Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The bots are at the gates

(via Slashdot) We would like to think that the internet is for humans. Nothing could be further from the truth, the internet is inhabited by millions of little robots which fetch feeds, index the web, trawl through content looking for patterns, browse blogs, search e-commerce sites and compare prices. While most bots are benign in nature (e.g. Googlebot), there are malicious artificial entities pouncing on your protections, or trying to log into blogs and leave spam, or attempt to setup email accounts in order to send spam to the unsuspecting masses. There is only one thing standing between this army of bots and their human overlords from you and me, the mighty CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart).

CAPTCHAs are designed to test that the person filling the web form is indeed a member of the human species. This is done by displaying twisted and/or hard to read text as a picture, under the assumption that only a real human can make out the real letters behind the gibberish. The problem has been that there is an arms race between bot handlers and CAPTCHA designers.

The latest victim of CAPTCHA vulnerability is Gmail. According to Websense, a new spambot has been able to succesfully create a Gmail account 1 out of 5 times, which is pretty impressive.

It is time we gave robots some form of personality right, and also we should make them accountable. I don't know, bring back gladiatorial combat for bots?

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