Numerous Steam users have reported that a game titled Abstractism is consuming way too much CPU power to mine for cryptocurrency. The game was also selling marketplace items that were masqueraded as goods from popular games such as Team Fortress 2. As a result, Valve has removed the game from Steam, along with the developer of the title, Okalo Union.
Several reports were received in regards of Abstractism. Players of the game were alerted by the excessive CPU and GPU usage mainly because the game is simple and minimalistic. As pointed out by security researcher Graham Cluey, “when you see the very-basic game in action, it’s hard to believe that it could have any legitimate need to stretch the abilities of a typical gaming PC”.
That’s not all, however. Abstractism was also found guilty of duplicating expensive items from other games, and attempting to sell the fake copies at higher prices in Steam’s Community Market. Gamers reported the scams on Forums Backpack and over Reddit.
steamservice.exe at Fault for Cryptomining?
As for the cryptomining activities associated with Abstractism, they involve an executable file known as steamservice.exe. The latter was added to the game on July 23. However, it should be noted that reports about unusual CPU usage came even earlier than this.
Okalo Union, the developer of the game, announced on the same day that item drops were available, but only when specific conditions were met: they are linked to playtime, and get less frequent, but more valuable, as you play. The gamer also needs to have Abstractism open for the drop timer to reset, scheduled to happen every Friday.
PC Games N’s Richard Scott-Jones has wrapped up the Abstractism cryptomining case:
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].”
According to Abstractism’s store page, it was released on Steam on March 15. However, it is yet to be confirmed whether the game was exploiting the gamers’ PC resources from the very beginning. It should also be noted that the game’s presence in the platform wasn’t short at all, which definitely raises questions about Valve’s curation processes.