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A Union Station ad screen played PornHub videos Monday night

The new digital advertising screens inside Union Station were installed as part of a recent renovation. Now, station officials believe at least one may have been  hacked. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Union Station officials are investigating a possible hacking after an advertising video screen in the station’s main hall started playing pornographic videos Monday evening.

The incident was caught on camera by a bystander, who said it happened around 5:30 p.m. and lasted about three minutes.

In a video of the incident posted on social media and since removed, the large digital screen located in the Main Hall, outside the entrance to Chipotle, displayed videos that were apparently streamed from the website PornHub. The sexually explicit content was immediately noticeable to passersby. Some people stopped, stared and snickered, while others cautiously approached the screen, trying to figure out how to turn it off.

“What the hell is this?” proclaimed one man, pointing at the screen.

“Oh my God!” yelled a woman who watched from afar.

Finally, an employee of the fast-casual restaurant Roti came over to the screen, and instructed another person on how to shut off the digital display, according to the woman who captured the incident on video. That woman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she did not want an article about porn to come up when people Google her name, said other travelers took out their phones to record, too.

“I was pretty speechless. I couldn’t believe this was happening in public and especially during rush hour,” said the woman, who had been sitting down eating inside the station when the screen switched to the video feed. “I mean, it was really explicit porn being shown on this huge screen and no one could turn it off.”

Beverley Swaim-Staley, president and CEO of the Union Station Redevelopment Corp. (USRC), said Tuesday that the she was aware of the incident and had requested information from the company that leases and manages the property, Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp.

“We’ve asked them to certainly investigate the incident to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Swaim-Staley said.

The screens were recently installed inside the station as part of a renovation project to update the building and improve amenities for customers. The digital advertising boards are touch-screen, and they usually display a rotation of advertisements and public service announcements, along with an updated directory of the businesses inside the station. The digital display can be turned on and off manually, but the videos that are sent to the screens to be played are controlled remotely.

Swaim-Staley said she didn’t hear of complaints about the inappropriate video streaming; instead, she learned of Monday’s incident from building security, who alerted USRC and Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp.

She said it’s the first time she’s heard of such an incident since the screens were installed months ago, but the displays are on 24 hours a day, so she couldn’t rule out that something similar had been done before — perhaps in the middle of the night, when no one was watching.

Swaim-Staley said that the screens have had a few glitches, though none of those problems were quite as jarring as Monday night’s incident.

“The downside with new technology is that it comes with new risks,” she said.

The screen will remain off until officials determine that they are able to prevent further video infiltration in the future, Swaim-Staley said.

Union Station’s Main Hall has been restored to its century-old splendor