Sep 02, 2008, 08:29AM

CAPTCHA Farming Is An Actual Job

CAPTCHAs, those Internet security features where you have to type in letters, were intended to block illegitimate users from accesing sites like Myspace or Tickemaster. They worked great shutting down automated spam programs, but a booming industry of human CAPTCHA sovlers in India is creating a new headache for web companies.

Dancho Danchev, writing for ZDNet, reports on the emergence of CAPTCHA-breaking as an economic model in India. He reports that it's impossible to untangle the corporate web that's unfurled, given that large CAPTCHA-breaking companies often farm work out to multiple smaller businesses, but all available information suggests that CAPTCHA-cracking (referred to as "solving" in marketing parlance) is a booming sector of the Indian tech economy. Danchev reports that CAPTCHA-crackers can earn more per day than they can as legitimate data processing centers.

Indian CAPTCHA-crackers (perhaps they were Chinese gold farmers in another life) appear to earn between 1/10 and 1/8 of a cent per CAPTCHA solved. The businesses in question advertise a wide range of available CAPTCHAs per day; smaller outfits claim they can provide 25,000-50,000 solutions per day, while large-scale operations advertise themselves as producing up to 700,000 CAPTCHAs in a single day. These cracking systems are also designed to minimize lag; one company states it can return CAPTCHAs from MySpace within 20 seconds, though they rather humorously note: "We run into many slowdowns. The most common bottleneck is that MySpace itself is often bogged down, slow and error prone, which then makes it very difficult for our servers to pull captchas quickly."


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