Tips for dealing with CAPTCHAs

Question

Is there a way to override a Captcha which is very hard to read on certain web sites?

- Gary

Answer

This question was answered on July 30, 2010. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

CAPTCHA’s are those images of crazy random letters and numbers that many websites require you to decipher in order to submit or log-in to a resource If there was an easy way to bypass them, it would defeat the whole purpose of using them.

CAPTCHA is an acronym for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart and is a challenge-response test that was developed to fight ‘spam-bots’.

Spam-bots are automated systems that surf the Internet looking for ways to post spam messages to forums, blogs, wikis, guest books or any of a wide variety of web forms.

CAPTCHAs were developed because many websites were getting more junk postings or form submissions than legitimate ones, but as with any computer based security system, it causes a lot of heartburn for actual users.

To make things worse, the bad guys have developed a whole host of circumvention techniques, (including the use of cheap ‘human solvers’ in foreign countries that are paid 80 cents to $1 per 1000 solved CAPTCHAs) that are causing websites to use even more difficult to read CAPTCHAs, which results in more frustration for all of us.

This battle is going to continue to rage on and hopefully the technology will evolve to be more human friendly, but for the time being, we all have to deal with the side effects of this filtering process.

There are a number of things that many do not know that might help reduce the stress of dealing with these digital barriers.

CAPTCHAs don’t generally require absolute accuracy in order to allow you to pass, so the first tip is not to worry about trying to replicate what you see in its exact form.

For instance, spaces, punctuation and capitalization are all unnecessary in most cases.

Additionally, most systems allow you to be off on one or two characters but still allow you through, so getting it absolutely correct isn’t that critical as the system is just trying to figure out if you are a human submitter.

All CAPTCHAs have a button that allows you to request a different challenge, so if what you see is too difficult to decipher, request another one.

Another problem for many of us older users with less than optimum vision is that the characters are too small to read In most cases, the CAPTCHA can be ‘blown up’ by telling your browser that you want to zoom in.

The easiest way to zoom in any Windows program is to hold down the CTRL button on your keyboard and roll the wheel on your mouse in the up direction (and down will zoom out) If you don’t have a wheel mouse, look for a ‘zoom feature’ in the browser’s ‘View’ menu.

Some CAPTCHAs also have an audio option (look for a speaker icon to flip to an audio challenge) and in those cases, spaces are generally required.

There are some promising new CAPTCHA technologies that are coming to market that incorporates image or video challenges such as those being offered by NuCaptcha ( http://NuCaptcha.com ) , so if you are a website owner that wants to make it easier for your users to submit forms, checkout the free NuCaptcha Basic service.

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Author

Posted by Ken of Data Doctors on July 30, 2010