“I’m not a robot”? Evolving CAPTCHA to a new system

Sany Gómez

It is undeniable that the number of social media users is growing exponentially. Facebook being the most popular with over 1.900 million new accounts in a month, social networks, as well as novel software, have completely changed life as we know it in a matter of a decade.  Such numbers make us wonder if there really are that many people creating accounts.

We have all been in the situation of trying to sign up for a new online account and encountered an “I am not a robot” box. We must ask, are there really robots trying to enter social media?

That small box with a code we bump into is called CAPTCHA. It stands for Completely Automated Public Turning test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. Just as the name suggests, it consists of a test to prove whether the user is a human or not. These were made to stop attacks on websites and social media and help the provider detect any wrong use of the service.

From preventing spam to avert the buying of unwanted event tickets for a then profitable reselling, CAPTCHA uses a variety of methods and images with letters and words that need to be translated to characters on the computer. While a human can go through the test easily, computers and scanners cannot.

CAPTCHA has its origins in 2003, when a group of students from the Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, lead by Luis Von Ahn, came up with this idea. They started by taking out words of different books and then distorting them. As time went by, different versions of CAPTCHA were made, some even including numbers in images.

CAPTCHA

Google bought this program in 2009 and acquired it in its different websites and programs. Google even promoted the program and offered it as a product companies could buy to avoid harms. However, as technology advanced, the invention started to fail.

 

Dealing with dyslexia, blindness, and an advancing technology that made robots capable of reading it, Google had no other option than to change the system to an updated one.

Many attempts were made and a new type of CAPTCHA was born. It was called reCAPTCHA. This included more difficult images and a better sound for the blind. But it still was a problem, not only for dyslexic users, but with companies that offered solving CAPTCHA for money; these companies sent the image worldwide and paid for people to solve it. In a matter of seconds, a hacker was able to go through that “security system.”

What’s more, machines had even better technologies and quickly made it through. In an experiment taking place under a Google investigation, 33% of humans could not solve the task while 99.8% of robots could. There was a need for a new program.

 

A new system came out in 2014 called “NoCAPTCHA reCAPTCHA” which completely changed the way we used to see the test. In this version, the user only needs to click a box that ensures they are not a robot.

It might sound too simple to function as an adequate test, but this simple click, and some previous clicks, sends Google very valuable information about you and your intentions. Information like: your country, the time interval between browser events, the way you move the cursor, the way you scroll through the page,  and many other variables Google keeps secret, is sent to a machine and in a matter of seconds, it can decide if you are a human or a robot.

If you do not pass this test, this company may send you to another test which consists of the choosing of different images based on instruction. This new test hasn’t been processed by hackers yet. This means we might have to wait a little bit more in order to update the new NoCAPTCHA reCAPTCHA.

Since the launch of No CAPTCHA reCAPTCHA, millions of internet users have been able to attest that they are human with just a single click. Meanwhile, potential bots still have to solve the challenges. Armed with state-of-the-art technology, CAPTCHA stays at the forefront of spam and abuse fighting trends.

Editors: Kaylynn Crawford and Daryn Dever