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Campaign To Kill CAPTCHA Kicks Off

samzenpus posted about 9 months ago | from the can-you-read-this? dept.

Australia 558

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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stupid (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44480471)

stupid

Re:stupid (4, Insightful)

rudy_wayne (414635) | about 9 months ago | (#44480521)

Yes it is stupid. I understand that spam is a problem, but if you run a website, it's *YOUR* problem. CAPTCHAs make it *MY* problem and that's just stupid.

Re:stupid (4, Insightful)

pseudofrog (570061) | about 9 months ago | (#44480587)

If taking a couple seconds to answer a CAPTCHA is too much effort, I probably don't really care what you have to say in the comment section.

Re:stupid (5, Insightful)

nitehawk214 (222219) | about 9 months ago | (#44480657)

If taking a couple seconds to answer a CAPTCHA is too much effort, I probably don't really care what you have to say in the comment section.

Or a couple of minutes considering most capchas are illegible.

Re:stupid (2)

smagruder (207953) | about 9 months ago | (#44480665)

Tell that to my 46-y.o. eyes that can barely decipher these increasingly difficult eye puzzles, and I have a computer engineering degree. Think about others, will you?

Re:stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44480799)

If taking a couple seconds to answer a CAPTCHA is too much effort, I probably don't really care what you have to say in the comment section.

It's not longer just a couple of seconds when one has to hit the reload button a dozen or so times before they get a CAPTCHA that's remotely readable.

Re:stupid (4, Insightful)

aardvarkjoe (156801) | about 9 months ago | (#44480591)

I understand that spam is a problem, but if you run a website, it's *YOUR* problem. CAPTCHAs make it *MY* problem and that's just stupid.

If the website you use is overrun by spam to the point of being unusable, then it's your problem as well.

Re:stupid (4, Insightful)

Idimmu Xul (204345) | about 9 months ago | (#44480595)

As someone that runs a website, without CAPTCHAs I'd be fucked.

There are bots that can automatically register on a site, then check the email account for the activation link, in order to start spamming, so that's not a solution.

The newer 'flash games' e.g. 'out of 5 objects, put the drinks in the cooler' are an interesting solution, but that probably still won't work for people with accessibility issues.

Moderation can work on sites like slashdot, but on lower traffic sites not so much, and the signal to noise ratio will be awful.

If Australia pass this and actually clamp down on 'offenders' it will do more harm than good as the only recourse webmasters will have is to not allow people to register/interact with the site as the cost of cleaning up spam will be too high.

Re:stupid (2)

AchilleTalon (540925) | about 9 months ago | (#44480705)

It is possible to train an algorithm to recognize CAPTCHA, even if the success rate isn't 100%, it is high enough to enable bots to register on websites with CAPTCHA. So, Australia is only pushing people to find out better solutions than CAPTCHA. In short term, a large amount of spammers will rely on optical recognition algorithms to decipher CAPTCHA anyway.

Re:stupid (0)

smagruder (207953) | about 9 months ago | (#44480733)

Not if you employed other technical measures. Search around a bit and you'll find captchas are unnecessary.

Re:stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44480769)

You keep posting this, yet you can't name one.

Re:stupid (2)

Baby Duck (176251) | about 9 months ago | (#44480613)

Offloading some of the responsibility to you as a human co-processor is an effective tactic called Share The Pain. It's not stupid, it's genius. You just don't favor the end result. You can always vote with your mouse and go to another website.

Re:stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44480615)

I don't care about you or your problem.

And most site owners don't either.

Re:stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44480695)

If you want to buy tickets like the guy in the story, it is your problem when they are all sold out in seconds to scalpers using scripts. So, what's your solution, lone smart man, if everyone else is so stupid?

Re:stupid (3, Interesting)

pla (258480) | about 9 months ago | (#44480805)

Yes it is stupid. I understand that spam is a problem, but if you run a website, it's *YOUR* problem. CAPTCHAs make it *MY* problem and that's just stupid.

You assume the website needs you more than you need it. For the standard commercial "wall of ads with some random content between" site, sure, what you say holds true

For a lot of smaller interest-group-themed sites, usually run by a handful of non-IT-gurus, put bluntly you need them more than they need you, and they don't have a full-time body around to read through all new posts to purge the spam.

Now, personally, I prefer the "math word problem" style CAPTCHAs - Because not only do they not discriminate against the blind or the old, they effectively keep out the spam and the stupid. Win-win!

Protection against drunk posting (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44480477)

Makes it useful.

Re:Protection against drunk posting (4, Funny)

Richy_T (111409) | about 9 months ago | (#44480581)

I often need three stiff drinks just to be able to read the things.

shibbolith, shabblebooth, beetlejuice, zizzlith, s (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44480653)

wait, I thought the whole point was to keep those damn dirty dyslexics from posting!!

spammers around the world rejoice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44480501)

No replacement is mentioned in the article, just the drawbacks of the existing scheme.

Re:spammers around the world rejoice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44480663)

Yes there is, email. Which is a joke of a solution by someone that does not understand the problem.

How else do I protect my forms (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44480505)

from automated submissions?

Re:How else do I protect my forms (2)

wierd_w (1375923) | about 9 months ago | (#44480549)

Make it time prohibitive?

Prevent "5ns form posting" with a cooloff time, and also cache submitted forms from an IP address to prevent duplicates.

You can also implement a 50 message per day limit, and reduce as needed to stop spammers.

Re:How else do I protect my forms (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44480679)

What if I want my users to be able to post the form more than 50 times per day?
Cooldowns and cacheing just wont do it. The only real alternative I see is to hide the form behind a login, which in the end is more inconvenient for the end user than a user friendly captcha.

There are simple ones that are easy on the eye out there ( like slashdot's ), and you can make your own quite easily as well. There is one widely used one, reCAPTCHA I think, that is just awful and should be avoided.

Re:How else do I protect my forms (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44480693)

Spammers have millions of computers at their disposal via botnets, none of these proposals would work at all.

Re:How else do I protect my forms (1)

greenreaper (205818) | about 9 months ago | (#44480723)

Unfortunately it's not all coming from a single IP address - there are literally thousands out there - and any one would only post as regularly as a standard user, with randomized text from large templates. You stop them at various layers - DNSBLs, CAPTCHAs, form entry field checks, link checks, specific spam text . . .

Re:How else do I protect my forms (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44480573)

from automated submissions?

If you don't know any alternatives, you shouldn't be administering them.

Re:How else do I protect my forms (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44480737)

from automated submissions?

If you don't know any alternatives, you shouldn't be administering them.

Yeah, I guess the folks at Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Amazon etc don't know what they are doing either. Captcha is used because there is no real alternative if you want anonymous form submissions on your site. There are certain measures we can put in place, in certain contexts, but no catch all one size solution.

Re:How else do I protect my forms (5, Insightful)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | about 9 months ago | (#44480797)

Add some fields which start out as regular text fields but then hide them with Javascript. You can give them labels or default values like "Don't change this" in case someone doesn't have Javascript enabled. Give the real fields in your form random names. For the hidden fields, give them names like "subject" or "comments" or "url" (don't use common names for personal info like "email", "fname" etc that the browser might automatically fill out). When they submit the form, check for values in those hidden fields (either any value at all, or a value different than the default). If they are filled out, reject the form. Hiding the fields with Javascript will work for virtually everyone and it doesn't require real people to do anything extra. This will fail against bots that bother to actually render the page or bots that specifically target your site (which can be remedied if you randomize all field names and store the random names in the session to match them up when the form gets submitted), but those are far less common than bots that just get the HTML and parse it to look for form actions and field names.

Re:How else do I protect my forms (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44480855)

This will break page cacheing for pages with forms though. I would have to give my anonymous users session cookies, and store the values of those fields. It also doesn't work if someone writes a script designed specifically for my site.
It's a half-measure.

Wouldn't it be ironic... (5, Funny)

Alejux (2800513) | about 9 months ago | (#44480507)

If the campaign was taken over by bots?

Re:Wouldn't it be ironic... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44480601)

If the campaign was taken over by bots?

I can see it now:

They will have a lend your support and comment board without a CAPTCHA sign-on that will quickly be filled with ads for Viagra and knockoff sport jerseys. Then, the pleas will start from people that the website should do something about their bot problem.

This is a very hard problem (3, Insightful)

stewsters (1406737) | about 9 months ago | (#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.

Re:This is a very hard problem (3, Funny)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 9 months ago | (#44480551)

"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.

Re:This is a very hard problem (5, Funny)

i kan reed (749298) | about 9 months ago | (#44480633)

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

Re:This is a very hard problem (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44480643)

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.

True, but if religious types can't get on the Internet would it really be a bad thing?

Re:This is a very hard problem (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44480709)

That's a feature, not a bug.

Re:This is a very hard problem (2, Insightful)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 9 months ago | (#44480711)

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.

Re:This is a very hard problem (4, Insightful)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 9 months ago | (#44480753)

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.

Perhaps, but if you're trying to monetize the site you're running you'd be a fool to do something that prevents a good 80-90% of people from accessing it.

Re:This is a very hard problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44480801)

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.

But, but, mental is a handicap too!

Re:This is a very hard problem (3, Funny)

tlambert (566799) | about 9 months ago | (#44480831)

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.

Even if there were, let them take you to court on it, it's not like they're going to be able to make a reasoned complaint, right? ...

Re:This is a very hard problem (4, Interesting)

Zmobie (2478450) | about 9 months ago | (#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.

Re:This is a very hard problem (4, Interesting)

Qzukk (229616) | about 9 months ago | (#44480851)

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.

Re:This is a very hard problem (4, Insightful)

amorsen (7485) | about 9 months ago | (#44480669)

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

Not at all (1)

oGMo (379) | about 9 months ago | (#44480675)

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 in the scene. It doesn't have to be confusing or hard at all. (And rendering is super cheap these days.)

Re:Not at all (1)

oGMo (379) | about 9 months ago | (#44480699)

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."

Re:Not at all (1)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | about 9 months ago | (#44480809)

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.

Re:Not at all (1)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | about 9 months ago | (#44480829)

you have to see and interpret what's going on in the scene

You realize that many of the people complaining about captchas are blind, right?

sounds like a wetware problem (1, Funny)

Gravis Zero (934156) | about 9 months ago | (#44480523)

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:sounds like a wetware problem (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44480619)

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.

Re:sounds like a wetware problem (1)

war4peace (1628283) | about 9 months ago | (#44480627)

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 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.

Re:sounds like a wetware problem (1)

amorsen (7485) | about 9 months ago | (#44480721)

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.

Re:sounds like a wetware problem (1)

adolf (21054) | about 9 months ago | (#44480757)

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 one person to figure it out).

Re:sounds like a wetware problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44480767)

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.

Wouldn't that mean the spambot would have a 33% chance of getting it right? Considering a computer can perform several attempts with very little effort, I don't think this would be much of a deterrent.

Re:sounds like a wetware problem (1)

Culture20 (968837) | about 9 months ago | (#44480781)

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.

Re:sounds like a wetware problem (1)

nigelo (30096) | about 9 months ago | (#44480793)

> 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.

Re:sounds like a wetware problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44480845)

If its recaptcha, do note you only have to do one of the words correct, its the one that usually looks reasonable, its a bit wavy usually as well. Its especially easy to recognize if one of them is a bunch of numbers, the word you have to do correct never contains numbers or dashes or whatever else.
You still have to make it so it looks like you attempted the other word. For example if the captcha is "realword 125354", you have to do at least "realword x" with x being replaceable by pretty much any character.

Re:sounds like a wetware problem (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44480659)

Lazy people can learn to add. Blind people can't learn to see.

Re:sounds like a wetware problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44480741)

no.. this is about blind people complaining that audio captchas are too hard.
you know why they complain? they haven't had to deal with a bunch of impossible visual captchas.

slashdot is one of the few sites with reasonable captchas.

Re:sounds like a wetware problem (1)

houghi (78078) | about 9 months ago | (#44480839)

slashdot is one of the few sites with reasonable captchas.

So how is it that they don't get gazillion spammers posting? Are they on to something?

Re:sounds like a wetware problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44480833)

let's say you change it do you have to answer a simple addition math problem.

In what world is it easier for a human to do a simple addition math problem than an automated spambot?

That's the intrinsic problem of CAPTCHA-like problems. You need a problem that is mind-numbingly trivial for your average human, but mind-bogglingly complex for computers. Oh, yeah, the problems have to be automatically generated too, so you don't have a small list of problems & answers that can be brute forced.

CAPTCHAs worked well enough to begin with (besides the intrinsic blind accessibility issues), because commonly available OCR at the time sucked. The letters only needed to be slightly perturbed (or just in a non-standard font) for the OCR to get confused. OCR has gotten much, much better over the years, though, so in order to create a problem that's hard enough for a spambot means you have to distort the characters out of all human recognition.

The real solution is not to come up with a new human/bot discriminator, but rather to make it less worthwhile to use a bot in the first place. Captchas up the cost in the cost/benefit ratio, but you can just as easily reduce the benefit to achieve the same effect. Things like the nofollow attribute and decent moderation mean that even if someone uses a bot, they don't actually gain much - so why bother? The other is to realize that your blog/website/etc is not all that special, and doesn't need YouTube/Gmail/Wikipedia grade bot protection. I know of several blogs that take care of 99% of their spam problems with simple things like "To create an account, type "green" in the box below." This is completely trivial for a bot to crack, but no one bothers to write a bot to do it, because it's not worth the effort to special-purpose a bot for some rinky-dink blog site. Again, minor benefit means that the cost need not be great.

Let's stomp out a solution right now! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44480525)

Yeah, yeah, and after they have this and the spambots trivially come back, they'll start bitching that their screen readers can't properly translate "the cheif fuicks le sabretary havemake for the dealintroductionary xxxxanaxxxxxfree". *sigh*

The era of CAPTCHA is over (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44480529)

OCR has advanced to the point it is now possible to beat it 99.99% of the time no matter how difficult to decipher -- which has a side effect of making even real humans have trouble reading the CAPTCHA. Not willing to shell out for quality OCR? No problem, Amazon's Mechanical Turk provides you all the tools you need to get people to read the CAPTCHAs for you and the spam goes on. Don't feel like spending any money at all? No big deal, many CAPTCHA services are easily bypassed. (Let's not get into the ethics of certain companies using CAPTCHA solutions for third-party websites as unpaid labor.)

This was an early-00s temporary solution to a permanent problem better solved via other means.

Pissing and Moaning (0)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 9 months ago | (#44480537)

A campaign in Australia has started to rid sites of CAPTCHA to improve accessibility for everyone.

Sure, but have they come up with or even recommended an alternative? No?

Well fuck 'em, then - I for one am pretty damn fed up with all these people and organizations who do nothing but bitch about how Item X is 'unfair' to them, AND expect someone else to come up with the solution for them.

Re:Pissing and Moaning (1)

stewsters (1406737) | about 9 months ago | (#44480623)

I will create a single sign on service where you pay $1 to sign up. If someone reports you as a spam bot, you will be disabled until you pay me another $1. I will take the money and give a small percentage to some charities (EFF probably) and keep the rest as server and administration costs.

If people want to spam or create fake accounts, it will cost them a lot more than just having some guy answer 1000 Captchas for a buck. I could track where I get the money from to locate the spammer's accounts.

Re:Pissing and Moaning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44480739)

this is brilliant - go to patent office and start earning money without work load already!

Re:Pissing and Moaning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44480673)

The CAPTCHA exists because site owners decided the best way to solve their spam problem was to shove the problem onto their users. They did this without thinking through the very real issues with their solution.

In general, it doesn't take expert knowledge in a field to be able to spot simple problems. For example, I am not a rocket scientist but I can tell you the Challenger disaster was likely not the desired outcome. I am also not a doctor but I can say that a patient dying on the operating table was likely not the desired outcome. I can tell you this despite not knowing how to design a rocket or operate on a person.

Likewise, I can tell you that CAPTCHA's pissing on blind people was likely not the desired outcome. It is still a problem despite me not knowing a proper fix. You denying this is shortsighted at best.

Re:Pissing and Moaning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44480681)

Nonetheless Captchas are brain-dead even for someone who CAN see or hear the bloody thing. It's beginning to be hard to actually get past them, as a normal human being; and since much of that work by spammers is already off-shored to 3rd world, spammers may actually get them solved faster than real users.

Actual solutions are sort of obvious -- use contextual information, for example, so user has to know about site and domain it covers -- as well as use of complementary ways to detect and prevent abuse. But those solutions are not one-size-fits-all, and some maintainers still assume that while not perfect, Captcha is "better than nothing". That unfortunately ignores the basic fact that none of these systems is free, when considering all costs, not just money spent on component itself (which may well be free).

Re:Pissing and Moaning (1)

intermodal (534361) | about 9 months ago | (#44480683)

Why would they want to recommend an alternative? If they're like me, they don't want nor need an alternative. It's the companies using them that want these systems. The users really don't care how much botcrap the server takes in.

Re:Pissing and Moaning (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 9 months ago | (#44480803)

Why would they want to recommend an alternative?

Because otherwise they come off as a bunch of whiny narcissists who should be summarily ignored? That's my take, anyway.

The users really don't care how much botcrap the server takes in.

On the one hand, lol and touche.

On the other, they'll start to care when the botcrap makes the server unreachable to them; at which point they'll just start pissing and moaning again, and the cycle begins anew.

Re:Pissing and Moaning (1)

A non moose cow (610391) | about 9 months ago | (#44480715)

Well they did give an alternative...

"According to Hollier, a better way for everyone would be the use of emails to activate and verify users, instead of CAPTCHA"

...but how do they sign up for that email account?
Indeed, they seem to be pissing and moaning about inconvenience without really grasping the problem being solved, as evidenced by this gem:

"With time sensitive things like concerts, this can mean I miss out on the tickets as the transaction times out," Hollier said.

As opposed to everyone missing out as a bot buys all the tickets.

Re:Pissing and Moaning (2)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 9 months ago | (#44480773)

Well they did give an alternative...

"According to Hollier, a better way for everyone would be the use of emails to activate and verify users, instead of CAPTCHA"

 

Yea, suppose I could have clarified by adding "alternatives that aren't worse than what they're replacing," but I figured that was a given.

Fun Fact (1)

HairyNevus (992803) | about 9 months ago | (#44480543)

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]

Thanks for sharing (1)

foma84 (2079302) | about 9 months ago | (#44480585)

Another "service" Goggle capitalizes on, for free.
It makes me want to cry when I think of how many catchas I've typed...

Re:Fun Fact (1)

mrjb (547783) | about 9 months ago | (#44480667)

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?"

Re:Fun Fact (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44480745)

I seem to recall a campaign on /b/ about 2 years ago to fill the scanned word with 'niggers'. Given how many captcha-solvers there are on /b/, I wouldn't be surprised if a few got through the system...

Re:Fun Fact (1)

amorsen (7485) | about 9 months ago | (#44480761)

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.

much better out there (1)

Xicor (2738029) | about 9 months ago | (#44480547)

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.

Of Course It's Annoying (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44480557)

But, having the forum overrun with spam and Frosty Piss is far more annoying!

Somewhere on the intarwebs... (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | about 9 months ago | (#44480559)

A stoned person types his password into a CAPTCHA field.

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

CAPTCHA not going anywhere (1)

Dynedain (141758) | about 9 months ago | (#44480565)

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.

Re:CAPTCHA not going anywhere (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44480645)

One Voight-Kampff test, coming right up.

When you saw the CAPTCHA were you:
A) Enraged
B) Disgusted
C) Intrigued
D) Resigned

Let's Have a 2015 Solution! (1)

rueger (210566) | about 9 months ago | (#44480625)

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?

Annoyance to older people (1)

Culture20 (968837) | about 9 months ago | (#44480637)

Annoyance to older people who were used to buying their overseas Viagra from forum spambots.

Captcha is necessary. (1, Interesting)

mrjb (547783) | about 9 months ago | (#44480641)

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? Much harder. Complain about it all you like. Come back if you have a better alternative.

Re:Captcha is necessary. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44480835)

Part of the problem is that having options automatically guarantees a success rate. Only 3 choices? A random guess would net you a 33% success rate. 4 changes would net you a 25% chance rate.

it's a pain (1)

renegade600 (204461) | about 9 months ago | (#44480689)

there are a few websites I want to access but cannot because their CAPTCHA is unreadable. Some of them are just way too complicated to read. I use it on my own blog but it is simple enough so you can get it the first time. It would be nice if there was some other way to prevent bots.

Then create a better solution. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44480707)

Go ahead, create a better solution and we will be waiting.

It must be capable of being hit many thousands of times per second, so it can't be heavy on resources.
It must be capable of being displayed in any browser from the past 5 years at least, 10 preferable.
It must absolutely not be plugin based.
It must have absolutely no sound unless requested.

I had an idea myself of having fuzzy cats and dog pictures, stretched, skewed. noise added and rotated, all up to a maximum value before it becomes too noisy.
Grayscale, color would be applied to them. Option of even having virtually weird colors that aren't natural.
The hugely identifying features of the face would be blocked out, cats and dogs are still pretty identifiable by body, regardless of face being visible or not, but it may still be stupidly hard for computers to figure that out without huge resource requirements.
That slapped on top of a fuzzy background.
Each image is pregenned in batches of however many the server operator can be bothered to generate, or just semi-realtime.
They are not generated on the client end, ever.
Count the dogs or cats.
Problem is this fails the resource part in that they are particularly heavy to generate as well as transmit. (even as a JPG)
To be of any use, they would also need to be fairly wide, tall or generally just fat.

It could work and anyone is free to steal the idea. If you could get it to work and work well without too much in terms of resource usage, I applaud you and wish you much success. It is not something I care enough to implement myself, unless I were to go ahead with making that website, but that is unlikely at present.
Who knows, I could be using the idea I gave you for my own site one day. Think of all that fame you would get, "The person that killed CAPTCHA".

Of course, image recognition is getting considerably better as each year passes.
There are systems that use huge numbers of image caches and machine learning to figure out captchas.
These are typically only reserved for people that can afford to pay for it.
But power increases constantly. And those cards designed for bitcoin mining are very useful for such a task of cracking and comparison in general.
It could be cracked very easily if it is far enough ahead.

And before anyone mentions it, Rapidshare isn't the inspiration for this, I had this idea before I even knew of Rapidshares existence.
Equally, Rapidshares attempt at it was absolutely terrible and abusively bad, half of those pictures were impossible to tell even for humans! (which is for obvious reasons to get more money, which will happen rarely and it just pisses off the people who wanted a file)

some particularly douchy sites "monetize" captchas (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44480725)

solvemedia and other advertising scum let webmasters make money off of annoying their users

why would they give that up?

It's really taking off! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44480759)

The campaign support page already has 17 billion supporters!

Is this needed? (1)

JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) | about 9 months ago | (#44480825)

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.)

The summary is wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44480849)

Bots can read most captchas being used.

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