Red Cross seeks ‘digital emblem’ to protect against hacking

Category: Technology/Innovations


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. crescent / ˈkrɛs ənt / (n.) – a curved shape that’s less than half of a circle

    I like the crescent moon better than the full moon.

  2. emblem / ˈɛm bləm / (n.) – something that is used to represent an organization, such as a design or picture

    The eagle is our team emblem.

  3. armed conflict / ɑrmd ˈkɒn flɪkt / (n.) – a situation in which two states or organizations are engaged in a military fight against each other

    Citizens who were affected by the armed conflict have fled to other countries.

  4. make clear / meɪk klɪər / (idiom) – to make something easy to understand, usually by explaining it

    The school hasn’t made clear yet if it’s canceling the classes tomorrow.

  5. signal / ˈsɪg nl / (v.) – to be a sign that something exists

    The changing color of the leaves signals the start of autumn.


Read the text below.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it is seeking support to create a “digital red cross/red crescent emblem” that would make clear to military and other hackers that they have entered the computer systems of medical facilities or Red Cross offices.

The Geneva-based humanitarian organization said it was calling on governments, Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, and IT experts to join forces in developing “concrete ways to protect medical and humanitarian services from digital harm during armed conflict.”

For over 150 years, symbols such as the red cross have been used to make clear that “in times of armed conflict, those who wear the red cross or facilities and objects marked with them must be protected from harm,” the ICRC said. That same obligation should apply online, the organization said, noting that hacking operations in conflicts were likely to increase as more militaries develop cyber capabilities.

The organization said that for the proposed “digital emblem” to become reality, nations worldwide would have to agree on its use and make it part of international humanitarian law alongside existing humanitarian insignia. It hopes the emblem would identify the computer systems of protected facilities, much as a red cross or crescent on a hospital roof does in the real world.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said that it has identified three technical possibilities: a DNS-based emblem that would use a special label to link it to a domain name; an IP-based emblem; and an ADEM, or authenticated digital emblem system that would use certificate chains to signal protection.

The ICRC said it was working with Johns Hopkins University, the ITMO University of St. Petersburg, Russia, and the Center for Cyber Trust, a joint venture of Switzerland’s ETH Zurich and Germany’s University of Bonn, to develop the technological solutions.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • Do you think the digital emblems can protect computer systems of medical and humanitarian facilities in the same way that the red cross or crescent symbol does in real life? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • What should be done to countries that choose to attack facilities like the Red Cross, especially in times of conflict? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • Do you think your company, school, or home is prepared for a cyberattack? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • Do you think people are taking cybersecurity attacks seriously nowadays? Why or why not? Discuss.