Ex-Execs At Assassin’s Creed Publisher Arrested For Questioning

Three years after allegations of sexual misconduct inside Assassin’s Creed publisher Ubisoft first surfaced, French authorities are moving ahead with a criminal investigation. Five former executives were detained for questioning on October 3, including former VP Tommy Francois, and CEO Yves Guillemot’s former right-hand head of creative, Serge Hascoët.

The arrests were first reported by the French newspaper Libération, and have been corroborated by Kotaku’s own sources. As part of the detentions, the former executives will give testimony to law enforcement that could be used in an eventual criminal trial. The high-profile action being taken regarding allegations that first came to light in 2020 follows a multi-year investigation involving interviews with over 50 current and former employees, Libération reports.

Hascoët, a 32-year veteran at Ubisoft, had long been in charge of the creative direction of games, franchises, and the company itself as its chief creative officer. Developers across the company were regularly required to present progress on their games to him and others at the publisher’s Paris headquarters, with his feedback determinging the life or death of a project, as well as whether minute gameplay features should be added or abandoned. François, a VP who reported to Hascoët, oversaw Ubisoft’s World Texture Facility (known as “WTF”), a massive database of artwork and onsite research from across the globe that teams relied on for inspiration in crafting the company’s biggest blockbusters like Far Cry and Ghost Recon.

Reports by Libération and Bloomberg accused both men of sexual misconduct and contributing to a misogynistic “boys club” mentality at the Paris office. Hasocet would allegeldy make sexual comments about employees and growl at them in a suggesetive manner during meetings, while François was accused of trying to forcibly kiss a female colleague at a work party while another male colleague held her from behind. Both men departed from the company in July 2020 right after the reports were published, but Ubisoft never confirmed if either one of them was actually fired.

While far from the only employees accused of sexual misconduct at the company, they were two of the most high-profile. In June 2021, the French union Solidaires Informatique Jeu Vidéo, along with multiple victims, filed complaints with the Bobigny criminal court against the company as a whole as well as Guillemot and then head of human resources, Cecile Cornet, of “institutional harassment” for failing to maintain a safe work environment and, in some instances, allegedly looking the other way. According to Libération’s earlier report, Cornet told some staff at Ubisoft that “Yves [Guillemot] is OK with toxic management, as long as the results of these managers exceed their level of toxicity.”

Depending on the outcome of the interrogations, the former executives, including Hascoët, could be forced to present their testimony before a judge. It’s unclear if any current executives at the company, like Guillemot, have been questioned by police as part of the investigation so far. The company has mostly tried to turn the page on the workplace reckoning, and is currently preparing to release Assassin’s Creed Mirage on October 5, the first new game in the blockbuster franchise since 2020.

“Ubisoft has no knowledge of what has been shared and therefore can’t comment,” a spokesperson for the company told Kotaku.


Ransomware Group Responsible For Capcom Hack In 2020 Arrested

A hacker gang that breached various high-profile companies like computer component manufacturer ADATA and video game publisher Capcom within the last several years has been arrested by an international police force, according to law enforcement agency Europol.

Read More: Capcom Says Covid-19 Made Company Vulnerable To Ransomware Attack

An October 20 report by the government agency states that the ransomware group known as Ragnar Locker was brought to an end after 11 different countries came together to investigate and prosecute the hackers. The group is probably best known for taking responsibility for the November 2020 Capcom cyberattack that exposed hundreds of thousands of pieces of employee information, including names, emails, and passport details. It claimed to have stolen over 1TB of data; the publisher would later detail exactly what data was compromised, which included the personal and corporate information of current and former employees, financial details and sales reports, and developer documents. In total, the confidential data of roughly 390,000 people may have been exposed on the dark web thanks to the cyberattack.

But Ragnar Locker may be no more, following an elaborate, multi-country sting operation that took place between October 16 and 20 spanning Czechia, Latvia, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, and more, during which the “key target” of the bunch was arrested in Paris and brought in front of the Paris Judicial Court. His Czechia home was searched and the gang’s infrastructure was seized across the globe. Meanwhile, five other suspects connected to the ransomware gang Ragnar Locker were also interviewed in Spain and Latvia.

An international police force, composed of 11 countries including Japan and the U.S., also took down Ragnar Locker’s ransomware—the malicious malware it uploads to get access to devices—and the website it used to leak stolen data.

“Prevention and security are improving, however ransomware operators continue to innovate and find new victims,” Edvardas Šileris, head of Europol’s European cybercrime center, said in the report. “Europol will play its role in supporting EU Member States as they target these groups, and each case is helping us improve our modes of investigation and our understanding of these groups. I hope this round of arrests sends a strong message to ransomware operators who think they can continue their attacks without consequence.”

According to Europol’s findings, Ragnar Locker isn’t just the name of the now-defunct group. It’s also the name of the ransomware the gang developed for its cyberattacks, including more recent ones against the Portuguese national carrier and an Israeli hospital. It used this malware to attack devices running Microsoft Windows, exploiting services like Remote Desktop Protocol to gain access to devices and data. So, while speculative, breaking into Windows PCs may have been how Ragnar Locker slipped through Capcom’s defense systems.

Kotaku reached out to Capcom and Europol for comment.

Read More: Sony Suffers Two Hacks In Four Months, Thousands Of Employees’ Info Exposed

Capcom isn’t the only video game company to have been breached by hackers in the last few years. Earlier this fall, a new ransomware group known as Ransomed.vc claimed to have broken into “all of Sony systems.” Sony was hacked this past May as well, with a different cyberattacker group claiming to have accessed info on some 6,791 current and former employees.