The Michigan-based election software company Konnech filed a defamation lawsuit against the Texas-based group True the Vote in September.True the Vote had accused the company of being both “owned by the Chinese Communist Party” and involved in “subversion of our elections.” Konnech denied the allegations, though its credibility is now in doubt.On October 4, Konnech CEO Eugene Yu, who lived in China until 1986, was arrested on suspicion of data theft, having allegedly stored “critical information that [U.S.election] workers provided on servers in China.” Prosecutor Eric Neff suggested that the crimes allegedly committed by Konnech and Yu amounted to the “largest data breach in United States history.” Yu was charged again last week for grand theft by embezzlement of funds exceeding $2.6 million.
In addition to Yu’s arrest and the recent charges claiming his company stored sensitive American data on servers under the “superadministration” of Chinese contractors in a hostile nation , Konnech’s alleged connections to Chinese election firms have also come under scrutiny.
A new investigative report — part of an ongoing series of deep dives by Kanekoa News on Substack — detailed the links between a purportedly defunct Chinese-based Konnech subsidiary and major CCP-controlled telecoms designated as “national security threats” by the Federal Communications Commission.The criminal complaint filed by Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón’s office on October 13 claimed that from October 10, 2019, through October 4, 2022, Yu and other employees at Konnech were providing election software solutions to Los Angeles County “using third-party contractors based in China.” Luis Nabergoi, project manager for Konnech’s contract with Los Angeles County, confirmed on August 18 that “any employee for Chinese contractors working on PollChief software had ‘superadministration’ privileges for all PollChief clients,” which constituted a “huge security issue.” Kanekoa pointed out that while prosecutors referenced “Chinese contractors” and “third-party software developers,” they did not mention Konnech’s Chinese subsidiary.Earlier this month, the New York Times reported that “Konnech once owned Jinhua Yulian Network Technology, a subsidiary out of China, where programmers developed and tested software.” Konnech reportedly “closed the subsidiary in 2021 and no longer has employees in China.” Yu reportedly created Jinhua Yulian Network Technology on November 29, 2005.The Konnech CEO registered the subsidiary’s website “yu-lian.cn” to [email protected] on in February 2006.
Despite its characterization by Konnech and the New York Times as a subsidiary just testing software with “dummy data,” the Jinhua Yulian Network Technology “About Us” page, archived December 7, 2013 , tells a different story.Its website (yu-lian.cn) stated Jinhua Yulian Software “has been focusing on providing election management software and election consulting services in line with China’s national conditions.” According to Kanekoa, Jinhua Yulian Network Technology bid on Chinese communist government contracts to provide “electronic voting systems” as recently as 2018.Kanekoa reported that Konnech’s Chinese connections did not end there.
” Patent transfers , employee profiles, and domain registrations divulge that Konnech is also profoundly connected to another Chinese software firm named Jinhua Hongzheng Technology,” which has partnered with numerous Chinese telecom giants with state ties, including Huawei, China Telecom, China Unicom, and China Mobile.Earlier this year, the FCC deemed China Mobile and China Telecom “a threat to national security.” Huawei and China Unicom have similarly been identified as service-providers posing “an unacceptable risk to the national security of the United States or the security and safety of United States persons.” According to Kanekoa, Jinhua Hongzheng Technology “is the premier voting technology provider for China’s National People’s Congress.”
Konnech CEO Eugene Yu allegedly registered “hongzhengtech.cn” for Hongzheng Technology to [email protected] on July 31, 2015, giving Konnech control over Hongzheng’s website.
This is not the first time that Konnech’s links have been raised as a matter of concern in the Anglosphere.
In July 2020, the issue of Konnech’s Chinese ties was raised in the parliament of Queensland, Australia.One parliamentarian asked about Konnech’s “connection to the Chinese Communist Party through its China-based subsidiary Jinhua Konnech Inc.,” only to be reassured that “recent media reports claiming that offshore coders are able to access sensitive electoral roll data are false.”
Kaneokoa indicated it was within the realm of possibility that “Chinese election software companies linked to the Chinese government embed malicious spyware into election software to be rebranded by an American subsidiary and sold in the United States.” “It is not beyond the capabilities of ‘Chinese contractors’ linked to China’s National People’s Congress to deeply embed malicious spyware into seemingly harmless software that silently infiltrates, monitors, captures, and sends stolen data back to its developers,” Kanekoa added.
Former CIA operations officer Sam Faddis noted that the “superadministration” access allegedly given by Konnech to third-party Chinese contractors would enable them to “do effectively anything inside that system.He or she can delete data, steal data, alter data, change programming, etc.” Faddis indicated “that individual can cover his or her tracks, because they can potentially also access and alter all security protocol and programs.” According to Konnech’s website, it has 32 clients in North America.A number of counties and municipalities have ceased using Konnech’s PollChief software and ended their contracts with the company, including: Some cities and counties continue working with Konnech and using its software, notwithstanding concerns about malfeasance and exposure, including: TheBlaze reached out for comment to Minneapolis Elections & Voter Services to ascertain whether, further to its October 7 statement noting concern about accusations of “inappropriate handling of personal identifying information,” any action has been taken concerning its contract with Konnech or use of PollChief election software.A spokesman from the city reiterated that “the City has no reason to believe its poll worker data is involved.” The Minneapolis Elections & Voter Services spokesman added, “The purpose of the contract with Konnech Inc., is to provide the City of Minneapolis with an election worker management system (PollChief) for the purpose of election judge and polling place management.” TheBlaze also reached out to the Milwaukee Election Commission, which reportedly entered into a $111,500 contract with Konnech in August to provide its PollChief software to the city.
The MEC has yet to reply.Santa Clara County, California, signed a contract with Konnech in June, but the technology has not yet been implemented.The Mercury News noted that the county is “reviewing the situation for appropriate action.”.