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  • 3000002: Choose an antivirus product

    Home Forums Knowledge Base 3000002: Choose an antivirus product

    This topic contains 25 replies, has 18 voices, and was last updated by  SteveTree 7 months ago.

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    • #90655 Reply

      woody
      Da Boss

      AKB3000002: Choose an antivirus product

      By @CanadianTech

      Published 5 Feb 2017 rev 1.0

      The “Security” software installed on your computer may be causing problems that can not be diagnosed or fixed.  Try removing it temporarily.

      This is a controversial topic, but your choice of AV software may be something you want to take a 2nd look at.  I suggest you visit this web site to get a sense of which AV software does the best job, depending on what kind of user you are:  AV-Comparitives.  This is a non-profit that has been around for a long time and I trust their results.   Their latest report is here (PDF). The chart on page 8 is the most demonstrative of the differences.

      When you interpret these results, keep in mind the difference between a product that detects 95% and another 99% of infections, is actually 5 times more likely to allow an infection.

      I am speaking from a great deal of experience.  I support 150 client computers.  I have been doing this for 15 years.  My clients NEVER have infections.

      The only products I will use or recommend are ANTIVIRUS-ONLY products.  Any product that is called complete protection, Internet security or deems itself to be a comprehensive security product is prohibited on my client computers.

      I have good reason for this. Over the years and hundreds of PCs, I’ve learned a lesson well.  That it is very difficult to diagnose and fix the problem(s) when components of an Internet Security product are actively working to prevent that diagnosis.  The software sees the technician (me in this case) as a threat.  I discovered that if I uninstalled that software, I am able to much more likely and quickly discover an fix the problem.  Antivirus ONLY products do not behave like this.

      The other components in these IS products (other than the AV itself) cause more problems than any benefit they bring and mostly work by shutting down the Windows component that does a very good job of that particular task anyway.

      It is the Antivirus software that you need.  It is actually all that you need with Windows 7.

      Most of the big name suppliers much prefer to sell their all-in products because they can sell them for a higher price.  Some do not offer an antivirus-only product.  Some push their all in ones and still sell the AV only product, but you may have to look for them.  There is at least one and it is either the best or close to it.

      Beware of products that try to actively engage you in the security process by asking your permission to run a program named xd43_45d*.exe, or the like.

      Do not use any product that claims to make your computer run better.  Virtually all of them are either bogus, themselves an infection, or put your computer at risk. Remove everything that claims to be there to prevent infections or claims to make your computer run better, with the singular exception of just one antivirus product.

      Note well.  You should never have more than one protection product installed.  Always ensure that you completely remove any and all protection software packages before installing a new one.  That includes software that may have come pre-installed on your computer when new.  Some products will conflict with one another, causing yet more problems.

      You cannot fully remove most any AV software by simply using the standard Windows 7 uninstall tool.  Most of the majors also publish a “removal tool” that gets the rest of it.  If you do not completely remove it, it will cause very hard to understand and diagnose problems.

      Note from Woody: I use, and recommend, Microsoft Security Essentials for Windows 7, and Windows Defender (which is basically the same thing) for 8.1 and Windows 10. I do that fully realizing that MSE doesn’t score highest in the vendor evaluations – but I feel it works well enough for almost everybody, it’s free and doesn’t nag, and it usually doesn’t get in the way of Windows. Usually. Remember that your worst security problem is your clicking finger!

      3 users thanked author for this post.
    • #91108 Reply

      samak
      AskWoody Plus

      W7 x64 SP1 decidedly non-techie.
      I’ve tried a few. Avast free started acting like malware (endless nagging, spying “shopping” feature etc) so I uninstalled that. Tried BitDefender free but it broke Firefox so I uninstalled that. Now using AVG Free which seems to play nicely with everything and only has 1 pop-up every 3 days nagging you to upgrade which I can live with.

      W7 SP1 Home Premium 64-bit, Office 2010, Group B, non-techie

      • #91338 Reply

        anonymous

        @ samak

        On my Win 7 SP1 cptr, I prefer Avast AV Free over AVG Free. A custom install removed all the “endless nagging, spying, “shopping” feature, etc” n the browser cleanup feature. IOW, do not use express install.
        Alternately, go to Programs and Features to uninstall those nuisance features from Avast.

    • #91143 Reply

      anonymous

      W7 x64 SP1 novice

      Woody, you say “Remove everything that claims to be there to prevent infections…”. I am running Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit (along with Microsoft Security Essentials for Windows 7 of course).
      It’s not bugging me nor does it seem to be causing any problems. But it did stop something it saw as an exploit attempt and logged “The VB scripting engine has been blocked from loading in the browser.” I have no idea if this is a good thing for it to do or not. I am just reporting this for others to see.

    • #91568 Reply

      Fritz
      AskWoody Lounger

      Former Mozilla developer Robert O’Callahan discourages the use of non-Microsoft AV-products:

      http://robert.ocallahan.org/2017/01/disable-your-antivirus-software-except.html

      • #204346 Reply

        anonymous

        I’ve been using Nod32 for years and it’s been great. I just keep resetting the trial period though.

    • #91637 Reply

      Clairvaux
      AskWoody Lounger

      Hi Canadian Tech,

      What would be an anti-virus only, nowadays ? Would you care to name a few names ? It seems to me that all the big brands have adopted the marketing strategy of everything plus the kitchen sink. I use Avast Free, and I had great trouble, first, identifying what was not really necessary, then de-activating it (i.e. : online shopping “assistants”, extra “features” which you actually discover at the end are subscription-only, password managers, VPNs you should actually research and subscribe to separately if you need one, etc). There’s a lot of obfuscation going on there.

      My gut feeling is that most AV vendors put all of their core technology in their free product (if they have one), then try to convince you to pay every year by adding not-really-useful layers of paid-for stuff on top of that, calling it Professional, Über-Shield or somesuch. I guess they can’t really afford the image issue of throttling the detection performance of their free products, the way you can cripple features in a free PDF editor, for instance.

      Free versions are what makes your brand (if you went that route), and having tens of millions of users venting off because they think they have been infected because of your lousy product, does not compare to the same millions complaining they can’t split up PDF files for free.

      This is not to denigrate the real value which might lay in timely and professional support for businesses, which in turn might entail paid-for AV.

      Another subject for enquiry and debate would be : how much “telemetry” are anti-virus products doing, and how is that not as bad, or worse, than Windows 10 or Google’s shenanigans ?

      • #91761 Reply

        Canadian Tech
        AskWoody_MVP

        Bitdefender is one. All of my 150 client computers have a 2 year subscription to Bitdefender Antivirus Plus. It has only one annoying feature and that is something they call Safepay. You can deactivate it. Other than that, it has always worked perfectly for me and my clients.

        I should add here that every single client is running Windows 7.

        I have been using this product on every one of them and have yet to see an infection on a single one of them. It has been over 2.5 years now.

        The product is often sold on sale at your local WorstBuy for about $40 for a package for installation on three computers for two years. That is a steal.

        CT

        2 users thanked author for this post.
        • #91788 Reply

          Clairvaux
          AskWoody Lounger

          Ha. No free version here for Bitdefender. No WorstBuys either. However, I checked the local Bitdefender site, and their pricing policy seems to have taken a turn downwards. Whereas they were quite expensive before, they now offer a 1-PC licence for 1 year for 20 €, 2 years for 30 €. More innovatively, they have a monthly subscription for 1,95 € (which you can cancel any time).

          The most interesting offer is a “lifetime”, upfront price of 30 €, after which you can use your anti-virus for as long as you like, provided it stays on the same PC, on the same OS and with the same user. Sort of a Windows OEM licence. OK, they say it’s for 5 years because you’re supposed to change your PC after that, but then you can get it renewed just by asking. (Renewed for how much ? one week ? and if it’s really “lifetime”, why do I have to ask ? and what does “the same OS” means, now that Microsoft pumps fresh OSs on our rigs every fortnight if it so pleases ?)

          The one-time payment product does not have the same name as the others, but I suspect it’s just a marketing ploy in order to discourage price comparisons (6 €/year, assuming a 5-year life for the PC).

          The software does not look very customisable to me, and it also has features such as “registry cleaning” and “one-click optimisation”.

        • #122857 Reply

          adj19
          AskWoody Plus

          I accept that Bitdefender has along and successful record, keeping  many people safe. I should note though that my perfectly standard W7 Ultimate system found it unusable: it kept stopping, and would refuse to restart, even after re-booting. After trying to patch this, Bitdefender agreed, honorably, to refund my money.

    • #141844 Reply

      anonymous

      The following “anonymous post” is by user Poohsticks:

      —–

      In this site’s prior forum setup, I posted several comments recommending Norton Security.

      I realize that some others have quite a bad impression of it, but I have a good impression of it and a good experience of it.

      Another frequent commenter here, LizzyTish, stated in several of those threads that she felt the same as I.

      There are a couple of independent, non-profit testing organizations online that have given Norton a high rating in the past (the last few times I have looked, anyway, which was perhaps 2 and 3 and 4 years ago), much higher than the MS own products got.  I think I named the organizations before, and linked to at least one.  One is a group working at a Swiss university, if I recall correctly.

      Doing a local site search for “Norton” will probably bring up my prior, longer comments, as well as LizzyTish’s.

      —-

      It is coming up to the time of year when several paid antivirus/security products often have extra-good discounts and coupons.

      I just checked into the current deals the other day (October 2017), and I happened to see on one of the major “deals” sites that back in August there was a deal with a national retailer where Norton Security 5-user (or maybe it was 3-user, I don’t remember) was entirely free after rebate.

      So regarding the complaints of those who say Norton is too expensive and that a free program, sometimes supported with ads, sometimes obtaining only middling rankings in consumer testing, will suffice — the cost criticism may not hold true if you are willing to look around a tiny bit, and it has never been the case for me.

      In most of the many years that I’ve had Norton (usually it’s been for 3 or 5 users/devices), I’ve either paid $0 or $10, a couple of times I’ve paid $20.

      —-

      This was my post last year about several good deals on Norton:

      at:  https://askwoody.com/forums/topic/quick-roundup-of-shopping-tips/#post-21327

      “As far as antivirus/security programs, I like
      (and AskWoody.com contributor LizzyTish also likes)

      *Norton Security*

      Here are two current deals for that, which you can get online:

      ——
      1. For a very good price, with little hassle

      Amazon Prime members can get 15 months (= 3 extra months)

      of Norton Security (5 devices)

      for $19.99.

      People who are not Amazon Prime members can get it for $29.99.

      Woody’s affiliate link to this listing is:

      https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B015724OVG/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B015724OVG&linkCode={{linkCode}}&tag=askwoody07-20&linkId={{link_id}}


      2. For FREE, but with considerable hassle

      If you don’t mind messing around with a rebate and signing up for a newsletter so you can get a coupon code, Fry’s will be selling

      Norton Security (3 devices)
      PLUS
      Norton Utilities (3 machines)

      for FREE

      on Friday.

      (But you do have to mess around with a rebate and signing up for their email newsletter so you can get a coupon code.)

      It is the offer at the very end of the following page, on the left side of the page:

      http://images.frys.com/art/email/111916_BlackFridayPrev/blackpre_web.html?site=homepage

      ===
      In-store deal

      I have only seen this mentioned on the internet and have not confirmed it myself, but there is apparently a FREE Fry’s deal to get Norton Security for 10 (TEN) devices for FREE on Friday.

      You have to have a certain code, do a rebate, and apparently you must go into a Frys store on Friday to get it.

      If you are interested in that, please look it up on the internet – it will be described on various deal sites.”

      1 user thanked author for this post.
    • #178332 Reply

      Mr. Natural
      AskWoody Plus

      I agree completely with Woody and stick with an Anti virus only solution as opposed to these “complete internet security” packages. I am definitely interested to see how the new Microsoft Defender holds up on its own. I noticed on the Enterprise version they are using a cloud based security center very much like what Cisco Talos is doing now.

      I thought I’d mention a product we are now using which has a different approach to malware protection. For many years we used Eset (since version 2.0) but I became annoyed with the changes to the corporate product and the console distribution interface that changed with version 6. I’d say it’s still a fine product for home users and of course there are other options as well.

      What we are using now is a product called Cylance Protect. This has a different approach to malware detection in that first of all the console is cloud base and you can make changes to client pc’s without ever having to connect directly to the pc. You can make changes even if a client system is down and the change will take effect when it goes back online.

      There are no signature updates with this product. Only program updates. Upon installation the program scans all files on the computer which is then stored in a cloud database of all files from any system running Cylance. This database works along with Virus Total on whether a file is know to be malicious or not. Once a system is completely scanned the only time the program kicks in is when a new file is detected on the system. There is no “real time” scanning like most anti virus products work. So there are no performance issues with the computer in that regard.

      After allowing a system scan you then move the computer to what’s called “phase 2” in which actions will be taken automatically (according to your settings) if a known malicious file is detected.

      Finally there is a “phase 3” setting in which script control is set and any script will not run unless it has been approved or a relative path has been created to allow the script to run from that location. As you can imagine script control can be a great way to prevent malware from executing but be advised there are some issues you have to deal with in regards to people running excel macros and such. The ideal solution is for people to keep macros and scripts stored in one location or a relative path and then once the exclusion is set you don’t have to worry about something being blocked. But if you have people creating macros and storing them at different locations you’ll have to create new exclusions as they pop up.

      We’ve been using this now for nearly a year and (knock wood) it’s working well for us. I don’t know if I could recommend this for a home user. But it’s something to consider in the corporate environment.

      Red Ruffnsore reporting from the front lines.

    • #202499 Reply

      Anonymous

      Hi Everyone – thanks to Elly I clicked here and I think this is a good place to continue our discussion of “where to go after Norton”.  I presently have Norton Security which I believe is in line with the advice to use anti-virus only products.  I did share that Norton annoyed me by sending letters to my home telling me to use “automatic renewal”.  However, my dilemma is that Norton has kept me safe for over 10 years.  It also has never interfered with my installed Malwarebytes.  I know some folks think this is a no no but I think that was from yesteryear because even Malwarebytes says they are compatible.

      This is a very tricky subject and I look forward to hearing from everyone as to what they use and how they like it — and also how to completely uninstall, etc.  Everything relating to anti-virus.

      Note to Elly: Thanks for the reply.  I’m reluctant to use MSE because of Microsoft.  I just switched from using Word to installing Libre so now I use Thunderbird and Libre to lessen my Microsoft useage.

      1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #202515 Reply

        Elly
        AskWoody MVP

        Microsoft has certainly broken my heart and trust… but my Windows 7 purrs along, without malware. Using MSE makes my budget happy for now… I was a Windows fan, since my first computer that was all my own being XP. It was only the forced GWX and the forced updating that made me open my eyes and look at open source products. And I am someone who takes change slowly, not a techy type by training, and only coming to experiment and learn more about the hardware and software that I’m using in the past few years. I’m on a tight budget, and as I am learning, I am relying on rather old and limited hardware to experiment with… and can get panicky at the thought of doing something to my beloved laptop, that might cause problems…

        When I had to replace my hard drive, within the last month, I looked long and hard at what programs I was using. Some things, like Thunderbird, I’d been using for years. I’ve been trying to pick and choose open source programs. Unlike a lot of other programs that I could try and then discard, antivirus hook deep into your system (which is one reason they are difficult to uninstall… but no reason Norton should make it worse than it needs to be). Microsoft is already providing my OS, so they seemed the least risky at the moment. I’ve already decided that I will be transitioning to a Linux distro, as Windows 7 hits end of life… so whatever/however I configure my laptop, it is a transitional, rather than long term, decision. I have limited time and energy… and have to pace myself… so much as I’d love to embrace an open source antivirus, I didn’t easily find a lot of information and comparables… the failure of my hard drive caused me to have to do things faster than I was prepared to, and so I settled, for now, on just using MSE. It certainly won’t be what I use with a Linux distro, in the future.

        With all that in mind, @peacelady, I love your questioning what antivirus to use… same question I’d been kicking around in my head since my hard drive failed. I had been a long time user of AVG, but since its had its own problems introducing unwanted stuff with new installs, and spreading rather than protecting from malware through an update… well, I hadn’t ditched it, but now I have.

        Part of the problem I have when trying to compare antivirus is that I don’t want all those extras in their suites. I just want them to scan and protect my computer… not be my VPN, or rescue disks, or browser extensions. I’d get lost in all the comparisons, especially when it was clear that those who were doing the comparisons had bought into the marketing hype that more was better. From my point of view, more is not better…

        Another thing I thought about, is choosing the same antivirus that one of the other MVPs uses… because that way, if there is a problem, there is someone else that will share and be seeking solutions, too. The interesting thing is that there isn’t a lot of consensus that I’ve seen, regarding antivirus programs… and although I’m hearing updating problems relating to antivirus, I’m not hearing about antivirus failures. AskWoody Loungers seem to be savvy enough to avoid malware, no matter what system they are using. There are some techy people I know in the real world that don’t use any antivirus, practice safe browsing, and don’t download questionable stuff, and they never, ever get malware. I don’t have much actual experience with it, myself. I have to say that I was tempted to try no antivirus, along with a firewall, and frequent backups I could restore from, but in the end, I wasn’t that brave…

        The most common and impartial thing is to check the sites that show detection/failure rates… but where do I find information on the open source antivirus, and their reliability over time? What issues are there in choosing an open source option? Paid vs free? Reputation and business practices? I’m feeling like most of the “best of” articles out there are marketing oriented rather than having discussions about what really matters in your antivirus… and then I get lost in the more complicated details of virus definitions and real time detections, with little information about the telemetry that the companies are doing (AVG was selling info at one point?). Personally, I’ve hit the wall, which is why I settled on MSE, until something better comes along, or I move away from Windows.

        Very interested in the response to your post, @peacelady… You certainly ask good questions, and try to find good info… I’m definitely with you, there. Sometimes I’ve done the research and found good answers. I just don’t feel that way about any anti-virus… yet.

        Win 7 Home, 64 bit, Group B

        1 user thanked author for this post.
        • #202522 Reply

          OscarCP
          AskWoody Plus

          There are some techy people I know in the real world that don’t use any antivirus, practice safe browsing, and don’t download questionable stuff, and they never, ever get malware.

          But even if one tries to be always very careful, sometimes can be caught unawares. I do practice pretty good browsing and emailing hygiene, if I say so myself. But in a couple of occasions in recent years, I have received an email supposedly from some government office or from my congressman and, clicking on it while distracted by some problem I was working on at the time, something evil jumped at me from inside. In both cases, so did my antivirus right away on the nasty interloper and throttled and dragged it to quarantine hell before it could do any harm. Then it went ahead and started scanning my machine, for good measure, all by itself. And I am still using that machine, writing to tell you this story. My antivirus, same as the one used by Mr Natural, is Web based, so all the scanning is very fast, because it is not done in my machine but at the malware company server. Not the actual files are sent there, by their hashes. The name is Webroot SecurityAnywhere. It also does a fairly good job of cleaning the hard disk from the debris of browsing, including any cookies that might got in uninvited. It might (or might not) be a good idea to have a second antivirus, but I have been procrastinating on deciding what to do about that.

          By the way: sorry about your problem with the hard drive. It’s one of my secret fears that some day it might happen to me. No matter how many back ups I might have, I do not look forward to the effort and aggravation needed to get over something like that.

           

          Windows 7 Professional, SP1, x64 Group B & macOS + Linux (Mint) => Win7 Group W + Mac&Lx

          • #202626 Reply

            Elly
            AskWoody MVP

            @OscarCP- in part I made things difficult on myself. I had an image and could have cloned what I had… but I wanted to have a fresh start. Also, I used the OEM recovery disks, which is where Norton showed up from… and a lot of other (but easier to remove) stuff… I have multiple copies of my data, so was never at risk of losing that. Mostly this has been a learning experience… and I’ve tried to apply what I learned in the last 6 years, in how I configure everything, and what I actually need and use (had experimented with a lot of stuff). I’d started getting warnings on the old hard drive, but was able to get the new one installed before it died… and I can still access the old one in an external hard drive enclosure. So, overall, I’m happy to have been successful… it was both easier, and more difficult, than I had expected (the problems I anticipated didn’t happen, and others popped up).

            After wrestling with removing Norton, I have to admit that I was just plain tired out… and that may have resulted in me using MSE. There were a lot of things that I had to learn, like how to transfer Thunderbird settings and locally stored e-mails (which was easy and painless once I figured it out)… and I’m still sorting through and organizing everything. There are actually things from 6 years ago that I don’t need!

            I’m still curious as to what people are looking for in an antivirus, and why, so I can educate myself and make a better decision.

            Win 7 Home, 64 bit, Group B

            1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #202539 Reply

        anonymous

        Peacelady, make sure you go to Norton’s site itself or majorgeeks.com (Anti Virus section) and download the norton’s av uninstaller, this will avoid problems – only way to properly uninstall AV.

        Avira Free is a great AV with no conflicts with Malwarebytes, and gets consistently high ratings.

        2 users thanked author for this post.
    • #204364 Reply

      GoneToPlaid
      AskWoody Plus

      Lots of stuff and recommendations from many posters. Hmm…

      In terms of free AV, presently I recommend Panda Cloud AV for basic protection. Why? Because of the way that Panda works, the special registry key is not, and never was required, even though Panda implemented it, yet only after they spent quite some time verifying that their products were fully compatible with Microsoft’s 2018 updates which require this registry key. The upshot is that Panda does things differently, such that the registry compatibility key is not required. I really can not explain anything more.

      The upshot is that people might need a temporary yet reliable AV solution which is not affected during the transition of installing any of Microsoft’s 2018 updates — regardless of whether or not the special registry key is either automatically or manually created.

      Disclosure: I do not work for Panda and I do not get compensated by Panda in any way, yet at on time and years ago, I was a trusted member of their forums.

       

      1 user thanked author for this post.
    • #236873 Reply

      Cartoonist Aaron
      AskWoody Plus

      Well over a year later, does the original advice from Woody still stand? Trying to help someone with a new Win 10 machine pick their antivirus. They have a free year of McAfee, and they are fairly non-technical.

    • #236876 Reply

      johnf
      AskWoody Lounger

      Both at work and home, McAfee has been a horror show. It’s too invasive, will slow the PC down, and causes issues with programs. And it’s incredibly hard to remove (you have to get their special removal tool, and even that does not remove all the traces…you’ll need to do a registry sweep).

      I’d stay with the native Windows Defender stuff. The user will have less issues.

       

      1 user thanked author for this post.
    • #242077 Reply

      phaolo
      AskWoody Lounger

      I’d like to try Eset Nod32 AV, but there doesn’t seem to be a cheap solution for very small businesses (1 pc). They didn’t even reply when I asked for info and an estimation 🙁
      And as a firewall, how is Glasswire?

      • #242109 Reply

        Bluetrix
        AskWoody MVP

        And as a firewall, how is Glasswire?

        GlassWire is more than a firewall, but the firewall is one really cool feature in it.
        Using GW’s GUI for blocking could not be easier. You no longer have to copy and paste (or remember) any specific program’s URL name to block it. Of course you can also use Windows firewall at the same time adding URL’s, blocking things there before it would show up on GW. Blocking items on GW is as simple as clicking the fire icon, greying it out … done!

        A Network monitoring feature is built in and you can see anything that is connecting to the outside world. It’s history function is useful to compare a program’s bandwidth usage today with it’s usage from last week, or month. There are other ‘cute’ things it can do, like alert you when a program connects to the internet (background apps for instance), easily disabled if you don’t like the alerts.
        I do not have any affiliation with GlassWire other than I use it.
        I really like it.
        ymmv

        Windows10 Home 1809 | Mint19 on VM

        • #242111 Reply

          phaolo
          AskWoody Lounger

          Thanks.
          I’d like the firewall to always ask me what to do the first time a program wants to connect to internet (configurable at any time).

          ZoneAlarm Free (at home), for example, does that. Sadly the program isn’t as good as it was in the past.

          • #242116 Reply

            Bluetrix
            AskWoody MVP

            I switched from ZA to GW, happy move.
            Edit to add: GW does alert on 1st connects, always.

            Windows10 Home 1809 | Mint19 on VM

    • #327249 Reply

      SteveTree
      AskWoody Lounger

      Nit-picking, Woody’s link to “their latest report” is to an old report. A better link is https://www.av-comparatives.org/latest-tests From there choose the latest available real world protection test.

       

      Group A (but Telemetry disabled Tasks and Registry)
      Win 7 64 Pro desktop
      Win 10 32 Home portable

      1 user thanked author for this post.

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