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  BIP: ???
  Layer: Peer Services
  Title: Version 2 Peer-to-Peer Message Transport Protocol
  Author: Jonas Schnelli <>
  Status: Draft
  Type: Standards Track
  Created: 2019-03-08
  License: PD

Table of Contents


This BIP describes a new Bitcoin peer to peer transport protocol with opportunistic encryption.


The current peer-to-peer protocol is partially inefficient and in plaintext.

With the current unencrypted message transport, BGP hijack, block delay attacks and message tampering are inexpensive and can be executed covertly (undetectable MITM)[1].

Adding opportunistic encryption introduces a high risk for attackers of being detected. Peer operators can compare encryption session IDs or use other form of authentication schemes [2] to identify an attack.

Each current version 1 Bitcoin peer-to-peer message uses a double-SHA256 checksum truncated to 4 bytes. Roughly the same amount of computation power would be required for encrypting and authenticating a peer-to-peer message with ChaCha20 & Poly1305.

Additionally, this BIP describes a way to identify data which has been manipulated by peers (intercepting, then blocking or tampering with commands).

Encrypting traffic between peers is already possible with VPN, tor, stunnel, curveCP or any other encryption mechanism on a deeper OSI level, however, most of those solutions require significant technical experience in setting up a secure channel and are therefore not widely deployed.


The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT", "SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2119[3].

A peer that supports the message transport protocol as defined in this proposal MUST accept encryption requests from all peers.

Both communication directions share the same shared-secret but have different symmetric cipher keys.

The encryption handshake MUST happen before sending any other messages to the responding peer.

If the responding peer closes the connection after sending the handshake request, the initiating peer MAY try to connect again with the v1 peer-to-peer transport protocol. Such reconnects allow an attacker to "downgrade" the encryption to plaintext communication and thus, accepting v1 connections MUST not be done when the Bitcoin peer-to-peer network has almost entirely embraced v2 communication.


Peers supporting the transport protocol after this proposal MUST signal NODE_P2P_V2

NODE_P2P_V2 = (1 << 11)

A peer usually learns an address along with the expected service flags which MAY be used to filter possible outbound peers.

A peer signaling NODE_P2P_V2 MUST accept encrypted communication specified in this proposal.

Peers MAY only make outbound connections to peers supporting NODE_P2P_V2.


 | Initiator                             Responder                                      |
 |                                                                                      |
 | x, X         := SECP256k1_KEYGEN()                                                   |
 | CLIENT_HDATA := X                                                                    |
 |                                                                                      |
 |               --- CLIENT_HDATA --->                                                  |
 |                                                                                      |
 |                                       y, Y           := SECP256k1_KEYGEN()           |
 |                                       ECDH_KEY       := SECP256k1_ECDH(X,y)          |
 |                                       SERVER_HDATA   := Y                            |
 |                                                                                      |
 |               <-- SERVER_HDATA ----                                                  |
 |                                                                                      |
 | ECDH_KEY     := SECP256k1_ECDH(x,Y)                                                  |

To request encrypted communication (only possible if yet no other messages have been sent or received), the initiating peer generates an EC secp256k1 ephemeral key and sends the corresponding 32-byte public key to the responding peer and waits for the remote 32-byte public key from the counterparty.

ODD secp256k1 public keys MUST be used (public keys starting with 0x02). If the public key from the generated ephemeral key is an EVEN public key (starting with 0x03), its public key SHOULD be negated and then recalculated. Only using ODD public keys makes it more complex to identify the handshake based on analyzing the traffic.

The handshake request and response message are raw 32byte payloads containing no header, length or checksum (the pure 32byte payload) and MUST be sent before anything else.

Public keys starting with the 4-byte network magic are forbidden and MUST lead to local regeneration of an ephemeral-key.

Pseudocode for the ephemeral-key generation

do {
    if (ecdh_key.GetPubKey()[0] == 3) {
} while (m_ecdh_key.GetPubKey()[0..3] == NETWORK_MAGIC);

Once a peer has received the public key from its counterparty, the shared secret MUST be calculated by using secp256k1 ECDH.

Private keys will never be transmitted. The shared secret can only be calculated if an attacker knows at least one private key and the counterparty's public key. This key-exchange is based on the discrete log problem and thus not sufficiently strong against known forms of possible quantum computer algorithms. Adding an additional quantum resistant key exchange like NewHope is possible but out of scope for this proposal.

After a successful handshake, messages MUST use the "v2 messages structure". Non-encrypted v1 messages from the initiating peer MUST lead to an immediate connection termination.

After a successful handshake, both peers MUST wipe the ephemeral-session-key from memory and/or persistence storage.

A peer not supporting this proposal will not perform the described handshake and thus send a v1 version message. Peers supporting this BIP MAY optionally allow unencrypted v1 communication by detecting a v1 version message by the initial 11-byte sequence of 4byte net magic || "version".

Symmetric Encryption Cipher Keys

Once the ECDH secret (ECDH_KEY) is calculated on each side, the symmetric encryption cipher keys MUST be derived with HKDF [4] after the following specification:

1. HKDF extraction PRK = HKDF_EXTRACT(hash=SHA256, salt="BitcoinSharedSecret||INITIATOR_32BYTES_PUBKEY||RESPONDER_32BYTES_PUBKEY", ikm=ECDH_KEY).

2. Derive Key_1_A (K_1 communication direction A) K1A = HKDF_EXPAND(prk=PRK, hash=SHA256, info="BitcoinK_1_A", L=32)

2. Derive Key_2_A (K_2 communication direction A) K1B = HKDF_EXPAND(prk=PRK, hash=SHA256, info="BitcoinK_2_A", L=32)

3. Derive Key_1_B (K_1 communication direction B) K2 = HKDF_EXPAND(prk=PRK, hash=SHA256, info="BitcoinK_1_B", L=32)

3. Derive Key_2_B (K_2 communication direction B) K2 = HKDF_EXPAND(prk=PRK, hash=SHA256, info="BitcoinK_2_B", L=32)

Session ID

Both parties MUST also calculate the 256bit session-id using SID = HKDF_EXPAND(prk=PRK, hash=SHA256, info="BitcoinSessionID", L=32). The session-id can be used for authenticating the encryption-session (identity check).

The session-id MUST be presented to the user on request.

ChaCha20-Poly1305@Bitcoin Cipher Suite


ChaCha20 is a stream cipher designed by Daniel Bernstein and described in [5]. It operates by permuting 128 fixed bits, 128 or 256 bits of key, a 64 bit nonce and a 64 bit counter into 64 bytes of output. This output is used as a keystream, with any unused bytes simply discarded.

Poly1305 [6], also by Daniel Bernstein, is a one-time Carter-Wegman MAC that computes a 128 bit integrity tag given a message and a single-use 256 bit secret key.

The chacha20-poly1305@bitcoin combines these two primitives into an authenticated encryption mode. The construction used is based on that proposed for TLS by Adam Langley in [7], but differs in the layout of data passed to the MAC and in the addition of encryption of the packet lengths.

Detailed Construction

The chacha20-poly1305@bitcoin cipher requires two 256 bits of key material as output from the key exchange. Each key (K_1 and K_2) are used by two separate instances of chacha20.

The instance keyed by K_1 is a stream cipher that is used only to encrypt the 3 byte packet length field and has its own sequence number. The second instance, keyed by K_2, is used in conjunction with poly1305 to build an AEAD (Authenticated Encryption with Associated Data) that is used to encrypt and authenticate the entire packet.

Two separate cipher instances are used here so as to keep the packet lengths confidential but not create an oracle for the packet payload cipher by decrypting and using the packet length prior to checking the MAC. By using an independently-keyed cipher instance to encrypt the length, an active attacker seeking to exploit the packet input handling as a decryption oracle can learn nothing about the payload contents or its MAC (assuming key derivation, ChaCha20 and Poly1305 are secure).

The AEAD is constructed as follows: for each packet, generate a Poly1305 key by taking the first 256 bits of ChaCha20 stream output generated using K_2, an IV consisting of the packet sequence number encoded as an LE uint64 and a ChaCha20 block counter of zero. The K_2 ChaCha20 block counter is then set to the little-endian encoding of 1 (i.e. {1, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0}) and this instance is used for encryption of the packet payload.

Packet Handling

When receiving a packet, the length must be decrypted first. When 3 bytes of ciphertext length have been received, they may be decrypted.

A ChaCha20 round always calculates 64bytes which is sufficient to encrypt a 3 bytes length field 21 times (21*3 = 63). The length field sequence number can thus be used 21 times (keystream caching).

The length field must be enc-/decrypted with the ChaCha20 keystream keyed with K_1 defined by block counter 0, the length field sequence number in little endian and a keystream position from 0 to 60.

Pseudo code example:

// init
sequence_nr_payload = 0; //payload sequence number
sequence_nr_length_field = 0; //length field sequence number (will be reused)
aad_length_field_pos = 0; //position in the length field cipher instance keystream chunk


// actual encryption
if cache_length_field_sequence_number != sequence_nr_length_field {
  cache_keystream_64_bytes = ChaCha20(key=K_1, iv=little_endian(sequence_nr_length_field), counter=0);
  cache_length_field_sequence_number = sequence_nr_length_field
packet_length = XOR_TO_LE(cache_length_field_sequence_number[aad_length_field_pos - aad_length_field_pos+3], ciphertext[0-3])

aad_length_field_pos += 3; //skip 3 bytes in keystream
if (aad_length_field_pos + 3 > 64) { //if we are outside of the 64byte keystream...
  aad_length_field_pos = 0; // reset at position 0
  sequence_nr_length_field++; // increase length field sequence number

Once the entire packet has been received, the MAC MUST be checked before decryption. A per-packet Poly1305 key is generated as described above and the MAC tag is calculated using Poly1305 with this key over the ciphertext of the packet length and the payload together. The calculated MAC is then compared in constant time with the one appended to the packet and the packet decrypted using ChaCha20 as described above (with K_2, the packet sequence number as nonce and a starting block counter of 1).

Detection of an invalid MAC MUST lead to immediate connection termination.

To send a packet, first encode the 3 byte length and encrypt it using K_1 as described above. Encrypt the packet payload (using K_2) and append it to the encrypted length. Finally, calculate a MAC tag and append it.

The initiating peer MUST use K_1_A, K_2_A to encrypt messages on the send channel, K_1_B, K_2_B MUST be used to decrypt messages on the receive channel.

The responding peer MUST use K_1_A, K_2_A to decrypt messages on the receive channel, K_1_B, K_2_B MUST be used to encrypt messages on the send channel.

Optimized implementations of ChaCha20-Poly1305@bitcoin are relatively fast, therefore it is very likely that encrypted messages will not require additional CPU cycles per byte when compared to the current unencrypted p2p message format (ChaCha20/Poly1305 versus double SHA256).

The initial packet sequence numbers are 0.

K_2 ChaCha20 cipher instance (payload) must never reuse a {key, nonce} for encryption nor may it be used to encrypt more than 2^70 bytes under the same {key, nonce}.

K_1 ChaCha20 cipher instance (length field/AAD) must never reuse a {key, nonce, position-in-keystream} for encryption nor may it be used to encrypt more than 2^70 bytes under the same {key, nonce}.

We use message sequence numbers for both communication directions.

 | Initiator                          Responder                                           |
 |                                                                                        |
 | AEAD() = ChaCha20Poly1305Bitcoin()                                                     |
 | MSG_A_CIPH = AEAD(k=K_1_A, K_2_A, payload_nonce=0, aad_nonce=0, aad_pos=0, msg)        |
 |                                                                                        |
 |                         --- MSG_CIPH --->                                              |
 |                                                                                        |
 |                                    msg   := AEAD(k=K_1_A,K_2_A, n=0, ..., MSG_A_CIPH)  |
 |                                                                                        |

Test Vectors

message   00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00
k1 (DATA) 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00
k2 (AAD)  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00

AAD keystream
76 b8 e0 ad a0 f1 3d 90 40 5d 6a e5 53 86 bd 28 bd d2 19 b8 a0 8d ed 1a a8 36 ef cc 8b 77 0d c7 da 41 59 7c 51 57 48 8d 77 24 e0 3f b8 d8 4a 37 6a 43 b8 f4 15 18 a1 1c c3 87 b6 69 b2 ee 65 86

76 b8 e0 9f 07 e7 be 55 51 38 7a 98 ba 97 7c 73 2d 08 0d cb 0f 29 a0 48 e3 65 69 12 c6 53 3e 32

d2 fc 11 82 9c 1b 6c 1d f1 f5 51 cd 61 31 ff 08
message   01 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00
k1 (DATA) 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00
k2 (AAD)  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00

AAD keystream
76 b8 e0 ad a0 f1 3d 90 40 5d 6a e5 53 86 bd 28 bd d2 19 b8 a0 8d ed 1a a8 36 ef cc 8b 77 0d c7 da 41 59 7c 51 57 48 8d 77 24 e0 3f b8 d8 4a 37 6a 43 b8 f4 15 18 a1 1c c3 87 b6 69 b2 ee 65 86

77 b8 e0 9f 07 e7 be 55 51 38 7a 98 ba 97 7c 73 2d 08 0d cb 0f 29 a0 48 e3 65 69 12 c6 53 3e 32

ba f0 c8 5b 6d ff 86 02 b0 6c f5 2a 6a ef c6 2e
ff 00 00 f1 95 e6 69 82 10 5f fb 64 0b b7 75 7f 57 9d a3 16 02 fc 93 ec 01 ac 56 f8 5a c3 c1 34 a4 54 7b 73 3b 46 41 30 42 c9 44 00 49 17 69 05 d3 be 59 ea 1c 53 f1 59 16 15 5c 2b e8 24 1a 38 00 8b 9a 26 bc 35 94 1e 24 44 17 7c 8a de 66 89 de 95 26 49 86 d9 58 89 fb 60 e8 46 29 c9 bd 9a 5a cb 1c c1 18 be 56 3e b9 b3 a4 a4 72 f8 2e 09 a7 e7 78 49 2b 56 2e f7 13 0e 88 df e0 31 c7 9d b9 d4 f7 c7 a8 99 15 1b 9a 47 50 32 b6 3f c3 85 24 5f e0 54 e3 dd 5a 97 a5 f5 76 fe 06 40 25 d3 ce 04 2c 56 6a b2 c5 07 b1 38 db 85 3e 3d 69 59 66 09 96 54 6c c9 c4 a6 ea fd c7 77 c0 40 d7 0e af 46 f7 6d ad 39 79 e5 c5 36 0c 33 17 16 6a 1c 89 4c 94 a3 71 87 6a 94 df 76 28 fe 4e aa f2 cc b2 7d 5a aa e0 ad 7a d0 f9 d4 b6 ad 3b 54 09 87 46 d4 52 4d 38 40 7a 6d eb 3a b7 8f ab 78 c9

k1 (DATA) 00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 0a 0b 0c 0d 0e 0f 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 1a 1b 1c 1d 1e 1f
k2 (AAD)  ff 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 0a 0b 0c 0d 0e 0f 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 1a 1b 1c 1d 1e 1f

AAD keystream
c6 40 c1 71 1e 3e e9 04 ac 35 c5 7a b9 79 1c 8a 1c 40 86 03 a9 0b 77 a8 3b 54 f6 c8 44 cb 4b 06 d9 4e 7f c6 c8 00 e1 65 ac d6 61 47 e8 0e c4 5a 56 7f 6c e6 6d 05 ec 0c ae 67 9d ce eb 89 00 17

39 40 c1 e9 2d a4 58 2f f6 f9 2a 77 6a eb 14 d0 14 d3 84 ee b3 0f 66 0d ac f7 0a 14 a2 3f d3 1e 91 21 27 01 33 4e 2c e1 ac f5 19 9d c8 4f 4d 61 dd be 65 71 bc a5 af 87 4b 4c 92 26 c2 6e 65 09 95 d1 57 64 4e 18 48 b9 6e d6 c2 10 2d 54 89 a0 50 e7 1d 29 a5 a6 6e ce 11 de 5f b5 c9 55 8d 54 da 28 fe 45 b0 bc 4d b4 e5 b8 80 30 bf c4 a3 52 b4 b7 06 8e cc f6 56 ba e7 ad 6a 35 61 53 15 fc 7c 49 d4 20 03 88 d5 ec a6 7c 2e 82 2e 06 93 36 c6 9b 40 db 67 e0 f3 c8 12 09 c5 0f 32 16 a4 b8 9f b3 ae 1b 98 4b 78 51 a2 ec 6f 68 ab 12 b1 01 ab 12 0e 1e a7 31 3b b9 3b 5a 0f 71 18 5c 7f ea 01 7d db 92 76 98 61 c2 9d ba 4f bc 43 22 80 d5 df f2 1b 36 d1 c4 c7 90 12 8b 22 69 99 50 bb 18 bf 74 c4 48 cd fe 54 7d 8e d4 f6 57 d8 00 5f dc 0c d7 a0 50 c2 d4 60 50 a4 4c 43 76 35 58 58 

98 1f be 8b 18 42 88 27 6e 7a 93 ea bc 89 9c 4a

v2 Messages Structure

Field Size Description Data type Comments
3 length & flag 23 + 1 bits Encrypted length of ciphertext payload (not counting the MAC tag) in number of bytes (only 2^23 is usable, most significant bit is the rekey-flag)
1-13 encrypted command variable ASCII command (or one byte short command ID)
? encrypted payload ? The actual data
16 MAC tag ? 128bit MAC-tag

Encrypted messages do not have the 4byte network magic.

The maximum message size is 2^23 (8,388,608) bytes. Future communication MAY exceed this limit and thus MUST be split into different messages.

Decrypting and processing the message MUST take place only AFTER successful authentication (MAC verification).

The 4byte sha256 checksum is no longer required because the AEAD (MAC).

Both peers MUST keep track of the message sequence number (uint32) of sent and received messages for building a 64-bit symmetric cipher IV.

The command field MUST start with a byte that defines the length of the ASCII command string up to 12 chars (1 to 12) or a short command ID (see below).

Short Command ID

To save valuable bandwidth, the v2 message format supports message command short IDs for message types with high frequency. The ID/string mapping is a peer to peer arrangement and MAY be negotiated between the initiating and responding peer. A peer conforming to this proposal MUST support short IDs based on the table below and SHOULD use short command IDs for outgoing messages.

Number Command
13 INV

Length comparisons between v1 and v2 messages

v1 in: 4(Magic)+12(Command)+4(MessageSize)+4(Checksum)+36(Payload) == 60
v2 inv: 3(MessageSize&Flag)+1(Command)+36(Payload)+16(MAC) == 56

v1 ping: 4(Magic)+12(Command)+4(MessageSize)+4(Checksum)+8(Payload) == 32
v2 pong: 3(MessageSize&Flag)+1(Command)+8(Payload)+16(MAC) == 28

v1 block: 4(Magic)+12(Command)+4(MessageSize)+4(Checksum)+1’048’576(Payload) = 1’048’600
v2 block: 3(MessageSize&Flag)+6(CommandStr)+8(Payload)+16(MAC) == 28 = 1’048’601


Re-keying can be signaled by setting the most significant bit in the length field before encryption. A peer signaling a rekey MUST use the next key for encrypted messages AFTER the message where the signaling has been done.

A peer identifying a rekey by checking the most significant bit in the envelope length must use the next key to decrypt messages AFTER the message where the signaling has been detected.

The next symmetric cipher key MUST be calculated by SHA256(SHA256(session ID || old_symmetric_cipher_key)) and the packet sequence number of the corresponding encryption direction must be set to 0.

Re-Keying interval is a peer policy with a minimum timespan of 10 seconds.

The Re-Keying must be done after every 1GB of data sent (recommended by RFC4253 SSH Transport) or if the last rekey was more than an hour ago.

Peers calculate the counterparty limits and MUST disconnect immediately if a violation of the limits has been detected.


The encryption does not include an authentication scheme. This BIP does not cover a proposal to avoid MITM attacks during the encryption initialization. However, peers MUST show the session-id to the user on request which allows to identify a MITM by a manual verification on a secure channel.

Optional authentication schemes may be covered by other proposals [2].

An attacker could delay or halt v2 protocol enforcement by providing a reasonable amount of peers not supporting the v2 protocol.


This proposal is backward compatible (as long as not enforced). Non-supporting peers can still use unencrypted communications.

Reference implementation


  1. ^ Hijacking Bitcoin: Routing Attacks on Cryptocurrencies - M. Apostolaki, A. Zohar, L.Vanbever
  2. a b BIP150
  3. ^ RFC 2119
  4. ^ HKDF (RFC 5869)
  5. ^ ChaCha20
  6. ^ Poly1305
  7. ^ "ChaCha20 and Poly1305 based Cipher Suites for TLS", Adam Langley


  • Pieter Wuille and Gregory Maxwell for most of the ideas in this BIP.
  • Tim Ruffing for the review and the hint for the enhancement of the symmetric key derivation.
  • Jonathan Cross for re-wording and grammar corrections


This work is placed in the public domain.


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commented Mar 22, 2019

What about Short Command IDs for GETDATA and TX messages? Both are quite frequent. Also during blockchain sync BLOCK and MERKLEBLOCK messages?

But generally I think transport encrytion should be separated from the protocol changes itself, into 2 specs which are independant. Otherwise we risk very slow adoption again, as we experienced with segwit because it stuffed so many small changes into a big spec.

(But nice to see Bitcoin Code is finally open minded about encrypting the transport!)


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commented Mar 22, 2019

So I'm no cryptography expert, but could it be that instead of "tempering" you meant "tampering with"?


  • to interfere so as to weaken or change for the worse —used with with


  • to dilute, qualify, or soften by the addition or influence of something else
  • to anneal or toughen (glass) by a process of gradually heating and cooling
  • to make stronger and more resilient through hardship
  • to bring to a suitable state by mixing in or adding a usually liquid ingredient

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commented Mar 25, 2019

What is the advantage of encrypting the messages when anyone can connect to your node? A MITM can deduce that a remote endpoint is running the Bitcoin protocol by inspecting its traffic patterns, and if the remote endpoint is open to accepting new peers, the MITM can handshake with it and then receive data it can decrypt. If the purpose of this BIP is to prevent message tampering, then would it be sufficient for Bitcoin peers to simply sign their messages?

Also, while it is a stated motivation, this BIP doesn't appear to address IP prefix hijacking.


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commented Mar 25, 2019


In the case you explained, MITM would act as an inbound connection for a given node. We already have biases to make these inbound connections learn significantly less than outbound (13298), to make it more difficult for them to affect tx relay (14897), and perhaps other things in the codebase I don't remember. What I want to say here is connecting to someone is not equal to reading all the traffic they produce.

Although I see a possibility for a MITM to re-route outbound connections of a given node to MITM itself. But I believe then

  • we're in much bigger trouble than eavesdropping
  • authentication might solve this problem

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commented Apr 19, 2019

Hi @jonasschnelli - Here are some small corrections to the English:

Nice work!


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commented Apr 20, 2019

Thanks @jonathancross! Pulled in.

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