President Obama has signed an executive order issuing sanctions against North Korean businesses and entities in the wake of the Sony Pictures hack.
The sanctions, which were announced on the Department of Treasury’s website Friday, are the first part of what the government has said will be a “proportional” response to the recent cyber attack against Sony and threats of violence against American movie theaters, which US officials say was supported by the North Korean government. The sanctions will impact several North Korean businesses and government agencies, as well as 10 government officials, who will be prohibited from dealing with the U.S. financial system.
Importantly, these 10 individuals are not accused of playing any role in the hacking of Sony, though they are said to have been involved in anti-American activities in the past.
“This step reflects the ongoing commitment of the United States 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,” the announcement reads.
It’s clear that this is in many ways a symbolic move. North Korea is a country already saddled with sanctions, so these new measures are less potent than they would be in another country with friendlier diplomatic relations with the United States. The sanctions announced Friday affect a North Korean arms dealer, an intelligence agency, and a defense research contractor.
Meanwhile, despite the fact that U.S. officials have cited evidence that North Korea is behind the Sony hack, some cyber security experts remain unconvinced, as the attack against Sony didn’t resemble past cyber attacks by nation states.
For now, however, the U.S. is doubling down on its insistence that North Korea is the culprit. According to Secretary of the Treasury Jacob J. Lew, the goal of the sanctions is to “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,” he said in a statement.
Whether further isolating an already isolated country is just punishment, however, remains to be seen.