• FILE - In this Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014 file photo, a local resident walks her dog by the gates of Sony Pictures Entertainment Studios on Overland Avenue in Culver City, Calif. Suspicions that North Korea was behind a destructive hacking attack against Sony Pictures and a threat against movie theaters are intensifying calls for tougher U.S. steps to cut that country’s access to hard currency and declare it once more as a state sponsor of terrorism.  (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

    FILE - In this Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014 file photo, a local resident walks her dog by the gates of Sony Pictures Entertainment Studios on Overland Avenue in Culver City, Calif. Suspicions that North Korea was behind a destructive hacking attack ... against Sony Pictures and a threat against movie theaters are intensifying calls for tougher U.S. steps to cut that country’s access to hard currency and declare it once more as a state sponsor of terrorism. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File) (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this March 22, 2007 file photo, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, right, walks through a hotel lobby with Victor Cha, the U.S.  National Security Council's director for Asian Affairs, before heading to six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program, in Beijing.  Cha, who served as Asia policy director in the George W. Bush White House, said despite the long history of censuring North Korea over its weapons development, there's no diplomatic play book to follow in a case like the destructive hacking attack against Sony Pictures. "On the nuclear and missile side we have established a pattern of interactions between states on how to respond, but in the cyber world there's no rules right now," he said. (AP Photo/Greg Baker, File)

    FILE - In this March 22, 2007 file photo, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, right, walks through a hotel lobby with Victor Cha, the U.S. National Security Council's director for Asian Affairs, before heading to six-party talks on ... North Korea's nuclear program, in Beijing. Cha, who served as Asia policy director in the George W. Bush White House, said despite the long history of censuring North Korea over its weapons development, there's no diplomatic play book to follow in a case like the destructive hacking attack against Sony Pictures. "On the nuclear and missile side we have established a pattern of interactions between states on how to respond, but in the cyber world there's no rules right now," he said. (AP Photo/Greg Baker, File) (The Associated Press)

  • FILE -- In this March 11, 2014 file photo, Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, speaks to reporters after an all-member classified briefing on Ukraine, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Royce said he did not doubt North Korea was involved in the destructive hacking attack against Sony Pictures. He called for tougher U.S. sanctions to cut Pyongyang's access to hard currency, by excluding from the U.S. financial system banks in other countries that hold North Korean funds. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

    FILE -- In this March 11, 2014 file photo, Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, speaks to reporters after an all-member classified briefing on Ukraine, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Royce said he did not doubt ... North Korea was involved in the destructive hacking attack against Sony Pictures. He called for tougher U.S. sanctions to cut Pyongyang's access to hard currency, by excluding from the U.S. financial system banks in other countries that hold North Korean funds. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File) (The Associated Press)

Hack attack on Sony will intensify calls in US for stiffer sanctions on North Korea

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Suspicions that North Korea was behind a hacking attack against Sony Pictures and a threat against movie theaters are leading to intensified calls for tougher U.S. steps to cut that country's access to hard currency — and once more declare it as a state sponsor of terrorism.

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Bringing the shadowy hackers to justice appears a distant prospect. A U.S. cyber-retaliation would risk a dangerous escalation. And North Korea is already targeted by sanctions over its nuclear weapons program.

But the U.S. still has options if it formally decides North Korea was behind the hack that has prompted Sony to cancel its Christmas Day release of the movie "The Interview."

A senior Republican lawmaker says the U.S. should adopt tough banking sanctions that passed the House in the summer.