Suggestions for the future on your web site: (was cookies, and before that Re: Dreamhost hijacking my prefix...)

Jimmy Hess mysidia at
Fri Jan 25 04:30:32 UTC 2013

On 1/23/13, Rich Kulawiec <rsk at> wrote:
> On Mon, Jan 21, 2013 at 02:23:53AM -0600, Jimmy Hess wrote:
> Once again: captchas have zero security value.  They either defend
> (a) resources worth attacking or (b) resources not worth attacking.  If
> it's (a) then they can and will be defeated as soon as someone chooses to
> trouble themselves to do so.  If it's (b) then they're not worth the effort to deploy.  See, for example:

See, you don't show they're not worth the effort to deploy in case (a).
The CAPTCHA   _might_  be attacked,   only if the attacker perceives
the value of resources worth attacking   as higher  than what the
attacker believes the sum of their  cost of the effort that will be
required  to defeat all the  barriers resisting attack.

The return on defeating the CAPTCHA, without defeat on other measures,
will be pretty much zero, if it is reinforcing other security

And of course, you can revise the CAPTCHA, if your monitoring finds
that it has been defeated, and abuse starts to occur,  so the attacker
has to break it again.

It takes much less time commitment to develop new variations on a
CAPTCHA than it it does to defeat novel variations.

> Now I'll grant that captchas aren't as miserably stupid as constructs
> like "user at example dot com" [1] but they really are worthless the

> [1] Such constructs are based on the proposition that spammers capable
> of writing and deploying sophisticated malware, operating enormous botnets,
> maintaining massive address databases, etc., are somehow mysteriously
> incapable of writing

No,  they are based on the proposition,  that the obfuscation is
unique enough to avoid detection,  and spammers frequently search for
something particularly obvious (e-mail addresses that don't require
extra CPU cycles spent on trying many de-obfuscation techniques to

Any particular obfuscation would obviously lose value, if it became
used frequently.
I believe the specific one  'user at example dot com'     is
well-known due to its obviousness and use by certain Mail archive to
HTML software,  and therefore -- I would not recommend that particular

For obfuscation methods to be most effective at blocking address
harvesting, they should be novel, non-obvious.

   Email  to username  and atsign,  this domain:  example,  dot,   and
then  com.

Of course...  if any obfuscation method becomes very popular, or
frequently used by a large number of documents (E.g. list archives of
many/large public mailing lists), and the obfuscation technique will
automatically become worthless,

just because mailing list archives are such an attractive target for
address harvesting, and a consistent obfuscation method for many
addresses -- means the value of defeating that method becomes


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