CAPTCHA Systems are Under Attack

For a long time we have come to rely on mechanisms such as CAPTCHA to hold spammers at bay. Should spammers ever succeed in breaking thorugh CAPTCHA a lot of social media web sites and blogs are going to have a big, big problem. Now, Virtual Blight reports that this is on the verge of happening in their post, the Coming CAPTCHA crisis.

The post is written by Richard DeMillo, the Dean of Computer Science at Georgia Tech and former Chief Technology Officer for Hewlett-Packard. In the post, he says:

The value of Web 2.0 sites is based on trust. Users trust that other users are legitimate community members. Posts are from people with opinions, polls reveal what people think, friending requests are from people who want to be your online friend.

According to this post on TMCnet spoke with Russian researchers who claim to have algorithms that can correctly read CAPTCHA screens 30 to 35% of the time. While these tools are currently only in the hand of some high end folks, over time, it is reasonable to expect that they will get more widely disseminated.

When this happens, the flood gates will really let loose, because a 30 to 35% success rate is a gold mine to a spammer. They don't care about the failures, as they happily will take the successes. Spam bots will have open season on all email systems, blogs, and social media sites that are protected by CAPTCHA.

This is a threat to the search marketing community overall, as significant increase in SPAM will make the web a lot less effective as a medium. With these new systems coming online, we could get to a place where 90% of all User Generated Content on social media sites is spam, thereby greatly devaluing the user experience on those sites.

While we are not at the point in time just yet, it seems likely that we will get there in the near future. New security systems need to be put into place before a wave of this stuff truly begins to hit. It's also incumbent upon us to be intolerant of spam in all of its forms. While some of these forms may not seem so bad, the reality of it is that spammers can ruin the web for all of us.