Completely Automated Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart is a technology developed intending to differentiate between users and various bots that negatively affect your online business. They protect you by presenting puzzles and Turing tests a human can solve but are challenging for a computer. These tests come in different forms, from math problems, entering displayed characters, identifying images containing a particular feature, among other ways.
Where and how are CAPTCHA solutions used?
To block fake registrations
A form is a primary tool used for sign-ups and sign-ins by online businesses on their websites. With bots being more intelligent, they target the forms in various attacks like spam, credential stuffing, and account takeover and fill them with junk information. It skews the metrics of flow acquisition for a business. To stop such registrations, you can use CAPTCHA solutions. It is not an effective way because some bots can bypass several CAPTCHA solutions and perform various attacks.
Preventing spam comments
Bots can harm the reputation of your website by posting spam content and unwanted messages. By doing this, they frustrate the users of a particular platform and interfere with genuine interaction online. If you have a platform that targets a specific audience online, CAPTCHA should be your go-to mechanism. It inhibits and limits bot activities and traffic.
However, there has been a discussion on the effectiveness of CAPTCHA in stopping threats that bots pose nowadays. Cybersecurity researchers argue that CAPTCHA solutions are not effective anymore in thwarting the ever-intelligent bots. Using machine learning in developing the bots has given them an edge over the CAPTCHA. Therefore, they cannot withstand or stop them. Various reasons indicate the drawbacks of using CAPTCHA to protect your mobile application, website, or API. Below are the reasons CAPTCHA solutions being not the best solution to protect your online infrastructure against bots.
Why the decline in the use of CAPTCHA solutions?
They are as efficient anymore
The designers, developers, and operators of the malicious bots are among the most innovative individuals in the world. They keep abreast with technological changes and apply them to keep the bots at an edge over the CAPTCHA. A malicious bot’s intelligence improves, enabling them to find various ways of remaining stealthy and evade or bypass various countermeasures like CAPTCHA. Bots can now crack any CAPTCHA, including Google reCAPTCHA, using machine learning and artificial intelligence. CAPTCHA tests must be tougher for them to prevent and detect spam effectively. Unfortunately, this harms the user experience.
Their effect on a user experience
Irrespective of how basic a CAPTCHA is, it will prevent a legitimate person from conducting an internet search, browsing a website, making an online purchase, or submitting a form. This is a common flaw in CAPTCHA solutions. It should also consider legitimate users with accessibility issues like the blind in place but make it hard foar them.
While the effectiveness of a CAPTCHA is still a discussion, the argument is that you should use it alongside other bot protection countermeasures as it can still stop several types of less sophisticated bots. So if CAPTCHA is not effective, what are the CAPTCHA solutions that you can use? There are various alternatives to CAPTCHA that have been proved effective with minimal effect on a user’s browsing experience. Some of them employ intelligent countermeasures like machine learning to prevent the bots from conducting their malicious activities on your online infrastructure.
Alternatives to CAPTCHA
Since we have established that CAPTCHA is not the most effective go-to solution for blocking malicious bots, defending your online system, and other bot malicious activities, what alternatives are available? How do the alternatives solve the issues that exist in CAPTCHA solutions? Below are options to CAPTCHA that are effective and have no effect on the user experience.
Google has been at the forefront of fighting the prevalence of bots online. It cemented its commitment to ensuring a minimal existence of bots in 2009 when it released the various more advanced versions of CAPTCHA like v2 invisible, reCAPTCHA v2, and v3. These versions solve the issues above. By adding more sophistication and challenge to the existing CAPTCHA solutions, the recent versions from google ensure bots cannot bypass them. While doing this, they also ensure that a human’s browsing experience is not affected. In this category, there are four versions:
reCAPTCHA v2 invisible
Unlike traditional CAPTCHA, when you have to click a checkbox, you invoke this CAPTCHA mode when you click on a button. The token is then invoked through an API call to authenticate a user. Therefore, in reCAPTCHA v2 invisible, you do not need to enter any text or solve any problem.
This is the standard CAPTCHA having the ‘I am not a robot’ checkbox that most of us have interacted with. At the moment, it is the most popular and easy-to-integrate reCAPTCHA.
ReCAPTCHA v2 for android
They designed this CAPTCHA method for devices that use the Android platform. One does not need to click on the CAPTCHA because they are integrated directly into the android application. They immediately allow a user to pass if they deem them low risk. If they deem a user risky, they present a CAPTCHA for them to solve.
Anti-bot management solution
The other alternative to CAPTCHA is an anti-bot management solution. It is the best way to detect and manage bot activities within your online infrastructure. They detect the bots in real-time by analysis of traffic and various signatures. They use machine learning and pattern recognition to make behavioral analyses on multiple users. Enlisting the services of an anti-bot solution solves many bot issues. Because the bots are advancing at an unprecedented rate, a bot management solution is the best solution. It leverages technological advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning to provide dedicated bot management solutions. Using AI enables us to differentiate between good and malicious bots. Therefore, this solution blocks the malicious ones while allowing legitimate bots to access your content.
Anti-bot and Anti-spam Honeypots
A honeypot is a deliberate trap set on an online infrastructure to lure the bots and other scripts to expose their identities. By giving them an irresistible thing, bots fall into the trap. The honeypots are not visible to humans. Therefore, when a user clicks them, the website can mark them as illegitimate. Anti-bot honeypots have been a successful CAPTCHA alternative and are applied to many online infrastructures. You can implement them using CSS rules by setting the display: none field to hide them from a user. Therefore, anti-bot honeypots do not affect the browsing experience of a user and are effective. Because the bots are more intelligent nowadays, they can detect where the honeypot is. The trick is to keep moving their position randomly throughout the website. Anti-spam honeypots will protect your content from spamming bots.
Other methods include using secure image and web application firewalls to block the bots and bot activities.
Although CAPTCHA solutions have been regarded to be non-effective in fighting the bots, there is a large pool of alternative CAPTCHA solutions that one can consider. The bottom line is, a CAPTCHA solution should not inhibit or frustrate a user’s browsing experience. It should be practical and use up-to-date technology because the bots are developing at an unprecedented rate. For total protection of your online infrastructure against bot-related cyberthreats, invest in a dedicated bot management solution.