If you’re currently in the job market, look no further my friend…I have just the position for you! The pay is low and the company ethics questionable, but you can work from home, set your own hours and you won’t need a fancy degree. Welcome to the Virtual Third-World jobplace, where anyone with an internet connection can make money online!
Position: CAPTCHA Solver (Data Entry Technician I)
Job Description: Solve CAPTCHAs (the letters or words that some websites ask you to enter before letting you use the site or comment on a blog post). Enter data into a webform. Repeat.
Salary: $1 per 1,000 CAPTCHAs solved
When it comes to Data Entry jobs..this one has to be the worst. Not only are you pounding away at a keyboard for hours a day with the scant upside of a teeny tiny paycheck at the end, but you are also actively, knowingly, deliberately annoying the heck out of people the world over! Every single CAPTCHA you solve is a pin prick in the side of a website operator or blogger somewhere. Talk about not being appreciated for your work! Quite the opposite my friend.
And who will pay for your carpal-tunnel-syndrome? There’s no medical plan. There’s no long-term-disability coverage. No Aflac!
Still, this job has existed for years, and given the elevated number of blog comments I’ve been getting lately, I have to presume that there is no shortage of people still signing up to solve those CAPTCHAs; a testament to the dismal job prospects in their country of origin. But on the other hand, maybe that $1/1000 is actually a good-paying job! I know that some of the paid CAPTCHA solvers who hit my blog were from China, whose population stands at 1.3 billion (with a B). I imagine there’s a lot of job competition there. But I digress…
Here’s a quick rundown on how the service works:
- Low-paid workers from China, Pakistan, Vietnam and India
- Service makes use of a programming interface (API) through which companies can pass through CAPTCHAs (in real-time) for solving and transmittal back to the submitting company
- Workers login to the service and solve the CAPTCHAs, getting paid by every thousand solved
- Enterprising individuals may organize a team of Solvers under a main account and get paid for their work
- Payment is done via WebMoney, a virtual currency. This ensures difficulty tracing both the source and destination of funds.
Pretty crafty, right? They just insert a human in the middle of the digital CAPTCHA process, thereby defeating it. As long as you have hordes of low-wage workers the system works.
Where does CAPTCHA go from here?
So, how do you protect yourself against real live humans using their eyes, ears and intellect to solve your CAPTCHAS? You can’t. You can only cut off the offending IP range (a bit extreme if you ask me). And if the IP is spoofed, you may be cutting off legitimate traffic as well, so think about that before you go off an block everything you see spamming. Still, I won’t say that there will never be a way to deal with this issue more effectively in the future. I’m constantly amazed by the power of the human mind. We can achieve so much and technology is always advancing.
For more reading on CAPTCHAs, please see this excellent article by researchers from the University of California, San Diego: http://cseweb.ucsd.edu/~savage/papers/UsenixSec10.pdf