Most people who have used the Internet are familiar with the little boxes at the bottom of forms that ask you to prove that you’re human. It’s become a common joke that the distorted letters are illegible and that it’s just as hard for a human to solve these puzzles as it would be for a robot. But is that true? And if so, why do we still use this outdated verification?
Google’s ReCaptcha is beginning to show its limitations, and many site owners and internet users are seeking alternatives. To know why, it’s important to know what Recaptcha is, why it is being phased out, and what authentication methods are being used to replace it.
What is Recaptcha?
ReCaptcha is a Google property. This program is a multi-factor authentication method that uses a risk analysis engine to prevent spam responses to forms online. It’s most often used for surveys, email list registration forms, account creation and login screens, and purchase forms, among other applications. ReCaptcha uses a CAPTCHA test, which stands for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.”
The Turing Test is a method of determining whether a computer can effectively mimic a human being’s thought processes. For a classic Turing Test, a human asks a series of questions to two responders, one other human and one computer program. After all questions are answered, the questioner must determine which responder is the computer. If, on more than half of the trials of the test, the computer is incorrectly identified, the computer is said to have passed the Turing Test.
So, using this idea, CAPTCHA tests generate an image that the user has to correctly interpret to access or submit the form. This is usually either an image with distorted letters and numbers that must be typed in the correct order or a series of images that ask users to identify a specific object. Some reCaptcha tests may be a single checkbox to select labeled “I am not a robot.” With this version of the test, the program takes into account the speed and accuracy of the click on the box, verifying a certain level of human error for authenticity.
Why is Recaptcha being phased out?
While reCaptcha started as a go-to authentication method, modern internet users and site owners have criticisms that are beginning to spell the end of the software as an industry standard.
For one, reCaptcha has extremely limited accessibility features. Many users with accessibility needs, such as low vision or blind users, express frustration with reCaptcha’s distorted letter mechanic. With accessibility for all becoming a major focus for most online brands, having essential features of your site hidden behind a feature that cannot accommodate people with visual disabilities can be a major hindrance.
Another major complaint is the overall tedium of filling out reCaptcha forms. Some versions of the system require users to go through two, three, or even four layers of identification and authentication to verify their legitimacy as users, which can take an upsetting amount of time to complete, and in the event of an internet issue, can be extremely frustrating to have to restart. There have also been issues with image reCaptchas specifically having errors that result in the user being asked to identify an object that isn’t present at all, which can lead to further confusion and annoyance.
The final major concern with reCaptcha is the advancement of artificial intelligence technology. AI algorithms are becoming so advanced that they can pass the Turing test with relative ease, and with reCaptcha specifically, programs have been developed by scammers and bot managers that can replicate the minute randomizations in clicks of a human being and identify images more clearly than ever before. Many people are concerned that reCaptchas have become obsolete in the face of these advancements, and many site owners are finding that more and more bots are slipping through reCaptcha filters because of it.
What will replace Recaptcha?
While it’s unlikely that reCaptcha will be completely phased out anytime soon – as this would be a massive undertaking and require the reconfiguration of millions of sites worldwide – other authentication methods are slowly becoming more prevalent as a way of warding off AI advancements and bots.
Some sites choose to use methods like Cloudflare’s Turnstile, which uses specific code to verify a user’s connection and authenticity and filter out bots. Others choose to add another layer of security to their reCaptcha authentication instead of replacing it, using bot-sweeping software to filter out any spam that may get past the Captcha and into their system. They may also choose to implement a firewall system to block AI. Some companies are also fighting AI with AI; they use AI software to detect spam accounts and users across networks and block them instantly.
A new authentication method from Netlok called Photolok allows users to log into their accounts by selecting an image of their choosing from a grid of similar images. This system allows users to upload their security images with labels including one-time use and duress – a label that would alert administrators if a user is forced to log into their account by a bad actor. It is an extremely secure method that works well against bots and AI alike thanks to clever encryption and a unique verification algorithm.
Other methods include 2FA requiring outside devices such as phones or tablets and biometric authentication, which may include facial recognition software or fingerprint reading.
While reCaptcha has been a go-to authentication method for many years, its limitations and drawbacks are becoming increasingly apparent to both internet users and site owners, especially concerning accessibility. Alternative authentication methods are slowly gaining popularity as a way to fight against AI advancements and bots. Again, while it is unlikely that reCaptcha will be completely phased out anytime soon, site owners need to consider alternative authentication methods that are more accessible, user-friendly, and secure.
If you are interested in implementing Photolok into your network as a Captcha alternative, you can schedule a demo online.
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