Giant refrigerator-sized supercomputers battled each other on Thursday in a virtual contest to show that machines can find software vulnerabilities.

The result: the supercomputers time and time again detected simulated flaws in software.

It represents a technological achievement in vulnerability detection, at a time when it can take human researchers on an average a year to find software flaws. The hope is that computers can do a better job and perhaps detect and patch the flaws within months, weeks or even days.

Thursday’s contest, called the Cyber Grand Challenge, was a step in that direction. The final round of the competition pitted computers from seven teams to play the hacking game “Capture the Flag,” which revolves around detecting software vulnerabilities.

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