US imposes Sanctions on North Korea for Hacking Sony Pictures

Washington, Jan 03: US president Barack Obama has imposed new sanctions on the North Korean government two weeks after for alleged hacking into Sony Pictures Entertainment. The move could be described as an attempt to tackle threats to the US cyber security.

Under a new executive order signed by President Obama, the Treasury Department imposed financial measures on 10 North Korean officials and three government agencies. Although it is unclear how those sanctions might deter future cyber attacks, officials said they expected financial institutions in other countries to take notice and to complicate North Korean business dealings.

"This attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment clearly crossed a threshold for us," said one administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. The official, one of four who spoke to reporters on a conference call, cited concerns about the growing sophistication and danger posed by cyber security threats in general.

"You should see this as part of a broader effort to raise the baseline level of cyber security across the country and tackle these threats head-on."

The targets of the new sanctions include the Reconnaissance General Bureau, North Korea"s main intelligence agency, which is believed to have orchestrated major cyber-operations. The other targets are the Korea Mining Development Trading Corp., which is North Korea's main arms dealer, and the Korean Tangun Trading Corp., which is responsible for North Korea's defense research and development.

None of the individuals sanctioned - operating out of Russia, Iran, Syria, China and Namibia - is believed to have been directly involved in the hack into Sony, officials said. They earned their place on the new list as employees of the Pyongyang government or representatives of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea.

North Korea is already one of the most heavily sanctioned countries in the world, and the agencies and entities targeted Friday have all been sanctioned previously. Still, analysts said the measures could inflict some new financial pain on North Korea's already isolated military establishment.

In a statement, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said the new sanctions aim to hold North Korea responsible for "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," he said.

Obama had pledged to respond "proportionally" to the intrusion into Sony's network - an attack that not only exposed embarrassing corporate e-mails but also wiped out computer data. The new measures fall short of the response sought by some lawmakers, including a move to redesignate North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Regardless of their impact, however, the sanctions serve as a sign of the administration's confidence that North Korea was behind the attack against Sony.

Source: The Washington Post

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