US Sanctions N. Korea Over Sony Cyberattack

US Sanctions N. Korea Over Sony CyberattackUS Sanctions N. Korea Over Sony Cyberattack

The US has imposed new sanctions on North Korea in response to a cyberattack against Sony Pictures Entertainment.

President Barack Obama signed an executive order on Friday, allowing sanctions on three North Korean organizations and 10 individuals. The White House said the move was a response to North Korea’s “provocative, destabilizing, and repressive actions,” BBC reported.

The entities are Reconnaissance General Bureau, North Korea’s intelligence organization; Korea Mining Development Trading Corp, which the Treasury Department described as North Korea’s primary arms dealer; and Korea Tangun Trading Corp, which the US said is primarily responsible for procuring commodities and technology to support North Korea’s defense research and development programs.

US officials said none of the agencies or individuals listed are believed to have been directly involved in the hacking of Sony computer systems.

US sanctions are already in place over North Korea’s nuclear program. But Friday’s actions are believed to be the first time the US has moved to punish any country for cyberattacks on a US company.

White House officials told reporters the move was in response to the Sony hack, but the targets of the sanctions were not directly involved.

Instead, the sanctions are designed to mount further pressure on North Korea’s defense industry to prevent future cyberattacks.

The FBI and Obama have previously said they believe North Korea was behind the cyberattack, although some cyber-security experts have cast doubt on this.

However, a senior White House official said it was extremely rare for the US to attribute cyberattacks, and it was only done so because of the destructive nature of the attack, and because the White House saw it as “crossing a threshold.”

North Korea has denied any involvement in the hacking and is therefore likely to respond angrily to the latest measures.

  Hack Effect

The cyberattack on Sony exposed Hollywood secrets, destroyed company data and caused the studio to initially cancel the release of “The Interview,” a comedy about a fictional assassination of  Kim Jong Un. The hackers rendered thousands of computers inoperable and forced Sony to take its entire computer network offline.

Oblique references to the 9/11 attacks prompted the cancellation of the film’s nationwide release. A small number of independent cinemas did screen the film, and it was released online.

Announcing Friday’s sanctions, the US said the apparent effort to stifle the movie release was part of the justification for the new restrictions.

“We take seriously North Korea’s attack that aimed to create destructive financial effects on a US company and to threaten artists and other individuals with the goal of restricting their right to free expression,” the White House said in a statement.

“Today’s actions are the first aspect of our response.”

North Korea last week blamed the US for an internet outage it experienced, calling Obama “reckless in words and deeds.” It also said that any US punishment over the Sony hacking would lead to damage “thousands of times greater.”

  Previous Sanctions

Under previous sanctions, the US has already blocked transactions involving individuals and entities that help North Korea sell and buy arms, procure luxury goods, or engage in illegal activities such as money laundering or drug trafficking.

People in the US are banned from doing business with individuals and entities designated by the Obama administration.

However, as there is little trade between North Korea and the US, the latest measures are unlikely to have any great effect, and are thought to simply be heavy on symbolism.