Hacked digital signage displays porn in Union Station

May 18, 2017 | by Bradley Cooper
Hacked digital signage displays porn in Union Station

A large touchscreen display in Union Station in Washington D.C., recently blasted pornographic videos for all to see. The display was allegedly hacked on May 15 to stream videos from a pornographic website, according to a report by The Washington Post.

The display outside of Chipotle in the main hall began to stream porn at 5:30 p.m. and continued to do so for about three minutes, according to a bystander. Some visitors laughed at the videos while others reacted in horror. A few attempted to turn off the display.

An employee from Roti, a fast casual restaurant, eventually approached the display and helped another individual turn it off.

"I was pretty speechless. I couldn’t believe this was happening in public and especially during rush hour," an anonymous woman said. "I mean, it was really explicit porn being shown on this huge screen and no one could turn it off."

The station installed multiple displays several months ago as part of a renovation. The displays are designed to showcase advertisements, PSAs, directories and other information. The content is controlled remotely. Beverly Swaim-Staley, president and CEO of the Union Station Redevelopment Corp., claimed this was the first time this event had occurred at the station.

Swaim-Staley was informed of the event by building security who told USRC and Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp., the owners of the Union Station building. Swaim-Staley said that Ashkenazy is currently investigating the incident to discover how the screens were highjacked. The company plans to keep the screen turned off until the investigation is over.

Laura Miller, director of marketing for KioWare, mentioned a few possibilities on what could have happened. First, an authorized user might have uploaded the wrong video either deliberately or by mistake. Another possibility would be if "an unauthorized person gained access to the system through a non-secured backdoor or OS vulnerability," Miller said.

Miller also mentioned that "an unauthorized person could have gained access to the system by obtaining a password or access information from a person with authorization (via a phishing email, for instance) or by hacking file systems which document how to access the admin tool (by accessing files that should not be public, or a virus which gains access to organization’s file system)."

This is not the first time digital signage and kiosks have been highjacked by inappropriate content. When New York City provided Wi-Fi kiosks to residents, many of the local homeless citizens used the kiosk to watch pornography. Also, a few years back, a digital display was hacked to display a naked backside.

Miller recommends that a tool like kiosk software could help prevent these types of disasters.

"Kiosk system software secures and prevents access to the system, making it difficult/impossible for hackers to gain access to the OS and navigate to other sites or upload non authorized files," Miller said. 

Image via Istock.com


Topics: Advertising, Content, Content Management, Customer Experience, Display Technology, DOOH Advertising, Software, Wayfinding

Companies: KioWare



Bradley Cooper

Bradley Cooper is a Technology Editor for DigitalSignageToday.com. His background is in information technology, advertising, and writing.

wwwView Bradley Cooper's profile on LinkedIn

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