Wu-chang Feng

Date of Award

Winter 3-13-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Computer Science


Computer Science

Physical Description

1 online resource (viii, 80 pages)


Spam (Electronic mail) -- Prevention -- Scientific applications, Computer networks -- Security measures -- Data processing, Computers -- Energy conservation




Spammers are continually looking to circumvent counter-measures seeking to slow them down. An immense amount of time and money is currently devoted to hiding spam, but not enough is devoted to effectively preventing it. One approach for preventing spam is to force the spammer's machine to solve a computational problem of varying difficulty before granting access. The idea is that suspicious or problematic requests are given difficult problems to solve while legitimate requests are allowed through with minimal computation. Unfortunately, most systems that employ this model waste the computing resources being used, as they are directed towards solving cryptographic problems that provide no societal benefit. While systems such as reCAPTCHA and FoldIt have allowed users to contribute solutions to useful problems interactively, an analogous solution for non-interactive proof-of-work does not exist. Towards this end, this paper describes MetaCAPTCHA and reBOINC, an infrastructure for supporting useful proof-of-work that is integrated into a web spam throttling service. The infrastructure dynamically issues CAPTCHAs and proof-of-work puzzles while ensuring that malicious users solve challenging puzzles. Additionally, it provides a framework that enables the computational resources of spammers to be redirected towards meaningful research. To validate the efficacy of our approach, prototype implementations based on OpenCV and BOINC are described that demonstrate the ability to harvest spammer's resources for beneficial purposes.

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