On some websites, you may have noticed that you are prevented from continuing your visit or purchase until you solve a puzzle of obscure letters or pictures. After staring at a few squiggly lines, deciphering the words, and typing the correct word in a blank space, you may finally continue. This process is done to verify that we are, in fact, humans accessing the site.
This test is called CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Humans and Computers Apart) and is used all over the web. The ticket sales website, Ticketmaster, is an excellent example of CAPTCHA-in-use; without the human-verification test, a “robot” could potentially buy millions of tickets before a concert or event sells out, and then reap the benefits of scalping them for much higher prices.
Having to guess a combination of letters and numbers each time we do something on the web is definitely annoying. And time-consuming. Each time you solve a CAPTCHA, you waste 10 seconds of your life. That’s why CAPTCHA has earned a bad reputation among Internet users, despite the fact that it was created to guarantee our safety.
CAPTCHA prevents a cyber-criminal from raiding the internet
Luis von Ahn, one of CAPTCHA’s original creators, continues to make strides with the test alongside Google, its new developer. It has been reborn into reCAPTCHA, an extension of Captcha that takes words from page scans of old books—words that are harder for a computer to detangle. Protecting our safety while helping to “digitize text, annotate images, and build machine learning datasets“… now those 10-precious-seconds are being used for something worthwhile.
It’s great that we are helping digitalize books, but when it comes to internet security,
are CAPTCHAs effective?
Bypassing Google’s CAPTCHA is dangerously easy
A trio of researchers from Columbia University (New York) proved how easy it is to bypass some CAPTCHAs. Programs like this, make it more difficult for attackers to use programmed bots to collect e-mail addresses, automatically and massively, for spam campaigns. But they are not foolproof. Processes like this can be automated, and eventually, computers will be able to solve reCAPTCHAs, just like you or me.
More and more, we are being engulfed in technology. Computers are becoming less and less dependent on humans, and robots are becoming more and more programmable to do human-like things. Although it’s a cat-and-mouse game, Google continues to design and conduct tests, like CAPTCHA, to keep robots from doing something that should only be done by humans.