Leading the scam is the Assistant systems administrator, Brian Nyali, Elly Kadenyo (senior system admin) and Maureen Akinyi (marketing and communications manager).
The con is allegedly being run by a committee comprised of senior members from every department and is sometimes chaired by the CEO, Abdalla Omari.
The committee, a source told Kahawa Tungu started running the swindle during the launch of second level domains (SLDs) which they had decided to keep. They intended to keep to themselves all the prime and valuable domain names.
The plan was hatched in 2017, the source intimated and when the auction came, KeNIC procured a system they could easily manipulate.
The company procured ILance’s services, the company that provided auction software and secure hosting options.
But the committee opted to do hosting on a separate (non-secure) server for ease of manipulation. They used ‘http://’ instead of the secure ‘https://,’ which the source notes was not an oversight but by design.
The team then disabled the ability of the ILance bidding system to verify users’ email addresses.
”Think about this for a moment. The system was open to anyone from all over the world. People are going to bid for things that cost money, and there is no pre-qualification whatsoever, not even checking if their email address is valid?” the source posed.
Again, the team added to the system hundreds of fake users to the system in order for them to outbid the genuine users on all the domains that they wanted to keep for themselves.
”On some domains, it was just these fake users bidding against each other! It wasn’t a lot of manual work, really. All the team was doing was to run SQL scripts directly against the MYSQL database to place bids.”
At the end of the auction, only 24 domains out of a possible 1156 were won by genuine users.
On realising that the plan had not worked, the Mr Nyali led team reported back to the board which gave the go-ahead to have all the domains up for General Availability which simply means, first come first served.
The plan at this point, the source says was to prevent the public from registering any domain in their loot, and instead register them for themselves later when the attention around the launch went down.
The committee using the CoCCA registrar module modified a ‘Reserved’ setting against a prime domain they wanted to keep for themselves, then opened the system for General Availability registrations.
But the system ignored the setting and only reserved the names under which the registrants’ information had already been entered.
On January 16, 2018 Kahawa Tungu has learnt, members of the public found that they could register all the names they wanted. On realising this, the committee engineered a fake outage which they used to delete all the names registered so far.
The loot proved unsuccessful as CoCCA automatically re-registered the list of names that were pre-ordered including names the committee had ‘reserved.’
On 19 January, the team opened doors to General Availability, only to find that they their ‘Reserved’ domain names could be registered.
”The only hold the committee has to their loot at the moment is that the names they had tried to reserve have the statuses: serverHold, pendingCreate. This means that the committee has to manually create the names,” the source adds.
The source also tells Kahawa Tungu that the committee is torn between doing the right thing, create the names for those who genuinely secured them or carry on with the heist that is proving futile.
”If a registrar asks about a name that was registered during General Availability, and the name was previously in the auction list, you are told that only the auction winner can register it. An auction winner they know very well will never come, because they are fake, they don’t exist, never have. They are just taking everyone for a ride!” the source exclaims.
Also part of the swindle are: Fiona Ongeso (HR and admin officer), Maureen Fedha (administrative assistant), Ahmed Landi (systems administrator), Beth Njau (assistant systems admin), Terry Asena (team leader marketing and communication) and Hildah Maina (accountant).
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