An Authenticated Digital EMblem (ADEM)

I have been working on ADEM as part of my work within the Centre for Cyber Trust together with Dennis Jackson and my supervisor, David Basin.

In 2020, the ICRC reached out to the Centre and asked us to investigate the possibilities of a digital emblem. An emblem that would transfer the properties of the physical emblems, the red cross, crescent, and crystal, to the digital realm. The purpose of such a digital emblem is to mark digital entities, e.g., servers belonging to a hospital, as protected under international humanitarian law (IHL).

As a response, we designed ADEM. ADEM allows to actively mark any kind of digital, network-connected entity as protected under IHL. ADEM was designed to be practical: it applies to a wide range of digital entities, is backwards-compatible with the existing internet’s infrastructure, and copes with the realities of international diplomacy where consensus is notoriously hard to reach.

Further Reading

David and I wrote a blogpost on ADEM for the ICRC. Also, we are working on open-source specification for ADEM which can be found here. This specification is work-in-progress.

This blogpost details the ICRC’s view on the digital emblem, including a stronger legal background.