CAPTCHA : How a simple box proves you’re not a robot?

When checking out or signing in into an account, have you ever wondered why you have to prove that “you’re a human”? We are often asked to confirm that we are a human” by checking some boxes. In today’s day in age, where technology is so advanced, how can this simple proof prevent fake accounts?

The term CAPTCHA is an acronym meaning “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart”. The name references Alan Turing, a computer scientist who conceived the Turing Test, which was used to determine if a machine can think. It also implies its utility; discerning computers and humans.

Through the last two decades, this test has seen many variations. Most millennials’ introduction to it was the MSN Messenger/Windows Live strange letter sequence to transcribe when updating or changing a password (or other settings). From letters to specific pictures, the test has had to evolve to keep up with the user experience and the trend of instant gratification (users today don’t want to take the time to copy letters on mobile devices). But a large majority of those tests were solvable by rapidly growing complex artificial intelligence programs. Facing this reality and poor efficiency, Google introduced its reCAPTCHA in 2014. Instead of asking the user to enter an answer, it simply asks to check a box “confirming” that they’re not a bot. Not only is it simpler for the user, but it is also said to be more secure. Instead of asking something of the user, it analyzes its movement. This test is able to weed out bots by analyzing behaviour. While individuals have a mouse and typing pattern that are random, bots’ behaviour is automated, therefore constant. It can be analyzed by typing tendencies, mouse movement and many more factors.

While many of us find the box strange to check (because wouldn’t a robot be able to check is as well?), it is a response to modern technologies worries.

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