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$1.2 Million Worth of MS Points Taken After Hackers Figure Out Code Algorithm

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the going-for-the-gusto dept.

XBox (Games) 203

The Save and Quit blog reports that a group of hackers figured out the algorithm behind a set of promotional codes that were each redeemable for 160 MS points, the currency used on Xbox Live. Quoting: "A person would just have to sit back and refresh over and over and rack up the 160MSP codes. Not every code would work, but a majority would. The site started to 404 due to the heavy traffic. If you have closer ties to the pirating community, you could find a program to get the codes for you. ... This method took a little more work out of the user, but it was still simple enough for a 12 year old to figure out. ... Microsoft found out about this exploit and put a stop to it immediately, but internet pirates still had enough time to steal $1.2 million worth of Microsoft Points."

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203 comments

$1.2 million worth of Microsoft Points (5, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#35445828)

Wow, that's almost a full tank of gas.

Re:$1.2 million worth of Microsoft Points (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35447440)

Wow, that's almost a full tank of gas.

Hahahaha! Nice!

Dumb kids (1)

intellitech (1912116) | more than 3 years ago | (#35445892)

I doubt it'll be hard for Microsoft to figure out who redeemed an excessively large number of these codes.

Re:Dumb kids (2)

thebra (707939) | more than 3 years ago | (#35445934)

I doubt it'll be hard for Microsoft to figure out who redeemed an excessively large number of these codes.

If they are valid codes I don't see how Microsoft could tell the difference.

Re:Dumb kids (1)

intellitech (1912116) | more than 3 years ago | (#35445970)

True, but I doubt everybody who visited the 404'd site redeemed only one code..

They might not ban people, but you can bet they'll be voiding some of those points.

Re:Dumb kids (2)

smelch (1988698) | more than 3 years ago | (#35446006)

The difference between redeeming 1 valid code and redeeming 10? Thats pretty easy. Most people learn how to count pretty early on. Or looking at how fast they redeemed them. "Oh, it only took them 1.28 seconds to type in this 25 character string of random numbers.... how odd!"

Re:Dumb kids (1)

JTsyo (1338447) | more than 3 years ago | (#35447582)

The difference between redeeming 1 valid code and redeeming 10? Thats pretty easy. Most people learn how to count pretty early on. Or looking at how fast they redeemed them. "Oh, it only took them 1.28 seconds to type in this 25 character string of not-so-random numbers.... how odd!"

FTFY

Re:Dumb kids (0)

MichaelKristopeit401 (1976824) | more than 3 years ago | (#35446008)

perhaps you don't understand what the words "excessively large" mean. most users redeeming relatively few codes vs few users redeeming many standard deviations more codes is trivial to differentiate.

you don't see the difference because you're an idiot.

why do you cower behind a chosen underwear based pseudonym? what are you afraid of?

you're completely pathetic.

Re:Dumb kids (4, Funny)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 3 years ago | (#35446136)

why do you cower behind a chosen underwear based pseudonym? what are you afraid of?

Perhaps he meant a striped, horse-like animal, and he has a lisp, you insensitive clod.

Re:Dumb kids (0)

MichaelKristopeit401 (1976824) | more than 3 years ago | (#35446222)

yes... a lisp in their fingers.

you're an idiot.

Re:Dumb kids (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35446284)

you're an idiot.

And you have the social graces and sense of humor of a striped, horse like animal with a lisp.

Re:Dumb kids (0)

MichaelKristopeit338 (1967530) | more than 3 years ago | (#35446438)

ur mum's face have the social graces and sense of humor of a striped, horse like animal with a lisp.

cower in my shadow some more, feeb.

you're completely pathetic.

Re:Dumb kids (1)

Low Ranked Craig (1327799) | more than 3 years ago | (#35446500)

Aww... Someone shit in your Cheerios this morning?

Re:Dumb kids (1)

MichaelKristopeit338 (1967530) | more than 3 years ago | (#35446672)

there is a reason you are Low Ranked...and it has nothing to do with me or my breakfast.

you're a presumptuous moron.

Re:Dumb kids (1)

yakatz (1176317) | more than 3 years ago | (#35446660)

English is a cruel language:

Perhapth he meant a thtriped, horthe-like animal, and he hath a lithp, you inthenthitive clod.

Fixed that for you

Re:Dumb kids (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35446258)

Two quick questions: how much corn do you usually find in your stool, and of what you do find, how much of it is still edible?

Re:Dumb kids (1)

MichaelKristopeit339 (1967532) | more than 3 years ago | (#35446406)

i see... you think that just because you look through your stool looking for edible treats that everyone else does too... right?

cower in my shadow some more, feeb.

you're completely pathetic.

Re:Dumb kids (0)

Mikey Kristopeity (1905328) | more than 3 years ago | (#35446834)

you assume people are finding sustinance in their feces, interesting.

did your monther name you michael kristopeit 339?

you are what you claim to eat, NOTHING.

Re:Dumb kids (0)

MichaelKristopeit337 (1967528) | more than 3 years ago | (#35446914)

ur mum's face assume people are finding sustinance in their feces.

you spend your days in a fantasy world you've created relative to me.

ur mum's face are what eats me.

cower in my shadow some more, feeb.

you're completely pathetic.

Re:Dumb kids (0)

Mikey Kristopeity (1905328) | more than 3 years ago | (#35447230)

ur mum's face are days in a fantasy world. i don't cower in the shadows with you and the feebs.

why do you cower? what are you afraid of?

you're completely pathetic.

ring ring ring ring ring ring ring banana phone.

Re:Dumb kids (0)

MichaelKristopeit337 (1967528) | more than 3 years ago | (#35447342)

i have never cowered.

you're an ignorant hypocrite.

you spend your days in a fantasy world you have created relative to me.

you're completely pathetic.

Re:Dumb kids (2)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 3 years ago | (#35446106)

Don't the codes get associated with some sort of account somewhere? Could Microsoft not simply look for accounts with some arbitrarily reasonable amount of points on them, then query the purchasing/issuing database to see which of those accounts got most of their credit in short order in 160-point increments then drain those accounts?

Or just simply look for any issuance of points using these promo codes to any accounts, and make sure that credit is only given for ONE promo code per account, and remove all other credits but the first one issued to each account?

It's probably non-trivial, but would cost them far less than, say, a million bucks.

Either that or they just allow the hackers their little victory and consider it a lesson in predictability in promotional codes. After all, Microsoft really hasn't "lost" $1.2 million in cash. Take the department that is running that promo and tell them they lost $1.2M in next years' budget.

Re:Dumb kids (1)

trollertron3000 (1940942) | more than 3 years ago | (#35446486)

They aren't "valid" in the sense that although they meet the algorithm for validation they were not created by MS, who can in fact tie those codes back to SKUs and track the purchase. I know that's how I do it. But I also validate against that list on the fly because I'm not fucking retarded :P

Seriously this is like checking a credit card using Luhn but never actually validating it by doing a capture via a payment gateway. It's laughable and I bet someone got fired for it.

Re:Dumb kids (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35445948)

I suspect the same. I had actually heard about this scheme before, and I'll admit it was very tempting to try, but I figured it would eventually be discovered and Microsoft would be able to trace it back to figure out who exploited it. I didn't want to risk my live account being shutdown/flagged/etc, so I decided not to even try exploiting it.

Re:Dumb kids (1)

uberjack (1311219) | more than 3 years ago | (#35446072)

The idiots are fucked. Unless the codes were sold for cash, the trail will be easy to follow. Expect a large number of console/account bans, followed by arrests fairly shortly.

Re:Dumb kids (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35446228)

Add in the usual lot of crying and "waa waa i dont no wut u ban me 4 i didnt do nothin wrong it was my bro he uses this account 2 u no waa waa" bitchery, and I'd say you're on the right track.

Re:Dumb kids (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#35446510)

Probably right, aside from the arrests. It sounds like most of the points were taken by script kiddies, who arn't worth the effort of arrest. Maybe if MS can find who wrote the code-generating program.

Re:Dumb kids (1)

Demonantis (1340557) | more than 3 years ago | (#35447700)

I don't think so they probably didn't use the codes themselves and were smart setting up the web page. They just wanted to thumb their noses at microsoft and they managed to do it. The people able to refresh a web page will probably get the third degree. But only because of the agreement they have with microsoft for using the xbox "ecosystem". It is unlikely criminal charges could be laid.

Re:Dumb kids (2)

scot4875 (542869) | more than 3 years ago | (#35446718)

What is the arrestable offense here? They put some numbers in a website text box, and it gave them "Microsoft Points" which have only the 'value' that Microsoft ascribes to them -- they aren't even redeemable for cash. If, instead, they had used a code to generate 1.2 million gold pieces in WoW, would that be worthy of arrest? If it were 1.2 million in gold in a single-player-only game, would that warrant arrest?

My point is that nothing was "stolen" -- there wasn't even any arguable "unauthorized computer access" that would warrant hacking charges. They just guessed some numbers that in turn incremented a counter somewhere. Microsoft didn't lose anything. None of Microsoft's customers lost anything. As far as I'm concerned, Microsoft can roll back the redeemed codes and be happy that no real damage was done.

--Jeremy

Re:Dumb kids (1)

Ben4jammin (1233084) | more than 3 years ago | (#35447248)

People have already used codes to buy games, according to some of the posts on the forum the story links to.

I don't know the law, but I think there may be something in this that would put you afoul of the law. There is probably a limit to the number of codes you can redeem within the context of the giveaway or whatever. Some forum posts claim as high as several thousand points redeemed.

And MS is losing money if someone uses an improper means to get the codes and then spends the points on games. Those are sales lost as the person would normally use real money to buy the points to get the game. The codes were for only 160 points. But if you redeem a thousand of them...

Re:Dumb kids (1)

g3k0 (1697032) | more than 3 years ago | (#35447536)

Those are sales lost as the person would normally use real money to buy the points to get the game. The codes were for only 160 points. But if you redeem a thousand of them...

NONSENSE! Stolen bits != lost sale. Obviously if a persons wallet is not tied to their spending they will spend a lot more. Do you work for the RIAA? Though I am against piracy now, back when napster/limewire were cool, I may have downloaded some music/games. If the limewire option wasn't available to me, I promise I would not have had any interest in buying them. Honestly, it created interest in me for some music and I ended up buying some CDs because I like owning an original CD with a cover not made with a Sharpie.

Re:Dumb kids (1)

lowrydr310 (830514) | more than 3 years ago | (#35447266)

If Microsoft is anything like the big record labels, they'll go after the individuals for huge sums of money claiming loss of profit.

Surely all these people who 'stole' several thousand dollars worth of MS Points would have purchased them, had they not been able to obtain them by generating codes, therefore Microsoft suffered financial damages.

Re:Dumb kids (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35446852)

MS can easily link the codes that were given out via this method vs. the actual legitimate ones. There is a 100% chance that anyone who got a code by hacking will be banned from xbox live. Thanks for playing! Cheaters never win.

Oh deary me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35445908)

MS lost $1.2 million. How sad. Now Bill Gates' aged aunt can't get that operation.

Re:Oh deary me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35446096)

No, his tax people will figure out a way to get a $120 million credit from the government - AKA the American taxpayer, meaning you'll pay part of it.

That's the way it is the the United Corporate States of America!

Re:Oh deary me (1)

Sparks23 (412116) | more than 3 years ago | (#35446334)

In fairness to Gates, he's willingly given away something like $39 /billion/ dollars of his own money through philanthropic and charity efforts [businessinsider.com] . Even as a stockholder in MS, I doubt he cares much about $1.2 million. But there were probably some chairs thrown in Ballmer's office...

Re:not his own money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35447162)

Those billions aren't really Gates' "own" money, they are money he has extorted out of ordinary people by abusing an unlawful monopoly.

He can rot in hell as far as I'm concerned, no matter how much he tries to buy back friends.

Re:Oh deary me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35446474)

Microsoft hasn't actually lost anything yet. It's relatively traceable grand theft of revocable non-currency tokens. If you redeemed more than a couple of these codes you're in shit.

only 160 points worth of microsoft funny money? (1)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | more than 3 years ago | (#35445928)

I wonder if they're just going to ban everyone who redeemed a code worth such a small amount. Why the hell do amounts that small exist? must be for fast food promos or something.

Re:only 160 points worth of microsoft funny money? (1)

AndrewNeo (979708) | more than 3 years ago | (#35446780)

It pretty much is. They never sold anything outright less than 500 points.

Re:only 160 points worth of microsoft funny money? (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 3 years ago | (#35447196)

No, but if you redeemed 50,000 of them might be an issue..

Not hard to track down (1)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | more than 3 years ago | (#35445974)

Just look who made more than one purchase of MS points to their account in the last week or two, that will cut down the list of possible suspects significantly. Cross-reference the transactions for which there was payment. You'll find that you have a handy list of those people who will soon find a huge "CHEATER" banner on their Xbox account.

Re:Not hard to track down (1)

thebra (707939) | more than 3 years ago | (#35446796)

Just look who made more than one purchase of MS points to their account in the last week or two, that will cut down the list of possible suspects significantly. Cross-reference the transactions for which there was payment. You'll find that you have a handy list of those people who will soon find a huge "CHEATER" banner on their Xbox account.

I purchase MS points a few times a week, and I have a feeling I'm not alone. I don't see how that would help narrow down the evil doers.

Re:Not hard to track down (1)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | more than 3 years ago | (#35446838)

I purchase MS points a few times a week, and I have a feeling I'm not alone. I don't see how that would help narrow down the evil doers.

Read my whole post. Once you've narrowed down people who made multiple purchases in a row (a hacker who finds this trick working repeatedly is likely to do it as long as it will work) all they need to do is make sure every one of those names has PAID for his purchases. The idea here was merely to narrow it down to make the payment double-checking part go faster.

Pirates (1)

UninformedCoward (1738488) | more than 3 years ago | (#35445978)

internet pirates

Thank you for the clarification. I thought the story was talking about pirates hijacking transport ships on the high seas for Microsoft game card booty.

Re:Pirates (1)

nschubach (922175) | more than 3 years ago | (#35446808)

I imagine seeing a ship off in the distance with a Microsoft Windows logo flag flapping in the wind. A cool breeze from the East and the sails go up. The pirates raise their colors and proceed to bombard the ship with cannon balls. They pull aside the ailing ship to seize their booty while off in the distance they see an armada of Microsoft ships coming their way. They act quickly, taking everything they can manage before re-boarding their ship and setting sail.

Banned from Live (1, Insightful)

jarrettwold2002 (601633) | more than 3 years ago | (#35445996)

Hopefully they get banned from Live. This falls under the broad category of hate I have for gold farmers in MMOs.

Re:Banned from Live (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35446618)

I didn't realize MS points gave people unfair advantage on XBL.

They didn't steal anything. (2)

jeremymiles (725644) | more than 3 years ago | (#35446016)

It's not like MS ran out of codes.

Re:They didn't steal anything. (3, Insightful)

BradleyUffner (103496) | more than 3 years ago | (#35446058)

It's not like MS ran out of codes.

Tell that to someone who legitimately had one of these codes that couldn't redeem it because someone else used it.

Re:They didn't steal anything. (2)

MyFirstNameIsPaul (1552283) | more than 3 years ago | (#35446142)

If I understand those point things correctly, if points are used to purchase something, say, a game, then Microsoft has to pay the developer. So, in a certain sense, it is stealing, and could be a good source of revenue for a developer.

Re:They didn't steal anything. (1)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | more than 3 years ago | (#35446628)

Yeah, man! Like, information totally wants to be free! Down with our corporate, like, overlords man!! Waaaavvvyyy Graaaavy!

Idiocy. Those codes were currency tokens, exchanged for goods or services. What they stole was the services they purchased with fraudulent currency.

Re:They didn't steal anything. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35447018)

I agree, this is less like steeling, more like counterfeiting. They redeemed tokens used for buying things with codes they didn't legitimately own.
But one could also argue some of them have stolen some of the MS Points from people who had a real promo code with the number they generated.

Was the code (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35446026)

Was the code 777-7777777? That used to work with other Microsoft stuff.

Re:Was the code (1)

smbarbour (893880) | more than 3 years ago | (#35446540)

Actually, for that format, you could use all of any repeating number. For the more "advanced" CD Key which had 4 digits in the first group, you just had to change the 4th digit until it worked (i.e. 9990-999999999, 9991-999999999, etc.)

A 12 year old? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35446030)

"This method took a little more work out of the user, but it was still simple enough for a 12 year old to figure out."

Huh? When I was 12, I was programming in assembler.

Re:A 12 year old? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35446086)

And all the jocks that beat you up and took your lunch money are now flipping burgers, right?

Re:A 12 year old? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#35446090)

Yeah, really, when I was 11, the most likely place to go for computer help was from us 11 year old kids, as it seemed that a huge portion of the computer literate population was that age at that time. I'm not sure why today's kids would be so feeble intellectually as to make that true.

Re:A 12 year old? (1, Insightful)

2names (531755) | more than 3 years ago | (#35446208)

I'm not sure why today's kids would be so feeble intellectually as to make that true.

Go spend some time with a group of "today's kids." Then watch Idiocracy. Then weep as the truth becomes clear to you.

Re:A 12 year old? (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 3 years ago | (#35446360)

Well, to be fair, I don't think it's an intellect issue. I'd say most kids have an intellect that's just fine.

They just don't use it.

If anything, it's laziness (partially due to lack of necessity), lack of ... ambition, one might say... lack of interests in anything but [insert wastes of time here], etc.

In short, it's kind of a parenting issue, I suppose.

Re:A 12 year old? (1)

Amouth (879122) | more than 3 years ago | (#35447240)

i point it at society's need for instant gratification.. most kids and people now days don't want to do something that might not work or takes time/energy/brains/effort to complete, when there is something easier to do.

It's not so much being lazy because they are doing something most of the time.. even if it is just playing a game/watching tv/talking/texting/surfing the net.

it's kinda sad really

Re:A 12 year old? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35447050)

Your comment could not possibly be closer to the truth. I fear the future also.

Re:A 12 year old? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35446102)

I feel sad for you.

Re:A 12 year old? (1)

jdgeorge (18767) | more than 3 years ago | (#35446150)

"This method took a little more work out of the user, but it was still simple enough for a 12 year old to figure out."

Huh? When I was 12, I was programming in assembler.

So... this would have been simple enough for you to figure out when you were 12. Right?

Re:A 12 year old? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35446176)

Huh? When I was 12, I was programming in assembler.

Huh? When I was 11 I was bitbanging RS-232 at 300bps using a telegraph straight key. Got to the point where I could emulate a TTY well enough that I could launch vi and edit a file. We won't go into my privilege escalation exploits... ah, misspent youth.

Didn't hack the algorithm (3, Informative)

russotto (537200) | more than 3 years ago | (#35446078)

It appears the algorithm wasn't actually determined. Rather, Microsoft essentially left a code generator which took unencrypted parameters available on a web page. Amateur mistake.

Re:Didn't hack the algorithm (2)

anyGould (1295481) | more than 3 years ago | (#35446188)

$1.2 Million is pretty cheap to learn that lesson, all considered.

And I'll be very surprised if they take any action against the lucky winners - the bad publicity (and risk of accidentally tagging someone who just happened to redeem their three codes at the wrong time) won't be worth the hassle.

Re:Didn't hack the algorithm (1)

HeavyAl (695278) | more than 3 years ago | (#35447026)

Exactly what I was trying to figure out. The story is /.ed, but last I checked figuring out an algorithm was a far cry from refreshing a page over and over.

Our promotional codes... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35446082)

Consist only of the characters il0O1IjL and are 40 digits long giving 128 bits of data per code. Each is randomized and sampled from a quantum lava lamp and stored in our database.
So far no promotional item has been successfully redeemed by a code.

Re:Our promotional codes... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35446680)

I believe you're a few bits short there...

Re:Our promotional codes... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35447568)

You have to guess the last 8 bits.

Read that wrong the first time. (1)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | more than 3 years ago | (#35446186)

At first glance I thought it said "$1.2 Million worth of MS PowerPoints", which made me wonder "Who would pay $1.2 million for PowerPoints?"

Re:Read that wrong the first time. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35446758)

You think that's bad. I first read it as "$1.2 Million Worth of MS Paints."

Re:Read that wrong the first time. (1)

tippen (704534) | more than 3 years ago | (#35447694)

Apparently you've never worked with venture capitalists before...

Technical skills (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35446276)

This is another example of what happens in a company where technical skills are regarded as secondary. Sure, financial and management skills are very important, but they have to be kept into balance with the core of the business, whatever it is (technical or not). Microsoft is not the only company to be concerned... I miss the era of Bill Gates, and I hope Microsoft will find a solution to the whole problem of low quality.

Bad programming (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35446312)

Why is it that companies like M$ still insist that exporting code work saves them $$$?

Just like Pepsi iTunes codes. All you hadda do.. (1)

RevWaldo (1186281) | more than 3 years ago | (#35446570)

...to find the caps with the codes was to tilt the bottle.

.

Re:Just like Pepsi iTunes codes. All you hadda do. (1)

wbav (223901) | more than 3 years ago | (#35446656)

Gotta say, it was much easier to do this with crystal clear Pepsi.

Curisous and Furious (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 3 years ago | (#35446760)

Curiously, the top executives are furious that their secret sauce algorithm to rack up USpoints has been leaked to this hacker. The CEO of Morgan Stanley was seen throwing a tantrum, curses and a few chairs, "This is our trick. This is what we have been doing to create money in the Federal Reserve accounts. And now some stupid hacker is using it to rack up real money? I wanna know who is responsible and heads are goin' to roll"

Typical MS security (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35446870)

Hmm, sounds like typical MS code quality.

Boggles the mind (4, Insightful)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 3 years ago | (#35447116)

Why weren't these codes completely random? Why don't they have a database of valid and used codes, where codes only get inserted when they're printed on cards that are then shipped to stores? Perhaps most importantly, why would you EVER have a public web-accessible interface to generate codes on the fly?

Re:Boggles the mind (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35447502)

Why? It's Microsoft and quality software. Like oil and water.

Re:Boggles the mind (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35447532)

Why weren't these codes completely random?

No such thing as completely random. There is always an algorithm.

Re:Boggles the mind (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35447546)

I've never seen a 160 points CARD that you can buy. It's more likely that the 160 value was part of an incentive program that they could offer to third party vendors. So companies could say "hey, come do our poll and get 160 free microsoft points". etc...

If that's the case, then they likely have an API (web accessible) that allows those third parties to generate the codes on the fly, hence the algorithm. So there is in fact no printed MSP cards anywhere. Just actual codes sent to people.

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