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Campaign To Kill CAPTCHA Kicks Off 558

Posted by samzenpus
from the can-you-read-this? dept.
Bismillah writes "CAPTCHA may be popular with webmasters and others running different sites, but it's a source of annoyance to blind and partially sighted people — and dyslexic people and older ones — who often end up being locked out of important websites as they can't read wonky, obfuscated letters any more than spambots can. A campaign in Australia has started to rid sites of CAPTCHA to improve accessibility for everyone."
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Campaign To Kill CAPTCHA Kicks Off

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Makes it useful.

  • by Alejux (2800513) on Monday August 05, 2013 @04:40PM (#44480507)
    If the campaign was taken over by bots?
  • by stewsters (1406737) on Monday August 05, 2013 @04:41PM (#44480515)
    "W3C has suggested other techniques such as logic puzzles, limited-use accounts and non-interactive checks to prevent abuse such as fraudulent account creation and spamming."

    Its going to be far harder to make an AI that can create a decent logic puzzle as well as make it accessible and hard for computers to solve than it it to make an image and warp it a bit. I think any such puzzle will probably be worse than the audio captcha button.
    • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Monday August 05, 2013 @04:45PM (#44480551) Homepage Journal

      "W3C has suggested other techniques such as logic puzzles, limited-use accounts and non-interactive checks to prevent abuse such as fraudulent account creation and spamming."

      Its going to be far harder to make an AI that can create a decent logic puzzle as well as make it accessible and hard for computers to solve than it it to make an image and warp it a bit. I think any such puzzle will probably be worse than the audio captcha button.

      Not to mention, logic puzzles are unfair to people who have trouble understanding logic; which, in my experience, is damn near the entire human race.

      Just swapping one type of perceived discrimination for another.

      • by i kan reed (749298) on Monday August 05, 2013 @04:53PM (#44480633) Homepage Journal

        Yeah, but we value what blind people have to say. "Damn near the entire human race" can go fuck themselves.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        That's a feature, not a bug.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        It's quite likely that some forums may prefer only letting in people capable of understanding logic, and there aren't any laws against discriminating against those people.
      • by Zmobie (2478450) on Monday August 05, 2013 @05:04PM (#44480775)

        I think you're missing the idea of what type of logic puzzles they mean. Simple things like image processing (someone in the comments below brought the example up of using company logos and you type the name, pizza toppings matched to the correct pizza) or natural language processing could be used to WRECK a bot. Imagine this, I pose the question as a human verification, "What color was George Washington's favorite white horse?" A human (with half a brain) easily sees how stupid simple it is to find the answer which is white, but a bot would have hell with that type of question because it involves language processing to determine the appropriate response. That is a pretty simplified example, but you can find these all over the place and they are fairly easy to create.

        Some of these could be defeated easily with something like a call to Wolfram Alpha, but you could quite easily find and create things that are not going to be simple to automate the logic processing, but would be completely trivial for a human to process, even stupid ones. Language and image processing are RIDICULOUSLY difficult to automate efficiently which would defeat the purpose of the bots, while making things a lot easier on the people that do have to deal with this sort of thing. I personally hate the current version of CAPTCHAS (hell, I can't read some of the more difficult ones and I write some of the software that USES them), but I do recognize the need for them. No reason they can't be improved upon though.

        • by Qzukk (229616) on Monday August 05, 2013 @05:12PM (#44480851) Journal

          Wolphram Alpha had no idea about the color of Washington's favorite white horse (it looked up the distance between some town named George, WA and White Horse,NJ), but if you put it into google, you discover that Washington had no white horses, the closest being a gray named Blueskin.

        • I think you're missing the idea of what type of logic puzzles they mean.

          ... and here I was thinking that the last half of the statement made it pretty obvious I was being satirical.

          Now, now I'm no longer sure that I was joking...

    • by amorsen (7485) <benny+slashdot@amorsen.dk> on Monday August 05, 2013 @04:56PM (#44480669)

      For every task that a computer is unable to handle, there exists a reasonably well-functioning human who cannot do it either.

    • by oGMo (379)

      This kind of thing shouldn't be hard at all. You don't need complicated logic puzzles or any such thing. You just need something that's hard for a computer to figure out, but easy for a human.

      For instance, render a 3D scene and ask a question about perspective. "What is the person holding in her right hand?" "What is the person looking at?" and similar such questions. Trivial to render. Hard to figure out, because it's far beyond simple image recognition: you have to see and interpret what's going on

      • by oGMo (379)
        Wow poor edit sorry ... should be: "Trivial to render. Hard for a program to figure out ... It doesn't have to be confusing or hard for a human at all."
      • You need problems that are generated by computer that are hard for a computer to answer. In your example the computer program rendering the image must understand perspective, english grammer, and handiness.
  • there isnt a single thing that everyone will like or approve of.

    let's say you change it do you have to answer a simple addition math problem. what you get is someone crying, "i have to answer 5+8?! but i dunno maths you insensitive clod!"

    you know that person really exists.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      there isnt a single thing that everyone will like or approve of.

      let's say you change it do you have to answer a simple addition math problem. what you get is someone crying, "i have to answer 5+8?! but i dunno maths you insensitive clod!"

      you know that person really exists.

      Yes they do. The solution is that they learn simple math so they're a fully functioning member of society. I suggest an intensive period of schooling - say 11-13 years. Oh wait...

      Who are you going to cater for next? The guy that can't read the damn form. "But I'm illiterate you insensitive clod"? It's not a question of eliminating all objections, just ones that actually stump your audience. Capture is the worst of the worst. You can have a PhD. and get it wrong a substantial portion of the time.

    • On the other hand, the captchas became ridiculously fuzzy as of late. My vision is 19/20 (rough comparison; doctor said I can be anything BUT an aviator) and I still find myself refreshing several captchas because they don't make sense. Sometimes I eyeball a "word" for 10-15 seconds and then I'm sure i got it right, I type it in and ERROR, wrong captcha.

      If anything, word captchas became impossible to solve for most people and very annoying to perfect vision ones.
      Why can't there be a captcha showing a pictur

      • by amorsen (7485)

        Why can't there be a captcha showing a picture and three buttons with possible answers? Like an image of a baby and three buttons saying MAN, WOMAN, BABY. Or a picture of a running man and buttons saying SLEEP, RUN, CHILD.

        Because you just plug that image into Google 3 times with each key word and pick the answer with the highest score. Or, much easier, you just randomly pick one of the options. One in three is a good hit rate, and even if you block by IP, getting past the system hundreds or thousands of times is trivial.

      • by adolf (21054)

        Like an image of a baby and three buttons saying MAN, WOMAN, BABY. Or a picture of a running man and buttons saying SLEEP, RUN, CHILD.

        They can't be automatically generated, because automatic generation is equally as reliable as automatically solving them.

        So a human would have to design each and every one of them, which is a job that nobody wants to pay somebody to do. There will thus also be a limited sampleset which will easily be learned by a crafty spammer (and like anything else digital, it only takes

      • by Culture20 (968837)

        Why can't there be a captcha showing a picture and three buttons with possible answers? Like an image of a baby and three buttons saying MAN, WOMAN, BABY. Or a picture of a running man and buttons saying SLEEP, RUN, CHILD.

        Because then on average, 1/3 of all spambots would succeed. You need thousands of possible answers before it becomes usable as a barrier, and you'll need millions of photos (to prevent learning) and someone will have to choose a correct answer per photo, and make sure all other thousands of answers are incorrect.

      • by nigelo (30096)

        > Why can't there be a captcha showing a picture and three buttons with possible answers?

        Well, ~33 per cent will be correct due to chance, which isn't a very good success rate considering there may be BILLIONS of bot-members posting spam.

        So, a picture and 10,000 possible answers? Might be considered clumsy.

    • by sjames (1099)

      In fact there are cases of localized brain injuries that make anything dealing with numbers nearly impossible for the person while they are otherwise quite normal.

  • Not sure is this is already super well known, but only 1 word is actually used for verification. In this example [wordstream.com] you could type "thrand " and pass it. The verification word always looks similar in font/size to 'thrand'. Oh, and the other word I believe is a scan from a book and if you *do* type it in, it will help the digital scan of the book actually pin point what word it is. [google.com]
    • by mrjb (547783)
      Fun fact 2: To ensure the "scanned" word is read correctly, multiple identical matches need to be given by multiple users. In the example, the correct "scanned" word is likely to end up being "wtf?"
    • by amorsen (7485)

      I am fairly sure that your information is out of date. Not 100% sure admittedly. I have tried the trick of trying to guess which word is the important one before and failed miserably. Try it for yourself, maybe you can do better than I did.

  • there are already several types of captcha nowadays that are newer and much easier to use. one of the ones ive seen is one with a company logo and you have to type out the company name. another is one where you have to makea pizza with specific toppings. another one is where you have to draw an image. captchas are necessary... the problem is that they have become too ridiculously difficult instead of making it easy to use for normal ppl.
  • A stoned person types his password into a CAPTCHA field.

    "Wrong? Ah man, I know that's my password."

  • CAPTCHA will be around as long as it is the best way to stop programatic submissions.

    CAPTCH sucks for sighted people as well, not just the visually impaired.

    As long as we have need for tools to discern software from people, something like CAPTCHA will exist. And so far we haven't developed anything that only humans can do, but computers can't.

    • by tlambert (566799)

      CAPTCHA will be around as long as it is the best way to stop programatic submissions.

      It's well documented that there are several groups who have put put porn sites using collections of images from around the net; then they attack sites that require answering CAPTCHA. When challenged by the CAPTCHA, the forward it on to someone seeking the "free porn", and then forward that persons answer back to the site they are attacking.

      So the CAPTCHA-using site wants a human to solve the CAPTCHA, a human solves the CAPTCHA, gets their porn, while the attacker gets into the "protected" web site that the

  • Passwords, with no two sites accepting the same format. CAPTCHAs, which often as not even normally sighted people can't read without difficulty. Security questions which are either inane or represent their own special security risk.

    God almighty, can't we come up with something to replace all of these?
  • Oblig. XKCD (Score:4, Insightful)

    by djlemma (1053860) on Monday August 05, 2013 @04:52PM (#44480629)
  • Annoyance to older people who were used to buying their overseas Viagra from forum spambots.
  • by mrjb (547783)
    Captcha fulfills a need - it is, as the name implies, a test to completely automatically tell computers and humans apart. It's necessary to keep spambots from registering accounts and spamming the hell out of us. Granted, the "type this wobbly word" may not be the most practical (nor safe) solution. It's easy enough to come up with alternatives- Perhaps show four photographs and ask the user to click on the one that doesn't belong (maybe the kitten out of a picture of 4 cats). Coming up with good ideas? Mu
  • ... the Feedback page for TFA blog has a CAPTCHA.

  • CAPTCHA may be popular with with webmasters and others running different sites, but it's a source of annoyance to blind and partially sighted people — and dyslexic people and older ones — who often end up being locked out of important websites as they can't read wonky, obfuscated letters

    CAPTCHAs tend to have an audio button where a string of numbers is read off to you.
    Even Slashdot has a "mp3" button that reads the letters on the CAPTCHA off to you.
    Doesn't that already help all the above people with issues listed here?
    (Except possibly the "older ones", who may have hearing issues too.)

  • by corychristison (951993) on Monday August 05, 2013 @05:18PM (#44480899)

    I've been developing websites over 10 years and have never needed a captcha system.

    This is how I always go about it:

    1) Include a form input element labelled as something common, like a telephone number but on a registration form that would never actually require a telephone number. Hide the parent div using CSS in an external CSS file. When the form is submit, check to see if the element is filled out. If it is, simply display a message that you think their registration may be automated and to try again. If it continues, please contact us by other means (phone, email, etc) and we will help them through it.

    2) Time the registration from the time the page is loaded to the time it is submit, if its less than 10 seconds, do the same as above, simply display a message saying you think their registration is automated and to try again, etc.

    When used in conjunction I feel I've cut out 99.9999% of spam or false registrations. The timing method has to be done server side and stored in a session, and is fairly involved so not easy to do properly if you are new to web development. There is also the issue of someone hitting the back button to try again after a failed submission (if you don't use client-side validation), and them submitting from a cached page, but can be worked around if you know what you are doing.

    Obviously its not bullet proof, and if the CSS file doesn't load then someone would see the extra form element. But its a small price to pay for effective protection.

    Anyone else have other methods they use?

  • by Anubis IV (1279820) on Monday August 05, 2013 @05:44PM (#44481127)

    People seem to forget that the term "CAPTCHA" (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) applies to a much broader set of tests than just those obfuscated text-based things that most of us loathe. Banning CAPTCHAs is a silly notion that would adversely affect every site currently using them, as they become swarmed by spammers. Instead of banning them, they should be asking people to use sane, simple CAPTCHAs.

    For instance, on a forum I run for a group in a game, I use a form of CAPTCHA that has people drag words into categories. As an example, if our group name was "Guild X of Y", I might make the categories "Words in our group's name" and "Words not in our group's name", then ask them to categorize the words "Guild", "Elephants", "X", "Tree", "Honor", "Plus", and "Ocean". I have about two dozen sets of categories and words configured, and so far it's had a 100% success rate at stopping spammers from registering. It's also made it easier for people to register, since the number of e-mails and other off-forum messages I've received complaining about the difficulty of the CAPTCHA has dropped to 0 while registrations have actually picked up.

    Such a system would obviously not work for Google or someone that large, since a spammer would just train the bot to know all of the answers, but for smaller sites, there are plenty of solutions that work just fine, and I'm sure we can find more systems that are simple for a human but complicated for a computer. No need to make something that's so complicated for a human to solve.

    Alternatively, go with xkcd's approach to solving the problem of spam [xkcd.com].

  • by spinozaq (409589) on Monday August 05, 2013 @06:11PM (#44481345)

    I recently started getting hundreds of spam signups a day on my site. So I installed a CAPTCHA to prevent that. I setup a standard image CAPTCHA with a plugin for the CMS. More then 80% of the spam sign ups just walked right through it. Then I changed the type of CAPTCHA to an ASCII art CAPTCHA. I haven't had a spam sign up since. The ASCII art CAPTCHA is also much easier to read then weird image CAPTCHAs.

  • Instead of a CAPTCHA, show them two posts and indicate if none of them, one of them, or both of them are spam posts. Behind the scenes, one if a post you know for sure is good or not and one you don't know about.

    You can use the responses to rate users (how effective is this user at rating posts, based on how well they do identifying spam?) and posts (how likely is this post to be spam based on what users say about it?). Bad users and bad posts get booted from the system.

  • by Trax3001BBS (2368736) on Monday August 05, 2013 @06:22PM (#44481439) Homepage Journal

    Even now I'm not sure if letters need to be entered as shown ie: some letters are upper case, some lower case.
    I'm leaning towards it doesn't matter.

  • Anyone using a widespread bulletin board software will know that despite hard Caiaphas, spammer accounts are registered like crazy.

    I include a small set of questions and answers relative to the interests of those who would visit the board. E.g., for Slashdot:

    Complete the following sentence:
    [randomly select from sentences]
    "TFA" is an acronym meaning "The _______ Article". (7 letters)
    Another alias for "Anonymous Coward" is "________ Dweller". (8 letters)
    --etc--
    Prior to instituting this simple questionnaire there are usually hundreds of spammers a day. Afterwards? None.
    This is actually trivial to solve, indeed I don't even use the session token as a seed for creating new mappings between the numeric question ID, and the answers. So, a diligent spammer could simply collect all the questions then add the responses to the bot... Only THEN would I escalate to the code I've already written that does the randomized mappings, after first swapping in a new set of questions / answers.

    But why?! Why wouldn't I use the MORE secure way right away? Because I'm not a fool. It has to be worth their time to enter an authentication war with me. Let them waste time writing a bot solver first, then immediately have their work become useless. In fact, this has already happened a few times. It's even rarer for spammers to then continue escalation -- they could just migrate to one of the other boards that is not so hostile, and upon which pre-made automated solvers still work. In fact, I have found good success Starting with only a single question. Replace the selection function:
    sub random(){ return 4; } # Return truly random number, selected by fair dice roll.
    Then I can simply revert to the randomized set of questions to escalate the spammer's coding and deployment cost. Thus, gaining yet another defense at little cost.

    Any heterogeneous environment has what's called a "Single Point of Failure". This is why sex exists. Combinatorials are a simple way to get some randomness without all kinds of unexpected outcomes that rampant mutations in an asexual production would first attempt. Bacteria can use other methods because they've abstracted reproduction from defense: transformation, conjugation, etc. So, the uniform use of SSL, is stupid to put it mildly. It could have been like a bacteria, standardized and abstracted extensible protocol for defensive encryption... It's not though, it's a dumb for including a heterogeneous set of transforms dictated by AES standard. I mean, virtual machines exist; You're using one to decode font glyphs, and Unicode BIDI right now, but not for extensible encryption? How daft. Pervasive use of a brand of Captcha is equally retarding.

    How foolish you humans are to not even learn the most basic of Life's Lessons. Diversity is a defense. When you use science to analyze natural selection's method of Trial and Error, Observation of results and Preservation of favorable outcomes... I bet you don't even make the correlation that Nature invented Science billions of years before you rediscovered it... I bet you don't even realize that's a universal truth inherent to any self improving cybernetic system, from DNA life compilers to C compilers. Ugh. Humans: Can't live with 'em; Can't teach 'em to survive.

  • by FuzzNugget (2840687) on Monday August 05, 2013 @06:41PM (#44481557)

    I'm neither and they annoy the hell out of me; and those little "validation games" (dump the fish into the bucket, or whatever) are ridiculous time-wasters. I'm also a web developer, so there's that. CAPTCHAs are for lazy web developers to offload the task of anti-bot protection to the user.

    Create some dynamic form elements that only display via Javascript DOM and are required by a backend script. Create a per-IP limitation on registrations per 10 minutes. Require a minimum time between form loading and form submission. Require a cookie to submit the form.

    The point is: the more variety of anti-bot systems that exist, the less attractive a target there is for bot makers.

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