It is not every day that former prisoners are allowed to assist Emmy award-winning television series, but Malden resident Gregg Housh did it. Housh became a consultant for the Netflix series “House of Cards” in their second season. In the series, hacker Gavin Orsay, played by Jimmi Simpson, is struggling to avoid a prison sentence for his crimes against the government. In order to produce a more genuine feel, the producers decided to contact a real-life hacker for more insight. Enter Mr. Housh.
Housh served a three-month prison sentence in 2007 for his hacking crimes. He served in the infamous Anonymous organization, a mysterious group of secretive “agents” that specialize in cybercrime. Anonymous, known worldwide for its skilled hackers and trademark Guy Fawkes mask logo, was formed in 2003 on the popular website 4chan. In a period known as the 4chan raids, members of Anonymous would perform minor hacks and post joking comments on articles, to create mischief on the web. In 2004, a large group of Anonymous members hacked into the Finnish social network site Habbo Hotel, with identical avatars, and blocked actual users from entering the pool section, deeming it was “closed due to fail and AIDS." Anonymous has since taken a darker turn, with its new 2010 operation “Payback is a B*tch”, centered on attacking the US government.
Housh described working on set as being “more fun than [he] could possibly imagine,” in an interview with boston.com. While on set, Housh got to meet actors Kevin Spacey as well as Simpson, who he advised. Spacey and Housh would have long conversations, and Spacey, Housh’s “favorite actor”, even offered to meet up off-set. Housh jokingly describes himself as “Mr. Fun-Computer-Criminal-Guy in the 90s.”
Technologically, Housh helped to make the show feel more realistic, with a more hacker-esque feel. “It turns out all the monitors don’t do anything live,” says Housh, regarding the set for Simpson’s character, “You get green screened, and then something in Adobe Director gets put on them.” Housh, after a scuffle with the company to get something more real put on, included an Internet Relay Chat system [IRC], a bitcoin miner, and even Tor, a software that makes hackers unlocatable.
Beau Willimon, the driving force behind the series, contacted Housh after seeing him in the documentary We Are Legion, a film about Anonymous as a political force. Willimon too wanted the series to be “as authentic as possible,” and decided to enlist the help of a real hacker to bridge the gap. Housh was flattered and gladly took up the offer, and was also pleased that Simpson’s character was “believable”. “One of the big problems with TV and movies when they address computers and hacking today,” Housh explains, “ is just how fake everything seems.” Today, Housh lives comfortably with his wife and children, outside of Boston, and hopes that the upcoming seasons of “House of Cards” will be successful.