Survey bots

Hello -

We had a survey posted on our website and while we got a lot of responses, some are suspiciously similar even though they look like their coming from different locations. This might be too late but is there a way to distinguish between legit users and bots based on IP address or any other info?

For the future, how can we avoid this kind of situations(CAPTCHA?)

Thank you for your help!
Alan DalaITAsked:
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Ares KurkluSoftware EngineerCommented:
Definitely CAPTCHA would be a good start, not sure how  you can analyse the IP addresses really, you will have to check them one by one and trace them, it may give you some info but would be time consuming. Any other info like email may give you an idea?
Dr. KlahnPrincipal Software EngineerCommented:
We had a survey posted on our website and while we got a lot of responses, some are suspiciously similar

If there was an incentive associated with the survey, I'd venture that a quarter of the responses were from bots and possibly more.

CAPTCHAs sound like a good idea.  However, Mechanical Turk workers and Chinese prisoners churn them out on demand 24 hours a day for a penny apiece.  They're no longer much protection.  They do ensure that a human did a CAPTCHA, but then the bot takes over from there.

The same goes for surveys.  Mechanical Turk pays people a few cents each to spam surveys.

If you still have the raw data including IP addresses, run the IP addresses through a geoIP location filter.  I think you'll be surprised at how many responses came from places unlikely to be spending time on an English-language site or responding to an English-language survey.

What you can do about it in the future:

If you're surveying your customer base, make sure it's your customers responding.  When you send out your solicitation email -- "Take our survey, get 5% off on a future purchase" -- include a unique code with each solicitation that can only be used by logging into the account to which that email was sent.

However, if you're surveying internet users at random I don't see any way to guarantee good quality results.  GeoIP restriction is too easy to get around using Tor, VPNs or proxies.  CAPTCHAS can be bought.  The only way to guarantee surveying actual people is to go to the mall, stand there with a clipboard and beg them to take your survey, and I think we all know how well that works - but aside from that, it's hardly a good cross-section of society.

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Shaun VermaakTechnical SpecialistCommented:
Even though browser miners have a bad rep because people abuse is I still think that "Proof of Work" CAPTHAs solves the above by not making it not feasible for bots to automate
Dr. KlahnPrincipal Software EngineerCommented:
No further input from requester.  Question closed and points assigned to contributors by automatic point allocation.
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