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Quantum Leap - Digital Threat Digest

PGI’s Digital Investigations Team brings you the Digital Threat Digest, SOCMINT and OSINT insights into disinformation, influence operations, and online harms.


A couple of days ago, the New York Times published an article about the encryption ramifications of “Q-day”, which is shorthand for the day quantum computers become more powerful than traditional ones. It intoned darkly about how shadow-y adversaries could use such power to hack into previously impenetrable spaces: banks, credit cards, the stock market, etc. In short, it’s the apocalypse. Again.

I’m not that worried about Q-day for a lot of reasons. What I am actually worried about is the state of conversation around digital technologies that this article clearly exemplifies. The rhetorical arms race around tech means the stakes of every article must be existential, or they don’t matter. We justify this by remembering a past filled with “overnight” successes, and then we project those memories into the unknown future.

But what people often forget is that technology generally doesn’t develop as an “overnight success”. Computers had been around for decades before changes slowly built up to make them viable for widespread use. Giants like Meta and Google took years to catch on, and years to build their followings. Sure, the world is different than it was 20 years ago, but that’s through the slow accumulation of technology through trial and error, not a singular discovery.

But that’s how human memory generally works- we remember the big moments, or we remember that at one point we didn’t have something, then next we did. So, the real problem here is when we let our faulty memory of the past colour our understanding and expectations of the future. We are now, consciously or no, always waiting for the next overnight success.

This problem is just as present in digital investigations as it is anywhere else. Investigators and stakeholders alike hunt desperately for the next “paradigm shift”. For the army of bots, or the ten-thousand-person troll farm, or the deep fake intelligence service influence operation. While waiting for that, they miss the millions of organic users who are the ones actually changing hearts and minds. They miss the grey areas where users help one another adapt to platform rules. And ultimately, they miss the pressures that drive people to operate like this in the first place; and are forever wondering why so many people could feel so unhappy with the state of the world.

So like I said, I’m not that worried about Q-day and the technology of the far future. Because, let’s be honest, we’ve got enough real computers to worry about.

More about Protection Group International's Digital Investigations

Our Digital Investigations Analysts combine modern exploitative technology with deep human analytical expertise that covers the social media platforms themselves and the behaviours and the intents of those who use them. Our experienced analyst team have a deep understanding of how various threat groups use social media and follow a three-pronged approach focused on content, behaviour and infrastructure to assess and substantiate threat landscapes.

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