Three companies removed from Steam alongside alleged crypto mining scam

Some games on Steam have been using players CPU resources to mine for cryptocurrencies without their permission

July 30, 2018 Alleged cryptojacking and item scamming game Abstractism has been removed from Steam, along with at least three companies associated with it.

According to numerous user investigations, Steam title Abstractism is guilty of appropriating your CPU resources for unannounced cryptocurrency mining, and selling marketplace items intended to look deceptively like goods from popular games like Team Fortress 2. Or rather, it was – as Valve has now removed the offending title from Steam.

A number of suspicious reports about Abstractism came in over the past weekend, and the game disappeared from the store earlier today – along with developer Okalo Union. A Valve representative tells us via email that the company has has “removed Abstractism and banned its developer from Steam for shipping unauthorized code, trolling with content, and scamming customers with deceptive in-game items.”

The listed publisher, is also nowhere to be found on Steam now, though its history remains thanks to SteamSpy. The company also published a game called dead_file.exe last year, a narrative platformer from developer Saddletrip. That game, along with Saddletrip, has been similarly been scrubbed from the store.

A thorough breakdown of Abstractism’s alleged misconduct came courtesy of YouTuber SidAlpha. The item trading ploy was raised on the TF2 forums by PoorAsianBoy, who claims to be “a reputable and experienced” item trader with at least three years of experience. Nonetheless, they were hoodwinked by an item on the Steam marketplace that looked identical to a rare TF2 Rocket Launcher in its thumbnail and description. Only a small icon reveals that it dropped from Abstractism, not TF2.

As SidAlpha explains, the Abstractism devs appear to have tried to cover their tracks by changing its details (though the URL still leads to an item associated with the game). The items that remain on Abstractism’s shop are meaningless and low-effort, apart from those that are trolling or offensive.

The crypto mining point turns around an executable called ‘steamservice.exe’, which was added to the game with a patch on July 23 (though reports of suspiciously high CPU usage and accusations of cryptomining came earlier than this). Developer Okalo Union announced on the same day that item drops were available, but were attached to some unusual conditions: they are linked to playtime, and get less frequent, but more valuable, as you play. You also need to have Abstractism open for the drop timer to reset, which will happen every Friday.

As SidAlpha explains with reference to this article at CSO Online, this incentivises players to have the game open for a long time and at a particular moment, both of which would be useful if it is a cryptominer.

Okalo Union’s assertion that steamservice.exe is necessary so Abstractism can grant item drops is spurious to say the least given that no other game that drops items seems to need such an app. Then there’s this suggestion that all that CPU activity is due to “high graphics settings”, when Abstractism’s graphics are obviously simple enough to run on a potato. And then there’s the fact that an earlier version of that comment apparently said “we currently use Abstractism to mine only Monero coins” while also saying “Abstractism does not mine any of cryptocurrency [sic].”

Abstractism’s store page suggests that it released on Steam on March 15, though it’s not clear if it was trying to pull all this crap from that very first release. Nonetheless, its lengthy presence on Steam will once again raise questions about Valve’s curation processes. We’ve reached out to Okalo Union for comment, but we did not receive responses in time for the publication of our original story or this update.