Tanium CEO’s Refreshingly Honest Take on the State of Internet Security

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On Tuesday, the wood-smoke air of California’s wildfires descended on the Bay Area as cybersecurity professionals gathered at the Palace Hotel for an industry event.

I spent the morning interviewing Orion Hindawi, CEO of Tanium, the world’s highest privately valued cyber startup (worth $ 3.75 billion at last appraisal in May), for a fireside chat at his company’s second annual conference, Converge 2017. Hindawi has a no-nonsense approach to business–a suffer-no-fools attitude that landed him in the sights of a couple of unflattering stories about his management style earlier this year. (He later apologized for being “hard-edged.”)

On stage the chief exec delivered his peculiarly unvarnished view of the state of Internet security. “The idea that we’re going to give you a black box and it auto-magically fixes everything, that’s a lie,” Hindawi told the audience. (One could almost hear a wince from part of the room seating his PR team.) “All I can tell you is we can give you better and better tooling every day. We can make it harder for the attackers to succeed. That’s the best I can offer.”

Hindawi is a realist through-and-through. His outlook is perhaps best summed up by his response to a question about whether he subscribes to a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty view of the cyber threatscape. His reply would become a running joke for the rest of the conference. He said simply, “It’s just a glass, dude.”

Other tidbits of wisdom from Hindawi: not all hackers are Russian spies (the majority are lowly criminals). Unsecured Internet of Things devices pose a risk to everyone. And sometimes cyber insurance is the way to go when old systems are all but impossible to patch; the decision boils down to managing “operational risk, like earthquakes,” he said.

Hacking is not a dark miasma that penetrates all things, although it can sometimes feel that way. Companies, like Tanium, that are building the tools to swing the balance back in defenders’ favor without over-promising provide hope. Enjoy the weekend; I will be heading north of San Francisco, visiting friends who, luckily, were unharmed by the area’s recent conflagrations.

Robert Hackett


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Welcome to the Cyber Saturday edition of Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily tech newsletter. Fortune reporter Robert Hackett here. You may reach me via Twitter, Cryptocat, Jabber (see OTR fingerprint on my about.me), PGP encrypted email (see public key on my Keybase.io), Wickr, Signal, or however you (securely) prefer. Feedback welcome.


Always use (advanced) protection. Google debuted an opt-in mode for high-risk users who wish to lock down their accounts on services such as Gmail, Google Drive, and YouTube with extra security. (Paging John Podesta.) The feature requires people to log-in using a special USB key (or Bluetooth dongle for mobile devices), it prevents third-party applications from accessing your Google data, and it adds beefed up malware-scanning of incoming documents. This author plans to sign up.

Gather ’round the good stuff. Pizza Hut warned customers that their personal information and payment card data may be at risk after hackers gained access to the company’s website and app for a 28-hour period starting on Oct. 1. An estimated 60,000 customers are thought to have been impacted. The company is offering victims free credit monitoring for a year.

Unicorn? More like Duo-corn. Duo Security, a Mich.-based cybersecurity startup whose tools help companies manage people’s digital identities, said it raised $ 70 million at a $ 1.17 billion valuation (including the capital raised) this week. Th round catapults the firm into “unicorn” territory, the swelling ranks of private firms occupied by young guns valued at $ 1 billion or more. Alex Stamos, Facebook’s security chief, recently praised Duo as the maker of his favorite cybersecurity product.

KRACKing Wi-Fi. A couple of Belgian researchers published a paper containing proof of concept code that exploits vulnerabilities in the way cryptographic keys are exchanged over Wi-Fi, allowing hackers to steal people’s data. Big tech companies like Microsoft issued a patch for the so-called KRACK bug on Oct. 10, Apple is in the middle of testing patches for iOS and macOS, and Google, whose Android 6.0 devices are the most vulnerable, said it would release a patch in early Nov.

Cyber insurers are going to get Mercked. Cyber insurers might be on the hook to cough up $ 275 million to cover damage to drugmaker Merck as a result of a June cyber attack, dubbed “NotPetya,” according to one firm’s forecast. The companies at issue have not yet disclosed figures themselves.

Surprise! It is depressingly easy for penetration testers to break into places where they are not supposed to be.

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Boycotts are hardly an option: To opt out of a credit score is to opt out of modern financial life itself. As Equifax’s now former CEO Richard Smith testified in October, if consumers were allowed to abandon the credit system, it would be “devastating to the economy.” The better answer is systemic reform to the credit oligopoly.

–Fortune’s Jeff John Roberts and Jen Wieczner explain what practical recourse consumers and regulators have when it comes to dealing with the major credit bureaus in the wake of a massive data breach at Equifax.


The adventures of John Titor. Namesake of a bygone Internet hoax, “John Titor” claimed to be a man sent from the future to retrieve a portable computer. Titor sent faxes to an eccentric radio program, Coast to Coast AM, that specialized in the paranormal. Here’s an oral history of that running joke; the pseudo-scientific explanations of time travel are delightful.


The Reaper Botnet Could Be Worse Than the Internet-Shaking Mirai Ever Was

The Mirai botnet, a collection of hijacked gadgets whose cyberattack made much of the internet inaccessible in parts of the US and beyond a year ago, previewed a dreary future of zombie connected-device armies run amuck. But in some ways, Mirai was relatively simple—especially compared to a new botnet that’s brewing.

While Mirai caused widespread outages, it impacted IP cameras and internet routers by simply exploiting their weak or default passwords. The latest botnet threat, known as alternately as IoT Troop or Reaper, has evolved that strategy, using actual software-hacking techniques to break into devices instead. It’s the difference between checking for open doors and actively picking locks—and it’s already enveloped devices on a million networks and counting.

On Friday, researchers at the Chinese security firm Qihoo 360 and the Israeli firm Check Point detailed the new IoT botnet, which builds on portions of Mirai’s code, but with a key difference: Instead of merely guessing the passwords of the devices it infects, it uses known security flaws in the code of those insecure machines, hacking in with an array of compromise tools and then spreading itself further. And while Reaper hasn’t been used for the kind of distributed denial of service attacks that Mirai and its successors have launched, that improved arsenal of features could potentially allow it to become even larger—and more dangerous—than Mirai ever was.

“The main differentiator here is that while Mirai was only exploiting devices with default credentials, this new botnet is exploiting numerous vulnerabilities in different IoT devices. The potential here is even bigger than what Mirai had,” says Maya Horowitz, the manager of Check Point’s research team. “With this version it’s much easier to recruit into this army of devices.”

The Reaper malware has pulled together a grab-bag of IoT hacking techniques that include nine attacks affecting routers from D-Link, Netgear, and Linksys, as well as internet-connected surveillance cameras, including those sold by companies like Vacron, GoAhead, and AVTech. While many of those devices have patches available, most consumers aren’t in the habit of patching their home network router, not to mention their surveillance camera systems.

Check Point has found that fully 60 percent of the networks it tracks have been infected with the Reaper malware. And while Qihoo 360’s researchers write that some 10,000 devices in the botnet communicate daily with the command-and-control server the hackers control, they’ve found that millions of devices are “queued” in the hackers’ code, waiting for a piece of automatic “loader” software to add them to the botnet.

Check Point’s Horowitz suggests anyone who fears that their device might be compromised should check the company’s list of affected gadgets. An analysis of the IP traffic from those devices should reveal if they’re communicating with the command-and-control server helmed by the unknown hacker that’s administering the botnet, Horowitz says. But most consumers don’t have the means to do that network analysis. She suggests that if your device is on Check Point’s list, you should update it regardless, or even perform a factory reset on its firmware, which she says will wipe the malware.

As usual, though, it’s not the owners of the infected machines who will pay the real price for allowing Reaper to persist and grow. Instead, the victims would be the potential targets of that botnet once its owner unleashes its full DDoS firepower. In the case of Reaper, the potentially millions of machines it’s amassing could be a serious threat: Mirai, which McAfee measured as having infected 2.5 million devices at the end of 2016, was able to use those devices to bombard the DNS provider Dyn with junk traffic that wiped major targets off the face of the internet in October of last year, including Spotify, Reddit, and The New York Times.

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Reaper has shown no signs of any DDoS activity yet, Qihoo 360 and Check Point note. But the malware includes a Lua-based software platform that allows new code modules to be downloaded to infected machines. That means that it could shift its tactics at any time to start weaponizing its hijacked routers and cameras.

Horowitz points out that hacking devices like IP-based cameras en masse doesn’t provide many other criminal uses than as DDoS ammunition, though the motivation for any such DDOS attack is still unclear.

“We don’t know if they want to create some global chaos, or do they have some specific target, vertical, or industry they want to take down?” she asks.

All of that adds up to an increasingly troubling situation: One where the owners of IoT devices are racing with a botnet master to disinfect devices faster than the malware can spread, with serious potential consequences for vulnerable DDoS targets around the world. And given that Reaper has far more sophisticated tools than Mirai, the impending volley of attacks may turn out to be even more dire than the last one.


EU opens investigation into Chinese e-bike imports

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission on Friday launched an investigation into the import of electronic bikes (e-bikes) from China after European producers complained that they are being sold at excessively low prices with the help of unfair subsidies.

The European Bicycle Manufacturers Association (EBMA) lodged its complaint in September, saying that Chinese companies were flooding the EU market at prices sometimes below the cost of production.

The Commission, which oversees trade policy among the EU’s 28 member states, said in a filing in the EU’s official journal there was sufficient evidence to justify the start of an anti-dumping investigation. It would be concluded within 15 months.

The EBMA is also preparing a related complaint alleging illegal subsidies and asking for registration of Chinese e-bike imports, which could allow eventual duties to be backdated.

Such an investigation would be the latest in a string of probes into Chinese exports ranging from solar panels to steel and could raise trade tensions with Beijing, particularly with a subsidy inquiry into the support provided by the Chinese state.

China’s commerce ministry said it would defend its companies’ interests and urged the EU to respect World Trade Organization rules, telling the EU not to let its investigation lead to protectionism.

Bicycles have already been a flashpoint. The EU accused China last December for scuttling a global environmental trade deal by insisting that bicycles be included as a tariff-free green product. Chinese conventional bicycles have been subject to EU anti-dumping duties since 1993.

The EBMA said more than 430,000 Chinese e-bikes were sold in the EU in 2016, a 40 percent increase on the previous year, and forecasts the figure will rise to around 800,000 in 2017.

The group said European companies had pioneered the pedal-assist technology that e-bikes use and had invested about 1 billion euros ($ 1.2 billion) last year, but was risking losing its industry to China.

Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; editing by Mark Heinrich

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


EU leaders want proposals on taxing online giants early next year

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union leaders said on Thursday they looked forward to seeing proposals on taxing online giants by early 2018 but in a nod to concerns from countries like Ireland said EU efforts had to be in line with work under way at a global level.

European countries are split over whether online companies such as Google, Facebook and Amazon should pay more tax, with smaller EU members such as Ireland and Luxembourg – which host many online businesses – worried that taxes would hurt their competitiveness without a global solution.

Countries like Italy and France on the other hand are frustrated by the low tax rates online giants pay by re-routing profits through low-rate countries and insist the EU should go it alone if the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which includes the United States and Japan, is unable to reach an agreement on a global solution.

Meeting for an EU summit, the leaders said in their conclusions that they looked forward to “appropriate (European) Commission proposals by early 2018.”

However they referred to the need to ensure a “global level-playing field in line with the work currently under way at the OECD”, a change from earlier draft summit conclusions which did not mention “global” or link the OECD work to EU efforts.

An EU diplomat said French President Emmanuel Macron – who has led the charge for more taxation of digital giants – was told to wait for OECD proposals in April 2018.

Last month the European Commission outlined three options for taxing internet companies: taxing the turnover rather than the profits of digital firms, putting a levy on online ads and imposing a withholding tax on payments to internet firms.

In the longer term the EU wants to change existing taxation rights to make sure digital firms with large operations but no physical presence in a given country pay taxes there instead of being allowed to re-route their profits to low-tax jurisdictions.

The EU wants member states to reach a compromise by December, will then base its proposals on what they agree to, and will also send those proposals to the OECD.

However, the EU faces the prospect of countries opposed to the measures blocking the move as states have a veto on tax matters.

The Commission has raised the possibility of stripping members of their veto rights on tax issues, a move Ireland has said it will resist.

Additional reporting by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Phil Berlowitz


TSMC's third-quarter net profit falls 7 percent on supply constraints, beats estimates

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Apple Inc supplier Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (TSMC) on Thursday said supply-chain inventory constraints pulled down net profit in the third quarter, albeit by a lesser degree than analysts had estimated.

The world’s largest contract chipmaker also forecast revenue growth of about 10 percent in the fourth quarter when sales begin for Apple’s iPhone X, which is widely expected to carry TSMC-made chips.

Profit fell 7.1 percent to T$ 89.93 billion ($ 2.98 billion), in July-September, versus the T$ 88.19 billion average of 21 analyst estimates in a Thomson Reuters poll.

Revenue rose 1.5 percent to $ 8.32 billion, slightly above a forecast issued in July. It put fourth-quarter revenue at $ 9.1 billion to $ 9.2 billion.

“Even though demand was slightly dampened by supply chain inventory reduction, our customers’ third-quarter growth was largely healthy,” said co-Chief Executive Officer Mark Liu.

Apple’s recently launched iPhone 8 is proving less popular than predecessors and industry analysts are now awaiting the iPhone X shipping from Nov. 3.

TSMC raised this year’s capital spending forecast by 8 percent to $ 10.8 billion, mainly to accelerate capacity of 7nm chip manufacturing technology.

It expects 2017 revenue growth close to the high end of its 5 to 10 percent target.

Operating margin was 38.9 percent in the third quarter and will likely be 37 to 39 percent in the fourth, TSMC said.


TSMC acknowledged increasing competition from mainland China but said it was confident of meeting targets.

“In terms of a lot of fabs (fabrication plants) in mainland China, we don’t like it but we are very competitive. We’ll continue to compete of course and maintain our market share,” co-Chief Executive C.C. Wei said.

Chipmakers are riding a boom in demand for chips that power smartphones and computer servers, driving sharp gains in shares.

TSMC’s stock has jumped 68 percent this year, giving the firm a market value of T$ 6.16 trillion.

The chipmaker also said it expects global semiconductor growth of 16 percent in 2017.

The results come just days before TSMC celebrates its 30th anniversary and about a week before iPhone X pre-orders begin. They are also the first since Chairman Morris Chang – widely regarded as the father of Taiwan’s chip industry – said he would retire in June. He will be succeeded by Liu, leaving Wei as sole CEO.

Following his announcement in early October, Chang told Reuters that TSMC would increase capital spending by 5 to 10 percent over the next five years.

Shares of TSMC closed up 1.5 percent ahead of the earnings announcement.

Reporting by Jess Macy Yu; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree and Christopher Cushing


Adobe forecasts fiscal 2018 revenue, profit above expectations

(Reuters) – Photoshop maker Adobe Systems Inc forecast better-than-expected revenue and profit for fiscal 2018 on growth in its cloud business, sending its shares up 5 percent in extended trading.

The company said on Wednesday that it expects revenue of $ 8.7 billion and profit of around $ 5.50 per share for fiscal 2018.

Analysts were expecting revenue of $ 8.68 billion and profit of $ 5.21 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Reporting by Laharee Chatterjee; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila


The Hunt for the Brain-Eating Amoebas of Yellowstone

It was a lovely September day in Yellowstone’s Boiling River, which was not, in fact, boiling. Tourists trundled through the shallow water and dipped in where it was deeper. A herd of elk even waded through unconcerned. And among it all, a team of researchers in waders sampled the water for a brain-eating amoeba that kills 97 percent of the people it infects.

Not that anyone here has ever fallen victim to the amoeba, Naegleria fowleri. Scientists just know that the Boiling River, which gets its warmth from geothermal energy upstream, can harbor the little nasty. Accordingly, signs posted onshore warn swimmers: This thing can ruin your day, and most likely your life.

Wading in that river was an odd mix of scientists from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute—650 miles from the nearest ocean—and the United States Geological Survey, which, as it turns out, is interested in far more than just rocks. They were collecting water samples to ship off to a rather more obvious participant: the Centers for Disease Control. There, scientists would analyze the water to help unravel the mysteries of the brain-eating amoeba—and hopefully, protect America’s waterways from nasties of all types.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about Naegleria fowleri is that it has no business eating human brains. The amoeba prefers smaller game, scooting around freshwater ecosystems gobbling up bacteria. But if you happen to be swimming in one of those ecosystems and get a snout full of water, the amoeba can make its way into your brain and start eating tissue, leading to something called primary amebic meningoencephalitis. With the brain swelling come the fever and vomiting, then the seizures and hallucinations. It kills in an average of five days, and claims 97 percent of its hosts.

Naegleria fowleri loves warm waters, hence its presence in the not-quite-boiling Boiling River. But it can survive when things cool down as well. “When in cooler temperatures, it goes into a cyst state, which is kind of an egg-like state that’s very hardy,” says Mia Mattioli, an environmental engineer in CDC’s Environmental Microbiology Laboratory. “But it’s not viable, it’s not moving, it’s just persisting. When it becomes more favorable and warm it goes into the infectious state.”

Naegleria fowleri‘s sensitivity to temperature makes it maddeningly difficult to track down, since lower temperatures lower its concentration. Scoop up other kinds of freshwater lifeforms and you might get 100 organisms in a liter of water. With Naegleria, you might be looking at 100 organisms in 100 liters of water. (This rarity, plus the fact you have to somehow get the microbe up your nose, is part of the reason why only 40 people picked up the amoeba in the US between 2007 and 2016.)

So the USGS and MBARI want to get better at detecting the menace. They descended on the Boiling River with two complementary missions. One was to hike out of there with water samples, which they took back to Montana State University and shipped off the CDC for analysis. The second was to test MBARI’s Environmental Sample Processor (known as ESP, of course), which the group hopes could one day have the power to detect the amoeba in real time.

Kevan Yamahara/MBARI

MBARI having oceanic proclivities, this device is a drum full of electronics that you dunk in the ocean. “You can think of it as a molecular biology laboratory in a can,” says research specialist Kevan Yamahara. The ESP collects water samples, analyzing genetics to determine what kinds of organisms are present.

What MBARI took to Yellowstone, though, was a sleeker mobile version, which fits in a tackle box. It pulled water from the Boiling River and pushed it through a filter, which trapped particulates like brain-eating amoebas—at least hopefully. MBARI then shipped these filters, along with water samples, to the CDC. While MBARI is still testing this mobile version of ESP, and it can’t yet do on-board genetic testing, it’s designed to be more modular, so researchers can swap in the latest analytical instruments for real-time genetic analysis.

The idea here is to figure out if the ESP might be capable of detecting Naegleria fowleri in real time. First the CDC will try to detect the amoeba with their lab methods. This includes using both molecular techniques to hunt for microbe DNA in the sample and culturing the parasite in a dish. So let’s say that’s successful. Then if the ESP ended up trapping amoebas in its filters, that’s a good indication that the machine will be capable of doing genetic testing in the field to identify the parasites. The results from the CDC and the ESP match.

Conveniently enough, the USGS already has thousands of river gauges around America collecting data like temperature and flow rate. So the work here might help give those sensors the ability to alert authorities to amoeba outbreaks. And that could be critical for unraveling the peculiarities of the Naegleria fowleri life cycle.

“We don’t really know that much about, for instance, how it cycles during the day or during the month or during the year through an environment,” says microbiologist Elliott Barnhart of the USGS. “So one thing this ESP could do would be to sample every hour or every day or different seasons to figure out when might this amoeba be most prevalent.”

The worrying bit is that one of the few things scientists know for sure about Naegleria fowleri is that it loves warm water. And an increasingly warm planet will give rise to increasingly warm rivers. While the amoeba is most prevalent in the relative warmth of the southern US, it may well grow more ubiquitous farther north. “We’re seeing cases more and more with rises in water temperatures,” says Mattioli of the CDC. Advances like ESP could help officials better monitor all kinds of nasties in American rivers, not just Naegleria fowleri. In the meantime, it never hurts to bring a nose plug.


Alphabet to develop high-tech waterfront site in Toronto

TORONTO (Reuters) – Canadian authorities on Tuesday tapped Google parent Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) to help plan a mixed-use development along Toronto’s Lake Ontario waterfront using cutting-edge digital technologies and urban design.

Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs unit, which is developing new technologies for use in “smart cities,” said it would invest $ 50 million in the initial phase of the project, which will create a new neighborhood in the city called Quayside.

Google said it would move its Canadian headquarters and some 300 employees to the district, once it is completed. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who announced the partnership with Google, said he hoped that Quayside would become “a thriving hub for innovation and a community for tens of thousands of people to live, work and play.”

It is Sidewalk Labs’ most ambitious project to date.

The Google unit has previously worked with Qualcomm Inc and Civiq Smartscapes to retrofit New York City phone booths into digital billboards that serve as WiFi hotspots.

Intersection, the Sidewalk Labs subsidiary behind the effort, recently launched similar kiosks in London. Another division, Flow, has held talks with cities such as Columbus, Ohio, about providing software to evaluate transit programs.

Reporting Alastair Sharp in Toronto, additional reporting by Andrea Hopkins in Ottawa and Paresh Dave in San Francisco; Editing by Paul Simao and Steve Orlofsky


Here's Why Anyone Will Be Able to Develop a Computer Program 5 Years from Now

These days, while our grandparents struggle endearingly to send a text message or compose an email, we struggle to remember that the use of computers and smartphones wasn’t always intuitive.

Though we understand on an intellectual level that such objects are foreign to them, it’s hard to internalize; after all, most of us caught on to laptops and smartphones as soon as they became the standard.

But a few decades from now, will we be those clueless grandparents? Just as it’s become so natural and intuitive to use computer software, will our children and our children’s children think it’s equally as natural and intuitive to build it?

Back in high school and college, most of us tended to distance ourselves from the field of coding, assuming that it required too much specialized knowledge to tackle on even an elementary level. But that’s no longer the case today. Coding could easily become mainstream in the next few years, and we’ll probably all need to jump onboard regardless of our levels of experience.

Coding is more accessible than ever

Although self-taught coding isn’t new, it’s become easier and more realistic for the everyday person. Decades ago, teaching yourself coding was tedious and required an enormous amount of effort. You had to sort through physical textbooks and copy problem sets by hand, without many resources or available mentors to help you if you got stuck.

Nowadays, it’s different. First, there are more online coding courses available than anyone could count. Since each has a different approach, it’s easy to find ones that are suited for particular learning styles. The ever-popular Khan Academy offers coding courses with periodic mini-quizzes that students can use to test themselves and stay on track. Another program, Skillcrush, offers one-on-one office hours with the professor, as well as a 10-day coding bootcamp for those short on time.

Many of these courses are also specialized for individual skill levels and needs. While there are always those that cater to advanced coders, more and more are serving beginning coders, including older folks and kids.

Second, there are plenty of online resources to facilitate the coding process and supplement these courses. With the explosion of social media and the popularity of online forums, it’s easier than ever to connect with other coders and potential mentors for help. There are even sites that are intended specifically for this. HackHands, for example, makes programming experts available for live online chats 24/7.

Third, the coding process itself is also easier. No longer is it necessary to create simple units of code from scratch. Instead, existing bits of commonly used code components are accessible through open-source platforms like Bit. This means that rather than create each individual piece of code by hand, developers of all levels can put together lego-like building blocks of code, share their code with others, and use it across different projects.

These tools can serve as the infrastructure for building new applications with a simple composition of existing components. Since code is easier than ever to learn and requires less and less specialized knowledge to build, anyone will be able to create their own computer programs in the next few years.

Coding as a practical skill

The significance of all this is not just that programming will be more convenient for developers or even aspiring coding hobbyists. Even more importantly, the availability, accessibility, and increasing popularity of programming means that coding soon will become a mainstream practical skill–one that doesn’t require a university education to acquire.

This is about employability as much as it is about convenience. In the United States, university tuition is notoriously expensive. These days, the cost of private university courses, room, and board can amount to $ 60,000 per year. At the same time, American jobs are increasingly outsourced to countries with cheap labor. The result is that many Americans lack the basic practical skills so important to the American workforce. Instead, they invest in a strictly academic education which, though valuable, is notoriously expensive.

Now that it’s particularly vital for Americans to develop practical skills and now that university education is more expensive than most can afford, widespread knowledge of coding as a basic practical skill is both beneficial and feasible. The gig economy has made modern jobs more fluid and flexible than they were a few decades ago; career shifts and alternative forms of education are not only easier to pursue, but they’re also more culturally acceptable than they once were.

This isn’t to say that self-taught coding should replace traditional forms of higher education. Rather, it’s to say that it could be a viable option for people who can’t afford the high cost of a formal university education, who don’t have access to institutions of higher education at all, or who simply want to eliminate the pressure of having to pursue a degree in a technical field.

Learning to code, after all, is just as inexpensive as it is accessible, and it’s becoming increasingly standard to pursue on the side. In just a few years, building a computer program will be as normal as using one.