All WordPress website owners know how infuriating it is to receive spam comments and messages via contact forms. Furthermore, there is the omnipresent threat of bots randomly trying to access sites. So wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to stop such events in their tracks? Well, there is a way – enter CAPTCHA plugins for WordPress, the bouncer on the door of your site!
What Is a CAPTCHA?
CAPTCHA is an obscure acronym for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.” The “Turing test” part comes from a test designed by Alan Turing – the guy accredited with breaking the Enigma code used by the Nazis in WWII – that checks a machine’s ability to possess behavior akin to that of human beings.
All of us will have had an encounter with a CAPTCHA of some kind during our lives. They are used extensively to prevent spam and stop bots from attempting to access forms or log into websites.
As spammers and hackers have evolved, CAPTCHA technology has had to keep up also. In the early days, users simply had to check a box. Unfortunately, bots quickly learned how to do that, too. Therefore, CAPTCHAs have since moved to more complicated text, picture, or sound-based challenges that are much harder for bots to solve.
While CAPTCHAs offer massive advantages in securing your site and preventing spam, they have a significant downside – people absolutely hate using them. We’ve all had to identify cars in a grid of pictures or enter hard-to-read text into a box. Invariably, it never works the first time, and it often takes two or three attempts to pass the ‘test’ successfully. All of that is a black mark against a website’s user experience.
Fortunately, technology is still advancing, and invisible CAPTCHAs are becoming increasingly commonplace. These analyze user activity like typing patterns, mouse movements, etc., to judge if they are human or not. If there is any suspicion that the user is a robot, further tests will be required; otherwise, they may proceed with no more checks needed.
While CAPTCHA is still widely used, Google developed it further into what they call reCAPTCHA. This offers a significant advancement over CAPTCHA and is now used extensively. You can read more about that and its many variants on Wikipedia by clicking here.
How To Add CAPTCHA Protection to a WordPress Site?
So, having now learned the basics of what they are, you are probably now wondering how you can add CAPTCHA to your WordPress site. The answer is simple: use a CAPTCHA plugin!
I have searched high and low in cyberspace to find the best ones that are currently available. I found both free and paid ones, all of which are tested up to WordPress version 5.8.2 (I know we are now up to version 5.9, but most plugins have yet to catch up). Furthermore, they are up to date, and the developers are actively contributing to the support forums for their plugins in WordPress.
Advanced noCaptcha & Invisible Captcha (v2 & v3)
Advanced noCaptcha & Invisible Captcha (v2 & v3) uses the latest technology to secure any form on your site and prevent spam while causing the minimum inconvenience to visitors. It allows you to use the traditional checkbox, or alternatively, the security checks can be invisible.
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Key features of the free version of this plugin include:
- Place multiple CAPTCHAs on the same page
- Conditional login CAPTCHAs where challenges appear after a preconfigured number of failed login attempts
- Use on any type of form
- Option to choose which version of reCAPTCHA to use
- Selectable language
- Customizable error message
- Option to hide the CAPTCHA for logged in users
The Pro version costs $19.99 per year for a single site. However, details of what it includes are currently non-existent – even the developer that recently took over the rights to the plugin publicly admitted that they are still deciding on the best way to manage and grow it! I say get it now while it’s all free!
More than 200k active downloads of Advanced noCaptcha & Invisible Captcha (v2 & v3) exist from the WordPress plugin directory, where users have rated it 4.1/5.0 stars.
hCaptcha is an alternative to reCAPTCHA that not only helps protect websites and user privacy but it also financially rewards website owners each time a real person solves a CAPTCHA.
The plugin uses advanced technology to determine if the human interactions are genuine or machine-made, tailoring the security checks accordingly.
Key features of the free ‘Publisher’ version of this plugin include:
- Advanced ML (machine learning) and AI (artificial intelligence) technology to help protect against attacks and threats
- Financial rewards to the website owner or their nominated charity for each human CAPTCHA solved. For the latter option, discreet branding will appear on the hCaptcha interface to show your users the charity you support
- Suitable for use on most form types
- Works in any country
- It complies with global data protection rules such as GDPR, CCPA, etc.
A paid ‘Enterprise’ plan is available, but prices are only available in direct consultation with the developer’s sales team. That adds several additional features, including:
- Threat signatures
- Challenge controls
- Fine-grained difficulty levels
- Advanced persistent threat (APT) mitigation
- Flash Sale protection
- Multi-user dashboards
- Advanced reports
hCaptcha has an excellent 4.8/5.0 star user rating in WordPress, and over 10k downloads from that are in operation.
Simple Login Captcha
Simple Login Captcha is another freebie that adds basic protection to the WordPress login form. It generates a random three-digit security code that users must enter correctly into an adjacent field to submit the form. This helps prevent random bots from trying to access your site.
Given how basic this plugin is, I cannot include a list of features. However, like the previous two plugins in this list, the lack of bells and whistles is its best feature! It is ideal if your site has no forms and all you need is protection from random automated access attempts. It has been downloaded more than 10k times from WordPress and has an average star rating of 4.2/5.0.
reCaptcha is a freemium plugin for adding spam protection to forms on your WordPress site. It is suitable for use on most form types, and it is possible to use reCAPTCHA v3, v2, or invisible, thereby minimizing inconvenience to users.
The free version of the reCaptcha plugin has an impressive arsenal of weapons to help you in the fights against spam, including:
- Hide or show reCaptcha for whitelisted IP addresses or blocked IP addresses
- Add the reCaptcha to many form types, including password recovery, comments, contact, login, registration, etc.
- Option to disable the submit button
- Facility to check the validity keys in the admin panel
- Dark and light themes for v2
- Compatible with the Limit Attempts plugin available from the same developer
- Option to hide the reCaptcha for specific user roles
- Detailed user documentation and videos
- Multilingual and RTL ready
That list of free features makes this plugin a great starting point for adding reCAPTCHA protection to your forms. reCaptcha Pro costs $20.99 per year or $211 lifetime and adds the following extras:
- Compatible with many more form types, including MailChimp, Ninja, WPForms, WooCommerce, Divi, etc.
- Manually select the reCaptcha language
- Configurable size for v2 (normal or compact)
- Configure all sub-sites on your network
- Updates and support
- 30-day moneyback guarantee
reCaptcha is hugely popular, with over 200k active downloads and a user rating of 4.0/5.0 in the WordPress plugin directory. Incidentally, the same developer also has a Captcha plugin with similar functionality but uses CAPTCHA instead of reCAPTCHA.
Login No Captcha reCAPTCHA
Login No Captcha reCAPTCHA is a basic but completely free plugin for adding a Google No Captcha ReCaptcha checkbox to the login, forgot password, and user registration forms on your WordPress website or WooCommerce store. The result: automated scripts are denied entry, but we humanoids only need to check the box to proceed.
This refreshingly simple plugin has the following features:
- Easy to install, setup, and use
- Compatible with most WordPress configurations
- Multi-language support
- Impossible to accidentally lock yourself out of the admin just by using it
While this plugin only adds reCAPTCHA to the default WordPress and WooCommerce login, registration, and password reset forms, it is nevertheless beneficial for preventing bots and other hackers from trying to force their way into your site. Furthermore, WordPress users clearly like it, as they have scored it 4.4/5.0 stars and downloaded it more than 90k times.
Math Captcha For Elementor Forms
Launched early in 2021, Math Captcha for Elementor Forms is a relatively young plugin. However, during that time, it has accrued an average user score of 4.6/5.0 stars and more than 700 active downloads.
This plugin is perfect if you use Elementor Pro, as it automatically adds a simple maths calculation to all forms to verify that a user is a human being and not a bot. It is entirely free, and therefore rather basic, but its beauty lies in its simplicity. Feature-wise, you get:
- Easy to use – just install and activate the plugin, and the CAPTCHAs automatically appear on all forms
- Lightweight code
- Device responsive
- Supports all major browsers
Math Captcha for Elementor Forms is a ‘set it and forget it’ plugin perfect for people like me who tend to forget to add a CAPTCHA to forms from time to time.
WP Forms Puzzle Captcha
I’m ending this list with another free offering – WP Forms Puzzle Captcha. This plugin operates in much the same way as Simple Login Captcha, but rather than the user having to enter a three-digit code, they just need to slide a puzzle piece into its corresponding slot to submit a login or registration form. Most bots haven’t yet figured out how to do that, so this is a simple method of preventing them from pushing their way into your site.
Unlike Simple Login Captcha, WP Forms Puzzle Captcha works with the Contact Form 7, thereby allowing you to add puzzle CAPTCHAs to forms created in that.
Over 2k active downloads of the plugin from WordPress currently exist, and it has also managed to maintain a full 5.0/5.0 average user rating.
What’s Your Favorite WordPress CAPTCHA Plugin?
If you should ask me, “what is the best CAPTCHA plugin for WordPress?” my answer would be, “it all depends on what you need it to do.” However, generally speaking, if you don’t have forms on your site and just need to stop bots trying to access it, then any of the free plugins I have mentioned would suffice. But if you need to protect forms also, I’d plump for Advanced noCaptcha & Invisible Captcha (v2 & v3) as it is free, has excellent functionality, and won’t annoy your users.
How are you protecting your site’s access and forms from rogue bots and spam? Do you use a WordPress CAPTCHA plugin, and if so, which is your favorite? If you’re not using one already, has this article inspired you to add one to your site soon? I would really appreciate hearing which measures you are taking to prevent spam and forced entry attempts on your WordPress site.