On the internet, most of us are required to prove that we are real humans rather than robots from time to time. Sometimes it is just about solving a simple math problem, sometimes we have to choose a few photos, etc. Those little and little bit annoying tests are called CAPTCHAs. Their job is to prevent bots from doing specific things, for example, creating fake accounts buying a tone of limited stuff at retail price to sell it for a higher price afterward. CAPTCHA’s are also designed to be ridiculously simple for humans yet difficult for machines.
However, it seems like bots are getting better and better at solving them! There is a Californian AI firm, Vicarious – it has been significantly funded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg. Vicarious managed to crack the basic CAPTCHA already in 2013. It had 90% accuracy then! Although CAPTCHA designers weren’t sleeping either, over the years CAPTCHAs have been getting more difficult to outsmart smarter bots. However, they also had to keep being trivial for humans.
Google’s reCAPTCHA test seems like the best type of CAPTCHA right now, as it can only be solved by humans 87% of the time. I’m pretty sure you have all come across it in the past as it is being used very frequently. How it works then? Well, it asks users to choose the photos/blocks which include specific features like buses or traffic lights.
Vicarious has been working on enabling their bots to overcome reCAPTCHA. According to the paper, their AI now beats Google’s test 66.6 percent of the time! But how Vicarious accomplished that? How their bots actually work? Vicarious based their AI on something they call „Recursive Cortical Network”. It is designed to mimic thought processes that typically occur in human brains. At the same time, those processes require less computing power than a full neural network. This results in AI being able to identify objects even if they are shaded or obscured just like on reCAPTCHA.
On the other hand, we have to remember that not many people have access to this powerful CAPTCHA-cracking AI. Most people still do not possess any useful and relevant bots in this area. Thanks to that, I think that CAPTCHAs are not entirely useless for now. However, CAPTCHA designers should work on improving them however, it seems like AI can come to the point where fooling automated bots will be impossible.