What is Captcha and What Can It Do for You?

If you’ve used the internet for any length of time, you’ve undoubtedly come across a Captcha in one of the many different forms they take. They’re an important way of preventing spam and hackers from exploiting your website’s contact forms, and if you run a website, you should be running some form of Captcha. While the majority of hacks on WordPress websites are due to plugins being out of date, there are some that make use of other more automated exploits that a simple captcha can help prevent too.

What is Captcha?

The name is actually an acronym, which stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. That might give you somewhat of a clue as to the intended purpose of it, but at its core the Captcha is essentially a way to determine whether a form, login attempt or any other type of interactivity on a website is being performed by a human or not. It’s designed to prevent scripts and bots from spamming or brute forcing comment and contact forms or logins.

What Are the Types of Captcha?

In the beginning, when Captcha first started appearing on webpages, it was almost always a jumble of upper and lowercase letters and numbers that you had to fill in via a text box to prove that you were human. As artificial intelligence improved and computers got better at recognising these captchas, they had to evolve and now they take many different forms. Some rely on that same traditional method while others rely on you identifying objects in photos or parts of photos, or even using artificial intelligence themselves to determine if the user is indeed a human or a bot or script. Captchas continue to evolve and get smarter and less intrusive as time goes by.

Where Would You Use It?

You can make use of Captcha anywhere you use a form on your website, basically. If your website allows for comments on articles or submission of a contact form, Captcha can help prevent a large number of basic spam bots from filling up these submissions by expecting the form filler to pass a simple test to determine if they’re human. Captchas are also an important addition to any login page you might have as they prevent bots or programs from simply trying thousands of passwords to guess the correct one, though this is falling out of favour and being replaced by two factor authentication.

What About Accessibility?

Captcha can even assist your website users who may need accessibility options. They can do this by having an audio component that can read aloud the letters and numbers to the user to type in. More advanced and modern Captchas don’t even need much human interaction at all and use techniques like examining cookies and IP addresses to determine if the user is legitimate.

The humble Captcha can take just minutes to implement on your website and can save you hours upon hours of sifting through spam comments and the irritation of an inbox full of spam from a contact form. There’s no excuse not to use Captcha on your website.

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