Last month, President Obama promised that the United States’ response to the Sony hack would be “proportional.” On Friday, we learned that that meant sanctions against 10 senior North Korean officials and several organizations, although White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest cautioned that today’s actions are just “the first aspect of our response.”
"We take seriously North Korea's attack that aimed to create destructive financial effects on a U.S. company and to threaten artists and other individuals with the goal of restricting their right to free expression," Earnest said in a statement.
An executive order signed by President Obama authorizes sanctions against agencies and officials associated with the North Korean government and Workers' Party of Korea. Obama, in the order, cited North Korea's "provocative, destabilizing, and repressive actions and policies ... including its destructive, coercive cyber-related actions during November and December 2014."
The Treasury Department, in turn, designated three government-tied entities and 10 North Korean officials under those sanctions. The sanctions would deny them access to the U.S. financial system and bar them from entering the U.S.
The department does not name North Korean leader Kim Jong-un but does designate representatives of the government stationed in Russia, Iran and Syria, among others. It also names North Korea's primary intelligence organization, its primary arms dealer and an organization that deals with technology procurement called the Korea Tangun Trading Corporation.
North Korea is already subject to other U.S. sanctions over its nuclear program.
“It’s good to see the Administration challenging North Korea’s latest aggression—cyberattacks that can do grave damage,” Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., said in a statement. “But many of the North Koreans blacklisted today have already been targeted by U.S. sanctions. We need to go further to sanction those financial institutions in Asia and beyond that are supporting the brutal and dangerous North Korean regime, as was done in 2005.”
But the news comes as some cybersecurity experts are challenging allegations that North Korea was definitely behind the attack, which they believe was an inside job involving former Sony employees.
One firm, Norse, earlier this week briefed the FBI on evidence it claims could support the theory that the hack was an inside job, involving former Sony staff. [...]
Among other details, he said Norse has data about the malware samples that point to "super, super detailed insider information" that only a Sony insider would have.
Further, one former Sony employee told FoxNews.com there is a "growing consensus that North Korea wasn't responsible." The former employee questioned why, if it was North Korea, the country hasn't released other potentially damaging documents in retaliation for the limited release of "The Interview."
The FBI maintains, however, that there’s no “credible information to indicate that any other individual is responsible.”