Here Lies the Captcha, the World's Most Annoying Security Tool

Fagjun | Published 2017-03-14 07:20

Google will lay the Captcha as we know it to rest—finally.

The security tool was once the only thing that differentiated a human user from a bot. Before you can enter particular websites, you have to answer a security question to prove that you're human. You may have to discern letters and numbers that have been distorted or obscured. In other instances, you have to select certain images that satisfy the security question's parameters. If you fail to answer correctly, you won't be able to obtain access into the site.

An example of Captcha

The reasoning behind it all was that human users can easily solve the security questions, while bots can't. Websites employed these security measures to stop spammer bots from signing up for services or accounts. However, Captchas weren't always effective and people eventually found a way to get their bots through the security questions. There were even services that offer to solve these security questions for clients—for a fee, of course.

Captcha to reCaptcha

Eventually, the reCaptcha came into existence. Instead of a random collection of letters and numbers, it displayed actual words taken from printed text. The words were still obscured, but they were more difficult for bots to read. The security questions even had two tiers instead of one. Google eventually bought reCaptcha in 2009.

An example of reCaptcha

Of course, the bots and spammers caught up with the new developments. Spammers even went as far as getting actual humans to solve security questions in exchange for a service.

Finally, in 2014, Google introduced the “no Captcha reCaptcha”. This basically means that Google made security measures essentially invisible. Users won't even know that they're going through a security measure. Google will utilize a software that can tell a human user from a bot by studying the human user's browsing habits. The software can basically learn which browsing behaviors belong to humans and which belong to bots.

Of course, we can only speculate that this is probably how the software works. Google is wisely keeping the exact information under wraps, probably to make spammers' lives a little more difficult.

Rise of the Machines?

However, the Captcha isn't all that dead, actually. If Google's new and invisible security system decides that you aren't human, you will then see a selection of images and security question you have to solve. What you may not know is that by solving these questions, you're training Google's systems as well. You're unwittingly helping improve the accuracy of Google Maps and you're also helping train Google's self-driving cars.

You're welcome, Google!

So if your browsing habits are consistent with artificial creations that don't have souls, security questions will still appear now and then. However, if Google's systems decide that you're human, your browsing experience will be a bit more convenient.

Of course, it seems strange that we have to prove that we're human to a soulless amalgamation of codes. Then again, that's the world we live in.

Google launched its new service recently, so it's a good time to start acting like a human being on the Internet. Otherwise, you might have to solve Captcha again to feed the rise of Skynet—whoops!—I meant Google.

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