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FILE – A Russian man identified as Alexander Vinnik, center, is escorted by police officers from the courthouse at the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, in this Friday, Sept. 29, 2017, file photo. Vinnick, convicted of laundering $160 million in criminal proceeds through a cryptocurrency exchange, is currently imprisoned in France and might yield additional information about the intersection of organized cybercrime and the Russian state. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos, File)
BOSTON — A global epidemic of digital extortion known as ransomware is crippling governments, hospitals, school districts and businesses by scrambling their data files until they pay up. Law enforcement agencies have been largely powerless to stop it.
One big reason: Ransomware rackets are dominated by Russian-speaking cybercriminals who are shielded — and sometimes employed — by Russian intelligence agencies, according to security researchers, U.S. law enforcement officials, and now the Biden administration.