Valve bans Steam game that was installing cryptocurrency mining malware

Earlier this year, Steam creator Valve announced that it was opening up the online marketplace to nearly all games, provided that they weren’t illegal. This gives players more choices when they’re browsing, but one game previously available on Steam appeared to be infecting users with malware.

The platformer Abstractism, which was advertised on Steam as a game with a “stylish minimalistic design” and “relaxing atmosphere,” appeared to install a cryptocurrency-mining program on users’ systems after the game was installed. Users who purchased the game have uploaded screenshots showing that the game is recognized as a trojan virus by their security software, and YouTube user SidAlpha was led to believe that — due to the high CPU and GPU stress caused by the game — this virus was mining cryptocurrency.

It was also discovered that in-game items in Abstractism were being sold on Steam under the guise of being rare virtual items for Team Fortress 2, causing players to spend real money on them without realizing that they were effectively worthless. The game’s developer, Okalo Union, attempted to cover its tracks by renaming these items and changing the associated images, but the original URLs still confirmed they were intended to trick users.

Following this controversy, Valve banned Okalo Union from Steam and removed Abstractism from the store, telling Kotaku that it had shipped “unauthorized code” and had engaged in “trolling” and “scamming customers with deceptive in-game items.”

For its part, Okalo Union said Abstracism was not a cryptocurrency miner, despite earlier suggesting it was, and that the programs flagged by antivirus software were necessary to handle the game’s item drops. The developer, however, encouraged players to have the game open for increasingly long periods of time, which would make perfect sense if was using their system to mine cryptocurrency during that time.

Valve’s decision to open up Steam to a wider selection of games sounded like it could be a good idea, but if users can’t guarantee that a game they download from the service won’t harm their computer, the company has a big problem. With any luck, its quick removal of Abstractism is indicative of how it will handle future issues.

Updated on 7-31-2018 by Gabe Gurwin: Updated to reflect that the game is no longer on Steam and its developer is banned.


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