AI is better at solving CAPTCHAs than you are

August 21, 2023

CAPTCHA AI vs Humans

A new research paper shows that AI is faster and better than humans at solving CAPTCHAs.

For nearly two decades CAPTCHAs have been used to protect websites from bots, but the results from this study show that those days may have come to an end. 

The researchers had 1,400 people solve 14,000 CAPTCHAs, including Google’s trickier reCAPTCHA challenges. The participants didn’t know that they were part of a study as the researchers just hired workers on MTurk to solve the CAPTCHAs. 

Ironically, in March this year, a GPT-4 bot reportedly hired a worker on MTurk to solve a CAPTCHA. But now it seems like AI bots won’t need to outsource this to humans on freelancing platforms anymore.

When the researchers compared the performance of humans to bots they found that AI outperformed humans on all of the types of CAPTCHAs they tested. Not only were the bots faster, but they were a lot more accurate in solving the “prove you’re human” tests.

On the simpler reCAPTCHA click challenges the humans averaged an accuracy of between 71%-85% and solved them in 3.1 to 4.9 seconds.

The bots managed to solve these with 100% accuracy at an average of 1.4 seconds.

For the trickier reCAPTCHA image challenges the race was a lot closer but with AI still coming out on top. These are the “click all the fire hydrants” type tests.

The humans achieved an accuracy of 81% with a solve time of between 15 and 26 seconds. The bots managed an accuracy of 85% at 17.5 seconds.

What this means is that the methods that websites use to keep bots out are actually better at keeping out humans instead.

People hate having to complete CAPTCHAs and now it seems that we’re wasting our time with them anyway. 

CAPTCHA is one of my favorite acronyms. It stands for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.” Except it can’t do that anymore.

We could come up with harder puzzles to solve to “prove you’re a human” but then there are all kinds of ethical issues that pop up. Are you human only if you are smart enough to solve a puzzle?

And while AI is getting smarter, people, in general, aren’t. If you present them with a more complex CAPTCHA they just won’t bother.

We’ll have to find a smarter way to differentiate between real humans and increasingly humanlike AI. For now, it seems the bots have consigned CAPTCHAs to the growing list of extinct internet curiosities.

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Eugene van der Watt

Eugene comes from an electronic engineering background and loves all things tech. When he takes a break from consuming AI news you'll find him at the snooker table.


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