The Red Cross wants its emblem to protect vital technology during wartime

Flag of the International Committee of the Red Cross over a medical tent during training of rescuers in Kyiv, Ukraine. March 2021.
(Image credit: Shuterstock / paparazzza)

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has proposed a digital emblem to mark out its digital infrastructure and keep it protected from cyberattacks, such as ransomware, during wartime.

The proposal was unveiled as part of a new research report from the humanitarian organization concerning its digitization as assaults such as such as ransomware become more common in modern-day conflicts.

In a report entitled “Digitalizing the Red Cross, Red Crescent, and Red Crystal emblems”, the IRC claims that in the same way that the red cross symbol marks humanitarian volunteers out for protection on the physical battlefield, a digital emblem would identify protected facilities.

The digital fog of war

The committee also claims that “cyber operators” have suggested that a digital emblem would cut through the “fog of digital warfare”.

To this end, the ICRC has identified a number of ways that a digital emblem could be implemented. A DNS-based emblem would link it to a human-readable domain name, while an IP-based emblem would use part of an IP address to identify protected infrastructure, as well as messages sent via a network. 

It has also suggested an “ADEM” (Authenticated Digital Emblem) system could use certificates that are authenticated by actors and can be communicated “over different Internet protocols.

And while the digital Red Cross emblem is just a proposal right now, the ICRC claims to be working with the Center for Cyber Trust, Johns Hopkins University and the ITMO University of Saint Petersburg to explore these implementations.

The ICRC also wants IT experts to develop concrete ways to protect medical and humanitarian services from digital harm during armed conflict.” It says that, with the Australian Red Cross, it has consulted cybersecurity companies, government officials, humanitarian experts, and others for their views. 

“With the digitization of society, cyber operations have become a reality of armed conflict,”  said Robert Mardini, the ICRC’s director-general. 

“Our mandate to protect the lives and dignity of victims of armed conflict requires us to understand how these operations can cause harm. The ‘digital emblem’ is a concrete step to protect essential medical infrastructure and the ICRC in the digital realm.”

Luke Hughes
Staff Writer

 Luke Hughes holds the role of Staff Writer at TechRadar Pro, producing news, features and deals content across topics ranging from computing to cloud services, cybersecurity, data privacy and business software.