‘Too big to fail’: why even a historic ad boycott won’t change Facebook | Technology – Blog – 10 minute

On the evening of 13 July 2013, a few hours after George Zimmerman was acquitted over the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, Alicia Garza logged on to her Facebook account and typed a phrase that would change the world: “#blacklivesmatter”. A few minutes later, she posted again: “Black people. I love you. I love us. Our lives matter.”
That Facebook played a small role in the inception of a movement that may have become the largest in US history is the kind of story that the embattled company likes to point to when it makes its case that it does more good than harm. CEO Mark Zuckerberg boasted of the hashtag’s origin on Facebook in October 2019, when he delivered a speech about his view of free expression at Georgetown University.
But however much credit Facebook thinks it deserves, the days of utopian thinking about the social media platform’s ability to foster positive social change are gone. On 8 July, the Black Lives Matter Global Network, an organization founded by Garza and two fellow activists, officially endorsed the Stop Hate for Profit boycott that has seen more than 1,000 companies forswear advertising on Facebook for at least the month of July in protest of its failure to combat hate speech. On the same day, a long-awaited civil rights audit excoriated Facebook for an inconsistent and often incoherent approach to protecting the bedrock values of an equal society, specifically citing that Georgetown speech as an ideological “turning point” with “devastating” effects.
The growing boycott and damning audit are just two expressions of a hardening consensus that Facebook is no agent of social progress, but rather an impediment to it. These criticisms are not just coming from leftwing activists or embittered competitors (a common dismissal of journalistic critique) but increasingly from Facebook’s own “community” of technologists, employees and former employees.

The Black Lives Matter movement may have become the largest in US history. Photograph: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/REX/Shutterstock
Still, despite the unprecedented nature of the ad boycott, it seems unlikely that Facebook will fundamentally change. The company has weathered seemingly existential crises in the past and managed to emerge with its leadership team, market capitalization, and business model intact. “This is not yet the straw to break the camel’s back,” said Dipanjan Chatterjee, vice-president and principal analyst for Forrester Research.
“Facebook is too big to fail.”
A company with ‘quasi-sovereign power’
In 2017, as Facebook came to grips with the fact that it was being blamed for the election of Donald Trump, the company debuted a new mission statement: to “build community and bring the world closer together”. This summer, Facebook did just that, bringing together a diverse and unprecedented coalition of non-profit organizations and massive for-profit corporations in opposition to itself.
The precipitating event for the Stop Hate for Profit campaign was Zuckerberg’s decision to allow Trump to quote a racist 1960s police chief’s threat against the hundreds of thousands of people who took to the streets to protest the alleged police murder of George Floyd: “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
Trump’s statement was widely read as having the potential to incite vigilante violence. The traditional media contextualized it with explanations of its historical resonance. Twitter hid it behind a warning label and prevented users from amplifying it. Facebook left it alone, with Zuckerberg reiterating his belief that “we should enable as much expression as possible unless it will cause imminent risk of specific harms or dangers spelled out in clear policies”. By dint of Trump’s position in government, Zuckerberg argued, the statement was not incitement but “a warning about state action”, and warnings of state action were allowed under Facebook policies, though that policy had never been “spelled out” before.

Zuckerberg’s reasoning was met with stunned disbelief by US civil rights leaders, as well as experts and advocates in free expression. That he would privilege the right of the most powerful person in the US to threaten violence against civilians over the right of those civilians to exercise their right to dissent remains a fundamental contradiction in Zuckerberg’s conception of free speech, one that operates in tandem with the company’s decision, announced by the company executive Nick Clegg in September 2019, to exempt the speech of politicians from its own third-party fact checking program.
This inclination to privilege Trump’s speech over others has continued with the company’s bizarre refusal to enforce its well-intentioned rules banning voter suppression against a president who is unambiguously using the platform to attempt to suppress the vote.

The Stop Hate for Profit boycott has seen more than 1,000 companies forswear advertising on Facebook for at least the month of July. Photograph: Sascha Steinbach/EPA
“Elevating free expression is a good thing, but it should apply to everyone,” the civil rights auditors wrote in reference to these policies. “When it means that powerful politicians do not have to abide by the same rules that everyone else does, a hierarchy of speech is created that privileges certain voices over less powerful voices … Mark Zuckerberg’s speech and Nick Clegg’s announcements deeply impacted our civil rights work and added new challenges to reining in voter suppression.”
The auditors also drew special attention to Facebook’s poor track record on identifying and banning hate groups. Until March 2019, Facebook argued that white separatism and white nationalism were distinct and less dangerous than white supremacy. Though Facebook reversed that policy, the auditors appeared frustrated that the company continues to define white nationalism too narrowly – and has ignored their suggestions for improvement in this area.
Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, who led the company’s participation in the audit, said that the “two-year journey has had a profound effect on our culture and the way we think about our impact on the world”, adding: “It has helped us learn a lot about what we could do better, and we have put many recommendations from the auditors and the wider civil rights community into practice. While we won’t be making every change they call for, we will put more of their proposals into practice soon.”
Sandberg and other executives have also defended the company against criticism of its efforts on hate speech, arguing that they invest heavily in systems to remove hate and catch 89% of hate speech before it is reported. (“Ford Motor Company cannot say 89% of its fleet has seatbelts that work and still sell them,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League.)
Whether Facebook will ever hit upon a more coherent approach to protecting the free expression of the powerless as well as the powerful depends on whether it ever comes to grip with its own role as the largest censor in the history of the world.
“Facebook is governing human expression more than any government does or ever has,” said Susan Benesch, a faculty associate at Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. “They have taken on the task of defining hate speech and other unacceptable speech, which is a quasi-sovereign power … and we the public have no opportunity to contribute to the decision-making, as would be the case if the decisions were being made by a government.”
Indeed, despite company executives’ paying lip service to the concept of democracy from time to time, Facebook is structurally monarchical, thanks to Zuckerberg’s majority control of the company’s voting shares. Asked to describe the company’s decision-making process when it comes to Trump’s posts on a recent conference call with reporters, Clegg sounded less like a former deputy prime minister and more like a royal courtier when he explained: “For the most difficult decisions, there’s one ultimate decision maker, our CEO and chair and founder, Mark Zuckerberg.”
Change from the bottom up
One of Zuckerberg’s few concessions to criticism of his power has been the establishment of an “oversight board”, which will eventually be empowered to overrule him on certain decisions related to content takedowns. But the group appears to be in no hurry to step into the debate over Facebook’s handling of Trump, at least not before the November election. On 7 July, it responded to calls for its intervention with a statement that it “won’t be operational until late Fall”.

Meanwhile, Facebook’s stock price has already recovered from the hit it took when Unilever joined the ad boycott, suggesting that despite its success in generating headlines, the campaign is unlikely to have a lasting financial impact. “For some of the marketers that have joined the boycott, it is possible they were intending to pull back anyway for pandemic-related reasons,” said Debra Aho Williamson, principal social media analyst for eMarketer. “In addition, we believe that other advertisers will actually increase their spending on Facebook in July, taking advantage of potentially lower ad prices in certain categories where advertisers have pulled out.”
Chatterjee, the Forrester analyst, concurred. “If you choose to be cynical, it is easy to see how a story about budget-crunched media cuts can easily be purpose-washed into a stand on social justice,” he said.
Chatterjee also pointed out that even as Facebook endures a “tongue-lashing in the US”, it continues to consolidate and expand its power abroad, such as through its $5.7bn deal with Jio Platforms in India, an investment that he expects will give it “unprecedented access to Indian consumers”. “#StopHateForProfit is a big deal in the context of US sentiment, but for Facebook there are also other big fish to fry,” he said.

An Avaaz.org protest outside the US Capitol in Washington in 2018. The company has weathered previous crises. Photograph: Aaron Bernstein/Reuters
To the University of Virginia media studies professor Siva Vaidhyanathan, campaigners against Facebook need to come to grips with the global nature of its threat.
“One of the most frustrating things about the rise of Facebook criticism in the past three years has been its relentless focus on Donald Trump and the United States of America,” he said. “The US got off easy in 2016 – the same year that Rodrigo Duterte took over the Philippines by riding Facebook to victory, and two years after Narendra Modi took over India by riding Facebook to victory. Much of the world suffers from all of the Facebook maladies much worse than the US.”
Vaidhyanathan argued that solutions to Facebook’s ills cannot be achieved with oversight from above but will require a more fundamental shift from below.
“We have the potential to imagine radical interventions, and they have to be radical – they have to get to the root of Facebook,” he said. “The root of Facebook is the fact that it is a global intrusive surveillance system that leverages all that behavioral data to target both ads and non-ad content at us.
“Go for the root. If you can sever that, you pretty much destroy Facebook. It’s just a website at that point, and that would be lovely.”

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Apple Adds New Privacy Features to Upcoming iOS 14 and macOS Big Sur – Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures.
No, we’re not talking about ‘coronavirus,’ the current global pandemic because of which Apple—for the very first time in history—organized its Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) virtually.
Here we’re talking about a world in which we are all connected and constantly sharing data, also known as the new oil, with something called “privacy” for which we still have to fight on several fronts together.
During WWDC 2020 on Monday, the world’s most valuable company announced the next versions of its operating systems — iOS 14 for iPhones, iPadOS 14 for iPads, watchOS 7 for Apple Watches, and macOS Big Sur for MacBooks — with new features and enhancements.

What’s important is that the company also highlighted a few new security and privacy features that have been added to the upcoming iOS 14 and macOS Big Sur systems, categorically aiming to help users:

better control which apps installed on their devices can access their data,
identify shady apps that don’t respect privacy, and share data with others without any disclosure,
spot malicious apps that secretly spy on users’ data and activities.

“Privacy is a fundamental human right and at the core of everything we do. That’s why with iOS 14, we’re giving you more control over the data you share and more transparency into how it’s used,” the company says in a statement.

New Security and Privacy Features in macOS and iOS

Below we have summarized some of the new important privacy and security features that are really worth knowing:

1.) Not Every App Can Access Your Precise Geo location

Your iPhone already allows you to block specific apps from tracking your location, but now the latest iOS version will also allow you to share an approximate location with apps you are using instead of giving them access to your precise geolocation coordinates when granting any app location access.

2.) An Indicator to Spot if Microphone/Camera is Recording

iPhone users will now see a yellow dot indicator in the status bar whenever their microphone or camera is recording.

In the Control Center, you can see which apps have used the mic or camera recently.

3.) Upgrade App Account to “Sign-in with Apple”

Developers can now offer the option to upgrade existing app accounts to Sign in with Apple so users can enjoy improved Privacy, security, and ease of use without setting up a new account.

4.) Limited Photos Library Access for Selected App

With iOS 14, you do not need to share your entire photo library with apps with whom you want to share a few photos.
You can now choose to share only selected items with an app that asks access to your photos, or granting access is essential to use a related functionality.

5.) Safari Browser Added Password Monitoring and Privacy Report

Apple added two new security features to its Safari web browser for iOS and macOS, one of which aims to help users learn if they are using a compromised password for any online account.

“Safari automatically keeps an eye out for any saved passwords that may have been involved in a data breach. Using advanced cryptographic techniques, Safari periodically checks a derivation of your passwords against an updated list of compromised credentials. If a breach is discovered, Safari helps you upgrade your existing passwords. All this is done without revealing your password information to anyone — including Apple,” the company said.
Whereas the second feature in Safari uses Intelligent Tracking Prevention to identify and prevent trackers from profiling or following you across the web.

Besides this, the system also generates a weekly Privacy Report, showing users how Safari protects their browsing across all the websites they visit.

6.) Cross-App Tracking: Control and Transparency

To make tracking transparent and under the user’s control, Apple now requires app developers to get users’ consent before tracking them across third-party applications and websites.
This means now you can choose which apps have permission to track you.
You can see which apps you have given permission to track in settings, letting you change your preferences accordingly.

7.) Privacy Information on the App Store

Apple now also requires developers to display a summary of the privacy practices of their apps on their pages in the App Store, which will help users review it before downloading.

They are required to self-report their app practices, like data collected by the developer, and used to track you across companies in a simple, easy-to-read format.

8.) Bye, Bye, Intel! Apple to Use ARM-based Processors in Mac Devices

Besides announcing new features and improvements for iOS and macOS, Apple also made a big announcement at WWDC 2020 — the company is officially switching from Intel processors to its in-house “Apple Silicon” processors.

After creating mobile processors for its iPhone and iPad devices from over a decade, Apple is eager to bring Apple-designed silicon for the Mac, which will maximize the performance of the device while also being energy efficient.
“With its powerful features and industry-leading performance, Apple silicon will make the Mac stronger and more capable than ever,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook. “I’ve never been more excited about the future of the Mac.”
The company plans to ship the first Mac with Apple silicon by the end of this year and complete the transition in about two years.
To help developers get started with Apple silicon, Apple is launching the Universal App Quick Start Program, which provides access to documentation, forums support, beta versions of macOS Big Sur and Xcode 12, and the limited use of a Developer Transition Kit (DTK), a Mac development system based on Apple’s A12Z Bionic System on a Chip (SoC).

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Apple ditches Intel for ARM processors in Mac computers with Big Sur | Technology – Blog – 10 minute

Apple has announced the biggest change heading to its Mac computers in 14 years: the dumping of Intel Inside.
The company is ditching Intel’s traditional so-called x86 desktop chips for Apple’s own processors based on ARM designs – those used in smartphones and mobile tablets, including the iPhone and iPad.
At the firm’s World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC), held virtually for the first time due to the Covid-19 pandemic in the US, Apple said the first silicon-based Mac would ship by the end of 2020, with the full transition taking two years, giving developers forewarning of the modifications they will have to make to their apps.
The shift to Apple’s own ARM-based chips gives the firm even greater control over the its hardware and software, in the same way it has with the iPhone and iPad. But for users it promises very powerful machines that are drastically more efficient, meaning longer battery life, with the same instant-on features as a phone and potential for built-in mobile broadband.
Apple said switching to its own chips not only opened up performance but also new, innovative technologies such as the AI neural engine, high-performance graphics and best-in-class security.

MacOS 10.16 Big Sur is the next version of Apple’s Mac operating system. Photograph: Apple/EPA
The new macOS Big Sur also revamps almost all of the user interface of the Mac with new translucent effects, depth and colour. New is a unified space for both notifications and widgets, which now resemble those of the new iOS 14. Apple has also brought Control Centre from the iPhone to the Mac for quick settings changes, such as brightness, Bluetooth and wifi.
The dock, too, now floats at the bottom of the screen, similar to that seen on the iPad in iPadOS 13, while the Messages app now operates like an iPhone with pinned messages and mentions. The Maps app has also been revamped using the iPad app as the base.
Safari has also been sped up, now up to 50% faster than Google’s Chrome browser, but also has new privacy-protecting features, such as the ability to see how a site is tracking you from a button on the address bar. Apple has also added built-in translation, better tab management and a redesigned start page.
Shifting architectures

Apple’s silicon technologies coming to the Mac in new chips. Photograph: Apple
Apple is not the first to attempt the switch to the vastly more power-efficient ARM chips. Microsoft has dabbled several times with ARM chips in its Surface Windows PCs, most recently with the Surface Pro X, which has a custom-designed chip made by Microsoft with mobile chip-maker Qualcomm.
Despite making both hardware and software, Microsoft has struggled to bring key third-party software such as photo-editing suites to its ARM-based PCs. Here is where Apple may have the edge, with both greater control over third-party developers and previous experience in making such a dramatic switch.
Apple said it had already ported all its apps to the new ARM-based chips, including its heavy, professional apps such as the video-editing suite Final Cut Pro. The company also said that both Microsoft and Adobe were working on getting their apps ready for the switch, demonstrating Photoshop among others.
Apple is pushing a new Universal 2 format that allows developers to produce one app that runs on both existing Intel Macs and new ARM Macs.
But the firm said it also has new emulation technology called Rosetta 2 to make sure that existing apps that haven’t been updated will run on the new Apple ARM-chips from the beginning. The new Macs will also be able to run iPhone and iPad apps natively, downloaded straight from the Mac App Store.
Previous experience
In 2006, Apple switched its Mac computers and software from PowerPC chips to Intel’s x86 platform. It announced the change at WWDC in June 2005 before rolling out the first Intel Mac in January 2006. Apple completed the switch in its full Mac line-up by the end of 2006, but continued to support both PowerPC and Intel machines for several years with emulation layers helping PowerPC software run on faster Intel chips.
The move will not be welcomed by Intel, which has enjoyed a near monopoly on the PC processor market. The firm tried and failed to break into the smartphone market with lower-power chips, but could not effectively compete with ARM-based designs.
“Apple has made enormous investments in Arm chip design and it’s logical that it extends that capability beyond the iPhone and iPad,” said Geoff Blaber of analysts CCS Insight. “Its motivations for doing so include reducing its dependence on Intel, maximising its silicon investment, boosting performance, and giving itself more flexibility and agility when it comes to future products.”
Now that Microsoft and Apple are switching to their own chips, and with Google also rumoured to be working on similar own-brand ARM chips, Intel is in danger of seeing significant erosion of its dominant position.

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US Justice Department proposes rolling big tech’s protections – Cloud- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

The US Justice Department proposed that Congress take up legislation to curb protections that big tech platforms like Google and Facebook have had for decades, a senior official said.
Removing the protections would follow through on US President Donald Trump’s bid to crack down on tech giants.
The goal of the proposal, which is being finalised, is to push tech companies to address criminal content on their platforms and boost transparency for users when the outlets take down lawful material, the senior Justice Department official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
But to become law, US lawmakers would need to propose and approve legislation based on the department’s recommendations.
The president, who has battled Twitter and other tech companies over alleged censorship of conservative voices on social media platforms, said in late May he would propose legislation that may scrap or weaken the law shielding internet companies, in an extraordinary attempt to regulate the outlets where he has been criticised.
Trump wants to “remove or change” a provision of a law known as Section 230.
Under the 1996 Communications Decency Act, Section 230 does not generally hold platforms responsible for what their users post and allows them to moderate the content of their sites as they see fit.
The Wall Street Journal first reported the proposal.
Trump has attacked Twitter for tagging his tweets about unsubstantiated claims of fraud about mail-in voting with a warning prompting readers to fact-check the posts.
The White House welcomed news of the Justice Department proposal.
“The president expressly called on DOJ to develop such model legislation in the Executive Order signed recently, and yes, President Trump is pleased to see the department following through,” said White House spokesman Judd Deere.
Google, Facebook and Twitter did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Carl Szabo, general counsel of NetChoice which counts Google and Facebook among its members, said any such bill would make it harder for companies like Google, which owns YouTube, to moderate content to remove, for example, videos used to recruit terrorists.
“Because this would prevent platforms from removing objectionable content, the House (of Representatives) won’t take it up,” he said.
Also on Wednesday, Senator Josh Hawley joined with three other Republicans to introduce a bill that would allow people to sue tech companies if they feel that their speech has been censored.

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Big four banks join NSW govt’s death notification service pilot – Finance – Strategy- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

All of the big four banks have now linked up with the NSW government for its new digital service that allows citizens to notify multiple organisations when a family member or friend passes away.
The Australian death notification service (ADNS), which the state government began piloting with ANZ Banking Group in April, simplifies the once arduous process of dealing with deceased estates. 
It has been developed as a national service by the Department of Customer Service in collaboration with Births, Deaths and Marriages agencies across Australia.
While the pilot has so far been limited to removing the need for individuals to visit a bank branch to settle accounts, the ADNS has been built to become a fully-fledged ‘tell us once’ service.
This would ultimately mean that citizens are able to notify government agencies, financial institutions, utilities and other subscription-based services in one go when a person dies.
But with a number of new banks from across Australia having recently joined the service, and talks now underway with telcos, the government is beginning to realise its vision for the service.
In a LinkedIn post, Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello said the Commonwealth Bank, NAB and Westpac, as well as a number of other banks, had now joined ANZ in the trial.
The ADNS webpage indicates the other banks to participate in the trial are the Bank of Melbourne, Bank SA and St. George Bank. 
“I am pleased to announce that the four major banks have come together to help extend and build the ADNS,” he said. 
“We are making great progress; our next stage is the on-boarding of the main telcos.” 
“A big thank you to ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, NAB and Westpac and the other banks we are partnering with. 
“I will provide you all with an update on how the pilot has been tracking with the four major banks along with an invite to the showcase in the coming weeks. “
The ADNS works by matching details about the deceased person against the Australian Death Check register, which has been developed by Queensland’s Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages as a single source of truth for death records.
The national register, which is still in a soft launch phase, allows agencies and eligible commercial entities to verify information against more than two million death records dating back to 2000 from Births, Deaths and Marriages agencies across Australia.
Organisations are required to connect to the register by connecting through an approved data service broker. Equifax, fraud and identity verification form GBG, and Illion are the only brokers to be approved to date.
“When a loved one passes away, the family is often required to notify over 40 government and non-government organisations of their passing,” Dominello said.
“This is traumatic. The ADNS takes this process trauma out and replaces it with a one-stop notification service.”

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Looking at Big Threats Using Code Similarity- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Today, we are announcing the release of KTAE, the Kaspersky Threat Attribution Engine. This code attribution technology, developed initially for internal use by the Kaspersky Global Research and Analysis Team, is now being made available to a wider audience. You can read more about KTAE in our official press release, or go directly to its info page on the Kaspersky Enterprise site. From an internal tool, to prototype and product, this is a road which took about 3 years. We tell the story of this trip below, while throwing in a few code examples as well. However, before diving into KTAE, it’s important to talk about how it all started, on a sunny day, approximately three years ago.
May 12, 2017, a Friday, started in a very similar fashion to many other Fridays: I woke up, made coffee, showered and drove to work. As I was reading e-mails, one message from a colleague in Spain caught my attention. Its subject said “Crisis … (and more)”. Now, crisis (and more!) is not something that people appreciate on a Friday, and it wasn’t April 1st either. Going through the e-mail from my colleague, it became obvious something was going on in several companies around the world. The e-mail even had an attachment with a photo, which is now world famous:

Soon after that, Spain’s Computer Emergency Response Team CCN-CERT, posted an alert on their site about a massive ransomware attack affecting several Spanish organizations. The alert recommended the installation of updates in the Microsoft March 2017 Security Bulletin as a means of stopping the spread of the attack. Meanwhile, the Tempemail Health Service (NHS) in the U.K. also issued an alert and confirmed infections at 16 medical institutions.
As we dug into the attack, we confirmed additional infections in several additional countries, including Russia, Ukraine, and India.
Quite essential in stopping these attacks was the Kaspersky System Watcher component. The System Watcher component has the ability to rollback the changes done by ransomware in the event that a malicious sample manages to bypass other defenses. This is extremely useful in case a ransomware sample slips past defenses and attempts to encrypt the data on the disk.
As we kept analysing the attack, we started learning more things; for instance, the infection relied on a famous exploit, (codenamed “EternalBlue”), that has been made available on the internet through the Shadowbrokers dump on April 14th, 2017 and patched by Microsoft on March 14. Despite the fact the patch has been available for two months, it appeared that many companies didn’t patch. We put together a couple of blogs, updated our technical support pages and made sure all samples were detected and blocked even on systems that were vulnerable to the EternalBlue exploit.
Meanwhile, as everyone was trying to research the samples, we were scouting for any possible links to known criminal or APT groups, trying to determine how a newcomer malware was able to cause such a pandemic in just a few days. The explanation here is simple – for ransomware, it is not very often that we get to see completely new, built from scratch, pandemic-level samples. In most cases, ransomware attacks make use of some popular malware that is sold by criminals on underground forums or, “as a service”.
And yet, we couldn’t spot any links with known ransomware variants. Things became a bit clearer on Monday evening, when Neel Mehta, a researcher at Google, posted a mysterious message on Twitter with the #WannaCryptAttribution hashtag:

The cryptic message in fact referred to a similarity between two samples that have shared code. The two samples Neel refers to in the post were:

A WannaCry sample from February 2017 which looks like a very early variant
A Lazarus APT group sample from February 2015

The similarity can be observed in the screenshot below, taken between the two samples, with the shared code highlighted:

Although some people doubted the link, we immediately realized that Neel Mehta was right. We put together a blog diving into this similarity, “WannaCry and Lazarus Group – the missing link?”. The discovery of this code overlap was obviously not a random hit. For years, Google integrated the technology they acquired from Zynamics into their analysis tools making it possible to cluster together malware samples based on shared code. Obviously, the technology seemed to work rather nicely. Interestingly, one month later, an article was published suggesting the NSA also reportedly believed in this link.
Thinking about the story, the overlap between WannaCry and Lazarus, we put a plan together – what if we built a technology that can quickly identify code reuse between malware attacks and pinpoint the likely culprits in future cases? The goal would be to make this technology available in a larger fashion to assist threat hunters, SOCs and CERTs speed up incident response or malware triage. The first prototype for this new technology was available internally June 2017, and we continued to work on it, fine-tuning it, over the next months.
In principle, the problem of code similarity is relatively easy. Several approaches have been tested and discussed in the past, including:

Calculating checksums for subs and comparing them against a database
Reconstructing the code flow and creating a graph from it; comparing graphs for similar structures
Extracting n-grams and comparing them against a database
Using fuzzy hashes on the whole file or parts of it
Using metadata, such as the rich header, exports or other parts of the file; although this isn’t code similarity, it can still yield some very good results

To find the common code between two malware samples, one can, for instance, extract all 8-16 byte strings, then check for overlaps. There’s two main problems to that though:

Our malware collection is too big; if we want to do this for all the files we have, we’d need a large computing cluster (read: thousands of machines) and lots of storage (read: Petabytes)
Capex too small

Additionally, doing this massive code extraction, profiling and storage, not to mention searching, in an efficient way that we can provide as a stand-alone box, VM or appliance is another level of complexity.
To refine it, we started experimenting with code-based Yara rules. The idea was also simple and beautiful: create a Yara rule from the unique code found in a sample, then use our existing systems to scan the malware collection with that Yara rule.
Here’s one such example, inspired by WannCry:

This innocent looking Yara rule above catches BlueNoroff (malware used in the Bangladesh Bank Heist), ManusCrypt (a more complex malware used by the Lazarus APT, also known as FALLCHILL) and Decafett, a keylogger that we previously couldn’t associate with any known APT.
A breakthrough in terms of identifying shared code came in Sep 2017, when for the first time we were able to associate a new, “unknown” malware with a known entity or set of tools. This happened during the #CCleaner incident, which was initially spotted by Morphisec and Cisco Talos.

In particular, our technology spotted a fragment of code, part of a custom base64 encoding subroutine, in the Cbkrdr shellcode loader that was identical to one seen in a previous malware sample named Missl, allegedly used by APT17:

Digging deeper, we identified at least three malware families that shared this code: Missl, Zoxpng/Gresim and Hikit, as shown below in the Yara hits:

In particular, the hits above are the results of running a custom Yara rule, based on what we call “genotypes” – unique fragments of code, extracted from a malware sample, that do not appear in any clean sample and are specific to that malware family (as opposed to being a known piece of library code, such as zlib for instance).
As a side note, Kris McConkey from PwC delivered a wonderful dive into Axiom’s tools during his talk “Following APT OpSec failures” at SAS 2015 – highly recommended if you’re interested in  learning more about this APT super-group.

Soon, the Kaspersky Threat Attribution Engine – “KTAE” – also nicknamed internally “Yana”, became one of the most important tools in our analysis cycle.
Digging deeper, or more case studies
The United States Cyber Command, or in short, “USCYBERCOM”, began posting samples to VirusTotal in November 2018, an excellent move in our opinion. The only drawback for these uploads was the lack of any context, such as the malware family, if it’s APT or criminal, which group uses them and whether they were found in the wild, or scooped from certain places. Although the first upload, a repurposed Absolute Computrace loader, wasn’t much of an issue to recognize, an upload from May 2019 was a bit more tricky to identify. This was immediately flagged as Sofacy by our technology, in particular, as similar to known XTunnel samples, a backdoor used by the group. Here’s how the KTAE report looks like for the sample in question:

Analysis for d51d485f98810ab1278df4e41b692761
In February 2020, USCYBERCOM posted another batch of samples that we quickly checked with KTAE. The results indicated a pack of different malware families, used by several APT groups, including Lazarus, with their BlueNoroff subgroup, Andariel, HollyCheng, with shared code fragments stretching back to the DarkSeoul attack, Operation Blockbuster and the SPE Hack.

Going further, USCYBERCOM posted another batch of samples in May 2020, for which KTAE revealed a similar pattern.

Of course, one might wonder, what else can KTAE do except help with the identification of VT dumps from USCYBERCOM?
For a more practical check, we looked at the samples from the 2018 SingHealth data breach that, according to Wikipedia, was initiated by unidentified state actors. Although most samples used in the attack are rather custom and do not show any similarity with previous attacks, two of them have rather interesting links:

KTAE analysis for two samples used in the SingHealth data breach
Mofang, a suspected Chinese-speaking threat actor, was described in more detail in 2016 by this FOX-IT research paper, written by Yonathan Klijnsma and his colleagues. Interestingly, the paper also mentioned Singapore as a suspected country where this actor is active. Although the similarity is extremely weak, 4% and 1% respectively, they can easily point the investigator in the right direction for more investigation.
Another interesting case is the discovery and publication (“DEADLYKISS: HIT ONE TO RULE THEM ALL. TELSY DISCOVERED A PROBABLE STILL UNKNOWN AND UNTREATED APT MALWARE AIMED AT COMPROMISING INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDERS“) from our colleagues at Telsy of a new, previously unknown malware deemed “DeadlyKiss”. A quick check with KTAE on the artifact with sha256 c0d70c678fcf073e6b5ad0bce14d8904b56d73595a6dde764f95d043607e639b (md5: 608f3f7f117daf1dc9378c4f56d5946f) reveals a couple of interesting similarities with other Platinum APT samples, both in terms of code and unique strings.

Analysis for 608f3f7f117daf1dc9378c4f56d5946f
Another interesting case presented itself when we were analysing a set of files included in one of the Shadowbrokers dumps.

Analysis for 07cc65907642abdc8972e62c1467e83b
In the case above, “cnli-1.dll” (md5: 07cc65907642abdc8972e62c1467e83b) is flagged as being up to 8% similar to Regin. Looking into the file, we spot this as a DLL, with a number of custom looking exports:

Looking into these exports, for instance, fileWriteEx, shows the library has actually been created to act as a wrapper for popular IO functions, most likely for portability purposes, enabling the code to be compiled for different platforms:

Speaking of multiplatform malware, recently, our colleagues from Leonardo published their awesome analysis of a new set of Turla samples, targeting Linux systems. Originally, we published about those in 2014, when we discovered Turla Penquin, which is one of this group’s backdoors for Linux. One of these samples (sha256: 67d9556c695ef6c51abf6fbab17acb3466e3149cf4d20cb64d6d34dc969b6502) was uploaded to VirusTotal in April 2020. A quick check in KTAE for this sample reveals the following:

Analysis for b4587870ecf51e8ef67d98bb83bc4be7 – Turla 64 bit Penquin sample
We can see a very high degree of similarity with two other samples (99% and 99% respectively) as well as other lower similarity hits to other known Turla Penquin samples. Looking at the strings they have in common, we immediately spot a few very good candidates for Yara rules—quite notably, some of them were already included in the Yara rules that Leonardo provided with their paper.

When code similarity fails
When looking at an exciting, brand new technology, sometimes it’s easy to overlook any drawbacks and limitations. However, it’s important to understand that code similarity technologies can only point in a certain direction, while it’s still the analyst’s duty to verify and confirm the leads. As one of my friends used to say, “the best malware similarity technology is still not a replacement for your brain” (apologies, dear friend, if the quote is not 100% exact, that was some time ago). This leads us to the case of OlympicDestroyer, a very interesting attack, originally described and named by Cisco Talos.
In their blog, the Cisco Talos researchers also pointed out that OlympicDestroyer used similar techniques to Badrabbit and NotPetya to reset the event log and delete backups. Although the intention and purpose of both implementations of the techniques are similar, there are many differences in the code semantics. It’s definitely not copy-pasted code, and because the command lines were publicly discussed on security blogs, these simple techniques became available to anyone who wants to use them.

In addition, Talos researchers noted that the evtchk.txt filename, which the malware used as a potential false-flag during its operation, was very similar to the filenames (evtdiag.exe, evtsys.exe and evtchk.bat) used by BlueNoroff/Lazarus in the Bangladesh SWIFT cyberheist in 2016.
Soon after the Talos publication, the Israeli company IntezerLabs tweeted that they had found links to Chinese APT groups. As a side node, IntezerLabs have an exceptional code similarity technology themselves that you can check out by visiting their site at analyze.intezer.com.

IntezerLabs further released a blogpost with an analysis of features found using their in-house malware similarity technology.
A few days later, media outlets started publishing articles suggesting potential motives and activities by Russian APT groups: “Crowdstrike Intelligence said that in November and December of 2017 it had observed a credential harvesting operation operating in the international sporting sector. At the time it attributed this operation to Russian hacking group Fancy Bear”…
On the other hand, Crowdstrike’s own VP of Intelligence, Adam Meyers, in an interview with the media, said: “There is no evidence connecting Fancy Bear to the Olympic attack”.
Another company, Recorded Future, decided to not attribute this attack to any actor; however, they claimed that they found similarities to BlueNoroff/Lazarus LimaCharlie malware loaders that are widely believed to be North Korean actors.
During this “attribution hell”, we also used KTAE to check the samples for any possible links to previous known campaigns. And amazingly, KTAE discovered a unique pattern that also linked Olympic Destroyer to Lazarus. A combination of certain code development environment features stored in executable files, known as a Rich header, may be used as a fingerprint identifying the malware authors and their projects in some cases. In the case of the Olympic Destroyer wiper sample analyzed by Kaspersky, this “fingerprint” produced a match with a previously known Lazarus malware sample. Here’s how today’s KTAE reports it:

Analysis for 3c0d740347b0362331c882c2dee96dbf
The 4% similarity shown above comes from the matches in the sample’s Rich header. Initially, we were surprised to find the link, even though it made sense; other companies also spotted the similarities and Lazarus was already known for many destructive attacks. Something seemed odd though. The possibility of North Korean involvement looked way off mark, especially since Kim Jong-un’s own sister attended the opening ceremony in Pyeongchang. According to our forensic findings, the attack was started immediately before the official opening ceremony on 9 February, 2018. As we dug deeper into this case, we concluded it was an elaborate false flag; further research allowed us to associate the attack with the Hades APT group (make sure you also read our analysis: “Olympic destroyer is here to trick the industry“).
This proves that even the best attribution or code similarity technology can be influenced by a sophisticated attacker, and the tools shouldn’t be relied upon blindly. Of course, in 9 out of 10 cases, the hints work very well. As actors become more and more skilled and attribution becomes a sensitive geopolitical topic, we might experience more false flags such as the ones found in the OlympicDestroyer.
If you liked this blog, then you can hear more about KTAE and using it to generate effective Yara rules during the upcoming “GReAT Ideas, powered by SAS” webinar, where, together with my colleague Kurt Baumgartner, we will be discussing practical threat hunting and how KTAE can boost your research. Make sure to register for GReAT Ideas, powered by SAS, by clicking here.

Register: https://www.brighttalk.com/webcast/15591/414427
Note: more information about the APTs discussed here, as well as KTAE, is available to customers of Kaspersky Intelligence Reporting. Contact: [email protected]

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Big publishers sue Internet Archive to stop digital book lending – Software- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Four big book publishers are taking legal action against the Internet Archive, alleging the open information activists are operating “one of the largest known book pirate sites in the world”.
The four publishers are Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, John Wiley & Sons, and Penguin Random House, and they have asked a New York district court to stop the Internet Archive from scanning, displaying in public and distributing entire books.
The publishers accused Internet Archive of contravening the United States Copyright Act, and of not investing in creating the books it distributes as part of the Open Library it runs.
Open Library has currently over two million protected e-books that readers can take out on loan for free, based on the American first-sale doctrine legal notion that allows purchasers of copyrighted works to onsell and distribute them without authorisation from rights holders.
Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle said his organisation was disappointed by the lawsuit.
“As a library, the Internet Archive acquires books and lends them, as libraries have always done,” Kahle said in a statement.
“This supports publishing, authors and readers. Publishers suing libraries for lending books, in this case protected digitised versions, and while schools and libraries are closed, is not in anyone’s interest.”
The publishers contend there are no provisions under copyright law, including the first-sale doctrine or fair use, that support the Internet Archive’s lending library.
“Today’s complaint illustrates that Internet Archive is conducting and promoting copyright infringement on a massive scale,” the chief executive of the Association of American Publishers, Maria Pallante, claimed.
“In scanning and distributing literary works to which it has no legal or contractual rights, IA deliberately misappropriates the intellectual and financial investments of authors and publishers and brazenly ignores the copyright law that [the US] Congress enacted.”
Recently, the US Authors’ Guild organisation has published an open letter, demanding that the Internet Archive closes down the Tempemail Emergency Library, which is a temporary collection of books for remote teaching and research while educational institutions, training centres and libraries are closed.
The free Tempemail Emergency Library currently has over 1.3 million texts, which the Authors’ Guild says are made available illegally as unauthorised copies.
Originally intended to archive the World Wide Web, the Internet Archive was set up by Brewster Kahle in 1996.
In 1999, the Internet Archive started digitising book collections, and has since added 78 rpm phonographic discs, including Boston Public Library’s collection of some 50,000 tracks.
Political television advertisements from the 2016 US elections are also archived by the organisation, and fact-checked with comment from reporters.

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Move over, Fortnite: how Valorant became the next big competitive game | Games – Blog – 10 minute

On a Tuesday in early April, viewers around the globe watched streamers on Twitch play one particular game for a combined 34m hours, smashing established live-streaming viewership records. The game in question, Valorant by Riot Games, has been averaging hundreds of thousands of daily spectators ever since, quickly displacing Twitch stalwarts such as League of Legends and Fortnite.
Valorant is a ready-baked esport: a competitive shooter designed to be watched as well as played. After a few weeks with Valorant, I’ve found it to be a careful mix of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’s meticulous but rewarding gunplay and Overwatch’s characters and soft-edged charm.
This combination – complemented by expensive anti-cheat measures and super-fast servers – has made it an easy sell for hardcore players. Many professional crack shots are jumping ship from games such as Apex Legends and Fortnite, the most notable departure thus far being 2019 Overwatch League MVP Jay “Sinatraa” Won, who revealed in April that he was leaving Blizzard’s hero shooter behind to focus on Valorant.

Yet for the casual player like me, Valorant still has a lot to offer. While I might not be the most accurate shot, I can still be useful in other areas. My preferred character, Cypher – one of nine in the game right now – has the tools to provide match-winning information about the enemy team through careful camera placement and pesky tripwires. It turns every round into a battle of wits as well as accuracy, weaving personal narratives into a conventionally cold competitive format.
The game’s slick design has enabled its meteoric rise on Twitch, but a crucial difference between this game and previous contenders is that almost no one could get their hands on it for weeks. Valorant spent almost two months in a very limited closed beta stage, which ends today on 28 May, and the digital keys to the virtual kingdom were a hot commodity. Riot Games’ clever marketing scheme was to let streamers give away keys to their viewers, incentivising millions of people to watch the game being played in the hopes of gaining access for themselves.
This led to an initial boom, but it didn’t take long for things to turn sour. Top streamer Dr Disrespect was caught fraudulently advertising beta keys, and some players with access took to eBay to trade their accounts for profit. In an attempt to keep the system fair, Riot swept its player database, banning many account sellers, and later opened up giveaway drops to all streamers with beta access instead of a curated few. But then people started streaming prerecorded footage of their gameplay, claiming that they were “live-playing” Valorant, trying to bring in more viewers.

‘Team game’ … Valorant. Photograph: Riot Games
Under lockdown, when viewers may have more free time than usual, Riot’s approach has created a perfect storm of hype. But it has also left some debris in its wake. While writing this, I watched a houseful of streamers play the game in shifts to a drop-desperate audience in the hundreds – yet the chat was devoid of conversation, beyond viewers pinging the watch-time command to expose the nauseating amount of hours they’ve spent watching and hoping for access. I’m not sure this is what Riot had in mind when it kicked off this campaign.
For those who snagged a coveted beta key, the watching and waiting was worth it. Having played Counter-Strike for almost two decades, Kai Powell spent roughly 50 hours waiting for Valorant access over three or four days. “I like that Valorant feels different from other hero shooters because the abilities supplement the gunplay,” Powell tells me. “If you look at Overwatch, you’re locked into whatever weapons that character comes with.”
Natalie Flores has spent more than 1,500 hours in Overwatch, but now plays Valorant on a daily basis. “Valorant is a team game, but doing well individually is enough to lead your team to victory,” Flores tells me. “Too often, I’m doing well in Overwatch, but my teammates will deny constant opportunities to coordinate attacks together … even if it ends in a victory, the process leading up to the win was so exhausting that it usually doesn’t feel rewarding!”

Instant hit … Valorant. Photograph: Riot Games
Yet like many competitive esports – including Riot’s own League of Legends – Valorant already has a toxicity problem. (A recent example posted to Twitter shows a Riot developer being hit on and then harassed while playing her own game.) “Riot will need to focus on creating some structural changes or else many people, especially people of colour or women like me, won’t stick around,” Flores says. “And we make up a too significant portion of every game’s player base for any company to ignore.”
With the recent introduction of a ranked mode bringing structure to competitive play, Valorant’s success appears to be a foregone conclusion. Esports organisations such as Sentinels, T1 and Ninjas in Pyjamas are stocking teams with ex-Overwatch and Counter-Strike professionals as we speak, and given the streaming numbers, it’s hard to accuse any of them of jumping the gun. Riot will have an esports giant in its roster when the game launches next week.

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Digital solutions: The next big thing in everyday business- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

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By Pravinkumar Bhandari
The start of 2020 has not been good for the entire world. Though India is circled with the virus, it has well managed to control the outbreak. Now, as the government slowly prepares on a lockdown exit plan, it is time for business owners to strategise their business and plan to stabilise the economy. The strategy should be a balance of both smooth operations and employee or worker’s safety. With no vaccine yet, we will have to live with COVID 19 for quite some time. Hence, social distancing in terms of work and daily operations and adapting contactless business solution, be it accepting payments or day to day transactions for the business would be the best solution. Business have moved their working model from on desk to off desk thanks to cloud based technology and wide remote accessibility options.
Most of the service providers has already opted for different digital solutions and soon others to join this “Digital Transformation India League”. Hence, digital technology and platform are going to be the next big thing for every industry.
Digital contactless payment: Banking services have always been focusing on using more digital banking and less manual banking which has helped people during such crisis. Additionally, every company is introducing cashless modes of making and accepting payments. In the last 10 years, different digital payment options have been introduced which are more device-agnostic and user friendly. This electronic payment will help us to avoid cash exchange which is the key source of virus transmission
Smart Point of Sale solution: POS is helping retailers, SME’s, MME’S to manage their entire business over a single application. A few of the amazing features that POS provides are cloud-based inventory management, online data analysis, sales analysis, and tracking, generate real-time basis reports, digital receipts, etc. But what best would be, is to also offer the services to your customers through a single application. POS solutions would help the business to avoid one to one touch and fasten the process.
Opting for webinars, online workshops, and digital tools: B2B business instead of meeting vendors, partners, clients face to face should have a part of the sales planner. Earlier remote working looked like a challenge but now after the first lockdown, every company is following work from the home policy as it is helping to maintain social distance which is the best precautions going forward. There are many digital platforms with good offers from zoom call to google meet to host meetings, webinars, demos, etc. Along with timesaving, it also helps to maintain the required social distance
Use of online solutions: Industry experts have always factored “digitization” as a key to country success. Due to the lockdown, almost every business revenue has got stalled but business owners continued to support their customers remotely using various digital (online) platforms. People are also preferring to use such platforms for their online purchases, as at this time it is a convenient and safe option. It is very impressive to look at the quick implementation of digital solutions to run the halt system. Another example is how people are using medical applications to book appointments these days. Also at times, it is difficult to reach every patient physically so video chat is a convenient medium to connect. Again, we witness many schools and colleges have developed a simple application for their students to ensure the continuation of their education
Use of Government safety application: During this pandemic digital platform has got its recognition. Few countries are working on developing an application to track coronavirus cases and India is not left behind in doing so. India has developed an android & iOS compatible mobile application to track our safety by mapping COVID -19 cases near us. And every business post lockdown needs to use these apps for the safety of the employees, management, and customers. Because at the end of the day “Health is Wealth”.
Lastly, this pandemic has worsened the economy but if we continue growing digital solutions, it can help us to stabilise the economy faster.
(The author is Chief Executive Officer at ePaisa)

If you have an interesting article / experience / case study to share, please get in touch with us at [email protected]

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England Women prove to be big social media hit during lockdown | England women’s football team- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

ngland Women have reached the World Cup semi-finals, won the SheBelieves Cup and attracted a crowd of more than 77,000 to Wembley. But rarely, it appears, has their popularity been greater than during lockdown.
Players have swapped pitch-side selfies and signings for substantial social media interaction and the forward Beth England is far from alone in having enjoyed producing content and engaging with fans. “They are the voice for us when we’re on the pitch, we can help be the voice for them off it,” she said.
England has been part of the Football Association’s “#FootballsStayingHome with the Lionesses” social media campaign that has reached millions since its launch at the end of March and has brought a faster increase in positive engagement than any other FA channel.
Positive engagement analyses the reaction to a post, and on this measure the Lionesses’ channels have increased from 33.7% to 55.3% in a year, a faster rise than for the senior men’s team and FA Cup, among others.
Negative comments about women’s football are a regular feature of social media, as shown by replies to the BBC Sport tweet on Monday about the likely cancellation of the Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship. The vitriol provoked replies from frustrated players and the fact that positive interactions are on the rise in the FA campaign is therefore welcome.
Twenty-nine of the England Women’s team have taken part in producing content, starting with a message to fans from Steph Houghton, Lucy Bronze, Nikita Parris and Leah Williamson that had more than 500,000 views across Twitter and Instagram, 341,686 impressions and more than 20,000 engagements.
Jodie Taylor, the OL Reign forward and England’s top goalscorer at Euro 2017, has taken part in the “Keeping up with the Lionesses” series, which provides a weekly update from players in lockdown, and the weekly “Coffee Club” hosted by Jill Scott and Karen Bardsley, who are Manchester City teammates.
“The impact of Covid-19 has been tough on everyone,” Taylor said. “It has been quite uplifting being actively involved as a team to help bring support and a bit of laughter to others during this time.
“As footballers we have a huge responsibility as role models to those who follow our sport, as well as for wider society. Many of us have the reach and profile that allows us to help promote positive messages and words of thanks. It’s the least we can do to help people through these times.”
England, who has scored 14 goals in the WSL this season, said: “I feel it’s been extremely important to engage with the fans and the public during this time to make sure they feel they aren’t alone in all this. As professional players we’re still human of course, and go through similar struggles to everyone else in our personal lives.
“Like myself, alone during this time, it’s nice to have other [social media] conversations with people and not to get too down about being alone … I’ve loved doing the Lioness content, it’s definitely kept me busy.”
The first seven #ObviousJill Jill Scott skill sessions gained 145,296 views across Twitter and Instagram, and Bardsley’s TikTok challenge, for fans to show themselves “celebrating the small wins”, was viewed more than 350,000 times. The hashtag it spawned had 6.2m views, 4.2m likes, 221,000 shares and 124,000 comments.
Ellen White, one of three players to have taken part in calls to key workers, described the experience as “truly inspiring”.
The Manchester City striker said: “I feel extremely honoured and privileged to have spoken to Kristen. She’s not only working as a nurse for the NHS but looks after her family as well during these uncertain times. I can’t thank Kristen and all the NHS and frontline services enough during this pandemic in helping to look after and care for the nation.”

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