Always On VPN SSTP with Let’s Encrypt Certificates

Always On VPN SSTP Security Configuration

When configuring the Windows Server Routing and Remote Access Service (RRAS) to support Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP) for Always On VPN user tunnel connections, administrators must install a Transport Layer Security (TLS) certificate on the VPN server. The best practice is to use a certificate issued by a public Certification Authority (CA). In addition, administrators should use a TLS certificate using Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm (ECDSA) for optimal security and performance.

Let’s Encrypt

Obtaining a public TLS certificate is not inherently difficult, nor is it expensive. However, Let’s Encrypt is a nonprofit public CA issues TLS certificates entirely for free. Always On VPN supports Let’s Encrypt TLS certificates, and installing a Let’s Encrypt certificate on the Always On VPN RRAS server is quite simple.

Pros and Cons

Using Let’s Encrypt certificates for Always On VPN has several significant advantages over traditional public CAs.

  • Cost – Let’s Encrypt certificates are free! No cost whatsoever.
  • Speed – Enrolling for a Let’s Encrypt certificate takes just a few minutes.
  • Trusted – Let’s Encrypt certificates are trusted by default in Windows 10 and Windows 11.

Let’s Encrypt is not without some drawbacks, however.

  • Lifetime – Let’s Encrypt certificates are only valid for 90 days.
  • Administration – Certificates must be redeployed frequently (every 90 days).
  • Security – PFX files (which include private keys) are left on disk by default.

It is possible to mitigate some of these drawbacks, though. For example, deleting PFX files after import can improve security. Alternatively, using a Certificate Signing Request (CSR) eliminates PFX files completely.

Also, it is possible to fully automate the Let’s Encrypt certificate enrollment and RRAS configuration process, which eases the administrative burden. And rotating certificates every 90 days could be considered an advantage from a security perspective! Enrolling new certificates (and specifically certificates with unique keys) is advantageous in that respect.

Certificate Enrollment

There are several different ways to enroll for Let’s Encrypt certificates. The preferred method is using PowerShell, as it works on both Windows Server with Desktop Experience (GUI) and Windows Server Core. Using PowerShell, administrators can also fully automate the enrollment and assignment of the certificate in RRAS.

PowerShell Module

To enroll for Let’s Encrypt TLS certificates on the VPN server, install the Posh-ACME PowerShell module. On the RRAS server, open an elevated PowerShell window and run the following command.

Install-Module Posh-ACME

Certificate Request

After installing the Posh-ACME PowerShell module, select a Let’s Encrypt environment by running the following command. Use LE_PROD for the production Let’s Encrypt server or LE_STAGE for the staging environment (used for testing).

Set-PAServer LE_PROD

Next, request a new certificate using the following command.

New-PACertificate -Domain vpn.example.net -Contact ‘[email protected]’ -CertKeyLength ec-256 -AcceptTOS -Install

The administrator is prompted to create a TXT record in public DNS to prove ownership of the domain. Using the example above, create a DNS record called _acme-challenge.vpn in the example.net DNS zone.

Once complete, the TLS certificate is automatically installed in the local computer certificate store on the VPN server and can be assigned in the RRAS management console, as shown here.

Note: R3 is a Let’s Encrypt issuing certification authority.

DNS Plugin

The Posh-ACME PowerShell module supports DNS plugins that allow administrators to automate the creation of the DNS TXT record used to authorize certificate enrollment. DNS plugins for many public DNS providers are available. Some of the more popular DNS providers are listed here.

  • Microsoft Azure
  • Amazon Route53
  • Cloudflare
  • Akamai
  • GoDaddy
  • Infoblox
  • Windows Server

A list of all supported DNS plugins for Posh-ACME can be found here.

Certificate Binding

Administrators can use the following PowerShell example code to automate the process of binding the new TLS certificate to the SSTP listener in RRAS.

$Thumbprint = <TLS certificate thumbprint>
$Cert = Get-ChildItem -Path Cert:\LocalMachine\My\$thumbprint
Set-RemoteAccess -SslCertificate $Cert
Restart-Service RemoteAccess -Passthru

Additional Information

Posh-ACME Tutorial

Windows 10 Always On VPN TLS Certificate Requirements for SSTP

Windows 10 Always On VPN SSTP Security Configuration

Always On VPN Book Available for Pre-Order

Great news! My new book, Implementing Always On VPN, is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com. This new book, scheduled for release in late 2021, is a comprehensive implementation guide for Windows 10 Always On VPN. Drawing on many years of experience deploying Always On VPN for organizations worldwide, it covers all aspects of an Always On VPN deployment, including planning and design, prerequisite gathering, infrastructure preparation, and client deployment.

In addition, it contains detailed, prescriptive guidance for advanced configuration options such as application and traffic filtering and proxy server configuration. Cloud deployments using Azure VPN gateway and Virtual WAN are covered, and it includes guidance for configuring Azure MFA and Conditional Access.

Also, the book includes thorough guidance for provisioning certificates using Microsoft Endpoint Manager/Intune using both PKCS and SCEP. It outlines options for high availability for VPN and authentication infrastructure and provides details for ongoing system maintenance and operational support.

Finally, the book has an entire chapter dedicated to troubleshooting and resolving common (and not so common!) issues encountered with Windows 10 Always On VPN.

Reserve your copy today. Pre-order Implementing Always On VPN now!

Chapter List

  1. Always On VPN Overview
  2. Plan an Always On VPN Deployment
  3. Prepare the Infrastructure
  4. Configure Windows Server for Always On VPN
  5. Provision Always On VPN clients
  6. Advanced Configuration
  7. Cloud Deployments
  8. Deploy Certificates with Intune
  9. Integrating Azure MFA
  10. High Availability
  11. Monitor and Report
  12. Troubleshooting

Always On VPN Authentication Failure with Azure Conditional Access

Always On VPN Clients Prompted for Authentication when Accessing Internal Resources

Integrating Microsoft Azure Conditional Access with Windows 10 Always On VPN has several important benefits. The most important is that it allows administrators to improve their security posture by enforcing access polices that can be dynamically applied. For example, requiring multifactor authentication (MFA) for privileged users (e.g., administrators) or sign-ins that appear to be risky, the type of device they are connecting with, the health of the endpoint, and much more.

Authentication Failure

When configuring Always On VPN to support Azure Conditional Access, administrators may expeirence a failed authentication during preliminary testing. Specifically, an event ID 20227 from the RasClient source may be encountered with the following error message.

“The user <username> dialed a connection named <connection name> which has failed. The error code returned on failure is 812.”

Looking at the event logs on the Network Policy Server (NPS) server reveals an event ID 6273 from the Microsoft Windows security auditing source with Reason Code 258 and the following Reason.

“The revocation function was unable to check revocation for the certificate.”

Root Cause

When Azure Conditional Access is configured for Always On VPN, a short-lived certificate (1 hour lifetime) is provisioned by Azure. This certificate does not include revocation information because, by design, a short-lived certificate does not need to be revoked. However, by default NPS always checks revocation when client authentication certificates are used for authentication. Since the certificate does not include this information, certificate revocation fails.

Resolution

The way to resolve this issue is to disable certificate revocation checking for Protected Extensible Authentication Protocol (PEAP) authentication requests. To do this, open an elevated PowerShell window on the NPS server and run the following command.

New-ItemProperty -Path ‘HKLM:\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\RasMan\PPP\EAP\13\’ -Name IgnoreNoRevocationCheck -PropertyType DWORD -Value 1 -Force

Once complete, restart the NPS server for the changes to take effect.

Additional Information

Windows 10 Always On VPN Network Policy Server (NPS) Load Balancing

Windows 10 Always On VPN Network Policy Server (NPS) Server 2019 Bug

Always On VPN Updates for RRAS and IKEv2

Always On VPN Updates for RRAS and IKEv2

Many users have reported connection stability issues using Windows Server 2019 Routing and Remote Access Service (RRAS) and the IKEv2 VPN protocol. Specifically, there have been reports of random disconnects for which the connection cannot be re-established for an extended period. At the same time, other VPN connections may work without issue.

KB5003703

Microsoft has identified an issue in RRAS where the RemoteAccess service enters DoS protection mode, limiting incoming IKEv2 connection attempts. They released an update on June 15 (OS Build 17763.2028) that addresses this issue. Previously, the only workaround was to restart the IKEEXT service, which was highly disruptive if performed during peak hours.

No More Files

In addition, this update includes another Always On VPN-related fix for Windows 10 1809 clients. An Always On VPN user tunnel connection may fail, with an error message stating, “There are no more files.” The problem can occur after an existing user’s certificate is automatically renewed.

Additional Information

Microsoft Update June 15, 2021 KB5003703 (OS Build 17763.2028)

Always On VPN SSTP Security Configuration

Always On VPN SSTP Security Configuration

When using Windows Server Routing and Remote Access Service (RRAS) to terminate Always On VPN client connections, administrators can leverage the Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP) VPN protocol for client-based VPN connections. SSTP is a Microsoft proprietary VPN protocol that uses Transport Layer Security (TLS) to secure connections between the client and the VPN gateway. SSTP provides some crucial advantages over IKEv2 in terms of operational reliability. It uses the TCP port 443, the standard HTTPS port, which is universally available and ensures Always On VPN connectivity even behind highly restrictive firewalls.

TLS Certificate

When configuring SSTP, the first thing to consider is the certificate installed on the server. A certificate with an RSA key is most common, but for SSTP, provisioning a certificate with an ECDSA key is recommended for optimal security and performance. See the following two articles regarding SSTP certificate requirements and ECDSA Certificate Signing Request (CSR) creation.

Always On VPN SSL Certificate Requirements for SSTP

Always On VPN ECDSA SSL Certificate Request for SSTP

TLS Configuration

Much like IKEv2, the default TLS security settings for SSTP are less than optimal. However, SSTP can provide excellent security with some additional configuration.

TLS Protocols

There are several deprecated TLS protocols enabled by default in Windows Server. These include SSLv3.0, TLS 1.0, and TLS 1.1. They should be disabled to improve security for TLS. To do this, open an elevated PowerShell window on the VPN server and run the following commands.

New-Item -Path ‘HKLM:\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\SecurityProviders\SCHANNEL\Protocols\SSL 3.0\Server\’ -Force

New-ItemProperty -Path ‘HKLM:\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\SecurityProviders\SCHANNEL\Protocols\SSL 3.0\Server\’ -Name Enabled -PropertyType DWORD -Value ‘0’

New-Item -Path ‘HKLM:\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\SecurityProviders\SCHANNEL\Protocols\TLS 1.0\Server\’ -Force

New-ItemProperty -Path ‘HKLM:\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\SecurityProviders\SCHANNEL\Protocols\TLS 1.0\Server\’ -Name Enabled -PropertyType DWORD -Value ‘0’

New-Item -Path ‘HKLM:\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\SecurityProviders\SCHANNEL\Protocols\TLS 1.1\Server\’ -Force

New-ItemProperty -Path ‘HKLM:\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\SecurityProviders\SCHANNEL\Protocols\TLS 1.1\Server\’ -Name Enabled -PropertyType DWORD -Value ‘0’

Cipher Suites

Many weak TLS cipher suites and enabled by default in Windows Server. To further enhance security and performance, they can be optimized using a tool such as IIS Crypto. For example, consider prioritizing cipher suites that use ECDHE and GCM with ECDSA to improve security. Also, remove ciphers that use AES-256 to enhance scalability and performance.

Note: AES-256 does not provide any additional practical security over AES-128. Details here.

PowerShell Script

I have published a PowerShell script on GitHub that performs security hardening and TLS cipher suite optimization to streamline the configuration TLS on Windows Server RRAS servers. You can download the script here.

Validation Testing

After running the script and restarting the server, visit the SSL Labs Server Test site to validate the configuration. You should receive an “A” rating, as shown here.

Note: An “A” rating is not achievable on Windows Server 2012 or Windows Server 2012 R2 when using an RSA TLS certificate. A TLS certificate using ECDSA is required to receive an “A” rating on these platforms.

Additional Information

Always On VPN SSL/TLS Certificate Requirements for SSTP

Always On VPN ECDSA SSL Certificate Request for SSTP

Qualys SSL Labs Server Test Site

Always On VPN Protocol Recommendations for Windows Server RRAS

Microsoft SSTP Specification on MSDN

Always On VPN Windows Server RRAS Service Does Not Start

Always On VPN Windows Server RRAS Service Does Not StartAdministrators configuring a Windows Server Routing and Remote Access Service (RRAS) server to support Windows 10 Always On VPN connections may encounter an issue where the RemoteAccess service fails to start. Attempts to start the service might seem to work at first, but the service immediately stops again.

Troubleshooting

On the RRAS server, the Services management console (services.msc) or PowerShell Get-Service command shows the RemoteAccess service as being stopped. Attempts to start the service result in failure.

Always On VPN Windows Server RRAS Service Does Not Start

Event Log

Looking at the System event log on the RRAS server shows an error with event ID 7024 from the Service Control Manager source indicating “The Routing and Remote Access service terminated with the following service-specific error: A device attached to the system is not functioning.

Always On VPN Windows Server RRAS Service Does Not Start

Resolution

This issue is commonly caused when IPv6 is disabled on the server via the registry. To verify, open the registry editor on the RRAS server and navigate to the following location.

HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\Tcpip6\Parameters

If the DisabledComponents value is present and set to anything other than 0, set it to 0 or simply delete the DisabledComponents value completely and reboot the server.

Always On VPN Windows Server RRAS Service Does Not Start

The following PowerShell command can be used to remove the DisabledComponents value.

Remove-ItemProperty HKLM:\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\Tcpip6\Parameters -Name DisabledComponents

Additional Information

IPv6 Recommended Reading for Always On VPN and DirectAccess Administrators

Guidance for Configuring IPv6 in Windows for Advanced Users (Microsoft)

Always On VPN IPsec Root Certificate Configuration Issue

Always On VPN Device Tunnel Status IndicatorWhen configuring a Windows Routing and Remote Access Service (RRAS) server to support Internet Key Exchange version 2 (IKEv2) VPN connections, it is essential for the administrator to define the root certification authority for which to accept IPsec security associations (SAs). Without defining this setting, the VPN server will accept a device certificate issued by any root certification authority defined in the Trusted Root Certification Authorities store. Details about configuring IKEv2 security and defining the root certification authority can be found here.

Multiple Root Certificates

Administrators may find that when they try to define a specific root certification authority, the setting may not be implemented as expected. This commonly occurs when there is more than one root certificate in the Trusted Root Certification Authorities store for the same PKI.

Always On VPN IPsec Root Certificate Configuration Issue

Certificate Selection

When running the PowerShell command Set-VpnAuthProtocol to define the root certification authority, PowerShell may ignore the administrator-defined certificate and choose a different one, as shown here. This will result in failed IPsec VPN connections from Windows 10 Always On VPN clients using IKEv2.

Always On VPN IPsec Root Certificate Configuration Issue

Certificate Publishing

This issue can occur when root certification authority certificates are published using Active Directory group policy. It appears that Windows prefers Active Directory group policy published certificates over those published directly in the Certification Authorities Container in Active Directory. To resolve this issue, remove any group policy objects that are publishing root certification authority certificates and ensure those root certificates are published in the Certification Authorities container in Active Directory.

PowerShell Script

A PowerShell script to configure this setting that can be found in my Always On VPN GitHub repository here. I have updated this script to validate the defined root certification authority certificate and warn the user if it does not match.

Additional Information

Set-Ikev2VpnRootCertificate.ps1 PowerShell script on GitHub

Windows 10 Always On VPN IKEv2 Security Configuration

Windows 10 Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing and NAT

Windows 10 Always On VPN IKEv2 Features and Limitations

Windows 10 Always On VPN IKEv2 Fragmentation

Windows 10 Always On VPN IKEv2 Certificate Requirements

Always On VPN Updates for Windows 10 2004

Always On VPN Updates for Windows 10 2004Microsoft recently made available an update for Windows 10 2004 that includes many important fixes for outstanding issues with Windows 10 Always On VPN. KB4571744 (build 19041.488) addresses many challenges faced by Always On VPN administrators today, including the following.

TPM

This update addresses an issue that prevents hash signing from working correctly using the Microsoft Platform Crypto Provider for Trusted Platform Module (TPM). This issue can occur when administrators configure Always On VPN to use Protected Extensible Authentication Protocol (PEAP) with client certificate authentication using a FortiGate security device.

Sleep/Hibernate

This update also addresses issues with Windows 10 Always On VPN failing to automatically reconnect when resuming from sleep or hibernate. I’ve written about issues with Always On VPN and sleep/hibernate in the past. This is an issue that has plagued Always On VPN since its introduction, so let’s hope this finally provides some meaningful relief from this persistent problem.

Certificate Authentication

When both the Always On VPN device tunnel and user tunnel are provisioned to a Windows 10 clients, user tunnel connections may be authenticated using the machine certificate and not EAP/PEAP. This can result in connections that are not validated as intended, and allowing a user to bypass configured NPS policies, MFA requirements, or conditional access rules. This update includes a fix for this issue, restoring proper authentication for the user tunnel when the device tunnel is also provisioned.

Device and User Tunnel Coexistence

A bug that first appeared when Windows 10 2004 was introduced prevented a device tunnel and user tunnel Always On VPN connection from being established to the same VPN server if the user tunnel used Internet Key Exchange Version 2 (IKEv2). This update restores full functionality under those conditions.

Update KB4571744

To resolve these issues with Windows 10 Always On VPN as well as others, download and install update KB4571744 today. If you are experiencing any of these issues with releases of Windows 10 prior to 2004, look for updates for those build to come later this year.

Additional Information

September 3, 2020 – KB4571744 (OS Build 19041.488) Preview

Windows 10 Always On VPN Connection Issues after Sleep or Hibernate

Windows 10 Always On VPN Bug in Windows 10 2004

Always On VPN SSTP Certificate Binding Error

Always On VPN SSTP Certificate Binding ErrorWhen configuring a Windows Server with the Routing and Remote Access Service (RRAS) role to support Windows 10 Always On VPN connections, the administrator may encounter the following error message when installing or updating the TLS certificate used for Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP) connections.

“The thumbprint (cert hash) of the certificate used for Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP) is different than the certificate bound to the Web listener (HTTP.sys). Configure SSTP to use the default certificate or the certificate bound to SSL. You can configure web server applications to use the same certificate used by SSTP.”

Always On VPN SSTP Certificate Binding Error

IIS Binding

Most commonly this error can occur if an administrator mistakenly binds a TLS certificate directly in IIS. To resolve this problem, open the IIS management console (inetmgr.exe), navigate to the Default Web Site and click Bindings in the Actions section. Highlight the HTTPS binding and click Remove. Once complete, open an elevated command window and run the iisreset.exe command.

Always On VPN SSTP Certificate Binding Error

Netsh

In some instances, the administrator may find no certificate bindings in the IIS management console. However, a certificate binding may still be present. To confirm, open an elevated command window and run the following command.

netsh.exe http show sslcert

Always On VPN SSTP Certificate Binding Error

Remove existing certificate binding by running the following commands.

netsh.exe http delete sslcert ipport=0.0.0.0:443
netsh.exe http delete sslcert ipport=[::]:443

SSTP Configuration

When configuring SSTP in RRAS for Always On VPN, certificate assignment should always be performed using the Routing and Remote Access management console (rrasmgmt.msc). No changes are required to be made in the IIS management console for SSTP.

Additional Information

Windows 10 Always On VPN SSL Certificate Requirements for SSTP

Windows 10 Always On VPN SSTP Load Balancing with Citrix NetScaler ADC Load Balancer

Windows 10 Always On VPN SSTP Load Balancing with Kemp LoadMaster Load Balancer

Windows 10 Always On VPN SSTP Load Balancing with F5 BIG-IP Load Balancer

Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing and NAT

Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing and NATOver the last few weeks, I’ve worked with numerous organizations and individuals troubleshooting connectivity and performance issues associated with Windows 10 Always On VPN, and specifically connections using the Internet Key Exchange version 2 (IKEv2) VPN protocol. An issue that appears with some regularity is when Windows 10 clients fail to connect with error 809. In this scenario, the server will accept connections without issue for a period of time and then suddenly stop accepting requests. When this happens, existing connections continue to work without issue in most cases. Frequently this occurs with Windows Server Routing and Remote Access Service (RRAS) servers configured in a clustered array behind an External Load Balancer (ELB).

Network Address Translation

It is not uncommon to use Network Address Translation (NAT) when configuring Always On VPN. In fact, for most deployments the public IP address for the VPN server resides not on the VPN server, but on an edge firewall or load balancer connected directly to the Internet. The firewall/load balancer is then configured to translate the destination address to the private IP address assigned to the VPN server in the perimeter/DMZ or the internal network. This is known a Destination NAT (DNAT). Using this configuration, the client’s original source IP address is left intact. This configuration presents no issues for Always On VPN.

Source Address Translation

When troubleshooting these issues, the common denominator seems to be the use of Full NAT, which includes translating the source address in addition to the destination. This results in VPN client requests arriving at the VPN server as appearing not to come from the client’s original IP address, but the IP address of the network device (firewall or load balancer) that is translating the request. Full NAT may be explicitly configured by an administrator, or in the case of many load balancers, configured implicitly because the load balancer is effectively proxying the connection.

Known Issues

IKEv2 VPN connections use IPsec for encryption, and by default, Windows limits the number of IPsec Security Associations (SAs) coming from a single IP address. When a NAT device is performing destination/full NAT, the VPN server sees all inbound IKEv2 VPN requests as coming from the same IP address. When this happens, clients connecting using IKEv2 may fail to connect, most commonly when the server is under moderate to heavy load.

Resolution

The way to resolve this issue is to ensure that any load balancers or NAT devices are not translating the source address but are performing destination NAT only. The following is configuration guidance for F5, Citrix ADC (formerly NetScaler), and Kemp load balancers.

F5

On the F5 BIG-IP load balancer, navigate to the Properties > Configuration page of the IKEv2 UDP 500 virtual server and choose None from the Source Address Translation drop-down list. Repeat this step for the IKEv2 UDP 4500 virtual server.

Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing and NAT

Citrix ADC

On the Citrix ADC load balancer, navigate to System > Settings > Configure Modes and check the option to Use Subnet IP.

Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing and NAT

Next, navigate to Traffic Management > Load Balancing > Service Groups and select the IKEv2 UDP 500 service group. In the Settings section click edit and select Use Client IP. Repeat these steps for the IKEv2 UDP 4500 service group.

Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing and NAT

Kemp

On the Kemp LoadMaster load balancer, navigate to Virtual Services > View/Modify Services and click Modify on the IKEv2 UDP 500 virtual service. Expand Standard Options and select Transparency. Repeat this step for the IKEv2 UDP 4500 virtual service.

Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing and NAT

Caveat

Making the changes above may introduce routing issues in your environment. When configuring these settings, it may be necessary to configure the VPN server’s default gateway to use the load balancer to ensure proper routing. If this is not possible, consider implementing the workaround below.

Workaround

To fully resolve this issue the above changes should be made to ensure the VPN server can see the client’s original source IP address. If that’s not possible for any reason, the following registry key can be configured to increase the number of established SAs from a single IP address. Be advised this is only a partial workaround and may not fully eliminate failed IKEv2 connections. There are other settings in Windows that can prevent multiple connections from a single IP address which are not adjustable at this time.

To implement this registry change, open an elevated PowerShell command window on the RRAS server and run the following commands. Repeat these commands on all RRAS servers in the organization.

New-ItemProperty -Path ‘HKLM:SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\IKEEXT\Parameters\’ -Name IkeNumEstablishedForInitialQuery -PropertyType DWORD -Value 50000 -Force

Restart-Service IKEEXT -Force -PassThru

Additional Information

IPsec Traffic May Be Blocked When A Computer is Behind a Load Balancer

Windows 10 Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing with Citrix NetScaler ADC

Windows 10 Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing with F5 BIG-IP

Windows 10 Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing with Kemp LoadMaster

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