Konnech CEO accused of storing election data in China • The Register

Eugene Yu, CEO of Michigan-based software company Konnech, was arrested by police in that state at the request of Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón as part of an investigation into the theft of personal information.

Yu’s company makes software called PollChief and has a five-year, $2.9 million contract with the City of Los Angeles, which uses the code to manage and pay poll workers during elections.

According to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office (LACDAO), Yu was arrested after an investigation allegedly revealed that personal information submitted to PollChief was stored on servers in the People’s Republic of China in violation of contractual requirements.

The registry asked LACDAO whether they claim that any of the data stored in China was actually accessed by or provided by third parties and whether election officials have reported misuse of their personal data. We have received a confirmation of our request, but have not yet received any feedback.

Gascón suggests that the alleged breach of contract amounts to a data breach.

“Privacy breaches are a constant threat to our digital way of life,” he said in a statement. “When we entrust a company to hold our sensitive information, they must be willing and able to protect our personal information from theft. Otherwise we are all victims.”

According to Gascón, the investigation is only about the personal data of the poll workers and not about voter fraud.

“In this case, the alleged behavior did not affect the vote count and did not alter the election results,” he said. “But certainty in all aspects of any election is imperative for us all to have full confidence in the integrity of the election process.”

Konnech did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Not the only legal issues for Konnech

Konnech sued last month [PDF] True the Vote, a Texas-based non-profit organization and advocate for the 2020 voting refusal, its founder Catherine Engelbrecht and group member Gregg Phillips for allegedly defamatory racist and xenophobic attacks on Konnech and Yu, falsely characterizing the company, its founder and employees as agents the Chinese government.

“The truth is that Konnech is a US company founded and operated by a US citizen who has no affiliation with the Chinese Communist Party,” the complaint reads. “Konnech obtains its contracts through transparent public bidding processes and has never engaged in bribery or any other criminal activity of any kind. All of Konnech’s US customer data is secured and stored exclusively on protected computers in the United States.”

The Michigan-based company described True the Vote as conspiracy profiteers capitalizing on claims that the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent. At an invitation-only event in August, the complaint said, True the Vote made false allegations about Konnech, alleging “that they obtained financial and other sensitive personal information from 1.8 million U.S. Phone numbers, email addresses and banking information – from Konnech’s protected computers.”

The developer points out that it makes software for managing polls and has nothing to do with counting votes. It goes on to say that it has never managed poll workers’ data, even for a small percentage of that alleged workforce, and that the only way True the Vote could have obtained its data was if the organization illegally hacked their computers — also one of the charges in the lawsuit against the group.

The company’s complaint cites a podcast in which Phillips describes hacking Konnech’s servers and downloading company data. This account eventually supported the injunction (TRO). [PDF] against the defendants in the Texas court hearing the defamation and hacking lawsuit.

In a court record [PDF] Last week, Konnech accused the defendants of flouting the TRO by failing to identify who hacked their systems, how their systems were accessed and who obtained company data. The defendants appear to have sealed some type of information to the judge but not shared it with Konnech, according to the TRO.

The filing accuses the defendants of justifying their failure to comply with the TRO by claiming that “the disclosure of the identity of the individual who allegedly stole Konnech’s data has ‘significant national security and law enforcement implications…'”.

Konnech argues that there is no basis for this claim as no one has ever proven that the names of those involved in hacking the company or the information obtained was kept secret by the US government.

True the Vote has also been sued twice, once at the federal level and once at the state level, by Republican donor Frederic Eshelman, who attempted to recover his $2.5 donation to the group to investigate voter fraud.

The federal lawsuit was subsequently dropped and the state lawsuit dismissed for lack of action — allegations of charitable fraud are a matter for the Texas Attorney General, who is said to have close ties to the group.

In a statement published on its website, True the Vote said Konnech had attempted to silence the organization through litigation and that the group’s ability to speak had been restricted by the TRO.

“Today, Konnech CEO Eugene Yu was arrested on alleged evidence of the very activities he and his organization were trying to suppress,” the group said. “Konnech was supported by many reporters who unblinkingly accepted her now-discredited claims as fact and simply repeated them.”

True the Vote has not identified which reporters it refers to, nor has it clarified which claims Konnech has discredited. ®

https://www.theregister.com/2022/10/05/konnech_election_software_china/ Konnech CEO accused of storing election data in China • The Register

Rick Schindler

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