On Friday, President Obama signed an executive order imposing sanctions on 10 named North Korean officials in retaliation for the Sony Pictures hacks. The sanctions affect three North Korean entities, including an intelligence agency and an arms dealer, and 10 officials. (Those sanctioned are no longer allowed to use the U.S. financial system and all Americans are prohibited from doing business with them.)
The sanctions come despite mounting evidence that the regime may not have been solely responsible for the cyberattack. White House officials admit there is no evidence linking the sanctioned officials to the Sony hack, but said they were central in a number of provocative actions against the United States. “It’s a first step,” one official said. “The administration felt that it had to do something to stay on point. This is certainly not the end for them.” Aides say that analysts who doubt North Korea’s involvement in the Sony hack do not have access to the evidence that caused Obama to move forward with the sanctions—though the aides themselves are barred from discussing the evidence because of its classified nature.
Later on Friday, U.S. officials told The Daily Beast that, for years, the FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies have been tracking the hackers they believe are responsible. Still-classified evidence was gathered that helps tie the hackers to the recent attack on Sony, according to current and former officials.