What Purpose does CAPTCHA Exactly Serve?CAPTCPA is mainly used to prevent automated software (bots) from performing actions on behalf of actual humans. For example while signing up for a new email account, you will come across a CAPTCHA at the end of the sign-up form so as to ensure that the form is filled out only by a legitimate human and not by any of the automated software or a computer bot. The main goal of CAPTCHA is to put forth a test which is simple and straight forward for any human to answer but for a computer, it is almost impossible to solve.
What is the Need to Create a Test that Can Tell Computers and Humans Apart?For many the CAPTCHA may seem to be silly and annoying, but in fact it has the ability to protect systems from malicious attacks where people try to game the system. Attackers can make use of automated softwares to generate a huge quantity of requests thereby causing a high load on the target server which would degrade the quality of service of a given system, whether due to abuse or resource expenditure. This can affect millions of legitimate users and their requests. CAPTCHAs can be deployed to protect systems that are vulnerable to email spam, such as the services from Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail.
Who Uses CAPTCHA?CAPTCHAs are mainly used by websites that offer services like online polls and registration forms. For example, Web-based email services like Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail offer free email accounts for their users. However upon each sign-up process, CAPTCHAs are used to prevent spammers from using a bot to generate hundreds of spam mail accounts.
Designing a CAPTCHA SystemCAPTCHAs are designed on the fact that computers lack the ability that human beings have when it comes to processing visual data. It is more easily possible for humans to look at an image and pick out the patterns than a computer. This is because computers lack the real intelligence that humans have by default. CAPTCHAs are implemented by presenting users with an image which contains distorted or randomly stretched characters which only humans should be able to identify. Sometimes characters are striked out or presented with a noisy background to make it even more harder for computers to figure out the patterns.
Most, but not all, CAPTCHAs rely on a visual test. Some Websites implement a totally different CAPTCHA system to tell humans and computers apart. For example, a user is presented with 4 images in which 3 contains picture of animals and one contain a flower. The user is asked to select only those images which contain animals in them. This Turing test can easily be solved by any human, but almost impossible for a computer.