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Video CAPTCHAs target cyberbaddies

Animated Turing tests

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NuCaptcha has extended its video-based CAPTCHA service that it claims will make things easier for users while making life more difficult for spammers and other cyber-baddies.

The technology, which is customisable, involves asking users to identify moving text in an animation against a video background. NuCaptcha is positioned the technology as an alternative to traditional distorted text-based Captchas from the likes of Google and others.

The software is available in free, ad-supported or paid-for enterprise formats featuring varying levels of complexity, refinement and security, as explained in a short (but somewhat cheesy) video clip here.

The Canadian start-up began offering NuCaptcha Basic, a freemium security service for websites and blogs that offers up to 25,000 CAPTCHAs per month, last year. It extended this portfolio with ad-supported, enterprise and branded versions of the product on Thursday, alongside a campaign designed to encourage webmaster to make the switch.

Applications include everything from website sign-ups for the free product, to challenge screens for corporate password resets for the enterprise product.

The system is designed to detect unusual behaviour, increasing the complexity of the CAPTCHA while slowing down the video. The approach is designed to make it difficult for both bots and human-farms to solve CAPTCHAs in high volumes.

The CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) has been used for years to prevent automated sign-ups to webmail accounts and the like. Users are typically asked to identify distorted letters as depicted in an image, although a variety of other approaches – including pictures of cats and calculus puzzles – have been applied to the problem.

Cybercrooks have responded to the challenge by devising techniques to circumvent controls, for example by creating ready-to-spam webmail accounts from established providers that are less likely to be blocked by basic anti-spam filters.

Sign-up for new accounts can be automated, but solving the CAPTCHA puzzles themselves is normally farmed out to the human cogs in 21st century sweatshops, often based in India, where worker drones are paid as little as $4 a day to defeat security checks. ®

Mobile application security vulnerability report

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