U.S. Sanctions North Korea In Retaliation For Sony Hack

When North Korea's laughable Internet connection went down last month, many wondered if that was the result of U.S. forces responding "proportionately" to the massive cyberattack against Sony Pictures Entertainment, just as President Barack Obama promised just days prior to the outage. North Korea certainly thought so. However, the response Obama alluded to came on Friday in the form of sanctions against the Government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The Executive Order points to North Korea's "numerous provocations," and in particular the shenanigans against Sony that Obama called "cyber-vandalism," along with threats against cinemas and moviegoers, as justification for the sanctions.

Ministry Building, Pyongyang
Image Source: Flickr (David Stanley)

"Today’s actions are driven by our commitment to hold North Korea accountable for its destructive and destabilizing conduct. Even as the FBI continues its investigation into the cyber-attack against Sony Pictures Entertainment, these steps underscore that we will employ a broad set of tools to defend U.S. businesses and citizens, and to respond to attempts to undermine our values or threaten the national security of the United States," said Secretary of the Treasury Jacob J. Lew. "The actions taken today under the authority of the President’s new Executive Order will further isolate key North Korean entities and disrupt the activities of close to a dozen critical North Korean operatives. We will continue to use this broad and powerful tool to expose the activities of North Korean government officials and entities."

The economic sanctions were placed against 10 senior North Korean officials and its intelligence agency. In briefings to reports, officials said they couldn't establish a direct link between the cyberattack against Sony and any of the 10 individuals named in the Executive Order, most of which seem linked to the country's missile and weapons sales, The New York Times reports.

Nevertheless, U.S. officials used the sanctions announcement to reiterate that it's confident North Korea was involved in the security breach and subsequent theft of terabytes of information, pointing out that critics of the FBI's findings aren't privy to classified evidence.

"We remain very confident in the attribution," a senior administration official told reporters during a briefing.