There are currently three related North Korea sanctions bills under consideration in Congress. H.R. 757, introduced to the House by Rep. Ed Royce in February 2015, is broadly similar to a bill that passed the House in the last session of Congress, but wasn’t acted upon by the Senate. In the Senate, S. 1747 was introduced by Senators Robert Menendez and Lindsay Graham in July of this year. Additionally, Senators Cory Gardner, Marco Rubio, and James Risch are co-sponsors of the recently-introduced bill S. 2144.
Although the three sanctions bills are generally similar in scope, there are several key differences among them, including their potential impact on humanitarian operations; the level of discretion the Executive Branch would have in applying sanctions; and language on sanctions targeting North Korea’s mineral industry.
NCNK’s new Issue Brief gives a detailed side-by-side summary of these three bills, noting key provisions and differences between the three.
Archive for the ‘USA’ Category
According to UPI:
A New York marine insurance firm has agreed to pay fines for violating U.S. sanctions against North Korea, Cuba and Iran.
Insurance provider The Navigators Group, Inc. admitted the company provided North Korea vessels with marine insurance, according to a statement from the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control on Thursday.
OFAC said Navigators had committed a total of 48 violations: The firm was found in violation of North Korea sanctions including Executive Order No. 13466 and various sanctions against Iran, Cuba and Sudan.
The firm has agreed to pay a reduced fine of $271,000 — down from an initial penalty of $750,000. Of the $750,000 amount, $570,000 was a fine for North Korea sanctions violations.
OFAC said the penalty was reduced after Navigators voluntarily disclosed information of its violations and cooperated with investigators.
Navigators earned $1.1 million in insurance premiums between 2008 and 2011 from 24 individual policies for North Korea vessels.
Between 2009 and 2010, the firm delivered $12,000 in payouts.
Despite sanctions, North Korean ships remain active at sea.
Read the full story here:
New York marine insurance company fined for North Korea dealings
According to UPI:
The United States is now home to 186 North Korean refugees who first began to arrive in 2006 – two years after the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004 was signed into law by President George W. Bush.
The North Korean refugee population in the U.S. is still small and just a fraction of other communities, Voice of America reported on Tuesday.
Major refugee communities in the U.S. include 1,078 Burmese, 879 former nationals of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and 818 Somalis.
In fiscal year 2015 – which began in October 2014 for the State Department – Washington granted asylum to one or more North Koreans per month.
In July, the United States accepted four North Korean refugees, the second highest for the fiscal year.
As refugees North Koreans receive some financial support, including a monthly stipend between $200 and $300 for eight months to cover food and medical expenses, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.
After a year of residence, refugees are eligible for permanent resident status and after five years are permitted to apply for U.S. citizenship.
But the financial support Washington provides North Korean refugees pales in comparison to the support South Korea provides similar defectors.
Seoul’s resettlement dollars awarded to North Koreans have decreased over the years as more North Koreans find their way to the South, but a North Korean defector still qualifies for $5,967 in financial grants, in addition to $11,000 that goes toward long-term housing.
In some cases the U.S. government works with NGOs to resettle the North Koreans, but problems have surfaced in recent years.
In July, The Washington Post reported how a U.S.-based North Korean refugee was deprived of food by his American foster family in Richmond, Va., because they wanted to make their budget stretch.
Joseph Kim, who was then 16, said he found himself hungry in the world’s wealthiest country after years of surviving on weed soup and roasted grasshoppers in North Korea.
Read the full story here:
State Department: 186 North Korean refugees now reside in the United States
According to the Jerusalem Post:
Shurat Hadin – Israel Law Center on Tuesday requested that Mexico permit it to seize an impounded North Korean ship to satisfy a $330 million it won against Pyongyang in April in a US civil damages trial for wrongful killing of a Christian priest.
Mexico impounded the 6,700-ton Mu Du Bong for illegal weapons smuggling on its way from Cuba to North Korea following notification by UN sanctions monitors that the ship belonged to a blacklisted firm. The ship ended up accidentally landing on the Mexican coast and North Korea has protested Mexico’s continuing to hold on to the ship.
The Tel Aviv-based NGO hired Mexican lawyer Alberto Mansur to request that Mexico honor and enforce the US court ruling as part of its obligations to honor foreign judgments under the Hague Convention.The April judgment, which also included findings by a US federal court in Washington that North Korea had kidnapped, tortured and killed South Korean-American Rev. Kim Dong Shik, included $15m. each to Shik’s son and brother as well as $300m. in punitive damages.
Dong Shik, a South Korean who was a permanent resident of the US and had spent seven years providing aid and proselytizing to North Korean defectors who tried to escape via China, was abducted in China in 2000. In 2005, a South Korean court convicted an ethnic Korean of his abduction in concert with North Korean intelligence.
Shurat Hadin said that it hoped that the context of the requested seizure, the North Korean outlaw regime ignoring weapons smuggling laws and flouting UN resolutions, would help its case since it tied into Pyongyang’s massive human rights violations in abducting and murdering innocent persons, which was at the heart of the Dong Shik judgment.
The judgment was a default judgment in which the defendant, North Korea, did not even appear at trial, leading most to predict that it would go unenforced since default judgments are notoriously hard to collect on, especially with a regime such as North Korea, which has few connections to the West.
After the April judgment, Shurat Hadin said the family was investigating all the possible avenues to collect the judgment against North Korean assets including seizing bank accounts, property and shares in foreign companies in the United States and abroad.
But even Shurat Hadin admitted that Mexico’s seizure of the ship was a shocking gift and unexpected opportunity to collect on the judgment. The NGO’s President Nitsana Darshan- Leitner said that “North Korea should know that we are actively tracking its assets and looking to seize them everywhere in the world. This outlaw regime must be taught that it cannot abduct and murder foreign citizens and that eventually there will be a price to pay.”
“There is no reason why this boat which clearly belongs to North Korea cannot be used to satisfy our judgment,” she said.
In the April judgment against North Korea, the court said that the two $15m.
and the $300m. damages awards were consistent with comparable cases against North Korea and Iran for other similar wrongful actions and recognized the tremendous suffering by Dong Shik’s family members.
In December 2014, Shurat Hadin convinced a US federal appeals court to grant default judgment against North Korea on liability, paving the way for April’s massive damages award by the lower district court.
The ruling by the US Appeals Court for the District of Columbia, written by Judge David S. Tatel, reversed an earlier district court ruling that had dismissed the case, despite North Korea failing to defend itself, on the grounds that the plaintiffs had failed to present any direct evidence of what happened to Dong Shik.
The appeals court based its ruling on proof that Pyongyang kidnapped Dong Shik, a wealth of information about it torturing and killing prisoners, its systematic attempts to block direct evidence from emerging and its failure to counter the plaintiffs’ claims.
The ruling was also significant because it allowed a case to go forward based on the “terrorism exception” to the US Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which somewhat broadens the paths and precedents open to suing foreign nations for terrorist acts.
Read the full story here:
NGO seeks to seize N. Korean ship to pay off $330 m. US judgment for killing of priest
Yonah Jeremy Bob
UPDATE 8 (2015-6-29): FATF says member states should pay “special attention” to financial transactions with North Korea. According to VOA:
The Paris-based Financial Action Task Force last week reaffirmed its earlier decision to put the community country on its watch list because of North Korea’s “failure to address the significant deficiencies in its anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism,” the task force said in a public statement released on its website. It said that failure poses “serious threat … to the integrity of the international financial system.”
The task force had a plenary meeting last week in Brisbane, Australia.
“The FATF reaffirms its 25 February 2011 call on its members and urges all jurisdictions to advise their financial institutions to give special attention to business relationships and transactions with the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea], including DPRK companies and financial institutions,” it said.
The group also expressed concern about the North’s noncompliance with its recommendations to fight money laundering.
In an apparent attempt to ease financial sanctions by the United States and the United Nations, the North promised steps to address money laundering concerns. In July 2014, Pyongyang announced it had joined the Asian affiliate of the anti-money laundering body as an observer. Later, the North sent a letter to the FATF indicating its commitment to implementing actions recommended by the group.
The FATF, created in 1989, has 36 members, comprising 34 member countries and territories and two regional organizations.
UPDATE 7 (2015-3-16): Following the FATFs statement regarding the DPRK on February 27, the US Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued a new advisory.
UPDATE 6 (2015-2-17): The FATF has issued another statement on North Korea:
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is the global standard setting body for anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT). In order to protect the international financial system from money laundering and financing of terrorism (ML/FT) risks and to encourage greater compliance with the AML/CFT standards, the FATF identified jurisdictions that have strategic deficiencies and works with them to address those deficiencies that pose a risk to the international financial system.
Jurisdictions subject to a FATF call on its members and other jurisdictions to apply counter-measures to protect the international financial system from the on-going and substantial money laundering and terrorist financing (ML/FT) risks emanating from the jurisdictions.
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)
Jurisdictions with strategic AML/CFT deficiencies that have not made sufficient progress in addressing the deficiencies or have not committed to an action plan developed with the FATF to address the deficiencies. The FATF calls on its members to consider the risks arising from the deficiencies associated with each jurisdiction, as described below.
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)
Since October 2014, the DPRK sent a letter to the FATF indicating its commitment to implementing the action plan developed with the FATF.
However, the FATF remains concerned by the DPRK’s failure to address the significant deficiencies in its anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regime and the serious threat this poses to the integrity of the international financial system. The FATF urges the DPRK to immediately and meaningfully address its AML/CFT deficiencies.
The FATF reaffirms its 25 February 2011 call on its members, and urges all jurisdictions, to advise their financial institutions to give special attention to business relationships and transactions with the DPRK, including DPRK companies and financial institutions. In addition to enhanced scrutiny, the FATF further calls on its members, and urges all jurisdictions, to apply effective counter-measures to protect their financial sectors from ML/FT risks emanating from the DPRK. Jurisdictions should also protect against correspondent relationships being used to bypass or evade counter-measures and risk mitigation practices, and take into account ML/FT risks when considering requests by DPRK financial institutions to open branches and subsidiaries in their jurisdiction.
UPDATE 5 (2015-2-4): NK News picked up the Choson Sinbo piece and offered these comments:
But other regime watchers suggested that there are at least certain segments of the North Korean elite who do indeed want money laundering combated.
“There’s a cohort of DPRK businessmen who want the country to take more active steps in dealing with financial improprieties because they are losing money or opportunities,” said Michael Madden of North Korea Leadership Watch. “The DPRK leadership, particularly Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong, is thinking more long-term on this.”
And Christopher Green of the Daily NK suggested that this was an effort by the North Korean government to not only avoid sanctions, but assert its control over the domestic financial industry by cracking down on money launderers.
“The state wants to bring into its remit all those rogue financial elements that occasionally tend to fall outside the remit of the ruling coalition,” he said. “The state is in a constant battle to stay as top dog in the financial sector in a country where so much is illegal for historical and political reasons – and illegality is always exploited eventually.”
And Daniel Pinkston of the International Crisis Group suggested that the North may have its eye on its northern neighbor with this move.
“I think it will be helpful – from the DPRK perspective – if Pyongyang ever needs to plead their case with Beijing to avoid financial sanctions that include Chinese banks since they are critical for the DPRK’s international financial linkages,” Pinkston said.
Kim Chon Gyun told the Choson Sinbo that the nation’s penal code has already been revised to reflect international standards when punishing money laundering.
North Korea has created a national committee on efforts to fight money laundering and terrorist financing, a senior Pyongyang official confirmed Tuesday.
The communist nation’s move came after it joined the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG), the Asia-Pacific arm of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) under the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), last year.
“The National Coordinating Committee is an organ to guide projects to prevent money laundering and financing of terrorism,” Kim Chon-gyun, head of North Korea’s central bank said in an interview with the Chosun Sinbo. The newspaper is published by the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, or Chongryon.
The panel, chaired by a deputy premier of the Cabinet, involves officials from the central bank, the foreign ministry, the finance ministry, and law-enforcement authorities, he added.
The North has already revised its penal code to take punitive measures against related violations in accordance with international norms, said Kim.
In January, Pyongyang said that it sent a letter to the FATF, based in Paris, pledging the sincere implementation of an action plan to meet global anti-money laundering standards.
UPDATE 3 (2015-2-3): The Chosun Sinbo has posted an article on anti-money laundering measures in the DPRK. Here is a rough translation:
[Interview] Kim Chon-kyun, the President of the Central Bank of the DPRK, Cooperation with International Organizations for Prevention from Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing.
“Establishment of the National System for Preventing from Illegal Acts”
By Kim Ji-young, reporter from Pyongyang
Kim Chon-kyun, the President of the Central Bank of the DPRK presented, at the interview with the Choson Sinbo, the opposite stance of North Korean government against money laundering and terrorist financing as follows.
“What cannot be allowed according to institutional characteristics”
– A letter from the president of the Central Bank of the DPRK that pledged to implement plans for action for prevention from money laundering and terrorist financing was submitted to Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on Jan 1st. How has the negotiation between North Korea and FATF proceeded?
The implementing recommendations of the plans for action we pledged this time were consented at the negotiation between North Korea and Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering in Cambodia on September 2014.
When looking into the recommendations, it included maintaining cooperative relations such as sharing data and proceeding cooperation with organizations, joining as a member state, devising a means to sanction and to punish on money laundering and terrorist financing, reinforcing the confirmation procedure of traders, establishing financing watching and information business system including reporting surreptitious trade, joining in international agreement, assessing loca, etc. These measurements are, in a word, that we should establish national system to punish severely illegal acts like internal/external money laundering and terrorist financing.
North Korea institutionally does not allow those illegal acts.
Long before such “international standard” appeared, North Korea already set legal, organizational measurement adequate for our society to prevent from money laundering –like acts. This is specifically described on our laws and those regulations have renewed according to the need for development in reality.
It is interesting that the head of the central bank is the point man for this operation because the DPRK’s central bank does not have the authority to hold foreign currency accounts–only accounts denominated in DPRK won. It seems to me that international money laundering should also be of concert to the Foreign Trade Bank, a sanctioned entity that is responsible for managing hard currency deposits in the DPRK.
UPDATE 2 (2015-1-24): According to the Pyongyang Times:
DPRK commits itself to anti-money laundering action plan
The Governor of the DPRK Central Bank on January 15 sent a letter to the Financial Action Task Force on Anti-Money Laundering, assuring it that the country would implement the Action Plan of International Standard for Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism, a spokesman for the DPRK National Coordinating Committee on Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism told KCNA on January 16.
He described this as a manifestation of the DPRK government’s political will based on its consistent stand to step up international cooperation in this field.
Recommendations of the action plan are legislative and organizational measures to criminalize and punish money laundering and financing of terrorism, and almost all of them have long been implemented in the DPRK to suit its actual conditions, according to the spokesman.
The DPRK will sincerely implement the action plan as it has pledged itself for the promotion of mutual understanding with member nations in the face of the obstructive moves of the US and some other countries that are reluctant to cooperate with the international organization, he stated.
He requested the organization to positively respond to the DPRK’s cooperative efforts as it assured in negotiations with the country.
UPDATE 1 (2014-10-24): FATF issues a public statement from Paris that includes the following:
Jurisdictions subject to a FATF call on its members and other jurisdictions to apply counter-measures to protect the international financial system from the on-going and substantial money laundering and terrorist financing (ML/FT) risks emanating from the jurisdictions.
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)
Since June 2014, the DPRK has further engaged directly with the FATF and APG to discuss its AML/CFT deficiencies. The FATF urges the DPRK to continue its cooperation with the FATF and to provide a high-level political commitment to the action plan developed with the FATF.
The FATF remains concerned by the DPRK’s failure to address the significant deficiencies in its anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regime and the serious threat this poses to the integrity of the international financial system. The FATF urges the DPRK to immediately and meaningfully address its AML/CFT deficiencies.
The FATF reaffirms its 25 February 2011 call on its members and urges all jurisdictions to advise their financial institutions to give special attention to business relationships and transactions with the DPRK, including DPRK companies and financial institutions. In addition to enhanced scrutiny, the FATF further calls on its members and urges all jurisdictions to apply effective counter-measures to protect their financial sectors from money laundering and financing of terrorism (ML/FT) risks emanating from the DPRK. Jurisdictions should also protect against correspondent relationships being used to bypass or evade counter-measures and risk mitigation practices, and take into account ML/FT risks when considering requests by DPRK financial institutions to open branches and subsidiaries in their jurisdiction.
ORIGINAL POST (2014-7-19): North Korea joins OECD anti-money laundering group. According to the JoongAng Daily:
North Korea has joined the Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG), whose purpose is to prevent funding of terrorism and development of nuclear weapons.
Members of the APG unanimously decided to accept North Korea and Tuvalu as observers during its general meeting held in Macau yesterday.
APG is the Asia Pacific unit of the Financial Action Task Force under the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has 41 member countries including the U.S., South Korea, China and Japan and observers include countries such as Germany, France and the U.K., as well as 27 international organizations such as the Asia Development Bank and World Bank.
Since North Korea has been accepted as an observer, it has to follow several rules including the prevention of money laundering, funding of terrorist organizations or actions, sharing its knowledge and experience and following global regulations and laws.
The APG will decide later whether to elevate North Korea from observer status to a member country once it evaluates Pyongyang based on its annual reports to the organization and visits by the representatives of the group over the next three years.
South Korea and many other members are trying to figure out the motive behind the unexpected move by Pyongyang, because North Korea was previously opposed to joining the APG.
“[North Korea’s motive] is a mystery to us,” said a high ranking government official, who requested anonymity. “We suspect that North Korea, while looking for ways to ease the international financial restrictions imposed on them, decided to show their efforts in improving their global image [by joining the APG].
“But since the lists that they need to follow are long, we will probably have wait and see how sincere and determined they are with their decision.”
In other words, it could be a facade as a way for North Korea to ease the sanctions imposed on it, since the possibility that Pyongyang will give up its nuclear ambitions is low.
The action is particularly suspicious because up until last year’s APG meeting held in Shanghai, North Korea refused to join the organization because of the rule requiring members and observers to follow global standards. North Korea at the time argued that it would join the APG only after the agreement to follow UN resolutions was taken out.
The resolutions include prevention of money laundering, nuclear terrorism and development of nuclear weapons, which is the opposite of the North Korean government’s goal of securing both economic growth and nuclear weapons.
But now, North Korea has agreed to follow all regulations presented by APG.
The tide seemed to have turned as financial sanctions imposed by the international community and led by the U.S. have intensified.
Pyongyang suffered heavily last year after the U.S. and China closed the accounts of the Foreign Trade Bank of North Korea, which was known as the money laundering window for Pyongyang. The money laundered through the trade bank is suspected of being used in funding the regime’s control over the country.
In May, the state-run Bank of China said it had notified the Foreign Trade Bank of North Korea that it was closing all of its accounts and suspending all financial transactions. It did not specify the number of accounts in the bank.
The move came as a shock considering China and North Korea’s strong ties. China was previously the lifeline of North Korea, whose economy has been heavily dependent on its close ally.
Last year wasn’t the first time that North Korea’s accounts have been shut down. In 2005, the U.S. froze North Korea’s accounts at Macau’s Banco Delta Asia, which was a heavy blow to Pyongyang’s ability to secure foreign capital.
The recent change of heart seems to have been triggered by a report by the U.S. State Department in May designating North Korea as a country that is non-cooperative against terror, citing its decision not to join either the FATF or APG.
Although suspicious, the South Korean government isn’t disapproving of the move by the North, as there are positive aspects such as better transparency of Pyongyang’s finances if it conforms to the APG’s regulations.
And if Pyongyang doesn’t follow the rules and loses its license as an observer, the sanctions against North Korea will further tighten.
“North Korean representatives, after their acceptance was approved [in Macau], stressed that they will work on following the APG’s international standards and our [South Korean] government has emphasized the importance of following the resolutions set by the United Nations Security Council,” said a government official.
Read the full story here:
North Korea joins OECD anti-money laundering group
Jung Won-yeop and Park Jin-seok
UPDATE 28 (2015-3-17): Vox.com reports that a US congressman may have revealed a US response to the Sony hacking:
Rep. Michael McCaul hinted at a think tank event on Tuesday that the US may have been responsible for North Korea’s massive internet outage in late December.
McCaul, in the course of his answer on how the US responds to cyber threats, then mentioned North Korea: “There were some cyber responses to North Korea,” he said, referring to the country’s alleged role in the November hacks against Sony Pictures.
Though he did not explicitly confirm long-held suspicions that US cyberattacks were responsible for North Korea’s mass internet outage, McCaul’s comments have come as close as any official US statement ever has to acknowledging a role.
The comments, made at a cybersecurity policy event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, were first reported by Bloomberg reporter Chris Strohm and confirmed by a source with knowledge of the event.
UPDATE 27 (2015-1-18): The New York Times is reporting that the NSA had broken into North Korea’s computer system before the North Koreans hacked Sony:
Spurred by growing concern about North Korea’s maturing capabilities, the American spy agency drilled into the Chinese networks that connect North Korea to the outside world, picked through connections in Malaysia favored by North Korean hackers and penetrated directly into the North with the help of South Korea and other American allies, according to former United States and foreign officials, computer experts later briefed on the operations and a newly disclosed N.S.A. document.
UPDATE 26 (2015-1-9): The NSA played a role in identifying the DPRK.
UPDATE 25 (2015-1-7): FBI reveals more details (New York Times):
The F.B.I.’s director, James B. Comey, said on Wednesday that the United States had concluded that North Korea was behind the destructive attacks on Sony Pictures partly because the hackers failed to mask their location when they broke into the company’s servers.
Mr. Comey said that instead of routing some of the attacks and messages through decoy servers, the hackers had sent them directly from known North Korean Internet addresses.
Though Mr. Comey did not offer more details about the government’s evidence in a speech in New York, senior government officials said that F.B.I.’s analysts discovered that the hackers made a critical error by logging into both their Facebook account and Sony’s servers from North Korean Internet addresses. It was clear, the officials said, that hackers quickly recognized their mistake. In several cases, after mistakenly logging in directly, they quickly backtracked and rerouted their attacks and messages through decoy computers abroad.
UPDATE 24 (2105-1-5): The DPRK criticized the latest round of unilateral sanctions imposed by the US. According to the New York Times:
North Korea denounced the United States on Sunday for imposing new sanctions on it after a cyberattack on Sony Pictures, calling them byproducts of American “hostility” toward the North.
North Korea reiterated its denial of involvement in the hacking of Sony computers and said Washington’s sanctions would only strengthen resolve to pursue its “military first” policy. That policy calls for an arms buildup, including nuclear weapons development, as a “deterrent” against Washington’s policy.
“The persistent and unilateral action taken by the White House to slap sanctions against the D.P.R.K. patently proves that it is still not away from inveterate repugnance and hostility toward the D.P.R.K.,” an unidentified government spokesman was quoted as saying by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency. D.P.R.K. stands for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, North Korea’s official name.
The statement from the spokesman was the North’s first reaction to the new sanctions the Obama administration announced on Friday.
UPDATE 23 (2015-1-2): US sanctions Pyongyang over Sony hack. According to the AP:
President Barack Obama signed an executive order on Friday authorizing the sanctions. Although the U.S. has already sanctioned North Korea over its nuclear program, these are the first sanctions punishing Pyongyang for alleged cyberattacks.
The Obama administration says the sanctions affect three North Korean entities, including a government intelligence agency and a North Korean arms dealer. The U.S. is also sanctioning 10 individuals who work for those entities or the North Korean government.
Those sanctioned are barred from using the U.S. financial system, and Americans are prohibited from doing business with them.
UPDATE 22 (2014-12-31): FBI still maintains DPRK is behind the attack.
UPDATE 21 (2014-12-25): Lizard Squad takes credit for DDoS attack on Xbox live. Also, I have had trouble accessing North Korean web pages this evening (11:20pm).
UPDATE 20 (2014-12-24): Meet the hacker group, Lizard Squad. Also, here is another story in the New York Times which casts doubt on the theory that the hack originated in the DPRK.
UPDATE 19 (2014-12-24): Via @levie on Tiwtter:
“A country with no internet is now essentially responsible for causing Hollywood to adapt its business model to the Internet. This is weird.
UPDATE 18 (2014-12-24): Martyn Williams reports that “The Interview” will be available on line. More at CNN and Washington Post.
UPDATE 17 (2014-12-23): Sony has authorized a limited release of “The Interview” on Christmas Day. According to the Associated Press:
“The Interview” was put back into theaters Thursday when Sony Pictures Entertainment announced a limited theatrical release for the comedy that provoked an international incident with North Korea and outrage over its cancelled release.
Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton said Tuesday that Seth Rogen’s North Korea farce “will be in a number of theaters on Christmas Day.” He said Sony also is continuing its efforts to release the film on more platforms and in more theaters.
“We have never given up on releasing ‘The Interview,'” Lynton said in a statement Tuesday. “While we hope this is only the first step of the film’s release, we are proud to make it available to the public and to have stood up to those who attempted to suppress free speech.”
For Sony, the decision was the culmination of a gradual about-face: After initially saying it had no plans to release the movie, the company began softening its position after it was broadly criticized.
Moviegoers celebrated the abrupt change in fortune for a film that appeared doomed as “The Interview” began popping up in the listings of independent theaters across the country Tuesday, from Atlanta to Los Angeles. The film stands to open in as many as a few hundred theaters on Thursday, the day it was originally set for wide release.
One of the loudest critics of the film’s shelving — President Barack Obama — hailed Sony’s reversal.
“The president applauds Sony’s decision to authorize screenings of the film,” said Obama spokesman Eric Schultz. “As the president made clear, we are a country that believes in free speech, and the right of artistic expression. The decision made by Sony and participating theaters allows people to make their own choices about the film, and we welcome that outcome.”
Rogen, who stars in the film he co-directed with Evan Goldberg, made his first public comments in a surreal ordeal that began with hackers leaking Sony executives’ emails and culminated in an ongoing confrontation between the U.S. and North Korea. The FBI has said North Korea was behind the hacking attacks.
“The people have spoken! Freedom has prevailed! Sony didn’t give up!” said Rogen on Twitter.
“VICTORY!!!!!!!” said James Franco, who co-stars in the film. “The PEOPLE and THE PRESIDENT have spoken.”
UPDATE 16 (2014-12-23): In Update 11 I noted that the US has asked for Chinese support. Apparently China is cool to the idea. According to the Washington Post:
China said Tuesday there was no proof that North Korea was behind a cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment, signaling its reluctance to side with the United States over the incident, while also rejecting speculation it could have cut off Pyongyang’s Internet access as punishment.
Asked about American requests for help from China to punish North Korea for cyberattacks, Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry, said the United States and North Korea needed to communicate directly.
She said Beijing had not seen proof of who was behind the attack on Sony. “We need sufficient evidence before drawing any conclusion,” she said at a news conference.
Administration officials had asked China last Thursday to block Pyongyang’s access to Internet routers and servers based in China, to expel North Korean hackers living in China and to pressure the regime of Kim Jong Un to end its alleged cyberoffensive against companies in the United States, according to one official.
UPDATE 15 (2014-12-22): This morning I was having trouble loading some North Korean web pages. Looks like others were as well: Martyn Williams, Bloomberg, Vox, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post.
UPDATE 14 (2014-12-22): Martyn Williams has some more information here.
UPDATE 13 (2014-12-21): KCNA has published a second statement on the Sony hacking–this time from the National Defense Commission (the initial statement was from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs):
U.S. Urged to Honestly Apologize to Mankind for Its Evil Doing before Groundlessly Pulling up Others
Pyongyang, December 21 (KCNA) — The Policy Department of the National Defence Commission of the DPRK issued the following statement Sunday:
Strange thing that happened in the heart of the U.S., the ill-famed cesspool of injustice, is now afloat in the world as shocking news.
The Sony Pictures Entertainment, the biggest movie producer in the U.S., which produced the undesirable reactionary film “The Interview” daring hurt the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK and agitating even terrorism and had a plan to distribute it, was exposed to surprisingly sophisticated, destructive and threatening cyber warfare and has been thrown into a bottomless quagmire after suffering property losses worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
The public in the U.S. is now describing this case as “disgrace suffered by Sony Pictures Entertainment,” “very sorry thing caused by the U.S.,” “Sony Pictures Entertainment showing a white flag before hackers” and the “unprecedented disaster suffered by the U.S.”
Those who meted out a stern punishment of justice were reported to be cyber experts styling themselves “guardians of peace”.
Seized with terrible horror and threat in face of their merciless hacking attack in retaliation against unjust actions, many movie and drama distributors in North America including 41 states of the U.S. and Canada immediately canceled the screening of the reactionary movie. And it was reported that the Sony Pictures Entertainment which directly sponsored its production and distribution hastily issued a statement on Dec. 25 that it would suspend the screening of the undesirable movie which had been planned in 63 countries.
The NDC of the DPRK highly estimates the righteous action taken by the “guardians of peace,” though it is not aware of their residence.
It, at the same time, considers as fortunate the step taken by the Sony Pictures Entertainment to give up the overall distribution of the above-said movie due to the decision and strong pressure of the movie and drama distributors for stopping the screening of the reactionary movie, though belatedly.
This is an official stand of the army and the people of the DPRK on what happened in the heart of the U.S.
This stand is taken by the DPRK because the movie “The Interview” is an undesirable and reactionary one justifying and inciting terrorism which should not be allowed in any country and any region.
Another reason is that the movie is run through with a story agitating a vicious and dastardly method of assassinating a head of a legitimate sovereign state.
No wonder, even political and social circles of the U.S. commented that it is quite wrong to defame the head of the state for the mere reason that his politics is different from that of the U.S. and it is in the hostile relationship with the latter and, therefore, the Sony Pictures Entertainment got into a serious trouble and paid a due price.
For these reasons, the DPRK is more highly praising the “guardians of peace” for their righteous deed which prevented in advance the evil cycle of retaliation– terrorism sparks terrorism.
It is quite natural that the movie and drama producers should refrain from undesirable deeds contrary to the noble mission to lead morality and civilization.
But what matters is that the U.S. and its followers are groundlessly trumpeting that the recent cyber attack was made by the DPRK.
The FBI issued the results of the investigation into the hack at the Sony Pictures Entertainment on December 19.
According to them, it suffered tremendous losses.
One may say this is the due price incurred by wrong deed, the evil act of hurting others.
The U.S. released a statement asserting that this loss was caused by the DPRK.
No matter how big and disgraceful the loss may be, the U.S. should not pull up others for no reason.
The FBI presented a report on the results of technical analysis of hacking program used by the “guardians of peace” for this attack, citing it as the ground that the serious hacking was caused by the DPRK.
The report says the malignant code had access to north Korea’s IP already known several times and the hacking methods applied in the “March 20 hacking case” and during cyber warfare against media and various other computer networks in south Korea in recent years are similar to that applied against the Sony Pictures Entertainment this time, being another ground that “this was done by the north”.
The report, in particular, adds that the malignant code and algorithm applied during the attack are similar to what was used during the hacking attack on south Korea, citing it as a proof.
Not satisfied with those groundless “evidence”, the FBI is letting loose ambiguous remarks that it is hard to fully prove due to the “protection of sensitive information sources.”
This means self-acknowledgement that the “assertion about the north’s deed” came from an intentional allegation rather than scientific evidence.
It is a common sense that the method of cyber warfare is almost similar worldwide. Different sorts of hacking programs and codes are used in cyberspace.
If somebody used U.S.-made hacking programs and codes and applied their instruction or encoding method, perhaps, the “wise” FBI, too, could not but admit that it would be hard to decisively assert that the attack was done by the U.S.
Moreover, the DPRK has never attempted nor made a “cyber-attack” on south Korea. The rumor about “cyber-attack” by the DPRK was a concoction made by the south Korean puppet regime and its plot.
After all, the grounds cited by the FBI in its announcement were all based on obscure sci-tech data and false story and, accordingly, the announcement itself is another fabrication. This is the DPRK’s stand on the U.S. gangster-like behavior against it.
What is grave is that U.S. President Obama is recklessly making the rumor about “DPRK’s cyber-attack on Sony Pictures” a fait accompli while crying out for symmetric counteraction, strict calculation and additionally retaliatory sanctions.
This is like beating air after being hit hard. A saying goes every sin brings its punishment with it. It is best for the guilty to repent of its evil doings and draw a lesson when forced to pay dearly for them.
The DPRK has clear evidence that the U.S. administration was deeply involved in the making of such dishonest reactionary movie.
It is said that the movie was conceived and produced according to the “guidelines” of the U.S. authorities who contended that such movies hurting the dignity of the DPRK supreme leadership and inciting terrorism against it would be used in an effective way as “propaganda against north Korea”.
The U.S. Department of State’s special human rights envoy went the lengths of urging the movie makers to keep all scenes insulting the dignity of the DPRK supreme leadership in the movie, saying it is needed to “vex the north Korean government”.
The facts glaringly show that the U.S. is the chief culprit of terrorism as it has loudly called for combating terrorism everywhere in the world but schemed behind the scene to produce and distribute movies inciting it in various countries of the world.
It is not exaggeration to say in the light of the prevailing situation that the U.S. administration and President Obama looking after the overall state affairs of the U.S. have been behind the case.
Can he really cover up the crimes he has committed by trying so hard to falsify the truth and turn white to black.
So we watched with unusual attention what had been done by the “guardians of peace” to avert terrorism and defend justice.
Yet, we do not know who or where they are but we can surely say that they are supporters and sympathizers with the DPRK.
The army and people of the DPRK who aspire after justice and truth and value conscience have hundreds of millions of supporters and sympathizers, known or unknown, who have turned out in the sacred war against terrorism and the U.S. imperialists, the chieftain of aggression, to accomplish the just cause.
Obama personally declared in public the “symmetric counteraction”, a disgraceful behavior.
There is no need to guess what kind of thing the “symmetric counteraction” is like but the army and people of the DPRK will never be browbeaten by such a thing.
The DPRK has already launched the toughest counteraction. Nothing is more serious miscalculation than guessing that just a single movie production company is the target of this counteraction. Our target is all the citadels of the U.S. imperialists who earned the bitterest grudge of all Koreans.
The army and people of the DPRK are fully ready to stand in confrontation with the U.S. in all war spaces including cyber warfare space to blow up those citadels.
Our toughest counteraction will be boldly taken against the White House, the Pentagon and the whole U.S. mainland, the cesspool of terrorism, by far surpassing the “symmetric counteraction” declared by Obama.
This is the invariable toughest stand of the army and people of the DPRK.
Fighters for justice including “guardians of peace” who turned out in the sacred drive for cooperation in the fight against the U.S. to defend human justice and conscience and to dismember the U.S. imperialists, the root cause of all sorts of evils and kingpin of injustice, are sharpening bayonets not only in the U.S. mainland but in all other parts of the world.
The just struggle to be waged by them across the world will bring achievements thousands of times greater than the hacking attack on the Sony Pictures Entertainment.
It is the truth and inevitability of the historical development that justice prevails over injustice.
Whoever challenges justice by toeing the line of the biggest criminal U.S. will never be able to escape merciless punishment as it is the target of the sacred drive for cooperation in the fight against the U.S.
The U.S. should reflect on its evil doings that put itself in such a trouble, apologize to the Koreans and other people of the world and should not dare pull up others.
UPDATE 12 (2014-12-21): Obama states he will consider adding the DPRK back to the list of state sponsors of terror. According to the New York Times:
As the United States moves closer to taking Cuba off the list of state sponsors of terrorism, President Obama said he would “review” whether to return North Korea to the list, part of a broader government response to a damaging cyberattack on Sony’s Hollywood studio.
“We have got very clear criteria as to what it means for a state to sponsor terrorism, and we don’t make those judgments just based on the news of the day,” Mr. Obama told CNN in an interview broadcast Sunday. “We look systematically at what’s been done.”
North Korea was removed from the list six years ago, but the government has again prompted the ire of the United States after the F.B.I. said it had extensive evidence that linked the North Korean government to a cyberattack on Sony Pictures.
UPDATE 11 (2014-12-21): Media reports indicate the US will seek Chinese support to resolve North Korean hacks. According to the New York Times:
The Obama administration has sought China’s help in recent days in blocking North Korea’s ability to launch cyberattacks, the first steps toward the “proportional response” President Obama vowed to make the North pay for the assault on Sony Pictures — and as part of a campaign to issue a broader warning against future hacking, according to senior administration officials.
“What we are looking for is a blocking action, something that would cripple their efforts to carry out attacks,” one official said.
So far, the Chinese have not responded. Their cooperation would be critical, since virtually all of North Korea’s telecommunications run through Chinese-operated networks.
It is unclear that China would choose to help, given tensions over computer security between Washington and Beijing since the Justice Department in May indicted five hackers working for the Chinese military on charges of stealing sensitive information from American companies.
The secret approach to China comes as American officials, convening a half-dozen meetings in the White House Situation Room last week, including one of the top national security team on Thursday night, have been developing options to give to the president during his vacation in Hawaii. They include new economic sanctions, mirroring those recently placed on Russian oligarchs and officials close to President Vladimir V. Putin, which would cut off their access to cash — the one perk that allows the elite surrounding Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, to live lifestyles their starving countrymen can barely imagine.
The sessions also included discussions of “information operations” directed at the North Korean people, officials said, but similar efforts by South Korea to sway opinion in the North have often created a furious backlash.
This was also covered by the Wall Street Journal.
Although China has made no public response to the request, a separate report in the New York Times indicates that frustration with the DPRK among China’s leadership is as an all time high.
UPDATE 10 (2014-12-20): The DPRK denies involvement and makes an offer:
DPRK Foreign Ministry Rejects U.S. Accusation against Pyongyang over Cyber Attack
Pyongyang, December 20 (KCNA) — A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry of the DPRK gave the following answer to a question put by KCNA Saturday as regards the U.S. accusation against the DPRK over a cyber attack on a movie company in the U.S.:
Obama, Kerry and other high-ranking authorities of the U.S. cried out for sort of counter-measure Friday, claiming that the results of the investigation into the cyber-attack on the Sony Pictures Entertainment proved that the DPRK was behind it.
They, without presenting any specific evidence, are asserting they can not open it to public as it is “sensitive information.”
Clear evidence is needed to charge a sovereign state with a crime.
Reference to the past cyber-attacks quite irrelevant with the DPRK and a string of presumptive assertions such as “similarity” and “repetition” can convince no one.
The U.S. act of daring charge the DPRK with a crime based on absurd “investigation results” reveals its inveterate bitterness toward the DPRK.
This is proven, as in the recent cyber-attack, by the recent urge made by a man called a “human rights special envoy” of the U.S. State Department to movie-makers that they should harass the north Korean government and keep alive scenes hurting the dignity of the its supreme leadership.
The U.S. ruling quarters are working hard to divert the criticism of its administration to the DPRK as the plan of putting on show the anti-DPRK film on Christmas Day canceled due to the controversial cyber-attack, causing an uproar in the U.S.
We will never pardon those undesirable elements keen on hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK. In case we retaliate against them, we will target with legitimacy those responsible for the anti-DPRK acts and their bases, not engaging in terrorist attack aimed at the innocent audience in cinemas.
The army of the DPRK has the will and ability to do so.
The U.S. State Secretary is going to justify the production of the movie hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of a sovereign state while trumpeting about the freedom of expression. He should know that there is punishment of libel in enforcement of international law.
We propose the U.S. side conducting a joint investigation into the case, given that Washington is slandering Pyongyang by spreading unfounded rumor.
We have a way to prove that we have nothing to do with the case without resorting to torture as what the CIA does.
The U.S. should bear in mind that it will face serious consequences in case it rejects our proposal for joint investigation and presses for what it called countermeasure while finding fault with the DPRK.
UPDATE 9 (2014-12-19): Some technology writers still believe the the DPRK was not behind the attack. And here. And here.
UPDATE 8 (2014-12-19): US Department of State on the hacking.
UPDATE 6 (2014-12-19): There is the official FBI press release on the matter.
UPDATE 5 (2014-12-19): The New York Times has published information from the FBI that implicates the DPRK in the Sony hack:
The F.B.I. on Friday said it had extensive evidence that the North Korean government organized the cyberattack that debilitated Sony Pictures computers, marking the first time the United States has explicitly accused the leaders of a foreign nation of hacking American targets.
The bureau said that there were significant “similarities in specific lines of code, encryption algorithms, data deletion methods, and compromised networks” to previous attacks by the North Koreans. It also said that there were classified elements of the evidence against the North that it could not reveal.
“The F.B.I. also observed significant overlap between the infrastructure used in this attack and other malicious cyberactivity the U.S. government has previously linked directly to North Korea,” the bureau said. “For example, the F.B.I. discovered that several Internet protocol addresses associated with known North Korean infrastructure communicated with I.P. addresses that were hardcoded into the data deletion malware used in this attack.”
The F.B.I. said that some of the methods employed in the Sony attack were similar to ones that were used by the North Koreans against South Korean banks and news media outlets in 2013.
“We are deeply concerned about the destructive nature of this attack on a private sector entity and the ordinary citizens who worked there,” the F.B.I. said.
It added: “Though the F.B.I. has seen a wide variety and increasing number of cyberintrusions, the destructive nature of this attack, coupled with its coercive nature, sets it apart. North Korea’s actions were intended to inflict significant harm on a U.S. business and suppress the right of American citizens to express themselves. Such acts of intimidation fall outside the bounds of acceptable state behavior.”
North Korea has been under extraordinary economic sanctions for decades, and it has done nothing to curb either its nuclear program or these cyberattacks. A military response seems unlikely — the White House said on Thursday that it was examining options for a “proportional response,” and that would seem to rule out conventional military options.
Some of the evidence has been developed from “implants” that the National Security Agency has placed in networks around the world. But North Korea has proved to be a particularly hard target, because it has relatively low Internet connectivity to the rest of the world, and its best computer minds do not move out of the country often, where their machines and USB drives could be accessible targets.
“Suffice it to say,” one senior intelligence official said this week, “that we almost never name a suspect country. So when we do, it’s got to be based on something fairly strong.”
As the F.B.I. pointed out, the attacks at Sony share similarities with a similar series of destructive attacks last year on South Korean banks and broadcasters, and they used the same data-wiping tool that Iranian hackers used to destroy data on 30,000 computers at Saudi Aramco in 2012, according to forensics researchers.
In 2009, a similar campaign of coordinated cyberattacks over the Fourth of July holiday hit 27 American and South Korean websites, including those of South Korea’s presidential palace, called the Blue House, and its Defense Ministry, and sites belonging to the United States Treasury Department, the Secret Service and the Federal Trade Commission. North Korea was suspected, but a clear link was never established.
But those were all “distributed denial of service” attacks, in which attackers flood the sites with traffic until they fall offline. The Sony attack was far more sophisticated: It wiped data off Sony’s computer systems, rendering them inoperable.
“The cyberattack against Sony Pictures Entertainment was not just an attack against a company and its employees,” Jeh C. Johnson, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said in a statement. “It was also an attack on our freedom of expression and way of life.”
Mr. Johnson said the attacks underscored the importance of taking measures “to rapidly detect cyberintrusions and promote resilience throughout all of our networks.”
“Every C.E.O. should take this opportunity to assess their company’s cybersecurity,” he added.
UPDATE 3 (2014-12-18): Christmas day screening of Team America at the Alamo Draft House is already sold out.
UPDATE 2 (2014-12-18): Maybe time for a Team America sequel?
UPDATE 1 (2014-12-18): Team America to the rescue! At least one American theatre will stick up for the first amendment. And let’s be honest, it is probably a much better movie.
Oh, and this.
Sony is dropping its planned Dec. 25 release of “‘The Interview,” the comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco that depicts the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The decision comes after some of the nation’s largest movie theater chains, including Regal, Cinemark, Carmike and Cineplex, said they were holding back or dropping “The Interview” from screens in the aftermath of a hack that has ballooned from embarrassing disclosures for Sony Pictures executives to involve threats against theaters screening the film.
“Sony Pictures has been the victim of an unprecedented criminal assault against our employees, our customers, and our business,” Sony said in a statement Wednesday, saying that it reached the decision after the top cinema chains pulled out.
“Those who attacked us stole our intellectual property, private emails, and sensitive and proprietary material, and sought to destroy our spirit and our morale — all apparently to thwart the release of a movie they did not like. We are deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our company, our employees, and the American public,” the company said.
At the same time, another North Korea themed film was also put on hold.
This seemed like a massive over-reaction in my opinion until a few minutes later when this story was published by the New York Times:
American intelligence officials have concluded that the North Korean government was “centrally involved” in the recent attacks on Sony Pictures’s computers, a determination reached just as Sony on Wednesday canceled its release of the comedy, which is based on a plot to assassinate Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader.
Senior administration officials, who would not speak on the record about the intelligence findings, said the White House was still debating whether to publicly accuse North Korea of what amounts to a cyberterrorism campaign. Sony’s decision to cancel release of “The Interview” amounted to a capitulation to the threats sent out by hackers this week that they would launch attacks, perhaps on theaters themselves, if the movie was released.
According to Yonhap:
A U.S. charity group said Tuesday it has agreed with North Korea to expand its medical aid program in the impoverished nation.
Under the deal, the Washington-based Eugene Bell Foundation will construct three new wards at tuberculosis (TB) treatment centers in Pyongyang.
It is the fruit of a three-week trip to the communist nation by a group of 13 officials from the foundation.
“The number of patients at those treatment centers has grown as the activity of our foundation is increasingly known,” a foundation official said. “Every treatment center suffers a severe lack of wards.”
The foundation has long provided medical humanitarian assistance to North Korea, especially for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis.
In a new program, it is sending 770 million won (US$750,000) worth of TB medication to the North.
Read the full story here:
U.S. charity group to expand medical aid program in N. Korea
UPDATE 1 (2014-9-27): Martyn Williams has posted video (translated into English) of Minister Ri’s full speech.
For those who do not wish to listen to the whole speech, here is a transcript (English, PDF).
ORIGINAL POST (2014-8-30): According to KBS:
North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong is scheduled to visit the United States in mid-September for a United Nations general assembly in New York. This marks the first time a North Korean foreign minister will visit the U.S. in 15 years.
Sources have said Ri has personally requested to make a keynote address at the session as a state representative.
The last time a North Korean foreign minister was present for a United Nations general assembly was in 1999 when Paek Nam Sun held the position. In 1992, Kim Yong Nam had visited the U. S. to attend the session.
As these were the only occasions a high-ranking North Korean foreign ministry official had taken part in the UN general assembly since the North became a member state in 1991, speculations have risen over Ri’s pending visit.
One South Korean diplomatic source said Ri was not attending the assembly “just to make a keynote speech,” but rather to engage in negotiations with Washington for a change in chilled relations.
Read the full sotry here:
N. Korea Foreign Minister to Visit U.S. For First Time in 15 Yrs