US sanctions North Korea over the Sony hacks

Image via Sony

US President Barack Obama has signed an order authorizing sanctions against North Korea, in response to the cyber attack against Sony and threats against movie theaters and moviegoers.

The White House earlier said the cyber attack on Sony is a serious national security matter and it is considering a proportional response. President Obama later floated the idea of sanctions.

In a press release, US Department of the Treasury said the President Obama signed an Executive Order, which authorized sanctions against North Korea, saying the action is in response to the country’s "numerous provocations, particularly the recent cyber-attack targeting Sony Pictures Entertainment and the threats against movie theaters and moviegoer [sic]."

The move is believed to be the first time the US government has moved to sanction any country for cyber attacks on a US company, according to BBC News.

The Treasury said the sanctions reflect the ongoing commitment "to hold North Korea accountable for its destabilizing, destructive and repressive actions, particularly its efforts to undermine U.S. cyber-security and intimidate U.S. businesses and artists exercising their right of freedom of speech."

Hackers with supposed links to North Korea earlier broke into Sony systems and stole data, then tried to blackmail Sony into withdrawing the movie, The Interview, from distribution. The movie is controversial because it features a plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. Sony originally caved in to their demands, but under pressure released it in theaters and online.

It's also worth pointing out that an increasing number of third-party researchers are claiming that the links to North Korea are non-existent and that the attack may have a completely unrelated perpetrator.

The sanctions will apply to three entities and 10 individuals "for being agencies or officials of the North Korean government," which will "deny designated persons access to the U.S. financial system and prohibit U.S. persons from engaging in transactions or dealings with it."

The Treasury confirmed the FBI is continuing its investigation.

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