A new software management system is now in development for Queensland’s Electoral Commission.
A new software management system is now in development for Queensland’s Electoral Commission.

Hacking threat to vote system

WILL the sweeping new software management system now in development for Queensland's Electoral Commission be vulnerable to Chinese hackers?

That's the well-grounded fear of City Beat spies familiar with Konnech, an American tech company that earlier this year won the job contract, which we understand is worth more than $1 million.

Based in a nondescript office in a rundown retail centre outside Lansing, Michigan, Konnech is headed by Chinese native Eugene Yu, who founded the firm in 1999.

His daughter and another Chinese national also serve as directors.

Yu has acknowledged that he uses a team of software developers in China for his election-related projects, including the new system expected to be operational in Queensland for the March 2020 local government poll.

Central to that effort is the writing of the source code for the software, which is considered the Holy Grail for hackers. It's like having a key to easily open a door.

A tech industry source told us this week that access to the source code poses "a massive threat'' to the integrity of the system.

"It's the ultimate weapon in the hands of hackers. They can easily hack in to it or cause issues to take it down. It's the blueprint for the whole thing,'' he said.

The threat of potential foreign interference led the Federal Government in April to ban Chinese tech giant Huawei from taking part in the rollout of the 5G mobile system.

Queensland's "Election Gateway Project'' was set up in 2015-16 with $6.3 million in funding to replace an antiquated 12-year-old management apparatus.

A commission spin doctor said the agency is aware of Konnech's software development procedures but did not elaborate.

"Security of elections and data are a priority and we're working with a range of experts in the area as the system is developed and tested,'' she said.

Yu set up Brisbane-based subsidiary Konnech Australia in September last year and it includes just one local on the board, energy and infrastructure specialist Greg Denton.

Denton would not comment yesterday on how the company is meeting the terms of the contract but accused your diarist of trying to inflame "populist'' sentiment about China.

Meanwhile, as the name implies, Konnech Australia is understood to be keen on expanding in to other states and territories.

STRAWBERRY DELIGHT

SOME unlikely, yet delightful news has emerged from the recent tampering scare that afflicted our strawberry producers.

Brisbane craft brewery owner Stuart Martin churned out a big batch of strawberry pale ale at the start of the month and will be donating a decent chunk of the profit to charity.

The Archer Brewing boss told your diarist this week that his mates at Pinata Farms on the Sunshine Coast offered to give him the fruit instead of letting it rot.

So Martin loaded up his ute with 240kg of the fruit in five massive containers and proceeded to work his magic turning it into beer - free of needles, of course.

Two of the "karma kegs" were then made available at a Valley bar and a Gold Coast festival, where thirsty patrons had the option to pay however much they wanted.

Martin managed to rustle up about $1500 and was going to give it back to the farmers, but they declined since they had already benefited from plenty of public support.

Instead, they asked for the money to go to the Royal Flying Doctor Service and they'll be handed one of those giant cheques next Friday.

"From a personal point, as an ex-commercial pilot who one day dreamt of flying for the RFDS, it makes me very happy to give something back to them,'' he said.



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