Google is replacing letter/digits with a checkbox (Image from

Security is vital to the survival of all Internet-connected enterprises. Which is why a number of them force new users to type a series of random letters and numbers for authentication as a way of ensuring bots from hackers don’t log into their systems.

Called CAPTCHAs (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart), they drive me up a wall because as an added protection against machine-reading malware, the digits are skewed and run on a grey background — which makes them hard for humans to read: Is that a z or a 2? Is the word carrol or carral? Often, I have to enter the code more than once.

Google, which offers a free a service for organizations called re:CAPTCHA  has decided things can be simpler and still safe. In a blog Wednesday Vinay Shet,  manager of the product, said it now offers a new option that makes users click on a box to confirm they are human.

“CAPTCHAs have long relied on the inability of robots to solve distorted text,” he explained. “However, our research recently showed that today’s Artificial Intelligence technology can solve even the most difficult variant of distorted text at 99.8 per cent accuracy. Thus distorted text, on its own, is no longer a dependable test.”

Thus the checkbox. It’s not merely that, however. Google also has a new backend for reCAPTCHA that Shet said looks at what the user does before, during, and after using it to calculate if the user is a human.

In most cases checking the the box is enough. If the analysis engine isn’t convinced who — or what — has clicked on the box it will generate a traditional CAPTCHA. The new version already in use by Snapchat, WordPress and Humble Bundle,

Shet said a new API that enables the checkbox capability also allows the creation of picture-based CAPTCHAs for mobile devices, where users have to touch the right combination of images for authentication.  feature is also easier to use on mobile devices.

“Users hated CAPTCHA,” Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group, told Computerworld U.S.. “Getting rid of it likely could be classified as a humanitarian effort.”

Competitors include Vancouver’s NuCaptcha, which sells a solution that varies its CAPTCHA difficulty based on identifying high risk Web site activity.