Virtual sweatshops versus CAPTCHAs

KolotiBablo, a Russian service, pays workers in China, India, Pakistan, and Vietnam to crack CAPTCHAs -- it's a favorite of industrial scale spammers. This company's fortunes represent an interesting economic indicator of the relative cost of labor (plus Internet access and junk PCs) in the poorest countries in the world, versus skilled programmer labor to automate CAPTCHA-breaking (or automating a man-in-the-middle attack on CAPTCHAs, such as making people solve imported Gmail account-creation CAPTCHAs in order to look at free porn).

Paying clients interface with the service at, a site hosted on the same server as Antigate charges clients 70 cents to $1 for each batch of 1,000 CAPTCHAs solved, with the price influenced heavily by volume. KolotiBablo says employees can expect to earn between $0.35 to $1 for every thousand CAPTCHAs they solve. The twin operations say they do not condone the use of their services to promote spam, or “all those related things that generate butthurt for the ‘big guys,’” mostly likely a reference to big free Webmail providers like Google and Microsoft. Still, both services can be found heavily advertised and recommended in several underground forums that cater to spammers and scam artists.

Virtual Sweatshops Defeat Bot-or-Not Tests