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02 Feb 23. DOD and the National Telecommunications and Information Sciences Launch 2023 5G Challenge for Open RAN with an Eye Toward Future Base Modernization. The FutureG & 5G Office in the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (OUSD(R&E)) is launching the 2023 5G Challenge. Sponsored by the FutureG & 5G Office and led by the Institute for Telecommunication Sciences division of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) from the Department of Commerce, the 5G Challenge will accelerate the adoption of open interfaces, interoperable components, and multi-vendor solutions toward the development of an open 5G ecosystem.
The “2023 5G Challenge: Advanced Interoperability” competition is open for applications on Challenge.gov. Applications must be submitted by 7 p.m. ET on March 1, 2023.
Challenge entrants will compete for up to $7 million in cash and prizes. With a congressional mandate to explore and realize the promise of open radio access network (Open RAN) technology, R&E uses the 5G Challenge to help validate Open RAN as the architecture of the future.
The 5G Challenge will help establish the deployment readiness of Open RAN systems — an important factor in future decisions about updating communications infrastructure on Department of Defense facilities under the base modernization initiatives in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023. The military services will provide plans for such modernization this year and prepare to undertake them over the next three years at hundreds of DoD facilities.
The FutureG & 5G Office and the related 5G Cross Functional Team, the advisory body mandated by Congress to ensure 5G capabilities are established, sustained, and transitioned to operational use; provide key technical guidance to DoD as it undertakes upgrades to communications infrastructure on its facilities. Competitors’ solutions and results from the 5G Challenge will help inform the FutureG & 5G Office’s views on the ability of Open RAN systems to be competitive in forthcoming base communications infrastructure modernization initiatives. The office looks forward to broadening industry participation in the 2023 5G Challenge to show the way forward to a bright future for open RAN technology.
The Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (USD(R&E) is the Chief Technology Officer of the Department of Defense. The USD(R&E) champions research, science, technology, engineering, and innovation to maintain the United States military’s technological advantage. Learn more at www.cto.mil, follow us on Twitter @DoDCTO, or visit us on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/company/ousdre. (Source: US DoD)
02 Feb 23. Middle East: APT34 conducting cyberespionage against government sector; elevated risk of future compromises with stolen credentials. Iran-linked APT34 (also known as OilRig) has developed a new backdoor that allows them to steal credentials of infected networks and exfiltrate the stolen information over legitimate emails. This new backdoor reflects the latest evolution of the group’s tools to minimise detection, namely by changing how they exfiltrate data using legitimate simple mail transfer protocol (SMTP) mail traffic. The backdoor includes the ability to steal new passwords of previously compromised users who changed their passwords, ensuring accounts stay compromised. It then uses the compromised mailbox accounts to send stolen data as an attachment in an email from the internal mailboxes to external mail accounts controlled by the threat group. The group is known to target government entities in Bahrain, China, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The group has already targeted an undisclosed government organisation where they maintain a foothold in the network, and will likely exploit this access in the future for further campaigns. As a result, the group will pose an elevated security and operational threat to the government sector, and will likely conduct future cyberespionage campaigns in the Middle East. (Source: Sibylline)
02 Feb 23. Lazarus Group’s ongoing cyberespionage campaign poses increased risk to life sciences and energy sectors. The North Korean-sponsored group, Lazarus, has been targeting the medical research and energy industries with a long-term cyberespionage campaign since May 2022. Researchers from WithSecure discovered the campaign when conducting an incident response for a customer, initially suspecting it was a ransomware attack. However, due to a mistake in the malware, the researchers viewed an IP address that indicated data exfiltration to an IP belonging to North Korea. Aside from medical research, the campaign has targeted the energy sector, a manufacturer of technology used in energy, research, defence and healthcare verticals, as well as a chemical engineering department at a leading university. Recently, most of North Korean-back threat groups have conducted financially motivated attacks to bolster their country’s income due to the economic sanctions. With the recent shift to conducting cyberespionage campaigns as well as financially-motivated cryptocurrency theft, there is elevated security and operational risk to the energy, medical research and government sectors. Those engaging in research that may benefit North Korea’s own energy, medical, and, potentially, nuclear industries will remain at increased risk.
02 Feb 23. Project Cornerstone – Better Late than Never.
The British Army is performing an overarching modernisation of its electronic warfare capabilities which are converging with cyber effects as the UK hones its CEMA doctrine.
The British Army has embarked on the latest chapter in the wholesale renewal of its electronic warfare capabilities.
The tender for Project Cornerstone was launched on 10th November 2022. Valued at between $121 m and $485 m Cornerstone sees the delivery of a “networked land Electronic Warfare (EW) and signals intelligence capability,” the tender continued. Few details were revealed in the tender notice beyond the requirement for Cornerstone’s architecture to use “common standards.”
JES/00149 – CORNERSTONE
A Prior Information Notice
by MINISTRY OF DEFENCE
Find a Tender
Published: 10 Nov 2022
As Armada reported previously the army is undertaking a much-delayed overhaul of its EW posture. The force plans to acquire eleven ARTEC Boxer wheeled armoured fighting vehicles configured for EW. They are likely to be deployed with the 14th Signals Regiment (Electronic Warfare). This is the army’s dedicated electronic warfare formation. It is part of 6th (UK) Division and is headquartered at RAF Upavon, southwest England. The division is responsible for cyber, EW and information operations.
It is over two decades since the UK Ministry of Defence first tried to replace the army’s legacy EW platforms and capabilities. In 2001 the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) contracted Lockheed Martin to provide a suite of backpack and vehicular EW systems for the manoeuvre force under the ill-fated Soothsayer programme. Cost overruns of circa $60 m spelt Soothsayer’s demise in 2009. Soothsayer was followed by Landseeker. This was to have procured a scalable EW architecture to replace all electronic warfare systems used by 14th Signals Regiment.
The regiment currently uses SC Jackal wheeled reconnaissance vehicles to provide EW support to the army’s 16th Air Assault Brigade. GKN Sankey FV-439 tracked electronic warfare vehicles provide similar support to the manoeuvre force. Both vehicles are believed to use variants of L3Harris’ Broadshield electronic attack system. The FV-439 platforms are expected to be replaced by the Boxer EW variants. Electronic warfare support for dismounted operations is provided by the army’s Roke Resolve backpack EW system.
13th Signal Regiment
Last February, Armada learned the army will receive a new EW and signals unit to equip the manoeuvre force. The new unit will be raised by re-rolling the army’s 21st Signal Regiment. This formation is based in Colerne, western England. According to official MOD information, the regiment is responsible for tactical, operational and strategic communications. Other responsibilities include the deployment of wide area networks and information systems. It comprises 215 Signal Squadron which supports brigade headquarters, 220 Signal Squadron assisting brigade elements and a support squadron. The re-rolling of the unit for its new electronic warfare tasks should occur by 2024, according to the MOD source.
The 21st Signal Regiment will form part of a new British Army Cyber and Electromagnetic Activities (CEMA) group. “The timetable to establish the CEMA group is still being finalised,” the source continued. Once activated, the group will be headquartered in Andover, southeast England. In 2018 the MOD published its CEMA doctrine. This prescribed the deeper coalescence of cyber and EW capabilities across the British military. By 2028, both the 14th and 21st Signal Regiments will have been joined by the new 13th Signal Regiment responsible for cyber operations. All three will form the army’s new CEMA group.
A written statement provided to Armada by the MOD said Project Cornerstone architecture will include hardware and software along with “integration into relevant platforms to support brigade combat teams.” The statement confirmed these will include the EW-configured Boxers “based on current planning and funding.”
Once delivered, the MOD expects to continually enhance the Cornerstone architecture throughout its service life: “This aims to deliver the capability (identified by continuous operational analysis) to the end user as early as possible, whilst maximising flexibility to adjust to any future opportunities and threats. To that end there may/will be several vendors that are cohered into a system of systems delivery.” Details on when Cornerstone will enter service remain classified, the statement concluded.
Cornerstone’s advent is undoubtedly good news for the British Army and UK land forces in general. The rejuvenation of UK land electronic warfare assets has already been postponed on numerous occasions. It is now going ahead and will see the army adopting a state-of-the-art, future-proofed EW system. As Europe sees a return of great power competition, these capabilities will be indispensable. (Source: Armada)
02 Feb 23. February Spectrum SitRep.
Armada’s monthly round-up of all the latest electronic warfare news in the product, programme and operational domains.
MERTER Makes its Debut
Meteksan told Armada that it began deliveries of its MERTER portable electronic warfare system to the Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri (Turkish Armed Forces) in December 2022. Designed as a counter-improvised explosive device system, the company said in a written statement that it has other applications. Although not specified this probably includes tactical communications jamming. Meteksan’s official literature says MERTER covers Very High Frequencies (VHF) of 30 megahertz/MHz to 300MHz. This lets it also attack VHF civilian and military radio communications. The statement added that MERTER detects threats and performs barrage and smart reactive jamming against multiple targets on multiple frequencies. Optional masts can extend MERTER’s range while directional antennas help attack threats on specific bearings. The company has not concluded any MERTER exports, but “recently started (international) marketing activities.”
Czech Army EW Developments
In late December reports emerged that the Armáda České Republiky (Czech Republic Army) had taken delivery of new VVU Brno STARKOM mobile communication jamming systems. STARKOM is an acronym for Stavebnicový Rušič Komunikační which translates as Modular Communications Jammer. Deliveries to the army’s 53rd Reconnaissance and Electronic Warfare Regiment commenced in October. This unit includes a single electronic warfare battalion. The regiment supports the army’s manoeuvre formations, chiefly the 7th Mechanised Brigade and 4th Rapid Reaction Brigade. VVU Brno told Armada that eight STARKOM systems will be delivered to the army. Deliveries will conclude by the end of 2023. The statement continued that STARKOM is solely tasked with engaging communications threats.
The Czech Army is receiving eight STARKOM mobile communications electronic warfare systems that will be deployed with the force’s solitary electronic warfare battalion.
Ultra-Lite Moves Ahead
Northrop Grumman revealed in January it had successfully demonstrated key components of its Ultra-Lite naval electronic attack prototype system, according to a company press release. The document says that Ultra-Lite is a “scaled down, onboard (electronic attack) system for anti-ship missile defence for smaller ships.” Mike Meaney, Northrop Grumman’s vice president for land and maritime sensors, told Armada the company is “developing the system using our own funding under our core belief that this scaled-down system would be of critical value to the navy.” The company has used expertise honed for the US Navy’s Raytheon AN/SLQ-32(7) electronic warfare system in Ultra-Lite. Northrop Grumman is the lead contractor for maturing the AN/SLQ-32’s architecture to its AN/SLQ-32(7) status. More details regarding the AN/SLQ-32 programme can be found here. Greg Teitelbaum, maritime electronic and information warfare director at Northop Grumman added that Ultra-Lite “is being designed to rapidly meet the needs of any future potential programmes of record.” Mr. Teitelbaum said that the company believes a programme of record for such a scaled-down vessel electronic warfare system could emerge from the US Navy in the future. He said that Ultra-Lite is covered by US International Traffic in Arms Regulations but could be offered for international sale.
HawkEye Helps Slingshot
Slingshot Aerospace has awarded Radio Frequency (RF) data provider Hawkeye 360 a contract to provide data for the former’s space-based RF threat detection and monitoring services. This data will support Slingshot’s Low Earth Orbit Data Exploitation and Enhanced Processing (DEEP) initiative. DEEP is a US Space Force (USSF) programme, HawkEye 360 said in a press release. Adam Bennett, the company’s vice president of marketing told Armada that Hawkeye 360’s satellites “are feeding telemetry data into Slingshot Aerospace’s space-based monitoring programme.” This information is used “to detect RF threats that maybe disrupting the ability of the (Global Positioning System) to function.” Mr. Bennett added that “the analytics generated from this data helps the US Space Force’s Space Systems Command determine where hotspots of interfering activity may be occurring and characterise the impact.”
01 Feb 23. Comtech Welcomes Sirqul as New EVOKE Technology Partner.
EVOKE is Comtech’s Innovation Foundry Dedicated to Pushing the Boundaries of Innovation to Create and Accelerate Change Across the Global Technology Landscape
Comtech (NASDAQ: CMTL) announced today that Sirqul will become the Company’s first publicly announced EVOKE technology partner.
EVOKE is Comtech’s Innovation Foundry, which is led by the company’s Chief Growth Officer and is dedicated to creating and accelerating transformational changes across the global technology landscape. EVOKE engages with customers, partners, and suppliers to push the boundaries of technologies that will lay the foundation of connectivity and shape future societies and ecosystems. As the first publicly announced EVOKE technology partner, Sirqul will work jointly with Comtech on a unified focus of achieving “Smart Operations,” where enterprises will be able to make business decisions with real time Internet of Things (IoT) data to develop actionable business insights and improve operations, creating unprecedented customer value in uniquely innovative ways.
“As one of our EVOKE partners, Sirqul brings industry leading expertise and differentiated technologies that will enable us to collaborate to address our customers most difficult challenges and bring forward solutions that democratize communications access for all,” said Ken Peterman, president and CEO, Comtech. “Together, we will build interoperable, game-changing capabilities that support the convergence of satellite and terrestrial communications infrastructures, next generation location-based services, and cloud native IoT applications powering the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”
Sirqul is an IoT platform with over 80 modular services and over 400 application programming interfaces (APIs), it calls ingredients, empowering companies and organizations of all sizes to deploy IoT solutions in the cloud, on-premise, hybrid, and at the edge. By working together, Comtech and Sirqul will bring robust mobile, web, social, voice, IoT, and digital-twin offerings, and other technologies to a variety of global markets.
“We are very honored to be chosen as the first publicly announced EVOKE technology partner and have already started the ideation process for this amazing opportunity with the global leader in this space,” said Robert Frederick, founder and CEO, Sirqul. “By working with the Comtech team, we believe that we will be able to enhance each company’s capabilities and provide our worldwide customers with a combination of features, services, and solutions that we could not do on our own, while expanding partnership and business development opportunities for 2023 and beyond.”
Yesterday, Sirqul announced Comtech will also join its Strategic Alliance Program to integrate its best-in-class communications solutions, precision location-based services, and cloud native technologies with Sirqul’s Engagement-as-a-Service (Eaas) IoT Platform. Sirqul has been building its unique capabilities with its Strategic Alliance Partners since 2012 and chooses only a few companies to add to the Alliance each year based on in-depth assessments of technologies that will significantly enhance consumer and business experiences across global markets.
01 Feb 23. TrickGate used to conceal malware in phishing attacks, sustaining threat to manufacturing industry. Researchers at Check Point Research reported new information about the packer, ‘TrickGate’, claiming it has been used by popular malware to avoid endpoint detection and antivirus software for the past six years. TrickGate was first observed in 2016 as a Packer-as-a-Service, and continues to be used by malware such as Cerber, Trickbot, Maze, Emotet, REvil, Cobalt Strike, AZORult, Formbook, AgentTesla and others. The packer is constantly updated and improved by its developers, which allows it to evade detection by security products and makes tracking it more difficult for the security community due to the frequent changes to the codebase. The packer is typically spread via phishing campaigns. In the last two years, the TrickGate packer was primarily used in attacks targeting the manufacturing sector, however the education, healthcare, government, and finance sectors are also frequent targets. Recent attacks using TrickGate were mainly reported in Taiwan, Turkey, Germany, Russia, and China. Due to its ability to remain undetected by security products and its ubiquity within the malware community, the financial, operational, security and reputational risks TrickGate poses to the manufacturing, education, healthcare, government, and financial sectors remain high. (Source: Sibylline)
01 Feb 23. Global: Vulnerable QNAP devices increase organisations’ exposure to cyber attacks. Over 98% of identified QNAP network-attached storage (NAS) devices are vulnerable to a SQL injection vulnerability (CVE-2022-27596) that could grant an unauthenticated threat actor the ability to inject malicious code in internet-exposed and unpatched QNAP devices. The vulnerability has yet to be exploited in the wild and does not currently have a publicly available proof-of-concept (POC), meaning that the current risk of exploitation by threat actors is low to moderate. However, if a POC is published, the risk will increase. The organisation has released a patch for this vulnerability, and recommends customers with impacted devices upgrade to the most recent software version to secure them from attacks as soon as possible, especially as NAS devices have a history of being targeted in ransomware attacks. A critical vulnerability that can be exploited easily in a large number of devices such as this poses ongoing significant financial, operational, security, and reputational risks to private and public sector organisations, especially ones that have inadequate cyber hygiene policies and weak defences. (Source: Sibylline)
30 Jan 23. L3Harris Viper Shield Electronic Warfare System Achieves Critical Design Review Milestone.
- Improves offensive and defensive electronic warfare capabilities
- Custom-designed baseline for advanced F-16 Block 70/72 Foreign Military Sales aircraft
- Only global electronic warfare system for the jet to successfully achieve critical design review milestone
L3Harris Technologies (NYSE: LHX) announced today achieving a critical design review (CDR) milestone for the Viper Shield electronic warfare (EW) system, which will provide improved offensive and defensive EW capabilities for F-16 Block 70/72 Foreign Military Sales (FMS) aircraft.
The AN/ALQ-254(V)1 Viper Shield successfully completed a CDR milestone with partner Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Air Force observing. Designed as the baseline EW system on the new F-16 Block 70/72 aircraft, the system will provide a virtual electronic shield that improves aircraft protection through a multiple digital radio frequency, memory-based jamming system.
“Viper Shield is the highest-performance, lowest-risk EW option for F-16 Vipers in an increasingly dangerous world,” said Ed Zoiss, President, Space and Airborne Systems, L3Harris. “As the only EW system for these aircraft to successfully achieve this CDR milestone, we are one step closer to helping our global customers detect and defeat modern advanced threats.”
In late 2022, Viper Shield successfully demonstrated interoperability with the new APG-83 Active Electronically Scanned Array radar during testing at the Lockheed Martin Systems Integration Lab. Fully integrated and internally mounted, it features an open-systems architecture using commercial-off-the-shelf technology for easier future upgrades and lower lifecycle costs.
L3Harris removed the need for U.S. government funding to develop the Viper Shield EW system for the F-16 Block 70/72 FMS aircraft by leveraging internal research and development investments and international commitments.
With the approach of the next critical milestone in the second quarter of 2023, Viper Shield will return to the Lockheed Martin Systems Integration Lab with newly integrated hardware and software to demonstrate full integration of the next planned increment of capabilities with the F-16 Block 70/72 FMS aircraft. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
27 Jan 23. Following deficiency, Marines add comms capability to ACV variant. The U.S. Marine Corps’ Amphibious Combat Vehicle – Command and Control Variant was not built with sufficient long-range communications capability, a Pentagon test and evaluation office found, but the service has since integrated additional equipment to fix the problem.
The Director of Operational Test and Evaluation wrote in an annual report, released this month, the “ACV-C is operationally effective as a stationary command post but not operationally effective as a mobile command post. The ACV-C does not have enough secure beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) voice and data nets to support the [command and control] mission.”
“When the ACV-C is stationary, embarked staff can set up additional BLOS external antennas to support communication demands,” it continues. “The embarked staff is limited to a single BLOS net when the ACV-C is mobile.”
The Marines are currently fielding the personnel variant of the ACV, which will make up the bulk of the fleet of vehicles. The corps plans to pursue four different variants; the second is the command and control variant.
According to the DOT&E report, ACV-C shares a common hull, powertrain, drivetrain, water propulsion system and survivability suite with the baseline vehicle, but also has seven radios to allow for secure voice and data communications, as well as other radios, antennas, and a larger battery pack to support silent watch operations.
The vehicle is meant to serve as a tactical echelon command post for a regiment or battalion, it notes.
Barb Hamby, a spokeswoman for the Marines’ Program Executive Office for Land Systems, told Defense News the command and control gear includes government-furnished radios, intercoms, laptops and associated equipment, with L3Harris Technologies and Panasonic the primary vendors for that gear. BAE Systems makes the ACV vehicles and integrates this mission gear into its vehicle hull.
Hamby said the original vehicle requirements did not require multiple beyond-line-of-sight voice and data networks, leading to the issues DOT&E identified.
“The program office has since incorporated several engineering changes to address these concerns,” she said.
The Marine Corps conducted ACV-C testing in early 2022, leading to a March decision to move into production.
The DOT&E report also notes reliability challenges with the vehicle’s mission systems, stating “frequent communication failures degraded the ACV-C’s C2 mission effectiveness. The embarked staff need more hands-on training in troubleshooting frequent communication problems.”
Hamby told Defense News “the issues are being addressed through additional training and giving Marines more time with the equipment.”
“In addition, a technical instruction is under development which will instruct Marines on how to check all subsystems of the C2 suite in the form of a limited technical inspection,” she continued. “This TI will also be part of the published technical manual.”
Hamby said these changes will be made prior to fielding the vehicle and that PEO Land Systems does not anticipate any fielding delays. Marines will be given the new enhanced training as their units receive the ACV-C vehicles, and the service expects to declare initial operational capability in the second quarter of fiscal 2024. (Source: Defense News)
27 Jan 23. Expansion of ESA’s 5G/6G Hub Moves Ahead. An ambitious new development phase of ESAs 5G/6G Hub has begun. The agency is extending the facility’s satellite-enabled communications technologies and pursuing new collaborations with industry, as part of its drive to accelerate the 5G digital transformation of the European economy. ESA has selected information technology firm CGI to lead the expansion project, backed by the UK Space Agency. The project consortium includes satellite operators Eutelsat and OneWeb as well as mobile network operator Vodafone.
As the world becomes ever more connected, next generation 5G and 6G promises to empower a new wave of digital technologies and services that will change the way people live, work and communicate.
The integration of communications infrastructure on the ground and in space is vital to ensure the provision of continuous, instant and ubiquitous connectivity.
Opened in February 2022, the 5G/6G Hub – located at ESA’s European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications (ECSAT) at Harwell campus in the UK – enables companies to explore and realise the enormous potential of these converged networks.
It currently consists of a demonstration room, a technical lab for application and service testing, and private high-capacity integrated networks which cover these spaces.
Over the past year, ESA and its collaborators have already used the hub to complete numerous integration and demonstration tests, with the aim of developing new 5G solutions.
The expansion project will build on this success by adding new features identified through consultation with key experts.
It will include the expansion of the hub’s dedicated networks to cover ECSAT’s surroundings, as well as the development of enhanced satellite services, edge computing, multi-network and multi-orbit orchestration, and improved ease-of-use.
The project team also plans to incorporate environmental impact analysis and recommendations into the hub’s architecture.
A dedicated outreach programme will encourage engagement from both established telecommunications and space companies as well as enterprises that are new to the industry.
ESA expects to announce several new opportunities for collaboration in the coming months.
Antonio Franchi, Head of ESA’s 5G/6G Programme, said: “We are excited to build on the momentum the 5G/6G Hub has picked up over the past year by working with our partners on its next phase of development.
“Collaboration is key to telecommunications innovation, and this project will consolidate the hub’s position as a focal point for the establishment of new partnerships, both within Europe and globally.”
Craig Brown, Director of Investment at the UK Space Agency, said: “This is the first time that ESA has established a 5G/6G Hub in a member state, demonstrating the UK’s position as a world-leader in satellite telecommunications and establishing a flagship facility that will support further growth for this thriving sector.
“The UK Space Agency’s investment in the next phase of the hub’s development will help showcase UK businesses at the forefront of emerging space technologies, catalyse investment into the sector, and enhance collaboration with international partners looking to develop their own 5G capabilities.
“We look forward to following the next steps, led by CGI, as this project comes to life.”
Tara McGeehan, President of CGI UK and Australia, said: “ESA’s 5G/6G Hub enables cross-industry collaboration that will help deliver the UK’s National Space Strategy. CGI is committed to helping our clients in the telecommunications industry integrate satellite technology in their networks and bring better and environmentally sustainable services to their customers.
“The hub will demonstrate and accelerate how satellite communications helps society to benefit from easily accessible resilient communications everywhere in the world.”
Nick Gliddon, UK Business Director at Vodafone, said: “Innovation is central to our work at Vodafone so we are really excited to be working with CGI Space, Defence and Intelligence and ESA on this project. By validating the interoperability between 5G networks on Earth and satellite networks in space, we open up exciting new possibilities for connectivity across the world.” (Source: ASD Network)
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