What is a CAPTCHA?

Have you ever visited a website and had to enter a bunch of random, hard-to-read characters? Ever wonder why you had to enter them? Well, that’s called a CAPTCHA or “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.” It’s a type of test used in programming to verify whether or not a human is interacting with the program.

The basic idea behind a CAPTCHA is that it’s easy for a human to answer but difficult for a computer. That way, certain functions could ideally be limited to humans, while keeping computers and automated programs (bots) out.

CAPTCHAs are typically used in the attempt to combat spammers and the bots they create. A bot is a program created to perform an automated task. Two common types of bots used by spammers are bots that gather email addresses from publicly available web pages or bots that submit comments on blogs.

When CAPTCHAs started making their appearance online ten years ago, they were rather effective at stopping bots. However, in the past few years, spammers have been able to defeat CAPTCHAs with bots rather routinely. This is why you may have noticed a marked change in the level of difficulty in reading and understanding CAPTCHAs. They seem more nonsensical now more than ever and have even inspired a whole host of CAPTCHA comics. From using multiple segments to higher levels of character distortion to lines through the characters, CAPTCHAs have not only gotten more difficult for bots to understand but also more difficult for us humans too.

In fact, many spammers choose to use humans to get past CAPTCHAs instead of investing time into programming solutions. They pay outsourced workers for solved CAPTCHAs in bulk, and according to recent estimates, spammers can afford to do so.

Which then begs the question: Does an uncrackable CAPTCHA exist? If not, then what is the real solution to online spam?

Does your business see a lot of spam in email or online? OAC Technology, a Minneapolis-based IT company, has been combatting spam and viruses for small- to medium-sized business for over a decade. While there may be no perfect, end-all solution to spam, we can help you keep the bad guys out while your customers keep coming in. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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