reCAPTCHA Goes Invisible

Are you a robot? If you aren’t, you’ve probably had to prove it in order to use Google’s digital services, and Google just took a big step in making that even easier for its users.

In the past, robot-catching systems (called Captchas) have required users to go through tedious and cumbersome processes, such as reading blurry and half-legible text. From there, Google simplified captchas to a simple “I am not a robot” button, but now even that has been rendered obsolete. At its Google Next ‘17 conference in San Francisco, Google announced that the captcha process would become completely invisible to the user.

This is great news – security and ease-of-use are key elements of Echo’s mobile development platform. Presenting the service as “tough on bots, easy on humans,” Google has remained otherwise vague as to the exact techniques it employs behind the scenes to identify non-robot users. What it has revealed is that it screens non-humans out by watching their behavior on websites and mobile views, and also by identifying people as human beings ahead of time.

Machine Learning and Pre-Screened Human Beings

The world’s most widely-used provider of captcha systems is the reCAPTCHA system, acquired by Google in 2009.  Founded in 2007, the blurry text challenges served a purpose – the users who passed through the challenges helped identify words that were difficult to digitize, leading to the complete digitization of the New York Times archives by 2011. In 2014, the reCAPTCHA system moved to a single simple button that users clicked to confirm that “I am not a robot”.

“Since the launch of No CAPTCHA reCAPTCHA, millions of Internet users have been able to attest they are human with just a single click,” the company wrote on the reCAPTCHA Web site. “Now we’re taking it a step further and making it invisible. Human users will be let through without seeing the ‘I’m not a robot’ checkbox, while suspicious ones and bots still have to solve the challenges.”

Now, the challenges are implicit. Does the user scroll through the website, or do they instantly jump to fields and links? Are they using a normal browser and connection, or are they on an anonymous browser like Tor with a VPN? Does their browsing history suggest human activity or robot activity? All this and more goes into automatically determining whether or not a user is a human – if there are grounds for suspicion, the user is then presented with the familiar one-click reCAPTCHA.

Google says that this new system will impact a “substantial number” of the internet’s users, likely including you. To learn more about how these developments can help give your mobile apps an edge in security and accessibility, drop us a line at http://www.justecho.com/contact/