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updated 3/7/2012 3:21:31 PM ET 2012-03-07T20:21:31

Bloodied but unbowed, members of the hacktivist movement Anonymous followed up the very public defection of one of their own yesterday with attacks on websites belonging to a prominent security firm and declarations that they would continue their struggle, and on Wednesday knocked the Vatican's website offline.

"Anonymous will continue fighting for freedom in the world, but we also understand that people around the world should stand up and claimed by what is right," said a posting on the AnonOps Communications blog. "Suggestion to the FBI: Maybe you should spend a little less time pursuing Anonymous and put more effort into bringing to justice the white-collar criminals who crashed the economy in 2008 and 2011."

Hector Xavier Monsegur, a k a "Sabu," a 28-year-old New York man who'd helped found a short-lived but prolific Anonymous offshoot known as Lulz Security, was revealed yesterday to have been cooperating with the FBI since his arrest last summer. Information provided by him led to five more arrests in the U.S., U.K. and Ireland Monday and Tuesday (March 5 and 6).

Several dozen websites owned by the Spanish data-security firm Panda Security were broken into and defaced late yesterday, their regular content replaced by black screens with a message in red type.

"Yeah yeah we know ... Sabu snitched on us," the message read. "As usually happens, [the] FBI menaced him to take his sons away. We understand, but we were your family too (remember what you liked to say?) It's sad and we can't imagine how it feels having to look at the mirror each morning and see there the guy who shopped their friends to police."

The attacks on Panda seem to have been sparked by a blog posting by company researcher Luis Corrons, in which he celebrated the arrests and predicted that without Sabu's expertise, Anonymous would be reduced to simple distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks that blockade but don't damage websites.

"LOL HE ASKED FOR THE LULZ!!!! HERE IT IS THE LULZ," read one of the messages posted on Panda's hacked pages, according to Forbes' Andy Greenberg. "Pandasecurity.com, better known for its [lousy] ANTIVIRUS WE HAVE BACKDOORED, has [been] earning money working with law enforcement to lurk and snitch on anonymous activists."

In a posting on its Facebook page, Panda said nothing of value was compromised in the attacks upon the hacked sites. Those sites were offline as of noon Eastern time Wednesday.

Also offline Wednesday afternoon was the official website of the Vatican, which Italian members of Anonymous had attacked, according to news reports.

"Today, Anonymous has decided to put your site under siege in response to your doctrine, liturgy and the absurd and anachronistic rules that your profit-making organization spreads around the world," read a posting on an Italian Anonymous website translated by Reuters.

Last week, a long New York Times article detailed how Anonymous had tried and failed last summer to take down the Vatican website, which had "invested in the infrastructure needed to repel both break-ins and full-scale assaults.""

© 2012 SecurityNewsDaily. All rights reserved

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