It appears that Steam, the popular gaming platform, unknowingly hosted a game called Abstractism which depleted users’ CPU resources for concealed cryptocurrency mining and sold marketplace items which intentionally resembled assets from known games such as Team Fortress 2.
Many users reported suspicious activity regarding Abstractism in the past weekend, and the game was removed from the store earlier today, as well as its developer Okalo Union.
A Valve spokesperson has stated via an email that the company has “removed Abstractism and banned its developer from Steam for shipping unauthorized code, trolling with content, and scamming customers with deceptive in-game items.”
Along with its developer, its listed publisher, dead.team also went missing on the Steam platform almost right away, but its history has been kept intact due to SteamSpy. The publisher also released a game named dead_file.exe last year created by developer Saddletrip. That game and Saddletrip, have both disappeared from the store in a similar manner to Abstracticism and its own creator.
The suspected wrongdoing of Abstractism was exposed via a YouTube video made by SidAlpha in which he pointed out the issue. The item trading tactic was discussed on the TF2 forums by PoorAsianBoy, who described himself as being “a reputable and experienced” item trader.
But in spite of their experience, they were deceived by an asset on the Steam marketplace which bared a striking resemblance to a rare TF2 Rocket Launcher in its thumbnail and description. Just a small icon shows that its Abstractism provenance, instead of TF2.
SidAlpha explained that the Abstractism developers have attempted to hide the remnants of their activities by altering its details (even though the URL still links to an item from the game). The items which are still in Abstractism’s shop have no purpose and are poorly made, and those which do not fall in that category are either trolling or offensive.
The crypto mining operation was enabled through executable called ‘steamservice.exe’, which came as a patch for the game on July 23 (but accounts of suspiciously high CPU drainage in relation to cryptomining were reported earlier than this date).
That same day, developer Okalo Union revealed that item drops were available but they came with some weird conditions: they had linkage to playtime, declined in frequency but increased in value the more you played. For the drop timer to reset you also needed to have Abstractism open every Friday.
As SidAlpha explains, this was done to motivate the players to keep the game open for a long time and at some point, this would enable the app to mine crypto.
Okalo Union’s statement that steamservice.exe is needed so that Abstractism can perform item drops is false seeing a no other game requires such app to make its item drops. He also suggested that all the heightened CPU activity was because of “high graphics settings” when Abstractism’s obviously did not require such resources.
And there is also an early comment that stated that “we currently use Abstractism to mine only Monero coins” and then went on to contradict itself by saying “Abstractism does not mine any of cryptocurrency [sic].”
Abstractism’s store page shows that the game was released on Steam on March 15, making many wonder just how effective Valve’s curation processes really are.