As reported by Polygon, Valve Corporation has yanked a game called "Abstractism" from its digital video game marketplace, Steam. Certain players believe the title was facilitating a form of cryptojacking, or the unauthorized use of somebody else's computer to mine cryptocurrency.
When the game was available on the web store, it was marketed as "an absolutely trivial platformer" but with a "stylish minimalistic design and a relaxing atmosphere." The gaming community, though, took to the internet to alert other players of the game's potential dangers. One vocal gamer, YouTube personality SidAlpha, posted a video describing how he saw the overall illegitimate nature of the platformer.
SidAlpha first noted that an individual was allegedly scammed for a faked Team Fortress 2 item. The game also contained over 190 items total – a lot for a basic, inexpensive title like "Abstractism" – but many of these items were suspicious. Further, SidAlpha said he personally ran a Windows Defender scan that flagged the application as a Trojan virus.
Another YouTube user, Matheus Muller, commented on the game's possible cryptojacking setup. He provided a list of red flags: high resource consumption not commensurate with the title's graphical quality, CPU and GPU usage consistent with crypto mining operations, and a large amount of network activity, to name a few. Muller concluded that "there's no doubt … this game runs a Monero mining node."
The platformer's developer, in a contradictory comment, both admitted to and denied using the game to mine Monero. "Bitcoin is outdated, we currently use Abstractism to mine only Monero coins," the developer stated. "Abstractism does not mine any of cryptocurrency."
Moreover, according to Polygon, the game encouraged users to keep the application "running at all times" – another tell-tale sign of cryptojacking.
Hours after SidAlpha and others voiced their concerns about "Abstractism," the game was taken down from Steam. However, Valve did not explicitly mention cryptojacking as the reason for the title's removal; the corporation said it was pulled due to "shipping unauthorized code, trolling, and scamming customers with deceptive in-game items."
Apparently, scammers have exploited the Steam marketplace before. In September 2017, it was reported that Valve had removed almost 200 games from the marketplace for "asset flipping," or the practice of developing a game mostly from premade assets with little to no original work. The corporation stated it has "ended [its] business relationship with" the offending video game development companies, including Silicon Echo Studios and Zonitron Productions.
Cryptojacking is a well-known concern in the ecosystem. In June, the Android emulator Andy OS was accused of installing malware on users' devices to continuously mine crypto. More recently, on July 26, Kaspersky Lab published its research identifying the cryptojacking malware PowerGhost, which can, apparently, "stealthily embed itself into a system and spread across corporate networks."