Companies have generally wised up to the hoards of bot-controlled spammers waiting to overwhelm their websites with get-rich-quick schemes. Captcha systems have become the de facto approach for defeating would-be bot-anarchists (see diagram below). For customers with 20-20 vision and a healthy imagination, captcha screens are a mildly annoying but generally acceptable barrier to entry. However, would be spammers have been evolving their methods. Some have employed more advanced automated captcha readers, while others are enrolling substantial low-cost workforces to crack into sites. McBainsey, a consultancy, estimates that the entire population of Western Samoa is now gainfully employed in captcha-cracking practices.
An opportunity exists to beef up site security while squeezing additional profits from new customers. DayNovo, a consultancy, has identified three promising startups in this new area of "captchanomics".
Captcha Reading Systems
Reading traditional captcha screens can prove difficult for certain demographic groups (e.g. the elderly, the mentally unstable, the Welsh). Captcha Optics Inc, a Delaware-based company, is currently testing its new Captcha Grabber system in local assisted living establishments. Featuring state of the art Karl Zise optics, advanced image processing and a rubberized nose-grip, the system could revolutionize web-site entry for millions of customers. "So far so good" said Anthony Hume, CTO and co-founder, "We've managed to gain entry into five web-sites, and we're confident we'll reach ten by the end of the month".
Next-Gen Captcha Screens
FuzzyKey Technologies, a spin-out from the University of Devonport, has developed stereogram images that contain web-site login codes. "Traditional captcha screens typically take a human around five seconds to decode. Our newest FuzzyKey images will take you at least five minutes to figure out." boasts Prof. Arnold Hastie, FuzzyKey's founder and CEO. "And once we embed a captcha image into our own stereogram you might be staring at the screen all afternoon."
Outsourced Captcha Services
Captchat Services offers a fee-based call center to help struggling customers decipher captcha screens. Hundreds of highly trained and over-caffeinated Mongolian nomads are waiting in a decentralized call center network to assist callers. Mongol agents take control of the customer's screen while soothing regional hunting music plays in the background. Particularly troubling phrases are escalated, free of charge, to a committee of the wise for further analysis.