CAPTCHA… Are you a human? It’s an age-old question made more pressing by the ability for millions of computers to shut down websites or snipe auctions out from under regular, non-robotic buyers. What’s more, proving you’re a human reduces spam, abuse, and even theft.
But the way we currently tell if someone is human online — the CAPTCHA — is, according to Internet backbone provider Cloudflare, costing us collectively 500 years per day.
The CAPTCHA, which stands for “Completely Automated Public Turing tests to tell Computers and Humans Apart,” first appeared in 1997 and has proliferated across the Internet, slowly morphing into the “Find the bicycle” challenges that we face today. Cloudflare, who obviously has money riding on anything that makes it easier to sift robot attackers from humans, is proposing a new service that uses hardware keys to confirm your existence.
But here’s the rub: those hardware keys aren’t very user-friendly. The most popular model, the Yubikey, is a little dongle that connects to your computer and sends a special code when you touch a conductive surface. In this case, the USB key is literally an object you stick into your machine to unlock certain websites and, because you have to interact with it physically, Cloudflare assumes that you’re a human being with fingers. These keys could also pass minimal identifying information onto the website in question but most key manufacturers claim no data changes hands.
Read the full story at Gizmodo.