Topic: New security feature: reCAPTCHA for registrations  (Read 5190 times)
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« on: April 08, 2009, 07:08:32 pm »

We haven't had much of a problem with this lately, but we have had spammers in the past. Typically this would be a bot who automatically signs up for an account on the forums and spams with posts about something that is completely unrelated to this site.

In an effort to improve our protection against these spammers, I have made two changes recently. The first was restricting the email providers that could be used (more info). The second one was implemented today and it involves using reCAPTCHA during the registration process.

reCAPTCHA is a form of those messed-up letters and numbers that you have to decipher when filling out web forms. Almost all implementations of this technology involve taking random letters, numbers or words and obscuring them with lines, twists, warps, and other digital noise. reCAPTCHA is different. It displays words from books, newspapers and other printed media that optical character recognition (OCR) failed to recognize properly.

There are two key benefits to this approach:
1. Words that OCR didn't recognize are inherently much more difficult for automated CAPTCHA evading scripts to read which makes reCAPTCHA more effective.
2. Using reCAPTCHA harnesses 10 seconds of effort from every user which multiplies into thousands of man-hours when combined with all other reCAPTCHA-enabled websites across the Internet, and this massive amount of effort helps digitize books, newspapers and other printed media. reCAPTCHA is currently helping to digitize books from the Internet Archive and old editions of the New York Times.

For our existing members, this means less likelihood of spammers visiting our site and successfully posting their garbage. For new members, it helps them contribute to digitizing various texts and is arguably easier than the previous string recognition method.

If you have any questions about this, please let me know by PM or email. Thank you!

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