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Sunday, August 18, 2013

CAPTCHA Verification Is Broken, For Some Blogs, In Various Applications

We're seeing a number of problem reports, in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken, about various problems which involve CAPTCHA verification processes.

The symptoms are fairly diverse.
  • Some blog owners report problems with commenting, on their blogs.
  • Some report problems with high posting volumes.
  • Some report problems getting abuse review requested, for their blogs falsely accused of hosting abusive content.
The reporting volumes, and perceived urgency, for each case, will vary.

The known problems involve various bX codes, issued in place of the CAPTCHA form.
  • An unverified code is being seen, by people trying to post comments, on blogs using CAPTCHA screening.
  • Blog owners are reporting various bX codes, when trying to post high volume blogs.
  • Other blog owners are reporting "bX-niui1k", when trying to request spam review, from the dashboard "Deleted blogs" list.
  • It's possible that there are other CAPTCHA applications, also seeing bX codes.
The audience observing the bX codes will differ - because the relationship of the people needing to use the CAPTCHA, and the volume of CAPTCHA use by the affected people, will differ.

People observing a bX code, when trying to post a comment, will be guests on blogs which use CAPTCHA screening - since blog members and owners are not subject to comment screening. CAPTCHA screening is optional for comment moderation, in general - and it's possible that many blog owners are not using CAPTCHA screening on their blogs.

It's also possible that only blogs which use the full page and popup comment forms are vulnerable, to this problem. The report volumes involving bX codes involved with comment moderation are low - and this will make affinity analysis difficult.

People observing a bX code, when trying to post at high volume, will be blog owners who post frequently. The reports of this problem are low to medium volume - possibly because many blog owners avoid posting excessively. This may be because we have observed that repeatedly solving a CAPTCHA will be inconvenient.

The people who report this problem are fairly insistent that this problem needs to be solved. Since the bX code is observed repeatedly (once for each high volume post attempted), by the blog owners affected, this case will involve the most controversy. Several blog owners have reported seeing differing bX codes.

People observing a bX code, when trying to submit an abusive blog review request from the "Deleted blogs" dashboard list, will be blog owners whose blogs were deleted or locked, spuriously, for abusive content (aka "spam hosting"). These people will post in the forums, and can be helped fairly easily, by our promptly offering a manual review, submitted to Blogger Support.

This case represents the most frequently reported symptom - but since the people affected can be helped with minimum fuss - and since this case is only observed once for each blog involved, this case will involve less controversy. This case has been reported, as noted, consistently producing the "bX-niui1k" code.

It's possible that CAPTCHAs are used in other unidentified applications - and we may yet have other cases to discuss, if the base problem is not resolved fairly promptly. Blogger Support is currently aware that there is a problem - and hopefully, where the problem lies.

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