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🍯 Unobtrusive and flexible spam protection for Rails apps
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README.md

Invisible Captcha

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Simple and flexible spam protection solution for Rails applications.

Invisible Captcha provides different techniques to protect your application against spambots.

The main protection is a solution based on the honeypot principle, which provides a better user experience since there are no extra steps for real users, only for the bots.

Essentially, the strategy consists on adding an input field 🍯 into the form that:

  • shouldn't be visible by the real users
  • should be left empty by the real users
  • will most likely be filled by spam bots

It also comes with a time-sensitive ⌛️ form submission.

Installation

Invisible Captcha is tested against Rails >= 3.2 and Ruby >= 2.2.

Add this line to your Gemfile and then execute bundle install:

gem 'invisible_captcha'

Usage

View code:

<%= form_for(@topic) do |f| %>
  <%= f.invisible_captcha :subtitle %>
  <!-- or -->
  <%= invisible_captcha :subtitle, :topic %>
<% end %>

Controller code:

class TopicsController < ApplicationController
  invisible_captcha only: [:create, :update], honeypot: :subtitle
end

This method will act as a before_action that triggers when spam is detected (honeypot field has some value). By default, it responds with no content (only headers: head(200)). This is a good default, since the bot will surely read the response code and will think that it has achieved to submit the form properly. But, anyway, you can define your own callback by passing a method to the on_spam option:

class TopicsController < ApplicationController
  invisible_captcha only: [:create, :update], on_spam: :your_spam_callback_method

  private

    def your_spam_callback_method
      redirect_to root_path
    end
end

Note that it is not mandatory to specify a honeypot attribute (neither in the view nor in the controller). In this case, the engine will take a random field from InvisibleCaptcha.honeypots. So, if you're integrating it following this path, in your form:

<%= form_tag(new_contact_path) do |f| %>
  <%= invisible_captcha %>
<% end %>

In your controller:

invisible_captcha only: [:new_contact]

invisible_captcha sends all messages to flash[:error]. For messages to appear on your pages, add <%= flash[:error] %> to app/views/layouts/application.html.erb (somewhere near the top of your <body> element):

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html>
<head>
  <title>Yet another Rails app</title>
  <%= stylesheet_link_tag    "application", media: "all" %>
  <%= javascript_include_tag "application" %>
  <%= csrf_meta_tags %>
</head>
<body>
  <%= flash[:error] %>
  <%= yield %>
</body>
</html>

You can place <%= flash[:error] %> next to :alert and :notice message types, if you have them in your app/views/layouts/application.html.erb.

Options and customization

This section contains a description of all plugin options and customizations.

Plugin options:

You can customize:

  • sentence_for_humans: text for real users if input field was visible. By default, it uses I18n (see below).
  • honeypots: collection of default honeypots. Used by the view helper, called with no args, to generate a random honeypot field name. By default, a random collection is already generated.
  • visual_honeypots: make honeypots visible, also useful to test/debug your implementation.
  • timestamp_threshold: fastest time (in seconds) to expect a human to submit the form (see original article by Yoav Aner outlining the idea). By default, 4 seconds. NOTE: It's recommended to deactivate the autocomplete feature to avoid false positives (autocomplete="off").
  • timestamp_enabled: option to disable the time threshold check at application level. Could be useful, for example, on some testing scenarios. By default, true.
  • timestamp_error_message: flash error message thrown when form submitted quicker than the timestamp_threshold value. It uses I18n by default.
  • injectable_styles: if enabled, you should call anywhere in your layout the following helper <%= invisible_captcha_styles %>. This allows you to inject styles, for example, in <head>. False by default, styles are injected inline with the honeypot.

To change these defaults, add the following to an initializer (recommended config/initializers/invisible_captcha.rb):

InvisibleCaptcha.setup do |config|
  # config.honeypots           << ['more', 'fake', 'attribute', 'names']
  # config.visual_honeypots    = false
  # config.timestamp_threshold = 4
  # config.timestamp_enabled   = true
  # config.injectable_styles   = false

  # Leave these unset if you want to use I18n (see below)
  # config.sentence_for_humans     = 'If you are a human, ignore this field'
  # config.timestamp_error_message = 'Sorry, that was too quick! Please resubmit.'
end

Controller method options:

The invisible_captcha method accepts some options:

  • only: apply to given controller actions.
  • except: exclude to given controller actions.
  • honeypot: name of custom honeypot.
  • scope: name of scope, ie: 'topic[subtitle]' -> 'topic' is the scope.
  • on_spam: custom callback to be called on spam detection.
  • timestamp_enabled: enable/disable this technique at action level.
  • on_timestamp_spam: custom callback to be called when form submitted too quickly. The default action redirects to :back printing a warning in flash[:error].
  • timestamp_threshold: custom threshold per controller/action. Overrides the global value for InvisibleCaptcha.timestamp_threshold.

View helpers options:

Using the view/form helper you can override some defaults for the given instance. Actually, it allows to change:

  • sentence_for_humans
<%= form_for(@topic) do |f| %>
  <%= f.invisible_captcha :subtitle, sentence_for_humans: "hey! leave this input empty!" %>
<% end %>
  • visual_honeypots
<%= form_for(@topic) do |f| %>
  <%= f.invisible_captcha :subtitle, visual_honeypots: true %>
<% end %>

You can also pass html options to the input:

<%= invisible_captcha :subtitle, :topic, id: "your_id", class: "your_class" %>

I18n

invisible_captcha tries to use I18n when it's available by default. The keys it looks for are the following:

en:
  invisible_captcha:
    sentence_for_humans: "If you are human, ignore this field"
    timestamp_error_message: "Sorry, that was too quick! Please resubmit."

You can override the English ones in your i18n config files as well as add new ones for other locales.

If you intend to use I18n with invisible_captcha, you must not set sentence_for_humans or timestamp_error_message to strings in the setup phase.

Testing your controllers

If you're encountering unexpected behaviour while testing controllers that use the invisible_captcha action filter, you may want to disable timestamp check for the test environment. Add the following snippet to the config/initializers/invisible_captcha.rb file:

# Be sure to restart your server when you modify this file.

InvisibleCaptcha.setup do |config|
  config.timestamp_enabled = !Rails.env.test?
end

Another option is to wait for the timestamp check to be valid:

# Maybe in a before block
InvisibleCaptcha.init!
InvisibleCaptcha.timestamp_threshold = 1

# Before testing your controller action
sleep InvisibleCaptcha.timestamp_threshold

Contribute

Any kind of idea, feedback or bug report are welcome! Open an issue or send a pull request.

Development

Clone/fork this repository, start to hack on it and send a pull request.

Run the test suite:

$ bundle exec rspec

Run the test suite against all supported versions:

$ bundle exec appraisal install
$ bundle exec appraisal rspec

Run specs against specific version:

$ bundle exec appraisal rails-5.2 rspec

Demo

Start a sample Rails app (source code) with InvisibleCaptcha integrated:

$ bundle exec rake web # PORT=4000 (default: 3000)

License

Copyright (c) Marc Anguera. Invisible Captcha is released under the MIT License.

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