The anatomy of a ransomware attack: Inside the hacks that lock down computer systems and damage businesses.

Just hours before the Fourth of July weekend, a huge, coordinated cyberattack hit hundreds of businesses across the world. A group of hackers broke in by exploiting a hole in the software code of an information technology company with a wide-ranging client base, then demanded $70 million in ransom.

A large grocery chain in Sweden shut down hundreds of stores. Schools in New Zealand warned that staff might not be able to use computers.

It was the biggest case yet of a scourge that affects the world’s companies and government agencies nearly every day, and that is only getting worse. In an analysis of publicly reported ransomware attacks against health-care providers, municipalities and schools, The Washington Post found that ransomware attacks in the United States more than doubled from 2019 to 2020.

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