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6 reasons why your website needs a captcha form

6 reasons why your website needs a captcha form

Posted 11th October, 2018 by Aidan

It’s thought that as many as 200 million captcha tests are completed online every day. If you’ve not got a captcha test on your own website, here’s everything you need to know about them and how they can benefit your business or blog.

What is a captcha form?

The word captcha is actually an acronym that stands for ‘completely automated public Turing test to tell computers and humans apart’. Quite a mouthful isn’t it?

What this means, in a nutshell, is that a captcha test is a tool that helps to distinguish a human user from a computer user online.

Captcha tests are often added to websites to stop them from receiving spam through the likes of contact forms.

What do captcha forms look like?

The original form of captcha tests, invented in the late 1990s, took the form of a panel of obscured letters or numbers. The letters were obscured by blurring, stretching or warping. It would then be the internet user’s task to identify these letters and type them into a separate area of the form. If they interpreted the letters correctly, they passed the test.

Old Captcha

Since the nineties, other forms of captcha tests have emerged. Sometimes, users will be shown an image with a grid over the top. They’ll then be asked to identify all areas of that grid that contain a certain feature – such as a street sign or a part of a parked car. Users can also be asked to pick out specific words from a piece of text. This text is usually presented as a scanned page from a book or other publication.

Some captchas are presented as simple sums, such as 4+1, as well. Plus, audio captchas exist for people with vision impairments.

Re Captcha Example

Most recently, Google started offering a captcha service called reCAPTCHA. The tech behind this test is a little bit more inquisitive than the that behind the original captchas.

reCAPTCHA recognises that people can sometimes feel like they’re wasting their time filling in a captcha form. So, when a user arrives at a web page reCAPTCHA analyses the behaviour of that user to see how human-like it is.

If the reCAPTCHA service deems the behaviour to be pretty life-like, it won’t serve up a complete captcha test. It will only ask the user to tick a box to confirm ‘I am not a robot’. If there’s anything robotic about the way the user interacts with a page, however, they’ll be asked to solve a more complicated captcha test.

How do captcha tests work?

At present, computer programmes lack the sophistication that humans have when it comes to processing visual data. Human minds are hard-wired to pick up on patterns in everything they see. People often see patterns where they are none – such as a face in the moon or the outline of Elvis on a burnt bit of toast. This phenomenon is called pareidolia.

Computers, meanwhile, can be programmed to recognise letters and numbers. However, they stop recognising them when they are obscured or distorted too much.

What are the benefits of a captcha form?

Essentially captchas deter hackers from abusing online services because they block robot software from submitting fake or nefarious online requests.

Captcha tests can be used to…

  • Protect the integrity of online polls by stopping hackers using robots to send in repeated false responses.
  • Stop brute force attacks on online accounts in which hackers repeatedly try to log-in using hundreds of different passwords.
  • Prevent hackers from signing up for multiple email accounts that they’ll then go on to use for nefarious purposes.
  • Stop cyber criminals spamming blogs or news content pages with dodgy comments and links to other websites.
  • Prevent ticket touts from using robots to bulk buy tickets for shows and gigs.
  • To make online shopping more secure.

How have organisations suffered as a result of not having a captcha form?

There are a few case studies of organisations and businesses who have suffered as a result of not having captcha forms on their websites. One of the earliest cases dates back to the late nineties when social news website Slashdot published a poll asking visitors to vote for the best computer science graduate course in the USA.

Students from two universities – Carnegie Mellon and MIT – used automated programs to vote repeatedly for their respective schools, and the poll became skewed and useless.

More damagingly, in 2013 big supermarket brand Target suffered from a data breach that affected 70 million people.

Commenting on the breach, Rocket Digital reported: “When Target hired a security company to investigate, one of the leading theories was that the breach was caused by malicious email – specifically a phishing email that went after their customer base.

“They had a vendor portal that did not have a captcha or any kind of human verification in place, so a bot was able to get into the system and start transmitting data back to people who weren’t supposed to have it.

How do I add a captcha form to my website?

You do need a little bit of tech experience in the form of HTML knowledge to add a captcha to your website.

If your business has its own web development team then they can do it easily and quickly in-house, or you can contact your web designer to complete the task for you.

Google offers developers detailed instructions on how to install a reCAPTCHA, for free, on its help pages.

You can also add Google reCAPTCHA to a WordPress site by adding the plugin through your dashboard.

Categories: Security, Tips, SEO, Marketing, Small Businesses

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