ESEA release malware into public client, forcing users to farm Bitcoins [Updated]

Update: ESEA co-founder Craig "Torbull" Levine has responded with a more official statement , posted to the ESEA news page. He admits they were testing Bitcoin integration, to "determine whether it was a feature that we might want to add in the future." Ultimately, Torbull says, they decided against it.

He goes to claim that "an employee who was involved in the test has been using the test code for his own personal gain since April 13, 2013."

"The owners and management at ESEA all apologize to each of you that were impacted by the recent events and intend to make things right," Torbull continues. "ESEA has issued a free month of ESEA Premium to all of our community members who were enrolled in Premium for the month of April. We also ask anyone who has experienced any physical damage to their computers to open an ESEA support ticket.

"In an effort to maintain complete transparency, we have released all of the Bitcoin wallet addresses as well as data dumps of the wallets themselves. The value of the mined Bitcoins was $3,713.55 and ESEA will be donating 100% of the $3,713.55 to the American Cancer Society. ESEA will also match 100% of this amount for a total of $7,427.10 donated. ESEA is also increasing the Season 14 League prize pot by $3,713.55."

Original Story: Multiplayer eSports network ESEA was found to have malware in its anti-cheat client, which used users' graphics cards to mine for Bitcoins. Information about the exploit was posted to the ESEA's forums by user "ENJOY ESEA SHEEP", who found he had been unwittingly farming Bitcoins for someone in the community after noticing excessively high idle GPU usage.

Mining is the legitimate, and deliberately system-intensive process of adding transaction records to Bitcoin's public ledger - generating Bitcoins for the miner in the process. The ESEA client had been pooling the GPUs of users in order to generate more money for wallets held by ESEA staff.

ESEA co-founder Eric 'lpkane' Thunberg responded to the accusation, initially claiming it was a mistakenly released April Fool's joke. His first statement is kind of amazing:

"Lol that got aggressive quickly.

"Back towards the end of march, as BTC was skyrocketing, Jaguar and I were talking about how cool it would be if we could use massive amounts of GPUs logged into the client to mine.

"We went back and forth about it, considered doing something for April fools, didn't get it done in time, and eventually elected to put some test code in the client and try it on a few admin accounts, ours included.

"We ran the test for a few days on our accounts, decided it wasn't worth the potential drama, and pulled the plug, or so we thought.

"Fast forward to 48 hours ago, a fuck up in the client server results in a restart which results in a setting getting changed which enables it for all idle users, and here we are."

Thunberg claimed the combined efforts of ESEA users' unaware mining netted them roughly 2BTC, or $280, which he promised would be put towards the Season 14 prize pot.

He returned with a second statement a few hours later, after users pointed out that anti-viruses had been flagging the client for longer than the claimed 48 hours. He admits the mining had been part of the client since 14th April, and that the overall money mined totaled $3,602.21, before going to say:

"So first the bad news, this is way more shady than I originally thought, and as the person who is ultimately responsible for everything it's 100% my fault.

"Now the good news, as of the client update released in the last hour, all the BTC stuff is out which should solve the GPU and AV warnings."

Thunberg once again promised to use the now substantially higher total as part of the Season 14 prize pot, and that - as recompense for the additional strain that's been placed on user's GPUs - would gift a free one month Premium code for Premium account holders. He finished by saying, "once again, our bad, thanks for keeping us honest."

Thanks, Cadred and PCGamesN .

Phil Savage

Phil has been writing for PC Gamer for nearly a decade, starting out as a freelance writer covering everything from free games to MMOs. He eventually joined full-time as a news writer, before moving to the magazine to review immersive sims, RPGs and Hitman games. Now he leads PC Gamer's UK team, but still sometimes finds the time to write about his ongoing obsessions with Destiny 2, GTA Online and Apex Legends. When he's not levelling up battle passes, he's checking out the latest tactics game or dipping back into Guild Wars 2. He's largely responsible for the whole Tub Geralt thing, but still isn't sorry.