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Paul Nicholson
Nashvegas TN
Digital Marketing Manager at HealthTrust. Social media junkie, strategist, and app idea guy. Hockey fan, photographer, and father to 2 awesome boys.

(Opinions expressed here are not those of my employer. Heck, they might not even be mine.)
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Monday, March 17, 2008

critter captcha

First off, for those not familiar with a 'captcha', they are basic test for humanity in web-based forms, meant to keep spammers away. If you make a comment on my blog, you'll see one. They are generally a random collection of text that you have to enter into a form...the typical "type the word you see here" kinda stuff. The one at the right here ("A6LTY") is from a Facebook sign up page.

You may have seen them getting more and more distorted lately (like the one to the right from MSN). This is because spammers were starting to use basic OCR software to allow their automated programs to defeat the tests. OCR software has a hard time seeing through distorted letters that (most) people can still easily see.

Last week captcha's were in the news not once, but twice. First, Gmail's captcha on their sign up process has supposedly been cracked. Gmail had been a pretty safe place to do your email business until recently, but now we may start seeing more spam come from "@gmail.com" (like we've been seeing from @hotmail and @yahoo for years). If that wasn't bad enough, there are apparently spammers in Russia paying people $3 a day to do nothing but enter captchas all day.

So, what is a site supposed to do to protect its users against spammers?

Go fuzzy.

I just signed up for an account on the Clarksville Leaf Chronicle to comment on a story about East Nashville's 5-points area*. I was greeted with this captcha:
That's right. You now get to go back to kindergarten and identify your animals. I hit refresh and it gave me 9 new animal pictures and asked me to click on all animals with four legs. Creative and kinda fun. I wonder how long it will take to crack though...

* I wanted to make a comment, but haven't been able to yet due to a really screwed up sign up process, because this chick must be really dumb to think that 5-points is named that just because the businesses are part of the Greater 5-points Merchants Association...wow...is Brooklyn named that because you get to it on the Brooklyn Bridge?

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