Inside Track: WisBar 101: How Do I Avoid CAPTCHA When Using Lawyer Search?:

State Bar of Wisconsin

Sign In
  • InsideTrackInsideTrack

News & Pubs Search

  • WisBar 101: How Do I Avoid CAPTCHA When Using Lawyer Search?

    The State Bar recently implemented CAPTCHA to block Internet pests from harvesting information from WisBar’s Lawyer Search. Members and their staff can bypass CAPTCHA by logging in to WisBar before conducting searches.
    Share This:

    CAPTCHAAug. 7, 2013 – Automated spiders. Internet bots. These things sound scary, but they are just technology terms for the annoying practice of unauthorized automated harvesting (or data mining), where Internet “robots” attempt to collect information from websites, particularly websites with lists of names or membership databases.

    The State Bar has responded by implementing a program designed to block these Internet pests from harvesting information from WisBar’s Lawyer Search. It’s called CAPTCHA, a one-step process to distinguish “robot” users from real people.

    Visitors attempting to access Lawyer Search on WisBar (who don’t login) are prompted to prove their “humanness” by entering a phrase through CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart).

    It’s the same program used by many banks and online merchants, and protects websites against nonhuman “harvesters” attempting to collect information without authorization.

    Why Is the State Bar Using CAPTCHA?

    WisBar has experienced unexpected high traffic to “site search.” After reviewing the results, it appears that automated robots – automated computer programs that visit websites to perform specific tasks – have been attempting to scan WisBar’s lawyer directory, with the goal of capturing an index of State Bar members.

    “The automated harvesting of information is ongoing issue for all websites that maintain directories,” said Derek Novotny, the State Bar’s director of information systems. “It’s not an issue exclusive to the State Bar. Fortunately, due to careful tracking and monitoring, we have caught it in progress and have been able to stop it.”

    In general, overseas and domestic information harvesters use the information to identify economic trends, amass directories for SPAM marketing purposes, or for Internet scams. One harvesting source is linked to a website that maintains information about lawyers nationwide.

    The State Bar implemented CAPTCHA to protect member profile information, such as phone numbers, postal and email addresses. “The CAPTCHA solution was put in place because it is inevitable that harvesting attempts will continue,” Novotny said. 

    How Does It Work?

    CAPTCHA is the technology industry standard for blocking the automated information harvesting of websites, and is used regularly where online lists are displayed. People are accustomed to seeing and using CAPTCHA.

    For those who do not log on to WisBar, CAPTCHA expires after three minutes. That is, anonymous users must reenter a CAPTCHA phrase for searches that last more than three minutes.

    Anonymous users (members of the public and those not logged in) can search for a lawyer through WisBar’s Lawyer Search. Before accessing a full lawyer profile, anonymous users are presented with the CAPTCHA message box, containing alphabetic phrases (see example above). Entering the phrase as it appears gives users access to the full lawyer profile. Members or registered support staff can bypass the CAPTCHA step by simply logging into WisBar before conducting searches through Lawyer Search.


    Questions about CAPTCHA, how to login to WisBar, or how to register a support staff member for a WisBar account should be directed to a State Bar org service wisbar Customer Service representative by email, or by phone at (608) 257-3838 or (800) 728-7788.