The chief technology officer of the data security firm HBGary described the collective of hacktivists named 'Anonymous' as a small group of criminal hackers who "use the media as a tool."

"They are not at all what people think they are," HBGary CTO Greg Hoglund told Robert Lemos of CSO Online. "There aren't very many, first of all. There are not thousands, they are not a legion. That is all just stuff they say to make people fearful or intimidate."

"They have a whole propaganda wing," he continued. "So lets get this straight: A lot of the people in Anonymous are pseudo-journalists, they write the news."

The website of Washington DC-based HBGary Federal was defaced by 'Anonymous' in February after former CEO Aaron Barr told the Financial Times that he'd identified the "core leaders" of the group and had information that could lead to their arrest.

'Anonymous' also gained access to more than 44,000 company emails and released them to the public in a 4.71 gigabyte Torrent file. The emails would later reveal the firm was working on a plan to attack and discredit progressive critics of the US Chamber of Commerce, and had worked on ideas to take down secrets outlet WikiLeaks on behalf of Bank of America.

Hoglund said the company had been focused almost entirely on cyber attacks originating in China and was completely blindsided when the 'Anonymous' attack occurred.

Shortly after the cyber attack, Barr resigned from his position to focus on taking care of his family and rebuilding his reputation.

Although members of 'Anonymous' claim they "are not a group" and that they do "not have leaders," according to Hoglund there are about a dozen criminal hackers "at the center" of Anonymous.

"'Anonymous' is a group that hacks criminally into systems, and we are talking about probably over five corporations that I know of right now in the United States that are being actively targeted by them," he said. "When they get access, they are going to steal the data off those system, email, files off the file system, they are going to do everything they can, and then they are going to leak it and manipulate it and create stories about it."

The group has targeted Sarah Palin, PayPal, Bank of America, the Church of Scientology, MasterCard, the Westboro Baptist Church and even the governments of Egypt, Tunisia, Zimbabwe and Libya.

Recently, 'Anonymous' called for a campaign of civil disobedience against the private central banking system that underpins all the world's industrial economies.