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You’re trying to access a website, and instead of being greeted with the homepage, you see a “One more step” screen from Cloudflare with a captcha on it instead. Here’s why it happens.

What is Cloudflare?

Cloudflare is a content delivery network or CDN – a system of many fast servers running from different places across the globe. Since being geographically closer to a server often leads to faster loading speeds, CDNs ensure that anyone loading a website from anywhere happens at a reasonable speed.

Cloudflare is just one of many CDNs used by companies and websites worldwide; however, its widespread presence on many websites has made it one of the most well-known among regular internet users. Cloudflare also provides DNS (domain name server) services, which allow websites to list themselves.

Cloudflare's office front.
Sundry Photography / Shutterstock

However, the way many users find out about Cloudflare is a little different. Many users report that Cloudflare constantly asks you to verify yourself with a captcha before even entering a website. You might be confused about why they need to enter a security verification and why you keep getting flagged by Cloudflare’s system. This has to do with Cloudflare’s internet security features.

Website Protection

One of Cloudflare’s most notable features is its protection against robots performing distributed denial-of-service (DDoS). A DDoS is a type of cyber attack that seeks to disrupt a website’s availability by flooding the network with many different requests, all in a short period of time. These malicious requests are distributed across different places and networks, making it difficult for a site administrator to block the incoming traffic of one source.

DDoS attacks are normally used to disrupt companies and organizations, attack the press, or as a precursor to other criminal activities like theft and manipulation. There have been many instances of Cloudflare and other DDoS defenders blocking large-scale attacks in the past.

Cloudflare protects against DDoS attacks by automatically blocking suspicious-looking traffic, especially traffic that may come from a non-human source. This is where human verification or CAPTCHA comes in. These methods can usually tell the difference between a machine or a real person trying to access a website. When Cloudflare sees an unfamiliar or strange new IP address make a request on a site, it will flag it and ask for a CAPTCHA before permitting the request.

Are You Suspicious Traffic? Probably Not

Captcha Screen Cloudflare One More Step

So we’ve addressed why Cloudflare might ask you to complete a CAPTCHA to prove that you’re a human being browsing the internet. If you’re constantly seeing it, are you coming across as suspicious? Yes, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing anything wrong.

The biggest reason why people frequently see the verification screen is that they’re on a suspicious IP address. For example, maybe you are currently using a VPN, which provides you with an IP address from their database. Since other users may have used this IP before, potentially for suspicious activity, these addresses are more likely to be flagged by services like Cloudflare.

You might also be on a shared network with other people who may have had suspicious activity in the past. If you take advantage of public networks, such as those at a school or library, you may be on the same IP address as others who are suspicious.

Your ISP might also use a dynamic IP address, which means your address keeps changing every time you browse the internet. If that’s the case, reset your IP address by unplugging the router and turning it back on again. There’s a chance your new address is less prone to being flagged.

The Importance of CAPTCHAs

It’s not just Cloudflare that asks you to prove that you’re human. All over the internet, you’ll see websites say that your traffic is suspicious and that you need to verify your humanity with a CAPTCHA. Is it necessary, and does it work? Yes, it does—to an extent.

As bots have gotten more sophisticated at recognizing text and objects in an image, CAPTCHAs have become increasingly difficult in recent years. This is better for security, but it may become frustrating for users. Cloudflare has already announced plans to “get rid of captchas” by introducing physical authentication keys as an alternative. Only time will tell if this makes a dent in the dominance of CAPTCHAs. Stay safe out there!

RELATED: Why Do ISPs Change Your IP Address?

Vann Vicente Vann Vicente
Vann Vicente has been a technology writer for four years, with a focus on explainers geared towards average consumers. He also works as a digital marketer for a regional e-commerce website. He's invested in internet culture, social media, and how people interact with the web.
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