Tuesday, March 13, 2012

480 My webcam takes photos beyond my control; Cell Phones are Tracking Devices

My webcam takes photos beyond my control; Cell Phones are Tracking Devices

(1) Webcam takes a photo when I Open an application
(2) Cell Phones are Tracking Devices - even if turned off
(3) My webcam takes photos beyond my control
(4) Adobe Flash, the Spy in Your Computer. By default, it allows
websites to operate your webcam
(5) FBI to launch nationwide facial recognition service
(6) Closeup photo of an arm tatoo
(7) Crowd surveillance & Facial Recognition Tags

(1) Webcam takes a photo when I Open an application - Peter Myers,
November 30, 2011

My external webcam, on a Mac running OS X, has been taking a photo when
an application is opened. This practice continued when I changed webcams.

The webcam's light comes on, its lens cover opens, and it flashes.

With newer, faster, computers with internal webcams, it's possible that
users would not notice the flash.

Being concerned about surveillance, I searched for other people who have
had this experience. It turns out that Adobe Flash Player routinely
allows third-party sites to operate one's webcam, and even store data on
one's computer - unless these permissions are explicity turned off in
the settings (see item 4).

When I went to the Flash settings webpage, I found that Flash had
authorized such use of the webcam, WITHOUT ASKING - ie, that is the Default.

However, given that Flash might not be the only facilitator of such
surveillance, I have also implemented my own failsafe solution. I bought
an extender cable, which plugs into the computer port. To operate the
webcam, the two cables must be joined; otherwise, there's no power.

Such a solution is not feasible for internal webcams.

The US Government now has Facial Recognition technology whereby to
identify individuals within crowds of many thousands (see item 7).

This technology is truly frightening. Perhaps knowing they possess it
reassures the authorities that they can beat any challenge posed by the
Occupy forces.

When the social order unravels, however, no amount of surveillance will
protect the powers that be. Blood on the streets - in America, not just
Egypt - will only intensify the resistance. Incarceration and torture
cannot be kept secret forever. The anger of the American people, once
roused, will be unstoppable.

(2) Cell Phones are Tracking Devices - even if turned off
From: "north pennine rainbows" <pennine.rainbows@btinternet.com> Date:
Wed, 30 Nov 2011 00:30:06 -0000


Cell Phones Are Tracking Devices That Governments, Police, Big
Corporations And Stalkers Can Use To Easily Track Your Movements

November 25, 2011

If you regularly carry a cell phone around with you, you might as well
say goodbye to your privacy. The truth is that any cell phone you buy is
going to track you wherever you go 24 hours a day. Just as you leave
"footprints" wherever you go on the Internet, so also your cell phone is
constantly recording wherever you go in the physical world. Most people
do not realize this, but the reality is that cell phones are tracking
devices that governments, law enforcement authorities, big corporations
and even stalkers can use to easily track your movements. If you do not
know about this yet, then you are going to be absolutely amazed by what
you are about to read. Not only do cell phones track you wherever you
go, they can also be used to listen to your private conversations even
when they are turned off. We live in a brave new world, and there are a
lot of control freaks out there that love to monitor where we go and
what we do. Unfortunately, it seems like every time technology advances,
we lose a little bit more privacy. Eventually, we may wake up someday in
a world where there is absolutely no privacy left.

On Black Friday, two U.S. shopping malls started actively using the
FootPath Technology tracking system to monitor their customers.

This system captures the unique identification number that is assigned
to each phone, and thus it enables the malls to constantly monitor what
stores their customers enter.

The malls are putting up signs that warn customers about this system and
that instruct them that they can "opt out" by turning off their cell phones.

But should we really have to "opt out" in order to maintain our privacy?

A new article posted on CNN described the "test" that will be running
for the rest of the year at these malls....

   Starting on Black Friday and running through New Year's Day, two U.S.
malls -- Promenade Temecula in southern California and Short Pump Town
Center in Richmond, Va. -- will track guests' movements by monitoring
the signals from their cell phones.

   While the data that's collected is anonymous, it can follow shoppers'
paths from store to store.

   The goal is for stores to answer questions like: How many Nordstrom
shoppers also stop at Starbucks? How long do most customers linger in
Victoria's Secret? Are there unpopular spots in the mall that aren't
being visited?

It is being argued that since our movements on the Internet are tracked,
we should not object when our movements in the physical world are tracked.

But if we say this is okay, where will it all end?

Will we eventually live in a world that makes the movie "Minority
Report" look tame by comparison?

So exactly how intrusive is the FootPath Technology tracking system?

A Time magazine article recently explained how the system functions....

   It works like this: A network of monitoring units are set up across a
mall to track shoppers' cellphone signals, locating them within a couple
of meters. The data is then fed to a central processing center.
Afterwards, management can gain insight into their customers' shopping
habits, letting them know which stores complement each other or which
pathways have the most foot traffic so they can allocate their
maintenance crews and ad posters accordingly.

It is not as intrusive as it could be. But the thing is, once you give
these control freaks an inch, eventually they will take a mile.

In fact, governments all over the world are already using cell phones to
track down "enemies of the state".

For example, a recent Bloomberg article described how the government of
Iran is aggressively using cell phones to crack down on dissidents....

   The Iranian officers who knocked out Saeid Pourheydar's four front
teeth also enlightened the opposition journalist. Held in Evin Prison
for weeks following his arrest early last year for protesting, he says,
he learned that he was not only fighting the regime, but also companies
that armed Tehran with technology to monitor dissidents like him.

   Pourheydar, 30, says the power of this enemy became clear as
intelligence officers brandished transcripts of his mobile phone calls,
e-mails and text messages during his detention. About half the political
prisoners he met in jail told him police had tracked their
communications and movements through their cell phones, he says.

Christians in Iran have learned that they must take the batteries
entirely out of their cell phones before they gather at their secret
meeting places. Otherwise, the secret police are likely to show up and
drag them off to prison.

Eventually, most of the governments on earth will be utilizing these
kinds of capabilities.

In the United States, cell phone companies are actually required by law
to be able to pinpoint the locations of their customers to within 100
meters. Of course most cell phone providers are able to track their
customers much more accurately than that.

Law enforcement authorities all over the U.S. are already using cell
phones to track the locations of criminal suspects and to listen to
their conversations.

Even if a cell phone is completely turned off, law enforcement
authorities can still listen in on the conversations that a suspect is
having. All that is necessary is for the battery to still be in the cell

According to CNET News, the FBI can remotely activate the microphone on
your cell phone and listen to whatever you are saying....

   The FBI appears to have begun using a novel form of electronic
surveillance in criminal investigations: remotely activating a mobile
phone's microphone and using it to eavesdrop on nearby conversations.

   The technique is called a "roving bug," and was approved by top U.S.
Department of Justice officials for use against members of a New York
organized crime family who were wary of conventional surveillance
techniques such as tailing a suspect or wiretapping him.

When you make a telephone call, it is never private. The reality is that
the NSA has been monitoring all phone calls for years and years.
According to USA Today, the NSA intends "to create a database of every
call ever made"....

   The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone
call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by
AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the
arrangement told USA TODAY.

Isn't that a bit sobering?

But it isn't just the federal government that is using cell phone
information for law enforcement purposes.

In some areas of the United States, law enforcement authorities are
pulling data out of cell phones for no apparent reason whatsoever.
According to the ACLU, state police in Michigan are now using
"extraction devices" to download data from the cell phones of motorists
that they pull over. This is happening even if the motorists that are
pulled over are not accused of doing anything wrong.

The following is how an article on CNET News described the capabilities
of these "extraction devices"....

   The devices, sold by a company called Cellebrite, can download text
messages, photos, video, and even GPS data from most brands of cell
phones. The handheld machines have various interfaces to work with
different models and can even bypass security passwords and access some

Would you want the police doing that to you?

Sadly, it is even incredibly easy for hackers and stalkers to tap into
your cell phone these days.

The following short excerpt comes from a news story posted by WTHR....

   Spyware marketers claim you can tap into someone's calls, read their
text messages and track their movements "anywhere, anytime." They say
you can "catch a cheating spouse", protect your children from an evil
babysitter and "hear what your boss is saying about you." And while
you're spying on others, the Spyware companies say "no one will ever
know" because it's supposed to be "completely invisible" with
"absolutely no trace."

   Security experts say it's no internet hoax.

   "It's real, and it is pretty creepy," said Rick Mislan, a former
military intelligence officer who now teaches cyber forensics at Purdue
University's Department of Computer and Information Technology.

   Mislan has examined thousands of cell phones inside Purdue's Cyber
Forensics Lab, and he says spy software can now make even the most
high-tech cell phone vulnerable.

For even more on what hackers and stalkers can do to your cell phone,
just check out this amazing video.

This is just another sign that we are rapidly becoming a "Big Brother"
society where virtually everything that we do is watched, listened to,
tracked or monitored.

For much more on this dramatic transformation of our society, check out
this article: "Every Breath You Take, Every Move You Make - 14 New Ways
That The Government Is Watching You".

But even with the advanced capabilities that they now have, the control
freaks that run things are going to want to push things even further in
the future.

For example, not all of us carry a cell phone with us wherever we go.

So how will they track the rest of us?

Implanting a microchip in all of us would make identification and
tracking of the population so much easier.

How soon will it be before that idea starts getting pushed to the forefront?

We can all see where all of this is headed.

When George Orwell wrote "1984", a lot of people believed that it was
impossible for our world to end up like that.

Well, the technology for a world that is far more repressive than "1984"
is being put into place. Every single day, we lose a little bit more
privacy. We are constantly being told that we need to sacrifice just a
"little bit" of liberty and freedom for the good of national security.

The world is changing. All of us better wake up.

For most of human history, the vast majority of people have lived under
repressive governments.

Today, liberty and freedom are being pushed back in every corner of the

Unless this trend is reversed, most of humanity will once again end up
living under deep tyranny. Only this time, the "authorities" will be
equipped with "Big Brother technology" unlike anything that the world
has ever seen before.

Do not take liberty and freedom for granted.

Once they are gone, they will be incredibly difficult to get back.

(3) My webcam takes photos beyond my control


Buffalo, NY, USA

2010-07-01 08:42
I have a Dell Inspiron laptop. It has an integrated webcam.

Frequently, during various OS operations, the camera will flash and
sound a plink. It may simply be periodically testing the device but it
appears that it is taking a picture. I have disabled the camera (I never
use it and have no need) and it continues. I have checked the system for
pictures but find none. I have run five different malware scanners, so I
do not think I am infected with a rogue program. I am not normally a
paranoid, but this is unnerving. Does anyone have any information as to
what the camera might be doing or how to completely disable it? I was
reading the other day that one of the cool new features of Windows 8
might be the inclusion of facial recognition software as a security
mechanism. Am I alone in thinking that I don't want microsoft to have a
physical record of me, in my jammies, everytime i log in to my own computer?



2010-07-01 09:41
Small piece of masking tape over the lens should do the trick


2010-07-01 09:51
Oddly enough, I did use the tape. My daughters think I am paranoid
beyond all reason. Still, I'm trained to notice odd or quirky behavior
in systems. While this isn't a big deal for me, I would really like to
get to the bottom of it.


2010-07-01 13:23
I am with you it would definitely bother me also if I saw it doing any
type of activity and I had not initiated it myself.

Have you visited the flash player settings panel? there are settings
there for webcams and privacy, you may want to go through those various
panels and settings and make sure you have it set to not allow contact
with your webcam.

on the left on that page are the various settings panels.  Those
settings when adjusted or changed are applied to your computer. ...

(4) Adobe Flash, the Spy in Your Computer. By default, it allows
websites to operate your webcam


Adobe Flash, The Spy in Your Computer – Part 1

BY RANDY ABRAMS October 7, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Adobe Flash is, in my opinion, the most ubiquitous spyware in the world
and no products detect it as such. The reason it goes undetected is that
it also has numerous legitimate uses, however, there is growing evidence
that indicates significant abuse. This will be the first in a series of
blogs in which I will try to help you understand the threats and help
you get a handle on the beast that is Flash.

If you have Adobe Flash on your computer, and most of you do, you are
probably being spied on and Adobe does their best not to let you know or
do anything about it. Fundamentally, rich video content is only the drug
Adobe wants you to get hooked on, but make no mistake, one of the main
purposes of Flash is apparently to secretly compromise your privacy.
Flash cookies allow online advertising networks to covertly and uniquely
track your internet use. This is not only a PC problem, but affects
Linux, Mac, and mobile devices that support Flash. Flash cookies provide
advertising networks with much better tracking than normal cookies do.
Because a Flash cookie can effectively identify you (or your computer)
uniquely it becomes very easy for internet ad agencies to profile you

Perhaps the only thing that Flash threatens more than your privacy is
your security. Flash has been riddled with exploitable vulnerabilities.
I want to help you get better control of your security and privacy, so
this first blog will focus on the basics of getting you up to date and
teaching you some Flash configuration. Start by making sure that you
have the most current version of Flash by going to

The page will tell you the version of Flash you have installed and the
current version for some operating systems, but not for Android phones.
Remember, if you use multiple browsers you need to check Flash in each
browser to make sure that it is current. Updating Flash in Firefox does
not update Flash in Internet Explorer.

The next step is configuring the Flash player. In the next blog I’ll
give an alternate means of configuring Flash, but let’s start with the
“normal” way of configuring Flash. There should be a tool on your
computer to configure Flash, but Adobe doesn’t work that smart. You need
to go to

in order to configure the Flash Player. This happens to be a fairly
unintuitive site designed to discourage users from configuring Flash,
but I’ll help explain how it works. When you land on the web page and
have Flash installed, you will see the following screen.

This actually is not simply text, this is the tool you need to use to
configure Flash player. Note that this is not going to be enough to
prevent Flash enabled websites from spying on you, but it is a start.
Each of the links on the left under the words “Settings Manager” is an
active link that controls Flash. I’ll explain a bit about each of the
screens you see when you use the Flash Player Settings Manager tool. The
first screen is the “Global Privacy Settings panel” which you see below.

Use of the global privacy settings panel does nothing at all to stop
sleazy online ad agencies and other scum from using flash to track you
individually. This is actually not a global privacy setting at all, it
is simply a control for your webcam and microphone. By default if a
Flash application wants to use your camera or microphone it has to ask,
but you can choose to always deny the request.

{Comment (Peter Myers, November 30, 2011): when I went to that webpage,
I found that Flash had authorized such use of the webcam, WITHOUT
ASKING. ie, that is the Default}

The proper setting for this panel is whatever you want. This isn’t about
privacy at all, this is simply do you want to the choice to share your
webcam or do you want to make sure it is never used and you are not
asked. Calling this the “Global Privacy Settings panel” is an example of
the devious and deceptive nature of Adobe.

The Global Storage Settings panel has more to do with privacy than the
webcam. This is also an example of how confusing Adobe tries to make
Flash to understand. An LSO is a local shared object and this panel
controls LSOs, but rather than tell you that you are allocating SHARED
space, Adobe calls it STORAGE. An LSO can contain a lot of data. If you
set the storage to zero you might break some sites, but you limit how
much data can be stored on your computer. I set mine to zero because
Flash is simply too dangerous and deceptive to trust with storage on a
global basis. I chose not to allow third-party Flash content because I
do not wish to have unknown third-parties spying on me. Disallowing
third-party flash breaks the Disney site, but then Disney is being sued
for allegedly abusing Flash LSOs to illegally spy on people. Breaking
the Disney website is probably a very good thing. I can live with it.
This actually breaks a lot of embedded Flash movies, but if more people
complain that third party flash videos are not showing, maybe Adobe will
redesign Flash to respect privacy. The option to store common Flash
components to reduce download times is something else I disable. My
reason for disabling local storage is that I expect this “feature” to be
exploited at some point in time. I suspect that there are or will be
attacks that will take advantage of stored content.

The Global Security Settings panel shows how little security Flash
actually has. Global security for Flash controls one thing – whether or
not older, even more poorly designed Flash components can gain
unauthorized access to your data. I set mine to always ask because I
want to know when I come across such a site, but then I also know that
the correct answer is to deny access. For most people I recommend
selecting “Always deny”.

The Global Notifications panel is used to show how bad Adobe is at
effective communications. When a site wants to access your webcam and
you have the control set to ask, you get notified. When a third party
site wants insecure access to your data and you have Flash configured to
ask, then you are notified of the request, but that isn’t what this
panel is about. This is how you set the interval for how often Flash
checks for updates! This really should be called the Update Settings
panel, but perhaps Adobe thinks it may one day be used for other things
too. The default setting is probably good. If you want to check more
frequently I’ll tell you how in a future blog.

The Website Privacy Settings panel is similar to the Global privacy
Settings, except it allows you to control the behavior of web sites
after you have visited them. If you visited a web site that uses Flash,
it will be listed here. From this panel you can choose to always allow
the site to access your webcam, always deny access to it, or leave the
default of ask permission each time. The panel would be far more useful
if you could add websites without having to visit them, but that
functionality doesn’t help Flash to spy on you, so don’t look for the
functionality anytime soon.

The Website Storage Settings panel is similar to the Global Storage
Settings panel, except that it is used AFTER Adobe let a website spy on
you. When you visit Flash enabled website they will show up in the box
at the bottom of the panel and then you can select each website and
adjust how much local storage (shared objects) you want to let the
website have on your hard drive. Once again due to a design that favors
privacy compromise over user choice, you can’t add websites first and
assign settings, you have to browse to the website first and use your
default settings. After visiting the website then you must return to the
Flash settings manager

The Peer-Assisted Networking panel lets you prevent Flash from sharing
your internet connection. There may be no security or privacy risk at
all, but I really can’t say authoritatively that there is no risk. There
is probably no benefit that makes it worth taking the chance. Choose the
check box titled “Disable P2P uplink for all" and don’t look back.

The Protected Content Playback Settings panel is generally of no
significance to anyone. Most companies realize the DRM (Digital Rights
Management) was almost as successful as the war on drugs. A few people
out there may have files that are protected and when some obscure
problem crops up, after hours on the phone with technical support you
may be asked to reset the license files, otherwise you can pretty safely
ignore this panel.

One of the other ways to configure flash is to right click on a flash
animation on a web page. The problem is that you have to know that it is
a Flash file and not an animated GIF or other graphic, then after some
spying has been done you can say stop.

If you choose “Settings” you get to disable or enable hardware
acceleration. If you choose Global Settings then is takes you to the
Flash Settings Manager panel which we have just gone over.

Next blog I’ll show you another way to configure Flash. A way that you
can block virtually all LSOs, truly control Flash, and probably not get
to see many Flash animations at all.

Randy Abrams
Director of Technical Education

This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 6th, 2010 at 3:18 pm and
is filed under Flash, Randy Abrams. ...

Flash Settings can be modified at


(5) FBI to launch nationwide facial recognition service

By Aliya Sternstein 10/07/2011


The FBI by mid-January will activate a nationwide facial recognition
service in select states that will allow local police to identify
unknown subjects in photos, bureau officials told Nextgov.

The federal government is embarking on a multiyear, $1 billion dollar
overhaul of the FBI's existing fingerprint database to more quickly and
accurately identify suspects, partly through applying other biometric
markers, such as iris scans and voice recordings.

Often law enforcement authorities will "have a photo of a person and for
whatever reason they just don't know who it is [but they know] this is
clearly the missing link to our case," said Nick Megna, a unit chief at
the FBI's criminal justice information services division. The new facial
recognition service can help provide that missing link by retrieving a
list of mug shots ranked in order of similarity to the features of the
subject in the photo.

Today, an agent would have to already know the name of an individual to
pull up the suspect's mug shot from among the 10 million shots stored in
the bureau's existing Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification
System. Using the new Next-Generation Identification system that is
under development, law enforcement analysts will be able to upload a
photo of an unknown person; choose a desired number of results from two
to 50 mug shots; and, within 15 minutes, receive identified mugs to
inspect for potential matches. Users typically will request 20
candidates, Megna said. The service does not provide a direct match.

Michigan, Washington, Florida and North Carolina will participate in a
test of the new search tool this winter before it is offered to criminal
justice professionals across the country in 2014 as part of NGI. The
project, which was awarded to Lockheed Martin Corp. in 2008, already has
upgraded the FBI's fingerprint matching service.

Local authorities have the choice to file mug shots with the FBI as part
of the booking process. The bureau expects its collection of shots to
rival its repository of 70 million fingerprints once more officers are
aware of the facial search's capabilities.

Thomas E. Bush III, who helped develop NGI's system requirements when he
served as assistant director of the CJIS division between 2005 and 2009,
said, "The idea was to be able to plug and play with these identifiers
and biometrics." Law enforcement personnel saw value in facial
recognition and the technology was maturing, said the 33-year FBI
veteran who now serves as a private consultant.

NGI's incremental construction seems to align with the White House's
push to deploy new information technology in phases so features can be
scrapped if they don't meet expectations or run over budget.

But immigrant rights groups have raised concerns that the Homeland
Security Department, which exchanges digital prints with the FBI, will
abuse the new facial recognition component. Currently, a controversial
DHS immigrant fingerprinting program called Secure Communities runs FBI
prints from booked offenders against the department's IDENT biometric
database to check whether they are in the country illegally. Homeland
Security officials say they extradite only the most dangerous aliens,
including convicted murderers and rapists. But critics say the FBI-DHS
print swapping ensnares as many foreigners as possible, including those
whose charges are minor or are ultimately dismissed.

Megna said Homeland Security is not part of the facial recognition
pilot. But, Bush said in the future NGI's data, including the photos,
will be accessible by Homeland Security's IDENT.

The planned addition of facial searches worries Sunita Patel, a staff
attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, who said, "Any
database of personal identity information is bound to have mistakes. And
with the most personal immutable traits like our facial features and
fingerprints, the public can't afford a mistake."

In addition, Patel said she is concerned about the involvement of local
police in information sharing for federal immigration enforcement
purposes. "The federal government is using local cops to create a
massive surveillance system," she said.

Bush said, "We do have the capability to search against each other's
systems," but added, "if you don't come to the attention of law
enforcement you don't have anything to fear from these systems."

Other civil liberties advocates questioned whether the facial
recognition application would retrieve mug shots of those who have
simply been arrested. "It might be appropriate to have nonconvicted
people out of that system," said Jim Harper, director of information
policy at the libertarian Cato Institute. FBI officials declined to
comment on the recommendation.

Harper also noted large-scale searches may generate a lot of false
positives, or incorrect matches. Facial recognition "is more accurate
with a Google or a Facebook, because they will have anywhere from a
half-dozen to a dozen pictures of an individual, whereas I imagine the
FBI has one or two mug shots," he said.

FBI officials would not disclose the name of the search product or the
vendor, but said they gained insights on the technique's accuracy by
studying research from the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

In responding to concerns about the creation of a Big Brother database
for tracking innocent Americans, Megna said the system will not alter
the FBI's authorities or the way it conducts business. "This doesn't
change or create any new exchanges of data," he said. "It only provides
[law enforcement] with a new service to determine what photos are of
interest to them."

In 2008, the FBI released a privacy impact assessment summarizing its
appraisal of controls in place to ensure compliance with federal privacy
regulations. Megna said that, during meetings with the CJIS Advisory
Policy Board and the National Crime Prevention and Privacy Compact
Council, "we haven't gotten a whole lot of pushback on the photo

The FBI has an elaborate system of checks and balances to guard
fingerprints, palm prints, mug shots and all manner of criminal history
data, he said.

"This is not something where we want to collect a bunch of surveillance
film" and enter it in the system, Megna said. "That would be useless to
us. It would be useless to our users."

(6) Closeup photo of an arm tatoo


Currently, the IAFIS can accept photographs (mugshots) with criminal
ten-print submissions. The Interstate Photo System (IPS) will allow
customers to add photographs to previously submitted arrest data, submit
photos with civil submissions, and submit photos in bulk formats. The
IPS will also allow for easier retrieval of photos, and include the
ability to accept and search for photographs of scars, marks, and
tattoos. In addition, this initiative will also explore the capability
of facial recognition technology.

(7) Crowd surveillance & Facial Recognition Tags

Forwarded from http://groups.yahoo.com/group/shamireaders/message/2232

 From Robert Leverant {to Israel Shamir}


This is tangential but relevant:



Using the same technology as Google Earth to track you, be warned it
will be most difficult to lose yourself in any crowd. This is the crowd
before the riots in Vancouver:

Put your cursor anywhere in the crowd and double-click a couple of
times.  To further help with image, use the scroll button in the centre
of your mouse. Zero in on any one specific single face..  The clarity is
incredible.. You can see perfectly the faces of every single individual
- and there were thousands. Just think what the police and the military
have at their disposal.

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