Cloudflare goes all in on Apple's CAPTCHA alternative

Cloudflare goes all in on Apple’s CAPTCHA alternative

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Apple Automatic Verification will help save us from CAPTCHA hassles
Apple users may be freed from CAPTCHA with the help of Cloudflare's Turnstile.
Image: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Apple’s Automatic Verification system for websites is getting a big boost from Cloudflare. The web security company just unveiled Turnstile, a free alternative to those irritating CAPTCHA image tests. This has Apple’s system built in.

Turnstile, now in open beta testing, is available to anyone, not just Cloudflare customers.

Turnstile is a better alternative to CAPTCHA

We have all gritted our teeth as we once again pored over a group of pictures and tried to identify which ones contained traffic lights or hills or boats or crosswalks. These are examples of CAPTCHA: the Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. (Really.)

These are visual tests that humans can pass but current computer programs can’t. They keep out bots. And while they’re necessary, they’re also slow and bothersome.

In the hopes of killing CAPTCHA, Cloudflare created Turnstile to separate people from bots. It “automatically chooses from a rotating suite of non-intrusive browser challenges based on telemetry and client behavior exhibited during a session,” according to the developer. The system looks at data like headers, user agent and browser characteristics.

Even better for Apple users

But Turnstile won’t use any of that data for Mac, iPhone and iPad users. That’s because it has Apple’s Automatic Verification system built in.

This uses Private Access Tokens, which are part of iOS 16, and will be included in macOS Ventura and iPadOS 16 when they launch next month. The digital tokens allow websites to identify “requests from legitimate devices and people,” according to Apple.

Automatic Verification takes place without the user doing anything. Apple promises the technology will let users “bypass CAPTCHAs in apps and on the web by allowing iCloud to automatically and privately verify your device and account.” Instead of solving a puzzle, the user’s Apple device will automatically confirm they’re a human, not a bot.

It’s up to companies to get rid of CAPTCHA and put Cloudflare’s Turnstile on their websites, but it just requires calling an API with a code snippet. And, as noted, it’s free.

Current Cloudflare customers already have access to the Turnstile beta. Noncustomers can sign up to use Turnstile on the Cloudflare website.