Google E-Mail Masking

As an alternative to the Enkoder, Google Groups turns e-mail addresses in headers and in document text into links to CAPTCHAs, viz. the documentation. They’re not using the hardest distortions I’ve seen, but there seems to be some good contact between the letters.

I wonder what the space looks like between the fully automatic but very fragile Enkoder system and the many-click and -keypress CAPTCHA system. A system using Javascript combined with an easy Turing test would give the best of both worlds. With the CAPTCHA Turing test reduced to, say, a single click, the self-evaluating Javascript could combine that weaker test with a computational payment.

So I see two possible directions for the Enkoder system. One is a user-initiated computational payment: a “decode data” link, when clicked, changes to show “loading…” until the computation produces whatever was enkoded — an e-mail link, data, whatever. The other is a user-initiated puzzle: click the e-mail, a popup div or window presents an intuitive puzzle of moderate difficulty that is generated via the Enkoder-self-evaluating Javascript method; solving it correctly should then deliver the data.

The first is just an engineering issue. First I’d need to collect data on how long dekoding takes on different platforms, and to try to maximize my control while preventing the explosion of the enkoded data in size. (Modular multiplication? I knew MA158 Cryptography would be good for something!) The second direction needs some serious thought about puzzle design. It’s important to be acultural and not too intellectually challenging, but still hard for a machine to figure out. Secondly, it’s not clear how to prevent replay attacks if the Turing test is all client-side, so it has to be difficult to brute-force.

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