US places sanctions on North Korea over Sony Pictures hack

JANUARY 3, 2015

The US has imposed new sanctions on North Korea as a response to that country's alleged cyber-attack against Sony Pictures Entertainment. President Barack Obama signed an executive order on Friday allowing sanctions on three North Korean organisations and 10 individuals.

The White House said the move was a response to North Korea's "provocative, destabilising, and repressive actions".

There are already US sanctions on North Korea over its controversial nuclear programme. But Friday's actions are believed to be the first time the US has moved to punish any country for cyber-attacks on a US company.

Among those named in the sanctions were:

  • The Reconnaissance General Bureau, North Korea's primary intelligence organisation.
  • North Korea's primary arms dealer, the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (Komid).
  • Korea Tangun Trading Corporation, which supports North Korea's defence research.
  • Jang Song Chol: Named by the US Treasury as a Komid representative in Russia and a government official.
  • Kim Yong Chol: An official of the North Korean government, according to the US, and a Komid representative in Iran.
  • Ryu Jin and Kang Ryong: Komid officials and members of the North Korean government who are operating in Syria, according to the US.

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 further isolate North Korea's defence industry as deterrent for future cyber-attacks.

The FBI and President Obama have previously said that they believe North Korea was behind the cyber-attack, 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 cyber-attacks, 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".

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