the interview“On Friday [January 2, 2015], the White House announced a new round of sanctions on North Korea, but Senator Robert Menendez is demanding a stronger response.”[1], New Republic stated on January 6, 2015. Bloomberg added on January 2, “Senator Robert Menendez, the outgoing chairman and top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called the sanctions “a good first step” in responding to North Korea’s alleged cyber attack.”[2]

The U.S. sanctions came after the cyber attack conducted on Sony Corporations computers by the hacker group “Guardians of Peace”, a sympathizer of Pyongyang regime. Although North Korea has officially denied any involvement in the attack, according to the CBC News from January 7, “FBI Director James Comey says he's confident that North Korea was behind the cyberattack on Sony”[3]. On January 5, NK News affirmed, “numerous sources, including cyber security experts, have expressed doubt at the North’s involvement”[4]. Business Insider contributor, Elissa Shevinsky presented, on December 22, 2014, the five reasons that cast doubt on the issue of Pyongyang as being the mastermind behind the Sony attack: “the original messages from the hackers were about layoffs, not The Interview”, “underground hackers share code and tools”, “IP addresses are poor evidence”, “the ‘Clues’ leading to North Korea could have been faked” and “it could have been North Koreans but not connected to the government”[5].

Another specialist from Forbes questioned the real reasons behind the U.S. sanctions: “The sanctions imposed by President Obama have almost nothing to do with cyber terrorism but instead show U.S. concern with North Korea as an arms exporter to regimes that Washington detests. As weapons against arms proliferation, moreover, the latest sanctions can’t have much impact since the U.S. has already imposed sanctions in retaliation for North Korean nuclear and missile tests. Basically the U.S. is simply trying to strengthen sanctions already in place by singling out the three leading North Korean agencies in the arms trade — and naming officials responsible for expediting the flow.”[6]. Irish Times, on January 5, 2015, described “The sanctions target three leading North Korean intelligence and arms operations – Reconnaissance General Bureau, Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation and research group Korea Tangun Trading Corporation, as well as 10 officials involved in Pyongyang’s arms exports. The individuals are denied access to the US financial system and banned from transactions with US citizens. The sanctions aim to restrict these companies’ access to international financial services by locking them out of the American financial system”[7]

 

Despite all these motives listed above, the U.S. sanctions on North Korea are meant to prevent the emergence of a security dilemma in the cyber network by diminishing the capabilities of North Korea as a potential threat. Even so, we can see the current tensions between the two countries “as the first full blown cyber conflict between a nation state and a super power”[8] as one open source commented on January 5, 2015.

[1] Claire GRODEN, “Re-Designating North Korea as a State Sponsor of Terrorism Would Only Make Matters Worse”, New Republic, January 6, 2015, at the Internet address http://www.newrepublic.com/article/120701/obama-may-list-north-korea-state-sponsor-terrorism-over-sony.

[2] Rose KIM, David LERMAN, “North Korea Calls Hacking Claim 'Absurd' as U.S. Tightens Sanctions”, Bloomberg, January 2, 2015, text accessed at the Internet address http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2015-01-02/us-slaps-new-sanctions-on-n-korea-in-response-to-sony-hack.

[3] The Associated Press, “James B. Comey, FBI head, calls North Korea a cyber threat”, CBC News, January 7, 2015, at the Internet address http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/james-b-comey-fbi-head-calls-north-korea-a-cyber-threat-1.2892454.

[4] Rob YORK, “N. Korea criticizes new U.S. sanctions”, NK News, January 5, 2015, at the Internet address http://www.nknews.org/2015/01/n-korea-criticizes-new-u-s-sanctions/.

[5] Elissa SHEVINSKY, “In Plain English: Five Reasons Why Security Experts Are Skeptical North Korea Masterminded The Sony Attack”, Business Insider, December 22, 2014, at the Internet address http://www.businessinsider.com/why-security-experts-are-skeptical-that-north-korea-masterminded-the-sony-attack-2014-12?IR=T.

[6] Donald KIRK, “U.S. Sanctions Target N. Korean Arms Trade, Not Cyber Terrorism”, Forbes, January 4, 2015, at the Internet address http://www.forbes.com/sites/donaldkirk/2015/01/04/u-s-sanctions-aim-at-n-korean-arms-trade-not-cyber-terrorism/.

[7] Clifford COONAN, “North Korea responds to tighter US sanctions, Irish Times, January 5, 2015, at the Internet address http://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/middle-east/north-korea-responds-to-tighter-us-sanctions-1.2054413

[8] Andrew KORYBKO, “Cyber Warfare Sending Ripples Through the World”, Sputnik, January 5, 2015, at the Internet address http://uk.sputniknews.com/world/20150105/1013332842.html.

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