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Ignoring Doubts, US Imposes Sanctions on North Korea Over Hacks

As experts question FBI's conclusion, White House says new restrictions are first step of response

(Image via The Interview)

The U.S. imposed new economic sanctions against North Korea on Friday after blaming the country for the recent hacks into Sony Pictures' systems.

Although the identity of the hackers is still unknown and there is little evidence to support the FBI's official consensus that North Korea orchestrated the attack, which released tens of thousands of Sony's emails and files, President Barack Obama signed an executive order to approve the sanctions as the "first aspect" of what the White House called a "proportional" response against the country.

The order placed sanctions on 10 North Korean officials and three government agencies. The officials will have their financial assets in the U.S. frozen and will be forbidden from using the American banking system.

Obama has also said the U.S. is considering putting North Korea back on its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

But all three groups, including the country's intelligence agency, an arms exporter, and a defense research agency, are already on the U.S. sanctions list. It remains unclear how these sanctions are meant to deter or weaken any potential cybersecurity moves.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said in a statement Friday, "Today's actions are driven by our commitment to hold North Korea accountable for its destructive and destabilizing conduct."

North Korea has denied its involvement in the hacks, and cybersecurity experts continue to question the veracity of the FBI's conclusions. According to the Associated Press, anonymous "senior officials" would not elaborate on how the bureau made its determinations, and only "repeated their assertion that North Korea was responsible and said independent experts don't have access to the same classified information as the FBI."

This is the first time that the U.S. has imposed sanctions on another nation as revenge for a cybersecurity attack on an American company.

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