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US, Israel Behind Flame Malware 382

Posted by Soulskill
from the apparently-they-did-start-the-fire dept.
The Washington Post is reporting that the sophisticated 'Flame' malware was created by the United States and Israel in order to collect intelligence on Iranian computer networks. The intel was to be used in a cyber-sabotage campaign intended to slow Iran's development of nuclear weapons. This follows confirmation a few weeks ago that the U.S. and Israel were behind Stuxnet, which caused problems at Iran's nuclear facilities. From the article: "The emerging details about Flame provide new clues to what is thought to be the first sustained campaign of cyber-sabotage against an adversary of the United States. 'This is about preparing the battlefield for another type of covert action,' said one former high-ranking U.S. intelligence official, who added that Flame and Stuxnet were elements of a broader assault that continues today. 'Cyber-collection against the Iranian program is way further down the road than this.' ... The scale of the espionage and sabotage effort 'is proportionate to the problem that's trying to be resolved,' the former intelligence official said, referring to the Iranian nuclear program. Although Stuxnet and Flame infections can be countered, 'it doesn't mean that other tools aren't in play or performing effectively,' he said."
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US, Israel Behind Flame Malware

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  • by Gothmolly (148874) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @10:05PM (#40379921)

    I mean seriously? Who else besides the Israelis a) hate Iran and b) have the technical chops to do it?

    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by bhlowe (1803290)
      Good thing Eric Holder is appointing two Obama partisans to investigate the leaks. Should be able to get to the bottom of things.. right after November.
      • by thrich81 (1357561) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @11:58PM (#40380727)

        How about doing some research or at least keeping up with the news before spewing? One of the two US attorneys on the leak case is Rod J. Rosenstein, a Republican appointed into his current position as US Attorney in 2005 by George W. Bush -- hardly the profile of an Obama partisan.

      • by ukemike (956477) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @10:05AM (#40384623) Homepage

        Good thing Eric Holder is appointing two Obama partisans to investigate the leaks.

        What exactly is an "Obama Partisan?"

        Perhaps Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Army Secretary John McHugh, and Ambassador Jon Huntsman? All of these people are Republicans, conservatives, or people who served in Republican administrations. Finally as another poster here pointed out one of the two investigators appointed is a, gasp!, Republican! If you're drinking the Fox coolaid you may believe that the current administration is partisan, but it flies in the face of the facts. This President reaches across the aisle repeatedly looking for compromise only to have his open hand slapped. If you're looking for partisanship you'll have to look elsewhere.

    • Um, most Russians and Chinese and they're both in closer proximity.
    • by girlintraining (1395911) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @11:45PM (#40380635)

      I mean seriously? Who else besides the Israelis a) hate Iran and b) have the technical chops to do it?

      Believe it or not, we're not the most technologically sophisticated country. China has more honor students than we have students. Most of Europe has a more developed telecommunications infrastructure than we do; internet, mobile phones, cable tv, you name it. We are not number 1.

      As to who else hates Iran and has the capability to do something about it... it should be pointed out we don't hate Iran. We hate any country who tries to acquire nuclear weapons. Something the size of a suitcase can destroy a major city... it's why we worked so damn hard with the Russians to disarm as many of them as we could. Not every country will play nice: Some of them will do whatever it takes to beat their enemies, even if that means killing themselves in the process. Unfortunately, all the countries currently working on making nuclear weapons fall into that category, including Iran.

      The only reason we're fucking around with 'cyber' warfare instead of curb stomping them is it's an election year and our economy is in ruins thanks to fighting two unnecessary wars based on our President deciding to finish what his daddy started rather than leave well enough alone, and our country having a momentary fit of stupidity where we had to kill everyone and everything wearing a funny hat because a couple of our sand castles got kicked over by a bully.

      • by metrix007 (200091)

        No, they don't. Most Chinese live in poverty, only dreaming of the luxury of higher education.

        Oh, and the reason you're not curb stomping Iran is because you can't. It took 10 years to make Iraq into something manageable, with Iraq being a far less prepared and formidable enemy than Iran.

        • by cozziewozzie (344246) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @06:50AM (#40382935)

          No, they don't. Most Chinese live in poverty, only dreaming of the luxury of higher education.

          Most Chinese live in big cities (more than a million inhabitants) and have access to government scholarships if they score well on the university entrance examination (gaokao).

          The scholarships are a pittance, and many students have to work part-time to get through university, but their universities are loaded with brilliant people.

          China is a developing country and many people do live in poverty, but there are likely more kids with (real!) Gucci bags in Chinese cities than in the US. You have no idea how fast the place is developing.

      • by Raenex (947668)

        We hate any country who tries to acquire nuclear weapons.

        Except India, Pakistan, and of course Israel.

        The only reason we're fucking around with 'cyber' warfare instead of curb stomping them is it's an election year and our economy is in ruins

        Wait, so you mean we couldn't have "curb stomped" them before?

        thanks to fighting two unnecessary wars

        Is going to war to stop Iran from acquiring nukes "necessary"?

        our country having a momentary fit of stupidity where we had to kill everyone and everything wearing a funny hat because a couple of our sand castles got kicked over by a bully.

        No hyperbole here, no sir. Yep, we killed everybody wearing a funny hat, and those skyscrapers in New York City were just sandcastles instead of economic centers of activity.

  • by niftydude (1745144) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @10:08PM (#40379941)
    it is an act of espionage and sabotage proportionate to the problem that is trying to be resolved.

    If you do it to us, it will be considered an act of war.
    • by artor3 (1344997) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @10:22PM (#40380041)

      You're referring to a previous story that you misinterpreted to mean that the US would consider cyberattacks to be an act of war. What that story actually said was that cyberattacks against certain key infrastructure might be considered an act of war if it were serious enough. Quoting:

      If a cyber attack produces the death, damage, destruction or high-level disruption that a traditional military attack would cause, then it would be a candidate for a "use of force" consideration, which could merit retaliation.

      That basically says that they won't rule out military force in certain extreme cases. Nor should they.

      And for Iran's part, if they'd like to consider Stuxnet to be an act of war, they can. Heck, they could consider Obama forgetting to say "bless you" after Ahmadinejad sneezes to be an act of war. That's the fun thing about the word "consider". But they won't, just as they didn't consider Israel's assassination of their nuclear scientists to be one.

      I'm sorry that international espionage isn't as cut and dry as you'd like it to be, but that's just how it is and has been for most of history. There were pretenses of chivalry in Europe (and likely other places) for a time, back when royalty was a good ole boys' club and the peasants would be the ones dying. We're past that now, and I for one am glad of it.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @10:28PM (#40380087)
        in other words... if someone were to inject a cyber attack on say... or nuke facilities??? posted anon due to moding
        • by artor3 (1344997)

          If a virus set back some research at Raytheon, do you really think that the US would jump into another war?

          They made it very clear that they were talking about the sort of attack that thus far only exists in movies, not just some computer worm that damages some equipment.

        • by Sasayaki (1096761)

          That was my thought exactly.

          So if the United States sabotages Iranian efforts to develop nuclear power, and they have an energy shortfall which results in 100 preventable deaths of Iranian civilians who were on life support, this is just as bad as if the Iranian cyber-warfare division deliberately cut the power to a US hospital and 100 American civilians on life support died?

          Yes, I'm sure they would be seen in exactly the same light by the U.S. administration and public.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by ethergear (1130483)

            So if the United States sabotages Iranian efforts to develop nuclear power, and they have an energy shortfall which results in 100 preventable deaths of Iranian civilians who were on life support, this is just as bad as if the Iranian cyber-warfare division deliberately cut the power to a US hospital and 100 American civilians on life support died?

            We and other countries have bent over backwards to offer Iran access to nuclear energy. If that's all they wanted they could have had it a decade ago, for cheap. No, they wanted to enrich uranium to make a nuclear weapon. When we blew up those centrifuges, we did it using computers AND NOBODY GOT BOMBED.

            And before you get your jimmies rustled about those poor people in that energy starved hospital, may I remind you that Iran is one of the world's biggest oil producers. I think it might just be barely po

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Darkness404 (1287218)
        However, there is a double standard. Iran is trying its best to be recognized by the international community as a modern Islamic democracy, Obama is looking for more blood to put on his Nobel Peace Prize. The American public on both sides of the political aisle are crying out for another war and even the smallest thing could set off a "drone war" leading to a full-scale conflict.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by rockout (1039072)

          Iran is trying its best to be recognized by the international community as a modern Islamic democracy,

          Oh for fuck's sake, give it a rest. There should be a -1 "Naive" mod for this.

          I'm no apologist for the US government, they can do and continue to do terrible things, but to pretend that things in Iran are better for the average citizen than they are for the average US citizen is ridiculous.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Darkness404 (1287218)
            Iran is a terrible government (heck, all governments are terrible) but their international relations are much nicer than the US. The last major war that Iran fought was against Iraq, who invaded Iran in the 1980s. The last major war that the US fought was against Iraq which was several thousand miles away from the US. Last time I checked, Iran didn't have friendly drones in other countries constantly bombing them and writing off civilian casualties as being "terrorists".

            Iran isn't good, they have a terr
            • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @12:24AM (#40380883) Homepage
              That ignores that Iran is helping prop up the Syrian government, and that Iran has been one of the chief funders of Hezbollah and other organizations which have repeatedly attacked Israel. Moreover, comparing small countries to large countries when it comes to foreign policy is not generally representative- large countries have much more wide-ranging interests and have much more ability to project power in the pursuit of those interests. So to really do very badly on foreign policy you need to be large.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by niftydude (1745144)

        You're referring to a previous story that you misinterpreted to mean that the US would consider cyberattacks to be an act of war. What that story actually said was that cyberattacks against certain key infrastructure might be considered an act of war if it were serious enough.

        I didn't misinterpret anything. It is you who are playing with semantics.

        Stuxnet was an attack on industrial control systems used in Iranian nuclear power plants.
        Are you implying that US nuclear power plants are not considered key infrastructure? And that a cyberattack bringing down that infrastructure would not be considered an act of war?

        I'm sorry that international espionage isn't as cut and dry as you'd like it to be, but that's just how it is and has been for most of history. There were pretenses of chivalry in Europe (and likely other places) for a time, back when royalty was a good ole boys' club and the peasants would be the ones dying. We're past that now, and I for one am glad of it.

        I don't know what the Iranians have done to you that makes you happy that the US and Israeli government is dangerously meddling with Nuclear power plants and risking

        • by artor3 (1344997) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @10:46PM (#40380235)

          Oh come on, you know full well that Stuxnet was targeting the centrifuges. Screwing with centrifuges is not going to take their power grid offline, and it's certainly not "risking the lives of Iranian citizens". You're either being dishonest, or you are woefully ignorant of how nuclear power works.

          As for your support, I couldn't care less about it, and I've certainly never said anything even remotely like "they hate our freedoms".

        • by TubeSteak (669689) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @12:06AM (#40380779) Journal

          I don't know what the Iranians have done to you that makes you happy that the US and Israeli government is dangerously meddling with Nuclear power plants and risking the lives of Iranian citizens

          Stuxnet only attacked specific hardware configurations known to exist in Iran's uranium enrichment facilities.
          Stuxnet infected other computers, but did nothing malicious to them.
          There was no risk to nuclear power plants or Iran's civilian population.

          but the Iranians haven't done anything to me, and so I'd prefer to take an approach of innocent until proven guilty before instigating a war against them.

          Innocent until proven guilty is a legal fiction created so that our system of justice can be fair.
          It does not mean you are innocent and outside the legal system no one has to abide by that standard.

          That said, allowing Iran to go nuclear would lead to nuclear proliferation amongst its neighbors.
          At the same time, directly attacking Iran would cause them to lash out, in all directions, at once.
          It's a lose-lose situation that Stuxnet turned into a moderate win.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The point is the hypocrisy, as in when the US promptly killed more civilians by bombing Afghanistan just after 9/11 than had died on 9/11 and few Americans seemed to notice -- as in Israel condemning Iran's nuclear program when they themselves developed nuclear weapons in the 60s while literally lying about it.

      • high-level disruption that a traditional military attack would cause

        Like, say, causing a bunch of centrifuges to self-destruct? I mean, if that is not the sort of disruption that a well-placed bomb would cause, I am not really sure what is...

      • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @12:21AM (#40380867) Homepage
        Whether Iran considers assassination of their nuclear engineers to be an act of war by Israel isn't that relevant since Iran is in a state of war with Israel. In fact, they are at this point the only country in the region which has essentially refused to ever even remotely attempt to consider sitting down at a negotiating table with Israel. (Even Syria has done more). For all purposes that matter, Israel and Iran are at war. The only marginal way that they might not be from a legal perspective is that Iran doesn't recognize Israel's existence. So assassinating Iranian nuclear scientists just means that the state of war is heating up.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Hamsterdan (815291)

      If a normal person does the same, it's gonna be prison time. Gotta love how the governments are accountable to the same laws.

      • by artor3 (1344997) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @10:34PM (#40380133)

        And if a normal person builds an aircraft carrier and conducts military exercises in national waters, they'd also go to prison. What is your point? If a government isn't allowed to do things that individual citizens can't, then it's not a government. It's a social club.

      • by demachina (71715) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @10:45PM (#40380217)

        The U.S. law on computer intrusions specifically exempts law enforcement and intelligence agencies:

        "(f) This section does not prohibit any lawfully authorized investigative, protective, or intelligence activity of a law enforcement agency of the United States, a State, or a political subdivision of a State, or of an intelligence agency of the United States."

        This is the price we pay for electing people who are willing to criminalize nearly every action of ordinary citizens, and almost no action by government officials, even when they engage in actions that most people would consider criminal.

        For example:

        - torturing people
        - computer hacking
        - spying on people without a warrant
        - snatching people for rendition in violation of the laws and sovereignty of the countries where they are snatched
        - holding people, sometimes the wrong people, in indefinite detention without a hearing
        - assassinating people including U.S. citizens without a trial
        - using drones to assassinate people, often innocent civilians, in countries where no state of war exists while violating the sovereignty of nations we are not at war with

        This list goes on for a long time so I'll stop now.

    • by Maudib (223520) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @11:32PM (#40380541)

      Ugh, overrated nonsense.

      There are stories every other day about Chinese and Russian efforts to compromise U.S. military networks, agencies and schools. When was the last time the U.S. declared war over foreign attempts at espionage?

  • by cosm (1072588) <thecosm3@EEEgmail.com minus threevowels> on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @10:09PM (#40379947)
    My conjecture is that we will be at war with Iran in time for the election, call it a November surprise. Bunch of FUD stories from the Ministry of Information's various major news network puppets, and then we'll all be chest-pumping while the populace sings let's roll in the tanks.
    • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @10:26PM (#40380069)
      Yep, I just love it.

      Last November people said: I'm voting for Obama because he's anti-war and wants to see peace!

      2009 Peace Prize: goes to Obama

      for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples

      2010: Let's bomb Pakistan with even more drones!

      2011: Let's bomb Libya!

      2012: Let's use "cyber-terrorism" against Iran!

      • by wmac1 (2478314) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @10:40PM (#40380179)

        You forgot the kill list.

      • by phantomfive (622387) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @10:42PM (#40380191) Journal
        Still better than Bush.
        • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @10:44PM (#40380211)
          And Herpes is better than AIDS, doesn't mean I want either of them.

          Plus, last time I checked, Bush wasn't running in 2008.
          • I know a guy who voted for Obama because of his foreign affairs, and he is still happy with Obama.

            The reason is because Obama defers to the UN, or at least NATO on decisions like Libya. To people who prefer that style, then Obama is a good leader. He hasn't invaded Syria, for example, where other presidents might have.
        • Is this before or after we attack China? Never under-estimate the evil a politician will commit to be elected / remain in power.

      • Flame would appear to have been active for years. Don't think Obama had much say in its creation/deployment.

        Leaking details to the Press could be his work - I'm sure anything that gets out will put him in a good light.

      • by Maudib (223520)

        What kind of dipshit would consider this terrorism?

        Oh, probably the kind that fails to see how espionage can often prevent wars.

      • by Jeremi (14640)

        Last November people said: I'm voting for Obama because he's anti-war and wants to see peace!

        A key insight: when Americans say they are anti-war, they mean they don't want to see American soldiers coming home in body bags.

        Regarding deaths of anonymous foreigners, the bar is set quite a bit lower. The difference between Bush and Obama is that Bush sent thousands of US soldiers overseas, and Obama (so far) has not.

    • by artor3 (1344997) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @10:28PM (#40380093)

      So will you come back and admit to being wrong when you inevitably are?

      Israel has been trying to get Obama to go to war alongside them for quite some time now. He's refused. Maybe because we can't afford it, maybe because he doesn't think its necessary, maybe because his base would desert him, maybe because he just thinks that wars of aggression are bad. But declaring war right before an election? Absolute political suicide. His base would desert him, his opponents would mock him for his transparent ploy, and independents would look at the bill from Iraq and blanch.

      Now, if Romney wins, we might be in Iran by November of 2013... maybe. But I think Syria is the more likely candidate. He already wants to arm the rebels, and his party wants to go further than that.

      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        Maybe because we can't afford it, maybe because he doesn't think its necessary, maybe because his base would desert him, maybe because he just thinks that wars of aggression are bad.

        None of the above.
        Report after report has been written explaining, in great detail, the stupidity of attacking Iran.

        Iran is kind of like Cold War Russia: it has lots of proxies that can act independantly.
        Attacking Iran would spark a regional war against US allies and assets that would be nearly impossible to stop with military force.
        Even the Mossad's former chief thinks attacking Iran is a bad idea [google.com]

        http://www.google.com/search?q=attacking+iran+bad+idea [google.com]
        Almost all the people saying "attacking Iran is a good id

    • War is hell and all that but sometimes a decision to go to was is the right decision. Like we were right to go to war with Germany for example, or like G.W. Bush was right to go to war with Iraq.

  • Evidence (Score:5, Interesting)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @10:10PM (#40379969) Journal
    In case anyone was wondering what the evidence was, here is the relevant quote:

    [Flame] was directed by Israel in a unilateral operation that apparently caught its American partners off guard, according to several U.S. and Western officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

    Generally these kind of leaks, especially when they happen as much as they have lately, happen at the direction of officials. It's not an accident. The question is why are all these anonymous leaks being passed to the press? Is it because they want Iran to think we have greater capability than we actually do? Some people have speculated that this is an attempt to give Obama an election boost, but one leak is enough to do that, he doesn't need to keep leaking....So what is the purpose?

    • by demachina (71715)

      "So what is the purpose?"

      Its probably not the primary purpose but it is a pretty effective way to flaunt that you are above the law, all laws including the constitution and to flaunt that you have power.

      In reading the U.S. Criminal Code on computer intrusions Section 1030. Fraud and related activity in connection with computers [iwar.org.uk] it is interesting to note that Congress went out of their way to exempt various 3 letter Federal agencies from laws against hacking computers while everyone else goes to Federal pris

    • by arth1 (260657)

      So what is the purpose?

      The simplest explanation is that it's dick waving.
      Which, when all comes to all, just shows us that you're dicks.

      An alternative explanation is that it's an attempt to bully AV companies into silence, and reduce further investigation and looking for more malware of the same type.

      Either way, I think the TLAs and Israel misunderestimate the animosity this causes among normal people who could very well be hit by this warfare. A backlash may be coming, including official protests from other countries, and perhap

      • by arth1 (260657)

        Er.

        DHS, not DHL. Although these days you never know!

      • You think an ordinary blackhat could hack Siemen's equipment?
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by arth1 (260657)

          You think an ordinary blackhat could hack Siemen's equipment?

          Your question makes no sense.
          I think there are several extraordinary blackhats. For every one that the government has recruited, there are likely ten more which they haven't.
          And they don't even have as narrow a target as Siemens - they can target any critical system used by the US or Israel.

        • Re:Evidence (Score:5, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @11:31PM (#40380529)
          I work for Siemens, though on their medical devices, and, in a word, yes. In two words: fuck, yes. Hell, the girl from "Jurassic Park," who "knew UNIX" could hack at least one line of Siemens medical products.
    • by Maudib (223520)

      Spot on. All of this could very well be attempts at misdirection. The leaks come out just as talks are starting to fail, so it could also just be an attempt to ratchet up the pressure and force them back to the table.

  • Double standards? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @10:15PM (#40379993)
    When the US uses "cyber-terrorism" its portrayed as a heroic action. If Iran does the same thing to the US, we'd use it as an excuse to start yet -another- costly, expensive, and needless war.

    Why does it seem like the past 15 years of politics have been "Wag the Dog" repeated over and over again?
    • by gmuslera (3436)

      Costly for some, very profitable for others, in fact that others really need more wars, interventions and forced putting them in control of oily resources and related management. Lot of people will die, billons will be wasted on weapons, and the country image will degrade even more, but some people at government and military (and some special civilians) will become even richer, and thats what really matters. You can assessinate, rob and rape entire countries in plain view if you are strong enough.

      Don't wor

  • Isn't the only sane response at this point from Iran to get nuclear weapons as quickly as possible to stop us from fucking with them? Then we either decide to leave them alone or go to war with them and bankrupt ourselves.
  • by raftpeople (844215) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @10:41PM (#40380187)
    The CIA has revealed that an entire warehouse of AOL CD's has been shipped to Iran...
  • by slashmydots (2189826) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @11:38PM (#40380577)
    I think that Iran should declare war on the US over it. That'd be good for some lolz. You know, like every youtube video where a little fluffy kitteh picks a fight with a doberman :-P But honestly, what are they going to do? Threaten us and Israel, build weapons, launch test missiles? Seriously, I can't think of anything they can or would do about it and if they formally attacked us, that'd be about it for them. This is going to embarrass the hell out of them when they basically are forced to do nothing about it.
  • by bmo (77928) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @12:18AM (#40380851)

    Well, it's official.

    It's now a free-for-all on the Internet for nations to go head-to-head with malware and cyber-espionage. Just like Ike let the Soviets launch their Sputnik to clear the air (heh) about whether territorial rights extend into space (they don't), now the US and Israel have justified it for everyone else to do their own Flame and Stuxnet cyber-espionage.

    Since the US is supposedly the leader of the free world, we can either lead by good example or bad. Setting a bad example gets us exactly what we deserve.

    Cuing up "What Goes Around, Comes Around" by Chuck Greenberg and Shadowfax.

    --
    BMO

  • by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @03:17AM (#40381723) Homepage

    Utterly flabberghasted.

    Who could have guessed this? Noone, that's who.

  • by jandersen (462034) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @06:56AM (#40382963)

    Isn't it just nice when our allies decide to send this kind of shit out on the network where it risks going on to wreak havoc indiscriminately? And for what - to satisfy cravings of a bunch of paranoid Mossad and CIA officers?

"Irrationality is the square root of all evil" -- Douglas Hofstadter

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