BOSTON (AP) — A global epidemic of digital extortion known as ransomware is crippling local governments, hospitals, school districts and businesses by scrambling their data files until they pay up. Most frustrating, these rackets are dominated by Russian-speaking cybercriminals who are shielded and sometimes even employed by Russia’s security agencies. That’s according to security researchers, U.S. law enforcement, and now the Biden administration. Ransomware is chiefly the work of Russian-speaking syndicates that hack into networks and paralyze them by scrambling data. Damages from the scourge now exceed tens of billions of dollars; one former intelligence official considers it more damaging than cyberespionage.