US levies sanctions against North Korea because of umm.. the Sony hack

In 1965, the British government announced that The Beatles had been awarded with MBEs (Members of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire).

It was a masterstroke by Prime Minister Harold Wilson who could demonstrate that he was “down with the kids”, and it probably didn’t harm him when he called a snap general election the following year either.

The Beatles

Those fuddy-duddies who had already received an honour from the Queen, and were so upset that the mop-tops had now got one too, probably shouldn’t have been so hasty to return theirs to the palace.

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Because, just four years later, John Lennon decided he also didn’t want to be an MBE any more.

Here is the letter he sent Her Majesty (who is a pretty nice girl, but she doesn’t have a lot to say):

Your Majesty,
I am returning my MBE as a protest against Britain’s involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing, against our support of America in Vietnam and against ‘Cold Turkey’ slipping down the charts.
With love. John Lennon of Bag

Do you see the mistake Lennon made? He rather undermined his protest against the Nigerian civil war and US involvement in Vietnam with his cheap quip about his latest single falling down the charts. It was clearly an off-the-cuff comment, made in the spur of the moment without proper consideration.

And it made John Lennon look a bit of a wally.

Today, in unconnected news, Barack Obama has announced new sanctions against several North Korean organisations and senior officials.

Sanctions against North Korea

Personally I was a bit surprised. I mean, wouldn’t you expect there to be some pretty tough sanctions against North Korea, already?

Some of the reasons Obama gives for the new sanctions seem pretty sound to me: repression, human rights abuses, etc etc…

I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, find that the provocative, destabilizing, and repressive actions and policies of the Government of North Korea, including its destructive, coercive cyber-related actions during November and December 2014, actions in violation of UNSCRs 1718, 1874, 2087, and 2094, and commission of serious human rights abuses, constitute a continuing threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States, and hereby expand the scope of the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13466 of June 26, 2008, expanded in scope in Executive Order 13551 of August 30, 2010, and relied upon for additional steps in Executive Order 13570 of April 18, 2011.

Did you notice they slipped in the reference to “destructive, coercive cyber-related actions during November and December”? They mean the hack against Sony Pictures, which the White House is pinning on the North Koreans although many observers remain highly skeptical that any such thing has been proven.

Lennon and ObamaWhen I read that, I remembered John Lennon saying something silly when he returned his MBE. It felt like Obama was perhaps undermining what could have been a very valid point, making a stand against human rights abuses and repression.

After all, the White House knew that it was the Sony hacking link that would capture the media’s attention. And the administration knew the public would view them in a positive light, taking a tough stand against the North Korean bogeymen.

Of course, there will always be some skeptics.

Tweet from Kevin Roose

Anyway, at the very least it’s good to see the US administration taking a tough stand against “destructive, coercive cyber-related actions”.

Presumably they aren’t going to engage in such things in future, then? No doubt Iran is looking forward to a sincere apology over the Stuxnet worm.

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

5 comments on “US levies sanctions against North Korea because of umm.. the Sony hack”

  1. truthers, birthers, and now what.

    Thanks, Graham, for not jumping with both feet into the nascent… um… <a>interviewers</a> (?) cult.

    I can't believe even the most fringe-worthy security specialists think they have better information than the vast intelligence apparatus that gathers, compiles, and assesses data for evidence analysis and ascription assessment that lies behind the FBI's determination.

  2. Coyote

    Was wondering if you would write about this. I did myself although in a different way. It would be amusing if it weren't so counter-productive (and useless – it won't solve any problems with the Sony attack nor will it make them stop doing (or not do in future) something they didn't do in the first place (how ironic)): sanctions will isolate an already isolated (extremely so) country. Is that really going to help them, help the situation? Sanctions are provocative in (their) own right, too.

    And if NK is trying to stop freedom of expression, they're going to have to try it a different way because when you show anger (which that much they did do) you're actually expressing yourself and more specifically you're expressing anger.

  3. Paulo Brito

    Brilliant comments,Graham. Seems to me that:
    – everything is still to be proved;
    – banks and other companies are already taking actions in the ciber + hiring hackers
    – US government had to do something – anything
    So they ordered "arrest the customary suspects"

    Best regards

    paulo brito

  4. Pheenis Groompt

    An accusation by Mr. Obama of "destructive, coercive" behavior is a case of breathtaking hypocrisy. He has ridden roughshod over the U.S. Constitution to the detriment of the people he purports to serve. His brand of coercion (via political mendacity) is no less destructive than that of those whom he accuses.

    1. Coyote · in reply to Pheenis Groompt

      … he is only to believe (in this regard) what he is told and what is suggested to him. Just like all politicians: they don't have a clue when it comes to security (being part of the government doesn't help matters here) There is nothing else to it. It is all politics: that's it and no exceptions (think about it: NK and the US (arguably the entire west and arguably more than that save for China) do not get along… and since NK was angry about the film (which wasn't the original reason for the attack, mind you) clearly they were responsible (again: that is politics working)). And we all know that politicians are corrupt. Again, nothing about individual politicians. Even those who go in with good intention (and I would argue he did but what do I know? Even if he didn't though, by some people's definitions, I would argue that he went in believing he was in for good – just like all politicians, just like dictators (it might be good for them and their party's good but still)) will come out corrupt and possibly beyond recognition and repair. But there is nothing here except politics and politics is nothing logical (the old suggestion 'if pro is the opposite of con, then the opposite of progress must be congress' holds much truth). Therefore it is illogical to expect anything else.

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