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By the time Deb Dellapena arrived for work at Merck & Co.’s 90-acre campus north of Philadelphia, there was a handwritten sign on the door: The computers are down.

It was worse than it seemed. Some employees who were already at their desks at Merck offices across the U.S. were greeted by an even more unsettling message when they turned on their PCs. A pink font glowed with a warning: “Ooops, your important files are encrypted. … We guarantee that you can recover all your files safely and easily. All you need to do is submit the payment …” The cost was $300 worth of bitcoin per computer.

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