. This was making it all but impossible for anyone to get a table at SBP which is almost always fully booked, up to 60 days ahead.

In retaliation, Mr Monica wrote his own reservation bot and has started to regularly get a table at SBP.

He told the BBC that he knew of other programmers using bots to snap up tables at many restaurants in and around the Valley and added that there were also websites, such as Hacker Table, that let anyone automate the process of grabbing a table.

“It is a big problem in SF, yes, but only for the ‘hip’ restaurants,” he told the BBC.

London was likely to have less of a problem with such bots, said Frances Dore, a spokeswoman for Caprice Holdings which runs restaurants such as The Ivy, Scott’s and Le Caprice.

Ms Dore said regulars at its restaurants typically knew the maitre d’ well enough to ensure that they got a table at very short notice. Few regulars would have to rely on software to secure a spot.

While online reservations were important to a lot of restaurants now, none would rely on them to entirely fill their tables, she said.

“No restaurant worth its salt will have a booking mechanism that is all online,” she said. “It would be suicidal to do it all that way.”

Better restaurants took seriously the mix of people in their establishment, she said, and on any night the clientele would be made up of regulars, reservations and walk-ins who were happy to wait for a table to become free.

“You try to manage the mix as much as possible rather than opening it up to complete strangers every night,” she said.

Bot wars

Mr Monica’s blog post about his bot prompted many people to confess in emails to him and via Twitter that they had written their own code to do a similar job. Mr Monica has also published the core code for his reservations programme which may also prompt others to create their own version.

Security expert Martin Zetterlund from Sentor which helps websites defeat bots and related attack tools called scrapers said machines could be hard to beat.

“When competing for any type of scarce resource a bot will always be better than a human,” he said. “It will never sleep and it reacts in a microsecond.”

While bots could be easy to spot because they act far faster than people, many good bot writers worked hard to conceal who was snapping up tickets or stealing data, he said.

Mr Monica said he expected to see a reaction from other bot writers and he was prepared to up the stakes. The next step might be to locate his server closer to that running the SBP website to give his bots a micro-second advantage.

“As for tactics, think of this war like high-frequency trading,” he said. “The people with the best algorithms/optimisations will have an edge over everyone else.”

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Elite hacker dies ahead of event

Barnaby JackBarnaby Jack rose to fame after he demonstrated how to hack a cash machine

An elite hacker who was due to demonstrate how heart implants could be hacked has died unexpectedly in San Francisco.

Barnaby Jack died on Thursday, the city’s medical examiner’s office told Reuters, but did not give more details.

He had been due to give a presentation into medical device vulnerabilities at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas taking place next week.

He had said one technique could kill a man from 30 feet (nine metres) away.

IOActive, the security firm at which Mr Jack was director of embedded devices, said it was preparing a statement.

In a tweet, the company said: “Lost but never forgotten our beloved pirate, Barnaby Jack has passed.”

His sister Amberleigh Jack, who lives in New Zealand, told Reuters news agency he was 35.

Mr Jack became one of the most famous hackers on the planet after a 2010 demonstration in which he hacked a cashpoint, making it give out money. The technique was dubbed “Jackpotting”.

‘Social media flood’

More recently, he emerged as a leading expert in the weaknesses that could be found in medical technology.

Last year, he told the BBC about how he had discovered flaws in widely-used insulin pumps which allowed him to compromise the devices.

The hack made it possible to control them and administer a fatal level of insulin, Mr Jack said.

“My purpose was not to allow anyone to be harmed by this because it is not easy to reproduce,” he told the BBC during an interview in April 2012.

“But hopefully it will promote some change in these companies and get some meaningful security in these devices.”

Mr Jack’s expertise and vivid demonstrations of his knowledge at events like Black Hat earned him the respect of many security professionals.

Amberleigh Jack thanked those who have been posting messages of sympathy online.

“So humbled by the social media flood of people that loved @barnaby_jack,” she tweeted.

“Thank you all so much for your kind words.”

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Bing introduces abuse search pop-ups

Bing warning pop-up messageBing’s warning is triggered by a search term “blacklist” compiled by experts

Microsoft’s Bing search engine has become the first to introduce pop-up warnings for people in the UK who seek out online images of child abuse.

The notification will tell them the content is illegal and provide details of a counselling service.

It comes after the prime minister said internet companies needed to do more to block access to such images.

Yahoo, which uses Bing’s technology on its search page, is also reported to be planning to introduce pop-up warnings.

Google is not planning to use pop-ups but said it would continue to report material and help experts combat the problem.

The debate about online images showing the sexual abuse of children has come to prominence after two high-profile murder trials heard how the killers searched for them.

Bing’s pop-up warning, which applies to searches conducted in the UK, is triggered when people enter words on a “blacklist” compiled by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop).

Microsoft said the notifications aimed “to stop those who may be drifting towards trying to find illegal child abuse content on the web via search engines”.

A spokesman said: “This is in addition to Microsoft’s existing and longstanding policy of removing any verified links to illegal content of this sort from Bing as quickly as possible.”

“Microsoft has been, and remains, a strong proponent of proactive action in reasonable and scalable ways by the technology industry in the fight against technology-facilitated child exploitation… we have teams dedicated globally to abuse reporting on our services and the development of new innovations to combat child exploitation more broadly.”

However, Bing’s warning message does not seem to go as far as Prime Minister David Cameron’s call for a message warning people of the consequences a criminal conviction for their actions could have “such as losing their job, their family, even access to their children”.

He also called for the internet companies to block certain searches from even providing results.

“There are some searches which are so abhorrent and where there can be no doubt whatsoever about the sick and malevolent intent of the searcher,” the prime minister said in a speech.

‘Positive step’

Google said it had a “zero tolerance attitude to child sexual abuse imagery”.

A company spokesman said: “We use our own systems and work with child safety experts to find it, remove and report it. We recently donated $5m (£3.3m) to groups working to combat this problem and are committed to continuing the dialogue with the government on these issues.”

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It is a small, initial part of the solution to prevent child sexual abuse, protect children and pursue offenders.”

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Andy Baker
Ceop deputy chief executive

A Ceop report this year highlighted how the “hidden internet” helped distributers of child abuse images to evade detection by using encrypted networks and other secure methods.

Ceop deputy chief executive Andy Baker said: “This is a positive step in the right direction to deterring potential offenders from accessing indecent images of children on the internet. But it is a small, initial part of the solution to prevent child sexual abuse, protect children and pursue offenders.

“While the Bing project isn’t the whole solution, I hope it goes some way to making those who are curious about searching for indecent images think again.”

Ceop acknowledged its “blacklist” could not include every search term that might lead to images of abuse.

John Carr, from the Children’s Charities’ Coalition on Internet Safety, told the BBC: “To hardened technology-sophisticated technology-literate paedophiles, these pop-ups will probably make very little difference.

“But there is a very large number of men who perhaps have a marginal interest in this type of material and we need to stop them getting any further engaged with it.”

Mr Carr said the internet companies were all focusing on the problem of child abuse material.

In June, after a meeting chaired by the culture secretary, the government said Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, Twitter and Facebook would allow the charity the Internet Watch Foundation actively to seek out abusive images, rather than just acting upon reports they received.

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Disney tests air-flow tactile gaming

Tactile air

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Disney shows off its tactile, interactive air device – video courtesy of Disney Research

Gamers could be able to feel the thwack of a ball or bullets whooshing past their faces if Disney’s experimental air-flow technology takes off.

Dubbed Aireal, the technology allows users to feel physical feedback from virtual images without having to wear gloves, belts or vests.

Puffs of compressed air blown at different strengths and speeds simulate tactile experiences, the inventors say.

It is the latest innovation in haptic – or tactile – technology.

Air vortices pumped through 3D-printed flexible nozzles directed by motion sensors can simulate anything from the gentle flap of a butterfly’s wings to the hard impact of a ball hitting the hand, say developers at the University of Illinois and Disney Research.

But the technology is at a very early stage of development.

While motion sensors have allowed gamers to interact with 2D screens without the need for hand-held controllers, haptics aims to make these virtual experiences tactile as well.

“This is obviously just a proof of concept at this stage,” said Prof Vic Grout, head of computing at Glyndwr University. “But it could have some very interesting applications in the gaming and non-gaming worlds.

“Most people interact more naturally with computer systems through touch or movement, and gesture-controlled interfaces are now well established.

“The big breakthrough for Disney’s technology will come if they can make it mobile.”

Disney was showing off its new technology at the Siggraph conference in Anaheim, California.

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US launches huge hacking fraud case

Cashpoint machineStolen card data was uploaded to blank cards used by criminals to make cash withdrawals and purchases

US prosecutors have launched what they say is the country’s largest ever hacking fraud case.

Five men in Russia and Ukraine have been charged with running a hacking operation that allegedly stole more than 160 million credit and debit card numbers from a number of major US companies over a period of seven years.

Losses from the thefts amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars.

Corporate victims included Nasdaq, Visa, Dow Jones and JC Penney.

Paul Fishman, US Attorney for the District of New Jersey, called the case “the largest ever hacking and data scheme breach in the United States”.

Just three of the corporate victims reported $300m (£196m) in losses, prosecutors say.

Other victims included Heartland Payment Systems, one of the world’s largest credit and debit card payment processing companies; French retailer Carrefour; Dexia Bank Belgium; and 7-Eleven.

The indictment identified the defendants as Vladimir Drinkman, Aleksander Kalinin, Roman Kotov and Dmitriy Smilianets, all from Russia, and Mikhail Rytikov, a Ukrainian.

All five are charged with taking part in a computer hacking conspiracy and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Mr Drinkman and Mr Kalinin specialised in penetrating network security and hacking into corporate systems, prosecutors allege, while Mr Kotov specialised in trawling through the data looking for information worth stealing.

Mr Rytikov ran the anonymous web-hosting services that enabled the others to carry out their activities, while Mr Smilianets sold on the stolen data and farmed out the proceeds, prosecutors say.

“This type of crime is the cutting edge,” said Mr Fishman. “Those who have the expertise and the inclination to break into our computer networks threaten our economic well-being, our privacy, and our national security.”

One of the co-conspirators named is Albert Gonzalez, known online as “soupnazi”, who was charged along with Mr Kalinin and Mr Drinkman in 2009 and is already serving 20 years for corporate data hacking.

Mr Drinkman and Mr Smilianets are both in custody but the other three remain at large.


The attacks often involved identifying weaknesses in Structured Query Language (SQL) databases and uploading malware that gave them access to corporate networks.

“Sniffer” software then sought out and collected valuable personal data that the defendants could sell on to other criminals around the world.

Credit card numbers were sold for $15 to $50 each, prosecutors say. This stolen data could be transferred to blank cards then used to withdraw cash or make purchases.

The prosecutors said the defendants encrypted their communications and managed to disable security systems on corporate networks to prevent detection.

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Chinese firm controls UK porn filter

Huawei logo outside company buildingHuawei has had considerable operations in the UK for almost a decade

The pornography filtering system praised by David Cameron is controlled by the controversial Chinese company Huawei, the BBC has learned.

UK-based employees at the firm are able to decide which sites TalkTalk’s net filtering service blocks.

Politicians in both the UK and US have raised concerns about alleged close ties between Huawei and the Chinese government.

The company says the worries are without foundation and prejudiced.

On Monday the Prime Minister said TalkTalk had shown “great leadership” in setting up its system, Homesafe, which it has offered to customers since 2011.

TalkTalk told the BBC it was comfortable with its relationship with Huawei, and that the service was very popular.

Homesafe is a voluntary scheme which allows subscribers to select categories – including social media, gambling and pornography – that they want blocked.

Customers who do not want filtering still have their traffic routed through the system, but matches to Huawei’s database are dismissed rather than acted upon.

Accountability question

Mr Cameron has demanded similar measures be adopted by all internet service providers (ISPs) in the UK, to “protect our children and their innocence”.

He said ISPs would be monitored to ensure filtering was done correctly, but that they should choose their own preferred solution.

However, one expert insisted that private companies should not hold power over blacklists, and that the responsibility should lie with an independent group.

David Cameron

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David Cameron: “In the balance between freedom and responsibility we have neglected our responsibility to children”

“It needs to be run by an organisation accountable to a minister so it can be challenged in Parliament,” Dr Martyn Thomas, chair of the IT policy panel at the Institution of Engineering and Technology, told the BBC.

“There’s certainly a concern about the process of how a web address gets added to a blacklist – who knows about it, and who has an opportunity to appeal against it,” he added.

“You could easily imagine a commercial organisation finding itself on that blacklist wrongly, and where they actually lost a lot of web traffic completely silently and suffered commercial damage. The issue is who gets to choose who’s on that blocking list, and what accountability do they have?”

‘Policing themselves’

For almost a decade, Huawei has been a core part of telecoms infrastructure in the UK – its biggest client, BT, has routinely said it has no concerns about using the firm.

Huawei’s founder Ren Zhengfei, a former officer in China’s People’s Liberation Army, visited Downing Street last year after his company made a £1.3bn investment into its UK operations.

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David Cameron

Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that UK internet service providers (ISPs) will be putting pornography filters on domestic internet connections.

The speech is the culmination of a long campaign by the government to get ISPs to impose default filters for adult and sensitive subjects. But what will the changes mean in practice?

But Huawei’s position was recently the subject of an Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) report. It criticised the lack of ministerial oversight over the firm’s rapid expansion in the UK.

The committee said “the alleged links between Huawei and the Chinese State are concerning, as they generate suspicion as to whether Huawei’s intentions are strictly commercial or are more political” – but added that it had not found any evidence of wrongdoing.

It said it had worries that a UK-based testing centre set up to examine Huawei products was staffed by experts employed by the Chinese firm.

The ISC said Huawei was “effectively policing themselves”.

In the US, intelligence committees have gone further, branding Huawei a threat to national security.

For its part, Huawei strongly denies having close ties with the Chinese government, pointing out it is majority owned by its employees. It welcomed the ISC’s call for a review of the testing centre.

Huawei executive Chen Li Fang said the company should not be treated unfairly just because it was Chinese.

Policy enforcement

Web filtering, which is not considered critical national infrastructure, was not covered in the ISC’s report.

But the logistics of how Mr Cameron’s plans will be implemented have been the subject of much debate.

Initially, TalkTalk told the BBC that it was US security firm Symantec that was responsible for maintaining its blacklist, and that Huawei only provided the hardware, as previously reported.

However, Symantec said that while it had been in a joint venture with Huawei to run Homesafe in its early stages, it had not been involved for over a year.

TalkTalk later confirmed it is Huawei that monitors activity, checking requests against its blacklist of over 65 million web addresses, and denying access if there is a match.

The contents of this list are largely determined by an automated process, but both Huawei and TalkTalk employees are able to add or remove sites independently.

Illegal websites – including ones showing images of child abuse – are blocked for all customers with the help of a list maintained by the non-profit Internet Watch Foundation.

Mr Cameron said that the actions of ISPs would be monitored to ensure filtering is done correctly.

Communications regulator Ofcom is expected to play some role in this, possibly by auditing the firms and reporting back to ministers regularly.

Follow Dave Lee on Twitter @DaveLeeBBC

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Amazon U-turn over free deliveries packagingAmazon has scrapped free super saver delivery to a number of European countries altogether

Online retailer Amazon has scrapped free “super saver” delivery to the UK on some products worth less than £10.

It reverses a policy introduced in October 2009 that let items be sent without postage charge if customers agreed to wait up to five business days for delivery after the dispatch date.

The new threshold will not apply to books, DVDs, music, video games and software products.

Amazon said the move would “affect only a very small proportion of orders”.

But one retail analyst said the move could still be “damaging” for the online retailer.


Customers buying non-qualifying products, such as a USB memory stick worth less than £10, for example, would face a postage and packaging charge of £3.99. Some postage charges on other goods could be even higher.

Neil Saunders, analyst with retail specialist Conlumino told the BBC: “This is potentially damaging for Amazon as there is likely to be resistance to this change from some customers, particularly those infrequent shoppers who don’t mind waiting a bit longer for their goods to arrive.”

Amazon, which achieves about £3bn a year in UK sales, said multiple orders worth less than £10 could still be delivered free if they included a qualifying product, such as a book or DVD.

The retailer said the imposition of a minimum spend threshold would allow it to offer “a significantly expanded selection of lower priced products”.


Amazon has vastly expanded the number of goods it offers online in recent years, including clothes, groceries and health and beauty products, not to mention the goods being sold by third-party vendors.

As a result, “the economics of offering free delivery on cheap goods just don’t stack up any more”, says Bryan Roberts, analyst with Kantar Retail.

Analysts also speculate the change may be designed to promote the Amazon Prime delivery service, which costs £49 a year for one-day delivery on an unlimited number of orders.

“The more customers who use Prime the better for Amazon as it helps their retention and loyalty figures, but occasional shoppers are unlikely to switch as it is quite expensive,” said Mr Saunders.

Amazon is also trying to push people towards making multiple purchases as profit margins on some low-volume products are “very low”, he argues.

In June, scrapped free super saver delivery to a number of countries, including Italy, Spain, Greece, Liechtenstein, Norway, San Marino and Vatican City.

This used to provide free delivery on orders over £25.

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