Game Secretly Mines Cryptocurrency with Players’ Computers

Abstractism was eventually removed from the Steam game platform, from which it had been downloaded 6,000 times.

A major video game sales platform has withdrawn a game over claims that harbours a crypto-jacking file, according to a report in Motherboard.

The game is called ‘Abstractism’ and approximately 6,000 people purchased it from video game marketplace Steam since its release in mid-March, according to GeekWire. The game cost $0.49 to download.

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Excuse me, my rocket launcher doesn’t seem to be working…

It is a very simple platform game. Its official description calls it “an absolutely trivial platformer, but the only really special feature—there is ‘Game over!’ But instead, there is an ASMR soundtrack, a stylish minimalistic design and a relaxing atmosphere inside!”

Abstractism actually has an entry in the Crappy Games Wikipedia, which is a website listing games which are… sub-par. The reasons listed for its inadequacy are poor controls, awful jumping physics, and visual lag. More relevant to our purposes, it mentions overpriced in-game items, many of which do not actually do anything, and a cryptocurrency mining virus.

Soon after its release, users began complaining that it behaved like a crypto-jacker – that is, it was very computer-heavy, which was very much at odds with its primitive graphics and gameplay. Okalo Union, the developer of the game, also encouraged people to keep the game running constantly. If that wasn’t enough, Abstractism had a tendency to trigger anti-virus software.

Attention was initially attracted to the game because of its sale of knockoff items. The items were bootlegged from a popular game called Team Fortress 2. This game is a multiplayer shooter, but it has a feature whereby players can trade and sell items. These things cost real money, and some rarer ones can fetch thousands of dollars.

A few days ago, one Abstractism user reported being scammed – he had traded a valuable item for a fake rocket launcher! Specifically, his Strange Australium Rocket Launcher was a worthless counterfeit – real ones are currently $83, according to the official Team Fortress website.

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Abstractism had copied the icon of the weapon and stuck it on top of one their own, virtual one. A different player began investigating and found that most of the items sold by Abstractism were worthless. This brought people’s attention to the issue, and Steam removed the game. A spokesperson told Motherboard via email: “We have removed Abstractism and banned its developer from Steam for shipping unauthorized code, trolling with content, and scamming customers with deceptive in-game items.”

Steam is a distribution platform for video games. It is owned by Valve Corporation of Washington DC,

It was launched in September 2003 and is now the largest such service in the world. In 2017 it made $4.3 billion in games sales – the entire PC gaming industry made $32.3 billion that year. By the beginning of 2018 it had 150 million registered accounts.

A global issue

In December 2017 a cryptocurrency mining script infected the Chrome version of Facebook Messenger and was reported in seven different countries. Digimine, as it was called, mines Monero and will send links to its own download page to Facebook friends of the victim.

In March, $75,000 was mined from home computers without their owners’ knowledge or consent. This virus, watchd0g.sh, took advantage of a flaw in a Linux-related extension and was discovered in Japan, Taiwan, China, India, and the US.

In May we reported on a crypto-jacking virus which shuts down its host computer if confronted with an anti-virus – this software managed to steal $26,800 in this way.

Such is the scale of the problem, Japanese authorities have banned cryptocurrency exchanges from dealing in anonymous cryptocurrencies, like Monero.

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