Ask anyone what the most annoying thing about the internet is. Chances are, many of them will say it’s those little boxes that force you to work out how many squares contain trucks, or street lights—CAPTCHAs. For Apple users, those irritating boxes could soon become a thing of the past, because the iPhone maker is about to launch a new method of proving you aren’t a bot in its next major software upgrade, iOS 16.
Spotted by Apple-focused site MacRumors, the iPhone maker demoed how the new iOS 16 feature would bypass CAPTCHAs at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). In a technical video, the iPhone maker explained how a new feature will work using something called a Private Access Token to verify you to the website or app. It does this via iCloud, which will verify your device and Apple ID in the background so there’s no need for the CAPTCHA prompt.
The new iOS 16 feature will also improve your privacy, Apple says, by avoiding the collection of details such as your IP address. Private Access Tokens are supported by others including Cloudflare
In the first beta versions of iOS 16, the new iPhone feature is available under Settings > Apple ID > Password and Security > Automatic Verification. As is the way with many Apple security and privacy features, Automatic Verification is enabled by default. I mean, who would want to use CAPTCHAs unless they have to?
The problem with CAPTCHAs
You probably don’t need telling, but CAPTCHAs—AKA Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart—are incredibly annoying. They often fail, and they aren’t great for less technical users—plus sometimes they feel like an eye test rather than the proof you are a human. They can capture details such as your IP address too, making them a privacy risk.
The reason for CAPTCHAs is security—to tell a real person from a bot on a website and prevent spamming
For now, CAPTCHAs are a “necessary evil,” says independent security researcher Sean Wright. “All too often it’s difficult to determine if you’ve selected all the correct blocks, or in some cases the algorithm simply fails numerous times, so the iOS 16 feature is a great win for usability,” he says.
The new iOS 16 feature could improve security too, says Wright. “Spoofing a device will become more difficult. Currently, there have been some instances where it has been possible, especially when using image processing, to bypass the protections given by CAPTCHA images.”
Security and privacy upgrades coming in iOS 16
The new CAPTCHA bypass feature is one of many security and privacy upgrades coming in iOS 16 this fall. There will be more announced in the coming weeks and months, but currently, we can look forward to more timely security updatesas well as the ability to unsend messages, and Passkeys as a method of replacing passwords.
Apple wants the iPhone to be the most secure and private device out there, and with features like this enabled by default, it’s doing a good job. The best security and privacy happens in the background, leaving you to enjoy the other features on your iPhone.