In our efforts to comment, sign up and message in cyberspace, we are often faced with the perpetually inconveniencing and annoying task of proving that we are actually human!
We solve over 280 million CAPTCHAs every day, and boy do we hate them, especially on mobile. The worst part is that they get harder with time, as the spambots get wiser. Thankfully, Brisbane-based startup SwipeAds is pioneering the ‘gamification’ of CAPTCHAs to save us all.
“We make this product called ‘FunCaptcha’. Instead of solving twisty letters, we use something that humans are even better at, and that’s playing games and recognising visual patterns,” said ex-Atari game designer and co-founder of SwipeAds, the California-raised Matthew Ford.
How does FunCaptcha beat its competition?
Solve Media uses an image of an advertisement that displays a text phrase on it which asks you to type a cringeworthy ad phrase such as ‘UPS loves logistics’ to crack the CAPTCHA. Google’s ReCAPTCHA uses twisty letters which though fairly attack-proof, are so annoying!
How exactly does FunCaptcha work?
FunCaptcha uses image recognition. To solve the puzzle, turn the image the right way up, drag the correct image to the centre, move the spaceship sideways – the possibilities are endless and trickier for spambots to target.
Ford explained, “Humans find image recognition and games really easy to solve, computers don’t. Plus, gamifying CAPTCHA lowers user anxiety because should you get FunCaptcha wrong, and have to start over again, you won’t feel personally insulted, it feels like a game.”
FunCaptcha are faster to solve, Ford said. “Statistically, most twisty letter CAPTCHAs take around 15 seconds to solve. With ours, I personally can solve it in 3-4 seconds, and we are seeing a lot of sub-10-second solves.”
And there are rewards too! The faster you solve the puzzles, the more stars you get. This follows you around from site to site, so you get to make a competition for yourself, and eventually reap the rewards of that because loyalty schemes can be created via FunCaptcha.
How does FunCaptcha intend to stop the spammers?
Since FunCaptcha’s beta release in February this year, it has crossed 4,000 sites globally with over 20 million spammers blocked!
“We don’t rely on a mysterious magic formula to figure out if you are a spammer. It’s pretty simple. The only two vulnerabilities we have, according to experts who have examined our solution, are an image-recognition attack and a guessing attack,” Ford said.
He goes on to explain, “The image recognition path is hard and expensive, looking at academic journals proves that. It’s cheaper to attack someone else or send the puzzles to a sweatshop.”
“The guessing attack is easy to detect because it fails often. As we get failures from an address, the sequence of puzzles gets longer. It’s still fast for humans but becomes extremely hard for bots to guess,” Ford added.
FunCaptcha’s puzzles are distributed from the cloud, if a vulnerability is found, the company can pull the compromised puzzle out of circulation instantly, making the effort to crack it – worthless.