GENEVA: When Red Cross employees operate in crisis areas, their instantly recognizable red-on-white badges serve as a warning that they and the people they are assisting should not be targeted.
The organization intends to develop a digital insignia that would warn would-be attackers that they have accessed computer systems of the Red Cross or medical institutions as wars and terrorism increasingly shift into cyberspace.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) urged nations to endorse the concept on Thursday, claiming that such a digital insignia would aid in defending humanitarian infrastructure from inaccurate targeting.
Robert Mardini, director-general of the ICRC, stated in a statement that “as societies digitalize, cyber operations are becoming a reality of armed conflict.”
The creation of the “digital symbol” is a practical move to safeguard the ICRC and crucial digital medical infrastructure.
In times of conflict, the organization’s unique symbols—the red cross, red crescent, and more recently, the red crystal—have communicated that the persons, facilities, and things they indicate are protected under international law and that targeting them is a war crime.
The ICRC has been considering this proposal for some time, starting a project in 2020 to look into the technological viability of developing a digital symbol and holding discussions to balance the advantages of such a system against possibilities for misuse.
There have been worries that such an insignia runs the danger of helping bad actors identify a group of “soft targets,” making it simpler for them to systematically target them.
Malicious actors may also make use of digital insignia to misrepresent their activity as being covered by international law.
But on Thursday, the ICRC released a new paper titled “Digitalising the Red Cross, Red Crescent, and Red Crystal symbols,” which concluded that the benefits exceeded the hazards.
Mardini emphasized in the preface that cyberattacks against hospitals and other humanitarian infrastructure can have grave and fatal real-world repercussions.
Since the Covid-19 outbreak began, there have been an increasing number of cyberattacks on hospitals, which “have hampered life-saving treatment for patients and forced physicians and nurses to revert to pen and paper at a time when their urgent work was most required,” the author noted.