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What’s Behind the CAPTCHA Quiz?

I'm Not A Robot

Why websites sometimes give you the third degree (with a CAPTCHA quiz) before they let you in.

Have you been online and typed in a website name or clicked on a website’s name in your history, only to be stopped in your tracks with a popup screen, a puzzle of sorts, that essentially means, “not so fast.”?

Most people have seen these little annoyances. But do you know…

  • What to call this curious online roadblock?
  • What the word stands for? 
  • What’s the purpose for it?
  • What causes a quiz to pop up from time to time when you are online?

Quick note to VPN users: Just a guess here, but because you’re reading this article on WhatIsMyIPAddress.com, you might also use a virtual private network to hide your actual IP address. Using a VPN is one reason a website may delay you with a CAPTHCA quiz. There are other reasons that cause it but using a VPN (which is becoming more and more popular these days) is one of them.

Still, what’s the reason for the CAPTCHA test?

Thank you, Alan Turing.

You have likely stumbled onto a CAPTCHA quiz, and that stands for Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart.” The word Turing is really a name. It’s there to pay tribute to Alan Turing, the father of computers and who broke the Nazi code in WWII with the help of a primitive computer he built.  

CAPTCHA Test

The CAPTCHA test you sometimes get could look like a wiggly word—and not even a word, but just letters and numbers. Or, it can be a grid of random pictures of things from daily life—houses, chimneys, buses and even fire hydrants.

CAPTCHA Test with Images

The reason you get it is this—the website doesn’t trust the request you’ve made. The website IT administrators (it’s all automated) “think” the request might be troublesome. The computer (yours) that is asking to visit the website might be a robot and the website doesn’t want robots messing things up. That’s why they say, “not so fast…” and slow you down with a CAPTCHA quiz.

Don’t take it personally! It’s not you.

The average person doesn’t get a CAPTCHA quiz too often.

Most people don’t have to deal with and respond to a CAPTCHA quiz that often, although it seems there are some people who have to deal with it more than others. (And could imaging how annoying that could be.)

Here are the answers to the questions above and even some advice on how you might lessen the chance of getting the quizzes if they indeed annoy you when they pop up.

We’re going to keep it pretty simple and non-technical, but we do have to start by telling the simple and primary reason you come across it from time to time.

It’s because the website Google thinks you might not be human. So, they use a program (CAPTCHA) to distinguish a human from a robot.  

Absolutely Doable and It's Free.

“Me, a robot?! Not on my (real) life!”

The reason you get the quiz asking you to retype scrambled letters or identify the pictures of buses in a photo grid is to prove to the website that you are a real person and not a program under the control of a scammer.

Well, of course you know you’re human, flesh and blood. What else would you be?

But the website doesn’t know that. The website thinks the a computer program is controlling the computer (and web browser) trying to access the website. They suspect that it might be a “bot”—which is short for robot.

Think of it, somewhat, like the “robo dialers” that call thousands of phone numbers daily and leave pre-recorded messages. There’s not a real human being behind the actual phone calls. It’s all preprogrammed and run automatically.

Well, that also happens at times on the internet. Why?

Because from the very beginning, some people have always wanted to manipulate, use or even abuse the internet and websites.

Most of that was for marketing or monetary advantages. Some of it was for being disruptive or even destructive.

That is at the core of the idea of the human/not-human quiz, but it’s evolved somewhat from that time also.

Why websites use it.

Websites need to protect themselves and it simply can’t all be done by people. One way to keep trouble out of their sites to begin with is to examine a website visitor a little closer by making them pass the CAPTHA test.

It’s something like the airline security guards asking a ticket holder to step aside for a closer examination of their ID or luggage/possessions. In that instance it’s a case of “prove to us you’re not a danger.”

This CAPTCHA examination is barely intrusive. It’s simply a few-seconds test. It helps websites minimize spam comments, protect their registration forms, and divert traffic that might be coming from suspicious or even know disreputable sources.

And it’s effective because robots can’t do things like solve puzzles, at least (in theory) as well as a human being can. A CAPTCHA quiz is simple enough so that you’re able to sort out the puzzle or complete the quiz quickly and easily, whereas a bot will stumble.

But this all begs the question—why you?  

Reasons why you get a CAPTCHA quiz.

The simple answer is that to those websites who look for troublesome connections, your connection has some characteristics of a bot.

Here are some reasons that could be happening:

  • You use a VPN or proxy to hide your actual IP address.
  • Your computer could be infected with a virus or malware.
  • Someone else who is on your network (and sharing the same IP address) is running a bot or script.
  • Your active IP address (whether from a Wi-Fi hotspot or a VPN provider) may have been previously used in a hack or some other event.
  • You’re using browser add-ons that affect the browser’s normal behavior, and websites find it suspicious.

For more information on CAPTCHA, read this article also on our website.

If you’re interested to learn more about why a VPN might be a good thing to have, check out this article.

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