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MIT Researchers Defend Against Wireless Attacks

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the just-kill-anyone-in-any-sort-of-middle dept.

Security 65

alphadogg writes "MIT researchers have devised a protocol to flummox man-in-the-middle attacks against wireless networks. The all-software solution lets wireless radios automatically pair without the use of passwords and without relying on out-of-band techniques such as infrared or video channels. Dubbed Tamper-evident pairing, or TEP, the technique is based on understanding how man-in-the-middle attacks tamper with wireless messages, and then detects and in some cases blocks the tampering. The researchers suggest that TEP could have detected the reported but still unconfirmed cellular man-in-the-middle attack that unfolded at the Defcon conference earlier this month in Las Vegas."

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65 comments

nice name (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37213576)

Nice name.

Re:nice name (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37215190)

Ohhhh Timothy!! ?

Nope (3, Insightful)

sexconker (1179573) | about 2 years ago | (#37213584)

Anything a legit user can do a MITM can do better.

This "all-software" solution is either bullshit, or relies on pre-shared keys (be they specific keys or hardware-derived).
Without keys / hardware, there is absolutely nothing a legit user can send out that a MITM can't.

Tamper Evident (1)

bazald (886779) | about 2 years ago | (#37213604)

Maybe on a wired connection you'd be right. I'm inclined to think that wireless, doing something to detect tampering could be possible. You probably wouldn't be able to guarantee that you can create a connection at all, but it might be an improvement for some to be able to connect only if tampering can be ruled out with some probability.

Re:Tamper Evident (4, Informative)

sexconker (1179573) | about 2 years ago | (#37213670)

If you RTFA you'd know their scheme works like this:
Client says "Hey, let's connect and be secure.".
Router says "Hey, let's connect and be secure using this key.".
Router yells "BEEP .... BEEP BOOP BOOP BEEP .... BEEP BEEP!".
Client says "That pointless noise lined up exactly with the 1s in the message about the key. And the little pauses of silence lined up with the 0s. I should trust it.".

This does nothing.

A MITM will be able to construct his own lie message about using his key instead, as well as be able to construct his own noise pattern.
All a client can see is "Hey, there are TWO packets telling me which keys to use!".

Exactly the same as current implementations that don't rely on pre-shared keys or out-of-band authentication.

Re:Tamper Evident (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37213808)

I'm almost tempted to log in and enable modding on my account, and then mod you up for that.

you miss the point (5, Insightful)

Chirs (87576) | more than 2 years ago | (#37213868)

The client sees the "lie", and doesn't trust either of the offers because it isn't sure which is real.

Based on this, it's possible to DOS a router by sending out connection offers, but you can't do a MITM attack.

Re:you miss the point (1)

Co0Ps (1539395) | more than 2 years ago | (#37216984)

Interesting. And it doesn't matter that it doesn't protect against DOS because all wireless communication is subject to DOS anyway.

Re:you miss the point (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217416)

Interesting. And it doesn't matter that it doesn't protect against DOS because all wireless communication is subject to DOS anyway.

But is it subject to Windows as well? :-)

CTS (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#37219728)

all wireless communication is subject to DOS anyway.

But is it subject to Windows as well? :-)

Yes, in fact. The second page of the article describes CTS (Clear To Send), a way of reserving windows of time for communication.

Re:you miss the point (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 2 years ago | (#37222220)

The client sees the "lie", and doesn't trust either of the offers because it isn't sure which is real.

Based on this, it's possible to DOS a router by sending out connection offers, but you can't do a MITM attack.

You can do a MITM attack just as you could with any other wireless system.
Sit at the edge of the AP and pose as it, targeting people outside of the AP's range.

If you used a preshared key, the attacker would have to know the key to do a MITM attack - be it a password or other authentication system.
This idea is all about tossing out preshared keys. That's fundamentally not viable in terms of authentication.

Re:Tamper Evident (3, Funny)

LordLimecat (1103839) | more than 2 years ago | (#37213970)

Yes, well, everyone knows TEP is insecure and hackable. Im waiting until TPA2 comes out, thats where the real security is.

Re:Tamper Evident (1)

RobbieThe1st (1977364) | more than 2 years ago | (#37214270)

Well, don't you have the solution there?
Client sees two packets telling which keys to use = "error, someone's attempting to MITM me!, and either retry or give up.

Re:Tamper Evident (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 2 years ago | (#37222200)

Bending over and a taking a DoS up the ass is no solution.
Using a preshared key (either a password or whatever other shit) works far better.

Re:Tamper Evident (1)

TBBle (72184) | more than 2 years ago | (#37215502)

The point is that you can't make a second overlapping noise pattern without changing the first. You can't yell anything that turns an existing yell into silence.

You're bitwise-anding all the yelling together, and only if that validates the key you got, do you trust it.

So MITM can't yell while the router's yelling unless its hash starts the way the router's ends (and it knows this in time and starts yelling at the right time) or the client will see a bad hash, tear down and try again.

And if the MITM yells _after_ the router, then it's too late, the client has already gotten a key with a valid hash yelled with it, and is secure.

And if the MITM tries to drown out the yelling (or the key) from the router, the client can see this unusually long yell, and know that a key was being sent at the time, and will tear down and try again.

This was on page 2 of the article...

Re:Tamper Evident (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 2 years ago | (#37222176)

And on page one of thinking for 5 seconds, you'd know that such a MITM is a perfect DoS attack.
Beyond that, a MITM can sit at the edge of an AP's range, pose as the AP, and target people within his own range, but outside of the AP's range.

Re:Tamper Evident (1)

TBBle (72184) | more than 2 years ago | (#37233136)

So you're saying that their "detect tampering" protocol fails to protect against a "just dumping noise into the air" DoS?

I do grant you that if you can't hear the AP, you could be fooled into connecting to the MITM posing as the AP. But that's kind-of outside the scope of the protocol. This protocol is ensuring that the key you get from the AP comes from the AP you requested it from. If you can't hear the original AP, then you haven't really requested a key from it, but from the repeater.

That's more of an identification issue than a 'packet modified in transit' issue.

Re:Tamper Evident (3, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#37213930)

A proper and real diversity system can detect the angle of the radio to the receiver. A properly designed setup with 4 antennas can give a 0-360 degree direction of the radio it is contacting and a crude distance. this added information and watching radio traffic in the spectrum. I.E see a packet transmitted from radio 3 to radio 4 and then the same packet is transmitted to the base, flag it as mitm and contact radio 3 directly.

It would make a $299 AP cost about $3400 but it could be effective.

Re:Tamper Evident (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37214622)

What if someone has an entirely non-hostile wireless relay?

Re:Tamper Evident (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37222230)

The problem with this solution is the logic is part of the router. How does a client connecting to a random free wifi point know if the router can detect a MITM attack or not?

Re:Nope (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37213612)

But there's something a MITM can send out that a legit user can't: to be a MITM, he has to repeat everything you say.

Re:Nope (1)

sexconker (1179573) | about 2 years ago | (#37213646)

...and after reading... yup.
All they've done is create a shouting match that is still vulnerable to race conditions, which, in the wireless world, is all MITM is about once you're authenticated with the other host or the AP.
Prior to authentication, any MITM can cause a denial of service by just blarting out their own bullshit in the same fashion, so the victim won't know which one to trust.

The only protection comes from tight timing windows, and who's louder. And in the wireless world, you can be a MITM without actually being in the middle.

Re:Nope (3, Informative)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | more than 2 years ago | (#37216670)

The only protection comes from tight timing windows, and who's louder.

... and that's where TEP kicks in: it depends on the ability to use periods of silence to communicate. The MITM cannot drown out the router's "energy" packets by silence.

Re:Nope (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217472)

The MITM cannot drown out the router's "energy" packets by silence.

Destructive interference?

Re:Nope (1)

Chuckstar (799005) | more than 2 years ago | (#37221126)

Not possible. Even for sound they can only get destructive interference to reduce apparent volume, not create silence. And that's with waves travelling a fraction of the speed of light (i.e. the waves travel pretty slowly compared to the time it takes to process the sound, calculate the inverse and send impulses to the speaker). You could interfere with a radio signal enough to make it unintelligible. Impossible to make it disappear altogether.

Re:Nope (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#37226016)

Not possible. Even for sound they can only get destructive interference to reduce apparent volume, not create silence.

You will never have absolute silence on any frequency. Any device which relied on absolute silence would inevitably fail. Therefore the question is not whether you can completely remove the signal, but only whether you can reduce it enough that it will be considered noise by the receiving device.

It's obvious that a digital circuit won't be fast enough to significantly reduce the signal strength. However I have no idea how fast analog electronics may be (after all, reversing a wave form isn't that complicated; A receiving antenna, a simple amplifier and a sending antenna with opposite polarity should suffice, probably two such devices to cover both polarizations), therefore I don't know if it would be fast enough to give a significant reduction (the fact that you have GHz frequencies certainly gives very hard constraints).

Re:Nope (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 2 years ago | (#37222106)

Victim --- MITM --- AP

The MITM just sits at the edge of the AP's range and poses as the AP. Any victims in range of the MITM and NOT in the range of the AP will get fucked because they won't hear the AP screaming it's noise pattern, and they will trust the fact that they hear only ONE noise pattern as an indication that the scheme is working.

Furthermore, a MITM can:
  - Use a triangulation scheme to only attack when the user is estimated to be outside of the AP's range (thus going unnoticed).
  - Use directional antennae to extend his own range, and thus his victim pool.
  - Use directional antennae to prevent the legitimate AP from hearing his attacks (thus going unnoticed).

Re:Nope (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 2 years ago | (#37223162)

- Scream (DoS) all over the frequencies the real AP is talking, so that the victim will choose another channel.

Re:Nope (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 2 years ago | (#37216272)

Anything a legit user can do a MITM can do better.

This "all-software" solution is either bullshit, or relies on pre-shared keys (be they specific keys or hardware-derived). Without keys / hardware, there is absolutely nothing a legit user can send out that a MITM can't.

Connecting to multiple networks in the same time, launching the same request and comparing the content of the received answers?
In the context of WiFI, unless you are surrounded by the MITM (in which case the appropriate term should be "Man All Over You"), you are bound to detect some tampering.

Re:Nope (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 2 years ago | (#37222132)

The MITM doesn't have to surround you, he just has to prevent you from hearing the legit AP, the easiest way is to sit at the edge of the AP's range and then pose as the AP. People in the MITM's range, but outside the AP's range, will never hear the AP or it's tamper-evident screaming.
People in range of both will see both and will be DoSd hard.

Re:Nope (1)

AJH16 (940784) | more than 2 years ago | (#37218026)

Right, but you can make it so that the client can see two messages that it should only see once and teach it not to trust them in that case. As mentioned in the summary, it says it can detect MItM and possibly prevent it. In most cases it would simply detect and not use. Personally, I'd be curious to see what asymetric cryptography could do to protect against MItM.

Re:Nope (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 2 years ago | (#37222066)

All MITM attacks then become DoS attacks.
The user will just disable the extra security to get it to work.
Alternatively, users will feel more secure when they hear only one (pair) of messages. But if it's a situation where a MITM is in range of the AP, and the victim is not, the victim is feeling more secure only because they don't hear the AP shouting, and they walk right into the MITM's trap.

Preshared keys are the only way.

Re:Nope (1)

AJH16 (940784) | more than 2 years ago | (#37227818)

Saying that a user disabling security makes it ineffective isn't really a fair critique of a technology as the same is true of any security.

As for the range issue, it is possible to overcome this outside of an extremely powerful attacker AP by encoding the response in such a way that it will be able to ecc at a substantially longer range than most wifi data transmissions. I'm not saying that this technique necessarily does it, but it could be done to greatly increase the additional range that a MiTM would need to have. The other issue it doesn't address though is true rogue APs that are free standing and claim to be part of a network that is not located near by, but that people will connect to anyway.

That all said, the ideal is probably something that involves getting a CA for hotspots that can give an authenticated handshake, but we don't have the infrastructure for that set up yet.

Re:Nope (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 2 years ago | (#37223180)

"Personally, I'd be curious to see what asymetric cryptography could do to protect against MItM."

Assymetric cryptography not only can prevent a MITM, it is the normally preferred and accepted way.

Re:Nope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37227680)

Yeah, it just hasn't been applied to wifi yet to the best of my knowledge.

wrong assumptions (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37213640)

They write "TEP begins by analyzing how an attacker mounts a man-in-the-middle exploit: In every case, the researchers say, the attack involves tampering with wireless messages.". But this is wrong - the man in the middle may simply be listening.

Re:wrong assumptions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37213664)

Wrong: to get into the middle of a Dixie-Hellman Exchange, the attacker must get the shared secret key, and he cannot do this by simply listening. You didn't read

Re:wrong assumptions (2)

rollingcalf (605357) | about 2 years ago | (#37213750)

It's OK if the man-in-the-middle is only listening, because the Diffie-Hellman key exchange algorithm is designed so that the two legitimate parties can exchange encryption keys without a listener being able to determine the key, even if the listener records the whole transmission.

Re:wrong assumptions (1)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | more than 2 years ago | (#37216682)

But this is wrong - the man in the middle may simply be listening.

Yeah right, and the purpose of an SSL certificate is to prove that you are a honorable person or business.

Re:wrong assumptions (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217478)

If he's only listening, he's not a man in the middle but an eavesdropper. And the existing protocols already protect against eavesdropping.

Very poor summary (5, Insightful)

Mensa Babe (675349) | about 2 years ago | (#37213654)

I happen to have been following the work of Dina Katabi et al. for quite some time now and I have to admit that it is a very poor summary even for Slashdot. I can assure you that you can understand much more by skipping the summary, skipping the Original Source link and just reading the paper in question [mit.edu] . It is a truly revolutionary idea that will soon change the way we perceive the risks in wireless communication.

"Lucifer" should be "Mallory" in that article. (1)

khasim (1285) | about 2 years ago | (#37213732)

From the article you linked to:

To understand this, consider a key exchange between Alice and Bob, where Bob sends his Diffie-Hellman public key to Alice. Lucifer, the adversary, could tamper with this key exchange as follows:

They need to stick to established naming conventions to make their work easier to understand.

The malicious cracker is named "Mallory". Not "Lucifer".

The key characteristics of a TEA message is that an attacker can neither hide a TEA transmission from other nodes within radio range, nor can it modify the content of the TEA without being detected.

That's a problem. In THEORY, those characteristics exist for ALL wireless packets. If Alice transmits, Bob sees the transmission (if within range). Mallory has to resort to a means of interrupting the transmission or canceling the request or just being the MITM for clients that are at the edge of the wireless coverage area.

Re:"Lucifer" should be "Mallory" in that article. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37214068)

Psh, what sort of dumb naming convention is that?

Alice, Bob...

obviously the malicious cracker is Chuck Norris.

Re:"Lucifer" should be "Mallory" in that article. (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 2 years ago | (#37223206)

The malicious cracker is named "Mallory". Not "Lucifer".

What has happened to Eve? I havent heard anything from her in for a long time.

Re:"Lucifer" should be "Mallory" in that article. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37261998)

Obligatory http://xkcd.com/177/

Re:Very poor summary (1)

John Hasler (414242) | about 2 years ago | (#37213766)

I don't think that this can be invulnerable and I think it opens up some DoS opportunities, but it looks pretty robust to me. I'll be interested in what Bruce Schneir has to say.

Re:Very poor summary (1)

complete loony (663508) | more than 2 years ago | (#37216852)

Huh, by encoding some information in silences, you can tell if anyone is trying to drown out your signal. So if you hear a TEA transmission and respond to it, you can establish a secure link back to the sender. That seems reasonably achievable and could provide better link layer security than WEP or WPA for unicast traffic. Though it does require custom code to be implemented in each wifi driver, or in some cases perhaps in firmware.

But this approach doesn't directly give you a way to authenticate the person you are talking to. Without authentication you can disable the radio of the victim, and then impersonate them.

Collision Domain (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37213674)

An attacker can tamper with a wireless message in three ways: by altering a message sent by one party to match his own Diffie-Hellman key; by hiding the fact that Party A has sent a message at all; and by blocking a message from being sent. TEP is designed to defang each of these tampering techniques. It does this by compelling Party A to follow its message transmission with another: a pattern of energy "pulses" and "silences." Party A's wireless radio computes a hash of the original message, creating a sequence of ones and zeros. For each one, the radio sends a random packet; for each zero, it sends nothing -- it's silent. This combined pattern is unique to the original message. If the attacker alters the contents of Party A's message, he, too, has to follow up with a new "silence pattern" that corresponds to the altered contents. But the two silence patterns will be different: The attacker "cannot generate silence" from Party A's "one bits." Party B can detect that difference and in effect refuse the connection offered by the attacker.

Aha, using the fact that all this comm is occurring in the same collision domain to your advantage against MITM attacks, I wonder if this would actually stand up to scrutiny?

Re:Collision Domain (2)

sexconker (1179573) | about 2 years ago | (#37213696)

An attacker can tamper with a wireless message in three ways: by altering a message sent by one party to match his own Diffie-Hellman key; by hiding the fact that Party A has sent a message at all; and by blocking a message from being sent. TEP is designed to defang each of these tampering techniques.

It does this by compelling Party A to follow its message transmission with another: a pattern of energy "pulses" and "silences." Party A's wireless radio computes a hash of the original message, creating a sequence of ones and zeros. For each one, the radio sends a random packet; for each zero, it sends nothing -- it's silent. This combined pattern is unique to the original message.

If the attacker alters the contents of Party A's message, he, too, has to follow up with a new "silence pattern" that corresponds to the altered contents. But the two silence patterns will be different: The attacker "cannot generate silence" from Party A's "one bits." Party B can detect that difference and in effect refuse the connection offered by the attacker.

Aha, using the fact that all this comm is occurring in the same collision domain to your advantage against MITM attacks, I wonder if this would actually stand up to scrutiny?

The client can't refuse the connection by the attacker.
The client can only refuse ALL connections when it suspect foul pay (by hearing two shits).

Just as before, it's a race/range condition. Sit at the edge of an AP's range with two radios and people connecting to yours will never even hear the router shouting shit at them as sit in the middle.
AP ---- You ---- Victim
Victim and AP can't hear eachother, and thus have no indication that what you're saying isn't coming from you.

Re:Collision Domain (1)

RobbieThe1st (1977364) | more than 2 years ago | (#37214310)

But in that case, you are simply connecting to a compromised router. The fact that that router then connects to *another* router can be ignored.
That problem should be dealt with differently.

Re:Collision Domain (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217550)

But in that case, you are simply connecting to a compromised router. The fact that that router then connects to *another* router can be ignored.
That problem should be dealt with differently.

But shouldn't any solution to that problem also solve the other problem?

is this valid for MITM in a switched network ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37214014)

ARP cache poisoning is a standard MITM attack that seems to be resistant to TEA packets. The MITM appears to Bob as the router. Why therefore would Alice hear Bob? The kind of MITm attacks discussed in the paper all refer to drowning out bob's signal with lucifer's so alice cant hear bob. This would make sense on a nonswitched network (like a hub) or an analog network (like radio). Since Wifi is a switched network (as most are nowadays) packets from Bob are addressed to the MITM mac address (as specified in the arp).

There is however, a timing discrepancy that can be used to defeat MITM attacks.It was demonstrated at defcon 19 on cellular network

http://seclists.org/fulldisclosure/2011/Aug/92
they said:
"as for bandwidth, you can often observe a MitM via bandwidth. in this
case a normal link has good download and roughly half that or less in
upload. this is because the towers have a harder time hearing your
relatively quiet radio in your phone while you phone can hear the
towers perfectly fine.

a middle will reverse this characteristic unless proper attention to
traffic shaping / capacity is applied. notably indicative is a twice
over fast upload or more. this occurs when the middle is caching
incoming traffic prior to analysis, mangling, and forwarding."

In fact, there is a LOT more to be gained by doing MITM on cell phones- that traffic is not encrypted (unlike ssl), it's more timely, and usually, more important and urgent.

This is just the principle of latency examination
(explained here
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man-in-the-middle_attack)
and should be implementable on wifi networks.

Paper looks interesting. (2)

hechacker1 (1358761) | more than 2 years ago | (#37214348)

Reading the paper, it seems the proposed protocol for key exchange forces a wait time of 17ms, and then hashes the packet to ensure it doesn't get modified (forcing the use of slots and keeping the air open during attack).

The only problem I see is that you could easily use this mechanism to effectively DoS the network by making it wait for the CTS packets constantly while the protocol rejects the bad check-summed packets.

But I guess that's a minor flaw since it's already trivial to DoS wireless networks in general.

Here's to hoping this actually gets widely implemented.

Defcon tampering happened (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37214708)

Anectdotally I flipped between over a dozen Microcells in the Rio on my iphone, was presented with a plethora of examples on individual Androids of prompts to accept or hit ok on "certificates" being presented without user input.

It's not even a question, the only question really is how much of it was really going on.

This is specific to pairing (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#37216172)

The paper is about wireless pairing, which is a special case.

MITM attacks in general are not entirely invisible. Because the MITM is decrypting and reencrypting the message with a different key, the crypt bits received are different than those which were sent. If you ask "what were the crypto bits you received from bit N to M?", the MITM has to be prepared to intercept that query and formulate a lie. This can be made difficult for the MITM. The early STU-3 encrypted phone sets had a little 2-digit display, and the parties could verify over the voice link that both parties saw the same number. Faking that would require splicing words into a verbal conversation in real time.

It's thus possible to design protocols which require that a MITM tamper with the plaintext merely to listen in. This idea doesn't seem to have been developed enough, at least not in the unclassified community.

Re:This is specific to pairing (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 2 years ago | (#37216318)

Faking that would require splicing words into a verbal conversation in real time.

Even more, in what language?

Useless waste of entropy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37216834)

Is it just me, or is nobody else suspicious of the wasted random data?

The article mentions that the device should send "random" data for an on and silence for an off. I may not be an expert, but isn't that just wasting useful entropy that might be useable to figure out how the device is generating it's randomness (which no doubt probably sucks at generating it to begin with).

Anyways, just seems like giving you protection from one attack, and secretly exposing you to another.

Re:Useless waste of entropy (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217524)

Is it really important that this data is unpredictable, or is "random" here used in the meaning of "arbitrary", i.e. it doesn't matter what that data is?

RTFA: Silence is golden (1)

gustep12 (1161613) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217968)

I read the article, and part of the idea is that noise (radio activity) may contain falsehoods, but that silence (radio silence) is genuine and cannot be spoofed. So you first send out a hash, and then try to establish a series of radio silence periods which, when decoded, match your hash. If anything messes with this authentication, it is obvious, and the connection is refused.

as long as someone is in between two or more ..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37220452)

as long as someone is in between two or more signals it can become subject to intruders the safest route is to go wired, even then wire tapping is possible. Also wire transmission is more reliable and faster, turn the wifi radio off unless absolutly needed at that time.

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