U.S. Treasury Department sanctions North Koreans for Sony hack

10 North Koreans have been added to sanctions lists maintained by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) as retaliation for the cyber attack  against Sony Pictures Entertainment in late 2014.  The sanctions were ordered under a new executive order (download here) issued on 2 January 2015 by President Barack Obama.

In a press release, the FBI squarely laid blame at Pyongyang for spearheading the attack, but doubt lingers for some cyber security experts over the the links between the hack and North Korea. Anonymous “sources familiar with the investigation” have told the media that the persons responsible for the attack have been tracked for years by Washington.

The White House described the expansion of sanctions against North Korean entities and individuals as “the first aspect of our response.” The wording seems to indicate that the United States was not responsible for the outage of North Korean outward-facing websites, such as the KCNA’s website. The White House’s statement also left open the possibility of further retaliatory measures to be adopted at a later point.

The scope of the executive order vague. Obama’s order permits Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, in consultation with Secretary of State John Kerry, to prohibit the paying, transferring, or withdrawing of property and other assets owned by or controlled by persons and organizations deemed:

(i) to be an agency, instrumentality, or controlled entity of the Government of North Korea or the Workers’ Party of Korea;

(ii) to be an official of the Government of North Korea;

(iii) to be an official of the Workers’ Party of Korea;

(iv) to have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, the

Government of North Korea or any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order; or

(v) to be owned or controlled by, or to have acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the Government of North Korea or any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order.

The wording potentially leaves open the opportunity for Washington to sanction additional entities and individuals deemed to be agents or controlled by or on behalf of Pyongyang. The ten individuals sanctioned did not appear to be high-ranking officials, but primarily business agents of two firms previously sanctioned by the U.S. and United Nations.  The Obama administration did not tie any of the sanction targets to the hacking of Sony.

The two firms are the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation and the Korean Tangung Trading Corporation. The Reconnaissance General Bureau was also previously sanctioned, but now–like the other companies–falls under the new sanctions program.

Below, is a list of the targets of the new sanctions.

Name DOB Passport Type Program(s) List
KOREA MINING DEVELOPMENT TRADING CORPORATION Entity DPRK2, NPWMD SDN
KOREA TANGUN TRADING CORPORATION Entity DPRK2, NPWMD SDN
RECONNAISSANCE GENERAL BUREAU Entity DPRK, DPRK2 SDN
KIM Yong Chol 18-Feb-1962 Individual DPRK2 SDN
JANG Yong Son 20-Feb-1957 Individual DPRK2 SDN
RYU Jin 7-Aug-1965 563410081 Individual DPRK2 SDN
KIM Kwang Chun 20-Apr-1967 Individual DPRK2 SDN
KIM Kwang Yon 30-Jul-1966 563210059 Individual DPRK2 SDN
KIL Jong Hun 20-Feb-1972 472410022 Individual DPRK2 SDN
JANG, Song Chol 12-Mar-1967 Individual DPRK2 SDN
KIM Kyu 30-Jul-1968 Individual DPRK2 SDN
YU Kwang Ho 18-Oct-1956 Individual DPRK2 SDN
KANG Ryong 21-Aug-1968 Individual DPRK2 SDN