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How Long Can Cloud Servers Hold Off Hackers? Not as Long as You Think

How long would it take to hack into an average Web-based server—the kind a company might rent from the likes of Amazon Web Services? To find out, the security company CloudPassage set up six servers, two running Microsoft operating systems and four running Linux-based operating systems, loaded them with various combinations of widely used programs, and invited hackers to take their best shot. Top prize: $5,000.

It took just four hours for the winning hacker to capture the flag and the bounty. Worse still, he was a novice. Gus Gray, 28, has worked for a technology company for a little over a year and is taking classes toward a bachelor’s degree in computer science at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. “I just thought I’d spend two or three hours poking around and see what I could learn, and it would make for an interesting evening,” he says.