Spammers are using sweatshop labour to bypass CAPTCHA security.
For a while now CAPTCHA boxes have prevented spammers from hitting websites by having to prove they are human by requiring them to figure out what is written in a graphic.
While this is tricky for a machine to do it is very easy for a human, what ever language they happen to speak.
So the spammers have outsourced CAPTCHA solving to teams of low-wage workers in places like Russia and Southeast Asia. According to Stefan Savage, who is a a professor in the department of computer science and engineering at the University of California San Diego the beauty of most modern CAPTCHAs is that they simply take Latin characters — so they don't actually need to understand what the words mean — they simply need to be able to look at the symbols and type the appropriate ones on their keyboard.
Savage penned a paper on the economics of this underground CAPTCHA trade.
He said that CAPTCHA-solving teams are sweatshop labour, where people will just sit and be given these images to solve and will type them in all day.
They can turn around a CAPTCHA in between 10 and 20 seconds and they get 75 cents per 1,000 CAPTCHAs solved. Most hope to get about $2 or $3 a day.
This is about same as the lowest paid textile work so the quality of life is slightly better than being in a textile mill.
There's nothing illegal about solving a CAPTCHA, even if what the solvers are doing supports fraudulent activity, so the coppers are not going to close the operations down.
He said that with operations like this, it is pointless to use CAPTCHAs as they don't ultimately prevent abuse, although they might prevent things getting much worse.