Reiki-Do’s Anti-Spam method

Believe it or not, for every single thing in this world there is an opposite. Every new invention can be used for good, but also for bad. The nuclear energy is maybe the most famous example.

The e-mail, this powerful tool used to connect people from all over the world, has become infested with spam-mail that has as purpose to deliver un-requested advertizing, or even to take advantage of an unsuspecting reader.

Blog Spam

One of the latest internet tools, the blog (short for web log), that makes possible publishing and managing articles on a website, became a victim of the above-mentioned spammers. Un-ethical programmers developed programs, called spam-bots that can browse the net searching for blogs, guest-books, or any other public discussion boards accessible online, displaying hyperlinks submitted by visitors; they can also detect posts that allow comments and automatically post random comments or comments that contain links to commercial services, with the purpose to increase the site’s search engine ranking. An increased ranking often results in the spammer’s commercial site being listed ahead of other sites for certain searches, increasing the number of potential visitors and paying customers. Sadly enough, simple blogs can’t fight this spam-bots efficiently.

Reiki-Do uses one of the most powerful blog tools called WordPress (WP) that gives the webmaster the possibility to manually choose which comments to publish and which one to block. This had been an efficient anti-spam method, till recently, when the number of daily spam comments exceeded 50. At this point, an automated anti-spam method became necessary.

Fortunately, other programmers have created tools to fight the blog spammers efficiently. Each of these tools attempts, by using different methods, to distinguish between a human and a spam-bot trying to insert a comment in an article. Each of them has strong and weak points. In all cases, the annoying consequence for a person who tries to make a comment is that the person has to prove that they are ‘human’.

In this fight against spammers, Reiki-Do decided to install a WP plugin (program) called WP-ReCaptcha.

CAPTCHA

A CAPTCHA or Captcha is a type of challenge-response test used in computing to ensure that the response is not generated by a computer. It is a contrived acronym for "Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart." The process usually involves one computer (a server) asking a user to complete a simple test which the computer is able to generate and grade. Because other computers are unable to solve the CAPTCHA, any user entering a correct solution is presumed to be human. A common type of CAPTCHA requires that the user type letters or digits from a distorted image that appears on the screen.

ReCAPTCHA

ReCAPTCHA is an anti-spam method originating from Carnegie Mellon University which uses CAPTCHAs in a genius way. Instead of randomly generating useless characters which users grow tired of continuously typing in, risking the possibility that spammers will eventually write sophisticated spam bots which use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) libraries to read the characters, reCAPTCHA uses a different approach. They effectively kill two birds with one stone.

ReCAPTCHA Red ExempleIf you didn’t know, the world is in the process of digitizing books (Even the Library of Congress is too) so that they can last forever as well as become searchable. To digitize the books, Scanners scan the pages of the books resulting in image files. OCR technology is then used to attempt to convert the images to text. Sometimes, however, certain words are illegible to the OCR technology but the good thing is that they know when the technology knows when this happens and can mark the words and put them into a repository. To construct a CAPTCHA, reCAPTCHA takes one of the words from these repositories and couples it with a word they do know, then distorts them some more. When a certain percentage of people type in the same spelling for the unknown word, it is assumed to be correct and sent back to help with the digitization process.

This effectively means that users who fill in reCAPTCHA forms can feel good knowing they are contributing to the digitizing of books all over the world, so it gives it a purpose. Also, if Industry Standard OCR Scanners can’t read certain words, add to that the fact that they are further distorted before being added to a CAPTCHA, one can be almost certain that Spam Bots won’t be able to read the CAPTCHAs either, this makes it secure.

ReCAPTCHA has many security measures including IP Address Detection to review and potentially block IPs which have solved too many CAPTCHAs in a limited amount of time and adaptive security meaning they can fix bugs if they’re found, as they are found because the CAPTCHAs are generated on their servers.

Many popular websites such as Twitter, Facebook, and even certain Government websites like the TV Converter Box Coupon site are using ReCAPTCHA. It is definitely becoming more and more widespread, and the neat thing is that it is accessible to everyone.

Reiki-Do regrets to be forced to use this method to distinguish between real comments and spam, but it is glad to contribute in this way to the process of digitizing books.

We hope that you will forgive us for this new addition to our Reiki website, and you will continue to let us know what your thoughts and suggestions are.

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