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security breach

A massive, NSA-linked cyberattack has hit 75,000 computers in 99 countries

A ransomware cyberattack using tools developed by the NSA has infected more than 75,000 computers in 99 countries, digital security firm Avast said Friday. Most of the attack targets are located in Russia, Ukraine, and Taiwan, but large systems have been taken down in Europe, too, including FedEx, Germany's national railways, and the United Kingdom's National Health Service.

The attack takes over a computer system via a malicious email, then requires the owner to pay a ransom to regain control. "Affected machines have six hours to pay up and every few hours the ransom goes up," explained Kurt Baumgartner, a security researcher. "Most folks that have paid up appear to have paid the initial $300 in the first few hours."

Europol, the European Union's police agency, is responding to the attack, which the agency says "is at an unprecedented level and will require a complex international investigation to identify the culprits."