Robert Gren was working from home on Friday when, all of a sudden, his laptop stopped working.

What he initially thought was just a kink in his computer’s software was in fact part of a global ransomware attack that has affected more than 200,000 computers and caused untold havoc from China to Britain.

Now, Mr. Gren and the thousands of other victims worldwide face an agonizing choice: either hand over the ransom — a figure that has climbed to $600 for each affected machine — by a deadline this Friday, or potentially lose their digital information, including personal photos, hospital patient records and other priceless data, forever.

“I’m pretty devastated,” said Mr. Gren, 32, a manager of an online entertainment business in Krakow, Poland, who has spent almost all of his waking hours since Friday looking for ways to reclaim his digital data. “I’ve lost private files that I have no other way of recovering. For me, the damage has been huge.”

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