The House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman warned that there’s a lot more at risk from North Korea’s demonstrated hacking prowess than a movie.
Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said Bureau 121, North Korea’s elite hacking unit, “obviously was involved” in the Sony hacking and threats that led the studio to pull The Interview.
“But we have to remember, Wolf, they’re also good at hacking into infrastructure. The energy grid — I mean there is a lot of infrastructure at risk here. One of the things we did do in Congress, you know, just in the last 24 hours, Congress finally got out those last four cyber cyber security pieces of legislation,” Royce told CNN.
“Now I hope we move instantly to protecting the grid. But secondarily, I hope we take a look again at what we could do to keep North Korea out of the financial system, by passing the types of sanctions we once slapped on them, which almost imploded the regime. We should look at that.”
While still awaiting a “formal announcement” of guilt by the U.S. government, Royce said, “it’s very clear that North Korea did this.”
“And it’s also very clear that North Korea has used its hackers to penetrate or to attempt to get information about our energy grid and other targets in the US,” he added.
“There’s two things I’m worried about. The first is North Korea targeting our energy grid. And second, North Korea finally managing to get that nuclear weapon which they have onto the cone, which they’ve been testing, of a three stage ICBM missile, and obtain that delivery capability.”
In October, the commander of U.S. forces in Korea told reporters at the Pentagon that Kim Jong-un is concentrating on a better developed cyber-warfare program, which “we need to protect ourselves against and be concerned about.” Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti also said he suspects Pyongyang is at the point of capability to build and deliver a warhead.
Royce believes the threat of another 9/11, made against the movie’s premiere and theaters showing the film, came from North Korea.
“On top of it, not too long ago, maybe a year or so ago, North Korea released an official document, or it was a VCR that they put together in which they showed a missile coming in and hitting Washington, D.C., and the Capitol blowing up. And they put that out on the Net. And that was done by North Korea as a form of a threat,” he said.
“Up until now, a lot of it’s been propaganda. But the fact that they’re issuing these threats now, and the fact that they’re moving forward with their weapons program to try to deliver ICBM capability, you know, with a nuclear warhead in the cone, this really takes it to a new level in terms of dealing with the Kim family in North Korea.”
The chairman said sanctions should be levied against financial institutions doing business with North Korea, which has choked the regime in the past.
“My suggestion is that we do exactly what we did when Stuart Levey, the undersecretary of the Treasury, found North Korea counterfeiting $100 bills. And at that point, he sanctioned the financial banks that were doing business with North Korea,” Royce said. “Within a matter of weeks, the North Koreans — within six weeks, could no longer pay their generals. They had to shut down, shortly after that, their weapons programs, their missile program, because they couldn’t buy parts. They didn’t have the hard currency. And a dictator needs hard currency to stay in power.”