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Are you sure you're not a robot? The new era of CAPTCHA is here - and here's why we've been "failing" these tests lately

Are you sure you're not a robot? The new era of CAPTCHA is here - and here's why we've been "failing" these tests lately
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"Is it me or have the 'I am not a robot' tests become harder?" joked British comedian Jack Whitehall in his recent Netflix special, complaining about his inability to correctly identify traffic lights.

CAPTCHA is a computer test of the challenge-response type, used to determine whether the system is being used by a human or a computer. It is mostly used to prevent the use of internet services by bots, particularly to prevent automatic registration, file downloads, mass mailings, etc.

Am I a Robot?

Traditionally, CAPTCHA hints show sets of letters and numbers that the user must enter correctly, or sets of images - bridges, motorcycles, pedestrian crossings, and the like. However, puzzles are becoming so complex that real people are unable to solve them.

According to The Wall Street Journal, CAPTCHA asks people to identify objects of the same shape, click on the only non-aquatic animal, or select "the red object in front of the object that appears only once" - admit it, the task itself sounds too difficult.

"I tried to log in, and it gave me this crazy picture, like a bowl of fruit that should be on the table, but was growing out of a tree," wrote 38-year-old game developer Mustafa Al-Hassani. "Has anyone failed the test lately and moved on? Maybe I'm a robot?"

Bots trying to mimic humans are becoming "smarter" and evolving - aggregate customer data from DataDome shows that 50% of "users" passing them are actually bots. That's why CAPTCHA developers resort to increasingly complex hints each time to keep hackers and spammers at bay.

"Honestly, things will get even stranger because now you'll have to do something meaningless," says CEO and founder of Arkose Labs, Kevin Gosschalk. "Otherwise, big multimodal models will outsmart everyone."

According to the WSJ, there are now entire companies emerging that specialize in creating hints for CAPTCHA, with Arkose Labs being one of them.

CAPTCHA - savior problem for business?

One of the main tasks of companies providing their services online is to ensure flawless interaction with the user. However, a recent study by Stanford University showed that the use of CAPTCHA reduces sales conversion by up to 40%, deterring potential buyers due to frustration. And it's not just about difficult hints - even simple ones are difficult for users with visual impairments and other disabilities.

Invisible Checks

Actually, alternatives to CAPTCHA already exist, but probably haven't gained such popularity. Publication Techradar mentions so-called invisible checks - tools that gather thousands of signals in the background, e.g., related to the device, rather than the user themselves, or detect proxy servers used by fraudsters.

The "invisible" nature of these challenges means that bots have a much harder time adapting to them and learning, considering that the code works behind the scenes and does not offer the robot an obvious test. Meanwhile, another study by Forrester showed that users both feel disappointed when faced with CAPTCHA, but also feel more secure viewing the test.

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