A game that was, until very recently, up for sale on Steam has been accused by numerous parties of secretly using its players' computers to mine for cryptocurrency.
Eurogamer reports that the platformer Abstractism has come under fire for installing viruses and malware disguised as unassuming files like “steam.exe” and “abstractism launcher.” Though the game itself has now vanished from Steam, it has seemingly been live on the digital storefront since at least late March.
This all comes during a time where Valve has been embracing a more hands-off approach to moderating games that appear on its massive digital storefront Steam, and instead focusing on creating tools for users to filter what appears in their feeds. In a previous blog post, the company said it would endeavor to remove games that are “illegal or straight up trolling” but that it largely won’t police the content hosted on its platform.
Abstractism itself has been on Steam since at least March 2018, though the earliest mention in its Steam Reviews of overly intensive resource demands only showed up on July 20.
The YouTuber SidAlpha dug into the scam in a video posted July 29, noting that the game was also using assets from Valve’s Team Fortress 2 to create at least one fake Steam Marketplace item that could then be used to dupe unsuspecting Team Fortress 2 players into trading valuable in-game items for an Abstractism fake.
A comment on SidAlpha’s original video from the user Matheus Muller neatly sums up many of the concerns, noting that “the game resource consumption is significant and inconsistent with its graphical quality or complexity, [and] the proportion of CPU/GPU/RAM/IO usage is consistent with what you would expect from a crypto miner.”
The developer previously addressed accusations on its Steam Community page by saying that the high resource usage was due to the demands of graphical rendering when the game was being played on high settings but, as Muller points out, “the resources used are not only graphical in nature, but include a sizeable amount of disk space which again is not expected from a game of this complexity, but is expected of a crypto miner.”
UPDATE: Valve has confirmed that it has now removed both Abstractism and its developer from Steam for "shipping unauthorized code, trolling, and scamming customers with deceptive in-game items."