April 30, 2019

How to Spot a Phishing Email Scam

In a world where we are always connected, most of us check emails habitually anywhere, at any time. According to the Washington Post, we spend nearly 60% of our careers checking and sending emails. If over half of your time is spent on email, imagine how many phishing emails you’re exposed to during that time. Even the most sophisticated spam filters and firewalls out there can’t protect from all phishing attacks. The problem is so prevalent that even the FBI is tracking these emerging financial cyber threats called Business Email Compromise (BEC).

Educating yourself and your employees on how to identify cyber security attacks is extremely important, and typically the most overlooked form of defense. If your users can confidently identify phishing attacks and other forms of social engineering along with the other properly configured layers of security, your organization will have a significantly lower chance of being involved in a costly cyber attack.

Types of Phishing Attacks

Phishing attacks come in all different flavors. Some are generic emails with bad spelling and vague messages. Others might try to trick you into opening a file or taking you to a website to enter your personal/work credentials. Some attempts may target a specific user or organization and do so using specific information rather than something generic. Below are a couple examples of phishing variations.

  • Phishing – In general, phishing is the fraudulent practice of sending emails that appear to be from a reputable source to obtain personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers.
  • Spear-Phishing – Spear-phishing is when a threat actor constructs a phishing attack specifically targeting a group of people. Instead of using something very generic they’ll use tactics more in line with the company’s day to day business operations.
  • Whaling – Whaling is a specialized version of spear-phishing which targets high-level individuals including, but not limited to, Partners, Presidents, CIOs, and CEOs of organizations.

Phishing Email Example

What really sets the hook on users during phishing scam attempts isn’t just the fact the email looks real, but that they come with a sense of urgency or threat attached. Here is a prime example of a phishing attempt that claims to be from Office 365. Notice how odd the domain address looks and even the user address looks off. The body contains a threat of account closure and a link to what is likely a phishing website built to harvest credentials.

Phishing scam email example

The Cost of Securing Your Organization

Email is a great tool that allows us to do so much in real time. Unfortunately, there are cybercriminals exploiting technology for their own personal gain. According to the FBI, losses due to BEC in organizations are beyond $12.5 billion to date, with the average cost of a data breach reaching $3.9 million.

The yearly cost to continually educate your current and new employees? In most cases, it would cost below 1% of the average amount of a data breach and save you time, resources and immense damage to your brand. The Anders Technology Services Group is here to help protect your business from cyber security attacks that could cost you time and money. Our team can implement a cyber security training program within your company to educate employees on the latest best practices to avoid cyber attacks. Contact an Anders advisor to learn more.

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April 29, 2019

David Hartley Joins Anders as Partner and Director + Advisory Services

Anders welcomes David E. Hartley, CPA, CISA as Partner and Director + Advisory Services. With over 25 years of experience in C-suite leadership roles and consulting with privately-held businesses on technology strategy and enterprise risk services, David will work with the firm to enhance existing advisory services and lead the expansion of the practice.

Prior to joining Anders, David was a Principal at a Top 100 accounting firm, working with closely-held, private and middle market businesses on technology audits and enhancements. Named the 2018 Outstanding Visionary by the Missouri Society of CPAs, David also served as Chief Information Officer at a publicly-traded coal producer where he was responsible for overseeing the company’s technology, including strategy, applications development, infrastructure, and cybersecurity. David contributes to numerous CPA and CIO knowledge-sharing and collaboration forums and frequently offers his thought leadership in presentations at industry conferences and in publications, including the CIO’s Guide to Sarbanes-Oxley for CIO Magazine. A Certified Public Accountant in the State of Missouri, David has a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois.

“Anders already has a strong reputation for delivering high-impact services to clients, with all the right ingredients in place for continued growth,” explains David. “I’m excited to join as a catalyst to accelerate the firm’s growth in high-value advisory services. Today’s middle market companies navigate a myriad of opportunities and challenges and need valuable advisors to bring expertise and wisdom along the way. Anders, fueled by its deep talent and unique culture, is perfectly positioned to serve as that valued advisor.”

David’s addition to the firm marks a new focus for the Anders Advisory Services Practice. “As outlined in the objectives of our strategic plan, the firm is placing an increased emphasis on and growth in non-traditional accounting services”, explains Robert J. Minkler, Jr., Managing Partner. “We believe this is where the profession is heading, and it is an opportunity to provide additional value to our clients and to grow the firm purposefully.”

With technology driving change in the accounting industry, the firm believes bringing in David is a natural step in developing the firm of the future. According to the Journal of Accountancy, “as technology performs more compliance-related tasks and CPAs shift their focus to advisory services and value-added strategic input, the prospects for profit and growth appear to be as bright as at any point in the profession’s history.” Anders currently advises clients in areas of technology, outsourced accounting, banking, fraud, valuation, litigation, business transition planning, cybersecurity and data analytics, among others, and will continue to grow these areas and add new opportunities that fit strategically into the firm’s commitment to strategic growth.

Learn more about David Hartley.

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April 24, 2019

How to Prepare for and Conquer an Interview

The majority of people get nervous for interviews. It is a natural reaction to being out of your comfort zone. The first thing to do is train your brain to remember that the interviewers want you to succeed. No, really! They are rooting for you because if the interview goes well, then they can hire you and end the search process. Most companies want to fill positions quickly – but this doesn’t mean that one should assume they didn’t get a position if they don’t hear back right away. Recruiters tend to schedule several interviews around the same time, so even if they want to hire someone, they may still have interviews scheduled that they will not cancel. So, be patient!

The purpose of the interview

An important thing to keep in mind is what and who this interview is actually for. If you think that interviews are a one-way street and just a way for the organization to get to know you and your experience, you’re wrong! The interview is also your chance to see if the position and company are what you are looking for. You may have the skills to do the job, but do you like the culture, location and the potential team you would be working with? These are the answers that you get out of the interview while the interviewers get to determine your fit.

Building confidence by speaking with intimidating people

After realizing that interviewers are on your side and that you are also interviewing them, then it’s time to practice speaking with intimidating people, or people you respect. Just like how actors practice their auditions in front of their parents and coaches, professionals have to practice interviewing, too. For college students, I suggest asking a professor, career development counselor, or an older student to do a mock interview with you. For someone out of college, I suggest asking a friend or relative who you respect, or someone with recruiting experience. Even if it is just a five minute session asking two questions, this practice will help. The more you experience the nerves and adrenaline of an interview, the more control you will have over those feelings when it really counts.

In the first mock interview you may completely bomb it and give terrible answers or totally blank on your experience. This is part of the process, because you probably won’t crash and burn like that again. The next time you may be slightly more relaxed and have some key points in mind that you remember to touch on. By the time you have three practice sessions under your belt, I promise you’ll be much more prepared and relaxed than if you go into the real interview cold. It is all about learning what you need to keep yourself collected in a high priority situation.

Shaking hands and eye contact

Shaking hands with every person included in the interview is the proper way to introduce yourself. Be sure to shake hands with everyone on the way out as well to thank them for their time and consideration. Remember to make eye contact with the person you are shaking hands with, and to also keep eye contact during the interview. If an interviewee is looking at their hands, the ground, or out the window/door they will seem unconfident, unprofessional, and potentially rude. Try to be conscious of meeting each person’s eyes while you speak and when they are speaking to you.

Know your resume and do your research

Chances are your interviewers are going to ask you about the items on your resume. You should be able to expand on all of the experience and involvement you have listed. It is a good idea to practice the things you want to say about each part of your resume.

Research is your best friend when it comes to interviews! Employers expect you to have some knowledge about the company when you come in to interview. Whether it’s the mission, core values, or inclusion initiatives, you need to have some good bits of information about the company that you can comment on or ask about. Reading information from the company’s website, blog, or recent articles that have been written about them is a great way to look informed and eager.

Selling your skills – how to back up claims about yourself

This is something that many people forget when they’re practicing answers for interview questions. If an interviewer asks “what’s one word you would use to describe yourself” and you say “organized”, that is not a complete answer. A complete answer would be: “I use the word organized to describe myself because I never miss a deadline. I keep every project and meeting on my calendar and in my past position I demonstrated my organization skills by [insert example here]”. Always back up any claims you make about yourself. If it’s difficult to think of something that backs up a claim, you may want to reconsider saying it.

How to speak professionally without sounding unnatural

We all know the difference between how we talk to our best friend and how we talk to an interviewer or someone we want to impress. Subtract the “umms”, “likes”, and slang words and add our best vocabulary. However, some interviewees end up sounding very unnatural in an interview because they are trying so hard to speak “professionally”. This should be avoided, because interviews are not only to show off experience and skills, but also to show the interviewer who you are. If you’re talking like a robot, they won’t be able to get a sense for who you really are and they won’t feel confident in hiring you.

So, how do we find the balance between speaking professionally and still being natural? It again comes down to practice. If someone has never had to speak any differently than how they do with friends, then it will never feel or sound natural, and they may not even know how to do it. It’s time to train that brain again! College students can use their class time to practice speaking professionally. When asking a question or answering one, make sure not to use those filler words (umm and like), and try not to start off with “so”- that is a hard habit to break. For both college students and graduates, I highly recommend taping or recording yourself during practice interviews and taping yourself practicing speaking professionally on your own time. When playing it back you can see what needs to be worked on and whether it sounds unnatural or not. The more you practice and hear yourself, the easier it will be to work out those kinks.

Interview attire

Whether interviewing for an entry-level position at a company that wears casual attire, or a C-level position at a more old school company, you should wear a suit or suit equivalent (for women) to the interview. You are trying to impress and show your level of professionalism. Even if the interviewers are wearing jeans, the interviewee should not be. I recommend darker or neutral colors for the interview because you want your skills and personality to be the focus point, not the loud pattern of your shirt. The same rule applies to jewelry and hair style: keep it simple.

I also suggest bringing a padfolio, folder, or if you have them, a briefcase or business-style purse (dark/neutral color, structured, no larger than an average laptop or folder). This way you can have your few essential items on hand: copies of your resume, business cards, work portfolio and a pen. You should always at the very least have copies of your resume at an interview, so you should not be empty handed.

Ask good questions

Asking questions is imperative in an interview, both to show interest in the position and company, and also to determine if the opportunity is a good fit for you. Make sure to prepare several questions for the interviewer so you’re prepared when the time comes. Get a few ideas by reading the 10 of the best interview questions you can ask.

Don’t forget- after nailing the interview, send a thank you note to the interviewers, try not to stress about everything that was or wasn’t said, and wait to hear back from the company. If you didn’t get the position, it doesn’t necessarily mean the interview didn’t go well, it means someone else interviewed as well as you and also had qualifications that better fit the company’s needs. Every interview that doesn’t end up in an offer is just another practice session for when you will interview for the right job. Onward and upward!

Interested in learning about the open positions at Anders? Check out our current openings.

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April 16, 2019

How Patch Management Can Prevent Cybersecurity Attacks

Depending on how complex your company’s technology network is, it can create a real challenge when it comes to keeping up with security patches that vendors issue on a regular basis. While it can be a pain, managing patches is vital to the security of your organization. Poor patch management ultimately caused the 2017 Equifax Data Breach that exposed sensitive financial and other personal information of more than 140 million Americans.

The Importance of Patches

Many of us don’t think about how many security vulnerabilities are found each day. In the last few months, Microsoft has released over 30 updates to the Windows 10 Operating Systems, seven of which are critical security patches. That doesn’t even include the nearly 60 critical updates released for Office products. Most people don’t notice all these updates, especially if they have automatic updates turned on or they outsource these IT functions.

According to Microsoft Security Response Center, some of the most dangerous cybersecurity threats occurring today are targeted attacks, meaning that most hackers aren’t going after the small prey, like your home computer. They are going for larger businesses with things like Personally Identifiable Information (PII) that can be exposed by a vulnerability. Keeping your business environment patched can ultimately prevent the one-off attacks that can easily gain access to a system and leave a business crippled or even worse, liable for leaked data.

Building a Patch Management Plan

If you choose to handle patch management internally, below are a few tips to work into your plan.

  • Automate communication with vendors. Subscribe to patch alert email lists for all of your software and hardware vendors. When a critical security issue arises you can act promptly to address the issue.
  • Evaluate and document patch impacts. In the instance that you need to deny a certain patch due to a negative effect it could have on your network, evaluate the risk and document the reason for denying the patches.
  • Prioritize network security patches. If you have a large network, rank the patches based on risk and document your reasoning for holding off on specific patches. This could come in handy in the event of a breach.
  • Have a plan to roll back patches. If a patch causes unforeseen issues, have a plan to remove a bad patch. This will drastically reduce downtime if a bad patch gets through.

Patch Management as Part of Your Security Strategy

Outsourcing patch management to a managed service provider is a good idea for small to medium-sized businesses lacking the IT capacity to deal with consistently patching their systems. If you choose to outsource your patch management, Anders Technology can help work it into an overall security strategy to protect all aspects of your business. Our tools allow us to verify your systems are up to date with the latest patches and avoid unneeded patches that can break systems. We also provide third-party application patching to make sure applications like Adobe, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox are always up to date. Learn more about Anders Technology, or contact an Anders advisor to find out how we can benefit your business.

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April 12, 2019

Adam Prest Speaks on the Business of Cannabis in St. Louis Business Journal Table of Experts

Adam S. Prest, CPA, tax principal and leader of the Anders Cannabis Group, was featured in the St. Louis Business Journal’s Table of Experts on the Business of Cannabis. In the article, Adam discusses topics affecting the Missouri cannabis industry following the legalization of medical marijuana and offers expertise and insight around:

  • Biggest concerns from the Missouri cannabis industry
  • How Anders provides value for cannabis businesses
  • How taxes and accounting differ for this industry
  • How the SAFE Banking Act of 2019 could help the cannabis industry
  • What cannabis business owners should be concerned about
  • How this new business will affect Missouri economically

Anders has a team committed to staying on the forefront of evolving regulations, licensing procedures and accounting practices for cannabis businesses. Learn more about how Anders is focusing on the cannabis industry following Missouri legalization.

Read the full article in the St. Louis Business Journal’s Business of Cannabis Table of Experts.

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April 11, 2019

Employer Payroll Tax Obligations When Employees Work Out-Of-State

It’s becoming more common in today’s global environment for employees to work remotely and reside outside of the business’s resident state. Employers are obligated to understand and follow state and local laws in states where their employees work, which can be a complicated task. It’s important to remember an out-of-state employee will be considered an employee in the state in which they work, not the state in which the business is based or in which the employee lives. Below we dive into the state and unemployment tax responsibilities employers need to know.

State Taxes

Employers are expected to withhold state income tax from an employee’s wages if that employee is subject to state income tax unless noted below. Each state has its own requirements for withholding taxes for out-of-state employees.

The following states do not have state withholding tax; Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming. It’s important to remember if an employee lives in a state with no withholding requirement, but commutes to a state with a requirement to withhold taxes, then taxes must be withheld for the state in which the employee works.

Reciprocal Agreements

Some states have reciprocal agreements where both states agree not to impose withholdings on employees that work in their state, but agree the employer will withhold taxes for the state in which the employee resides. In these states, employees are responsible to submit a reciprocal withholding certificate requesting their employer withhold from their resident state. Currently, Missouri does not hold any reciprocal agreements with other states, but Illinois holds agreements with Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan and Wisconsin. It’s important to research each state’s requirements.

If you have employees working in states that have state withholding tax, then the business will need to be registered with that state’s Department of Revenue “To Do Business.”  Once registered, employers will receive an employment account number so state taxes can be withheld and remitted properly.

Unemployment Taxes

In addition to applicable state withholding taxes, you will need to register your business with the state’s Department of Labor for unemployment tax withholding. Every state sets its own rates and wage base regarding unemployment tax.

Typically, new employers will be given a new employer rate based upon an industry classification. Once that employer becomes eligible for an experience rate, their rate will be calculated based on the ratio between taxes previously paid in, unemployment claims against the account and the average annual taxable payroll. Eligibility timeframe to receive an experience rate differs from state to state. Wage Base is the maximum amount of wages per employee on which an employer owes state unemployment tax. For 2019, the Missouri wage base is $12,000, and for Illinois it’s $12,960.

Local Taxes

In additional to completing state requirements, research any local tax withholding registrations that need to be completed before hiring an out-of-state employee. Check state wages and hour laws; particularly minimum wage, overtime, pay frequency and exemptions. These differ from state to state as well.

It can feel overwhelming when sorting through all the requirements of hiring an employee that will work outside the state that your business resides. Outsourcing payroll to a payroll provider is helpful in streamlining this process, keeping your business compliant and filing returns on your behalf. To see how Anders can help relieve you of the day-to-day accounting and payroll while providing a real-time snapshot of your financials, contact an Anders advisor or learn more about Anders Outsourced Accounting Services.

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April 9, 2019

Tax Reform for Individuals: Repealing the Overall Itemized Deduction Pease Limitation

The Pease Limitation previously put a cap on how much wealthy individuals could claim for certain itemized deductions if their income was over a certain amount. The overall itemized deduction limit, or Pease Limitation, was suspended under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). This change, along with the other itemized deduction changes, will make large adjustments for taxpayers’ deductibility of itemized deductions.

Previous Law

Under the previous law, the total amount of otherwise allowable itemized deductions was limited for certain high-income taxpayers. The limitation applied to all itemized deductions except medical expenses, investment interest, casualty, theft or wagering losses, and certain qualified charitable contributions. The allowable itemized deductions were reduced by 3% of the amount that the AGI was over the threshold amount, but couldn’t reduce it by more than 80%.

New Law

Under the new tax law, this complicated calculation is suspended, and no additional calculation will limit the itemized deduction. Several other itemized deductions were affected in the TCJA that reduce the itemized deduction, so the additional reduction is not necessary.

Impact on Individuals

With all of the changes to itemized deductions, it is likely that more people will qualify under the standard deduction instead of itemizing, cutting down on some of the record keeping that is necessary throughout the years. Visit our Tax Reform Resource Center for videos, blog posts and resources on how tax reform will impact you, your family and your business.

These changes will combine to affect each taxpayer’s specific situation. Contact an Anders advisor with questions on how the new tax law will affect you.

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April 9, 2019

John Scott Wins 32nd Annual Hoops for Hope Tournament

After an intense NCAA tournament, John Scott crafted the winning bracket in the 32nd annual Anders Hoops for Hope tournament! John, a partner in the Tax Services Group at Anders, beat the odds to come in first place this year out of 640 total brackets.

All participant and sponsor donations benefitted the 2019 Anders Charity of Choice, the Saint Louis Crisis Nursery. The top 26 participants will receive prizes ranging from an Apple Watch to a weekend getaway at Chaumette Vineyards and gift cards to local restaurants and breweries.

Last year, Angels’ Arms received a Hoops for Hope check for $15,075! Watch our website for more information on exactly how much was raised for our 2019 Charity of Choice.

Click here to see the final standings!

Check out the Top 26 Prize Winners:

  1. John Scott
  2. Stacy Wright
  3. Sandy McKinney
  4. Jim Castellano
  5. Stephen Hasse
  6. Robert Mccormack
  7. Chris Shamel
  8. Andy Borawski
  9. Bob Wooff
  10. Bailey Hartrich
  11. Steve Wieberg
  12. Ashton Rippelmeyer
  13. Bob Daleo
  14. William Cella
  15. Issy Myers
  16. Lorna Sanchez
  17. Mark Zimmer
  18. Derek Barnard
  19. Phil Miller
  20. Greg Holub
  21. G Dahl
  22. C.K. Hacksher
  23. Jon A Caliri
  24. Jeff Antrainer
  25. Tyler Kaberline
  26. Donna Bellows

Thank you to our 2019 Alley-Oop Triple-Double Bonus Sponsors!

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April 4, 2019

The Newest Athletes: eSports Gamers and Video Game Streamers

Most kids spend countless hours playing video games in their free time, but for some this hobby could potentially turn into a career. eSports and video game streaming have become a multibillion-dollar industry, drawing sponsorships from companies like Procter and Gamble and can be viewed on ESPN. This exploding world of video games is the future of sports whether society is ready to accept it as a sport or not.

Basics of eSports

eSports are very similar to traditional sports in America with eSports athletes competing either alone or on a team. The NBA and MLS have formed leagues that compete in the most popular video games in their sports genre. The NFL and NHL are currently testing the waters and are considering creating their own eSports leagues as well. Other combat and war games, strategy games, and role-playing games draw in hundreds of millions of dollars and viewers.

Popularity of Video Game Streaming

Video game streaming, which is defined as playing video games live with a camera showing the actual player and a screen showing the game play, is in itself a billion-dollar industry. The largest company in this field is Twitch, a site that was acquired by Amazon in 2014 for $970 million dollars. Twitch charges its customers $4.99 a month to be able to watch video games, stream themselves playing video games, and interact with others who are playing. Viewership for certain players can reach close to a million viewers for a single live session. Earlier this year, professional video game player Ninja teamed up with rappers Drake and Travis Scott, as well as NFL wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster to stream the four of them playing the extremely popular game Fortnite. This event, which took place in the middle of the week with little to no publicity, drew close to one million viewers. Events like this can draw millions in advertising and sponsorships as well as launch careers. Ninja, the aforementioned video game player, was relatively unknown in the video game world before 2018 and by September 2018 he was the first video game player ever to be featured on the cover of ESPN The Magazine.

A Growing Sports Genre

The world of eSports is not just open to professionals. Almost every major NCAA conference already either has established an eSports league or is currently in the process of doing so. This means in the not so near future kids will be able to earn eSports scholarships to colleges and universities the way that athletes can now.

The explosion in popularity of eSports is shaking up the world of professional and collegiate sports. Many household name companies are jumping on board so they do not miss their chance to get in on the ground floor. Billionaires, such as Robert Kraft have made multimillion-dollar investments in eSports leagues. Kids will soon be able to earn college scholarships for playing video games. These are all things to keep in mind the next time you tell your son or daughter to turn off their game systems and go to bed.

The Anders Sports, Arts & Entertainment Group helps eSports athletes navigate the complicated financial landscape of the up and coming sport. Contact an Anders advisor to learn more.

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April 2, 2019

How Manufacturers Can Save on Sales/Use Tax for Government Contracts

Manufacturing companies that sell equipment to the federal government or government contractors could be eligible for a tremendous tax benefit. The opportunity can help reduce sales/use taxes paid for consumables purchased in support of such government contracts.

The federal government is the single largest purchaser of goods and services, and is not subject to sales/use tax. If a manufacturer is needlessly paying tax on overhead purchases, the government is indirectly paying that tax through the manufacturer’s costs.

What Manufacturers May Be Overlooking

Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) govern the US Government’s purchases and these regulations are strictly followed. Many federal contracts provide for title transfer of contractor-acquired property. There are specific clauses that can be present in a contract either by language or reference to the clause number. This information can easily be overlooked, unless the manufacturer/contractor knows the clause number and what it represents. The clause numbers vary, depending on the type of contract: fixed price, cost reimbursement, etc.

Utilizing Tax Savings for a Competitive Advantage

In many states, “title transfer” is equivalent to “sale”, and therefore is a purchase for resale by the manufacturer/contractor. Transfer of possession is not necessary for the resale exemption to apply. Items on which the exemption can apply are: office supplies, computers, copiers, some fixed assets, etc. The top government manufacturers/contractors take advantage of this opportunity and can factor the savings into their bids, thereby outbidding those manufacturers who are unaware of the opportunity, or who do not take advantage of it. Many manufacturers are also unaware that they can also be reimbursed by the federal government for the cost to acquire the refund as it reduces the cost the federal government pays.

The Anders State and Local Tax Services Group has the expertise to pursue these refunds and can do so on a contingency basis. Contact an Anders advisor to learn more about a reverse audit for your business.

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