Lastwall Blog
5 min read

Notes From the Road: Preparing for Q-Day

Published on
April 5, 2024
Matthew Bentley
Matthew Bentley is the COO of Lastwall where he manages the day-to-day and strategic operations of the company. Prior to joining Lastwall, Matthew had a distinguished career that spanned two decades in the Canadian Armed Forces. Recognizing the changing nature of conflict due to emerging technologies, he decided to leave his military career behind to contribute to the field of cybersecurity.
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"Notes from the Road" is a series of articles offering a comprehensive glimpse into the global missions undertaken by the Lastwall team. Authored by team members, each entry unveils the intricate connection between events, conversations, and our overarching mandate: to defend and safeguard the fundamental institutions of Western democracy from cyber threats.


Recently, the Real World Post Quantum Cryptography (RWPQC) conference took place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, attracting experts in the field of quantum cryptography. Throughout the event, a recurring topic of discussion among attendees was Q-Day.

The general consensus among the panelists was that Q-Day, the day when a cryptographically relevant quantum computer (CRQC) capable of cracking all modern cryptography will be developed, is inevitable. There was also agreement that the threat posed by Q-Day was significant and that more needed to be done to prepare. During the discussions, Stephanie Reinhardt from BSI Germany shared insights from a recent survey. The survey involved CISOs and CIOs from various German entities, revealing a concerning trend that, despite acknowledging the looming threat of Q-Day, a staggering 96% expressed doubt in their preparedness for its arrival. This raises an important question: how can there be consensus regarding the seriousness of an imminent threat, yet widespread doubt about our preparedness to tackle it?

Presentation at RWPQC 2024 by BSI Germany
Credit: Presentation at RWPQC 2024 by BSI Germany

I think the fundamental issue lies in the trusted experts' inaccuracies regarding the timing of Q-Day. Consequently, this lack of alignment obstructs the cultivation of a proper awareness of the situation. Absent this awareness, decision-makers may fail to allocate adequate resources to address this threat, diverting attention and resources to seemingly more pressing concerns. Lastwall aims to rectify this by fostering a greater understanding of the true urgency surrounding Q-Day.

Lastwall’s mission is to protect democratic institutions by strengthening the cybersecurity posture of defense, government, and critical infrastructure partners. Given the threat posed by Q-Day, I see it as part of Lastwall’s mission to spread the word about Q-Day so that appropriate resources can be applied. My aim with this blog post is to explain why I believe Q-day is likely to occur much sooner than the experts believe in order to persuade others to consider this threat for what it is, urgent and important.  

While most experts believe Q-Day is 5-10 years away, the German government operates on the assumption that Q-Day will be sometime in the 2030s. I however, am less optimistic and feel strongly that it will be much, much sooner. A quick review of similar situations from history supports my view. In particular, historical predictions made by experts related to human powered flight, the nuclear bomb, and most recently, AI, were all incredibly wrong. Hindsight might be 20/20, but history is a good place to start if we want to provide context to our current situation and make justifiable predictions about the near future. These historical examples are a good place to begin when it comes to answering the question, “When will Q-Day arrive?”.

Less than two months before the Wright brothers took to the air, the New York Times ran an article that said human powered flight was “ million to ten million years away.” In 1934, 10 years before Oppenheimer would detonate the first nuclear bomb, Einstein stated publicly in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that “...there is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.” Then, in 2023, experts in the field of AI were completely caught off guard by the rapid improvements introduced with Chat GPT which eventually led to the fastest adoption rate of any technology in human history. How could the predictions of these experts be so wrong? My view is that they under-appreciated the forces at work, in particular the forces that shape great power competition. 

The 20th century was profoundly influenced by intense competition among major powers, primarily in the physical domain. The advent of the industrial revolution significantly augmented human capability for physical labor, thereby reshaping the power dynamics on the global stage. Any advantage gained in the physical domain could translate into increased political influence. Consequently, substantial investments of time, energy, and resources were directed toward advancing physical technologies. Whenever there's a rapid influx of resources into a new technological frontier, accelerated progress is to be expected. This phenomenon was evident in the rapid developments of human-powered flight and nuclear weaponry. However, the preparation for Q-Day presents a stark contrast.

If the 20th century was defined by competition in the physical domain and was powered by the tools of the industrial revolution, the 21st century will be defined by competition in the information domain and will be powered by the tools of the information revolution. In both instances domain dominance is the strategic goal. In the physical domain the two most important technologies for domain dominance were human powered flight and the nuclear bomb. In the information domain it will be AI, and a CRQC.

History may not repeat itself but it does have an echo and we must listen to this echo if we want to have an accurate prediction of when to expect Q-Day. Expert predictions were wrong when it came to when we would have human powered flight, when we would have the nuclear bomb, and they were wrong about when AI would become relevant. For these reasons, I believe it is safe to assume they will also be wrong when it comes to predicting when Q-Day will arrive. 

So when will Q-Day arrive? Very soon and likely sooner than we expect! 

Now, more than ever, we must recognize the need for a concerted effort to allocate resources towards safeguarding the critical infrastructure that sustains our democracy. The cost of getting this prediction wrong is too serious not to act with a sense of urgency. Q-Day looms ahead regardless of our readiness. While Lastwall remains dedicated to preparation, a sense of purpose must quickly permeate if we are to effectively address this imminent threat. The survival of our democracy depends on it.

Luigi Segre (2023)
Credit: Luigi Segre (2023)