November 6th, 2007
In this article we’ll be creating a class to generate CAPTCHA graphics that you can use on web sites to help authenticate users as being human and not an automated process.
What Is CAPTCHA
CAPTCHA is an abbreviation for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. This method uses images of words or numbers that are, in theory, distorted and jumbled enough so that an optical character recognition program can’t read them but a human should be able to do so easily.
I’m not a big fan of this method myself since I think it interferes with the user experience. However, there is plenty of demand for them to be placed into systems that interact with the public on the Internet.
The CAPTCHA Class
This class is a simple one that builds a 5 character numeric string and places it on a grid background with random ‘noise’. Our properties include the height, width, and font along with the randomly generated value between 10000 and 99999 and the matching bitmap. The new method is available as a parameterless version for subclassing and one that allows you to pass in the height, width, and font.
The core routine is the GenerateNewCaptcha shown here:
Public Sub GenerateNewCaptcha() If _captchaFont Is Nothing OrElse _captchaHeight = 0 OrElse _captchaWidth = 0 Then Exit Sub End If _captchaCode = RandomValue.Next(10000, 100000).ToString _captchaImage = New Bitmap(_captchaWidth, _captchaHeight) Using CaptchaGraphics As Graphics = Graphics.FromImage(CaptchaImage) Using BackgroundBrush As New Drawing2D.HatchBrush(Drawing2D.HatchStyle.SmallGrid, Color.DimGray, Color.WhiteSmoke) CaptchaGraphics.FillRectangle(BackgroundBrush, 0, 0, _captchaWidth, _captchaHeight) End Using Dim CharacterSpacing As Integer = (_captchaWidth \ 5) - 1 Dim HorizontalPosition As Integer Dim MaxVerticalPosition As Integer For Each CharValue As Char In _captchaCode.ToCharArray MaxVerticalPosition = _captchaHeight - Convert.ToInt32(CaptchaGraphics.MeasureString(CharValue, _captchaFont).Height) CaptchaGraphics.DrawString(CharValue, _captchaFont, Brushes.DimGray, HorizontalPosition, RandomValue.Next(0, MaxVerticalPosition)) HorizontalPosition += CharacterSpacing + RandomValue.Next(-1, 1) Next For Counter As Integer = 0 To 24 CaptchaGraphics.FillEllipse(Brushes.DimGray, RandomValue.Next(1, _captchaWidth), RandomValue.Next(1, _captchaHeight), RandomValue.Next(1, 4), RandomValue.Next(1, 4)) Next For Counter As Integer = 0 To 24 CaptchaGraphics.FillEllipse(Brushes.WhiteSmoke, RandomValue.Next(1, _captchaWidth), RandomValue.Next(1, _captchaHeight), RandomValue.Next(1, 4), RandomValue.Next(1, 4)) Next End Using End Sub
Let’s look at some of the details of this routine.
First, notice that we’re generating random numbers in several places, most notably to generate the main code value. We also use random numbers to place the numbers and the noise bits.
The HatchBrush object is used to draw the grid background. This style could be changed to a different pattern. There are several variations you could try to get a unique effect. You could even randomize the background.
The characters from the randomly generated number are drawn onto the graphic one character at a time and are randomly placed along the vertical axis and slightly off kilter on the horizontal one.
The FillEllipse method of the Graphics object is used to create the noise at 50 different random points on the graphic. These little marks help obscure the actual characters from OCR’s and sometimes from humans as well.
Using the Class
Using the class is simple. You just create the class, display the graphic from it and verify user input against the value stored in the class. You can also regenerate the value if the user requests it. Remember that you will need to save the generated bitmap to disk in order to display it to a web user in an ASP.NET application.
More You Can Add
There are several things you could add to this class to enhance it. You could:
- Add the ability to accept strings
- Add the ability to dynamically size the strings and the resulting bitmap
- Add more distortion by using Graphics method to twist the output
- Add more background noise options
That’s all for this example. Let me know if you have any questions or observations by this example by leaving me a comment.
Entry Filed under: Code Examples
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