Steam is weathering grief for its game publishing policy with news the platform may be hosting games with embedded cryptocurrency mining trojans. After initially banning offensive and adult themed games, Steam reversed the decision and vowed to adopt a hands-off curating approach. This may not have been the best course of action as it was revealed that platformer Abstractism is allegedly using a botnet of player machines to mine crypto.
When launched, Abstracticism loads up a suspiciously named steamservice.exe, identical to a program required for Steam to function. The only difference being that the Abstractism version loads up from the game files rather than the main Steam folder. The file is picked up by numerous anti-virus programs as a trojan or malware. Developer Okalo Union has responded by explaining the file is crucial to the game working correctly and denied mining allegations.
When playing, numerous players have reported spikes in graphics and processor usage – the most common indicator of mining trojans – which don’t correlate with the power requirement of a simple platformer. The game is essentially a monochrome puzzle game where you play as a black square. There’s nothing even remotely power intensive under the hood. Abstractism developer Okalo Union claims this is only the case if players enable high graphical settings.
Abstractism also encourages players to run the game as much as possibly by promising item drops. Crypto-mining is all about sustained access to computing power further reinforcing the allegations.
In addition, it seems Abstracism has created an unspecified number of fake Team Fortress 2 items, which are then sold on the Steam Market. Identical to legit items in name and avatar, the items are difficult to ascertain as fake, hence the pitfall. Items can fetch upwards of $100 meaning a fake can be a costly gaff for being scammed.
Among Abstractism inventory are some fairly telltale signs of its scamming intentions such as items depicting middle of the road, and often distasteful, memes and the like. All signs indicate the developer has been at it for some time as well.
The story shows that scammers are taking advantage of Steam hands-off approach and even going to less effort to conceal their nefarious activities, prompting questions over whether the digital storefront should reverse its policy and provide a more stringent vetting process for games.