First Business

December 20, 2011

Technology: new ways to captcha bots

It’s not your vision going bad: Those blurry words that some websites force you to retype when you log in are getting blurrier. They’re known as captchas, and they’re designed to stop malicious software from accessing a site and, say, using speedy algorithms to snatch up all the tickets to a concert in seconds. Computers have a hard time deciphering the wavy characters, but they are getting better, says Luis von Ahn, the Carnegie Mellon computer science professor who invented captchas in 2000. ReCaptcha, the company he founded and sold to Google (GOOG) in 2009, still provides more than half of the 280 million captchas solved each day and has had to steadily ratchet up the difficulty, von Ahn says. "It’s tiny, tiny tweaks, making them harder over time.â€

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