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Britain's National Health Service declared a "major incident" after cyber attacks hit dozens of hospitals on Friday, as security experts pointed to a global campaign that also disrupted Spanish businesses. Some of the affected hospitals had to divert ambulances, scrap operations and shut down their computer systems or ask patients to avoid contacting their family doctors unless absolutely necessary.

At least 16 organisations within the state-run National Health Service, some of them responsible for several hospitals each, have reported being struck. "A number of NHS organisations have reported to NHS Digital that they have been affected by a ransomware attack," NHS Digital said in a statement. Pictures posted on social media showed screens of NHS computers with images demanding payment of $300 (275 euros) worth of the online currency Bitcoin, saying: "Ooops, your files have been encrypted!"

It adds: "Maybe you are looking for a way to recover your files, but do not waste your time." It demands payment in three days or the price is doubled, and if none is received in seven days the files will be deleted, the screen message claims. In Spain, employees at telecom giant Telefonica were told to shut down their workstations immediately through megaphone announcements as the attack spread.

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