Today, one of the most challenging and unpredictable forms of terrorism is violent terror acts committed by single individuals, often referred to as lone wolf terrorists or lone actor terrorists. These kinds of terror attacks are hard to detect and defend against by traditional police means such as infiltration or wiretapping, since the lone wolves are planning and carrying out the attacks on their own. The problem of lone wolf terrorism is according to many officials presently on the rise and viewed as a greater threat towards society than organized groups. Even though available statistics suggest that lone wolf terrorists account for a rather small proportion of all terror incidents , they can often have a large impact on society . Moreover, many of the major terrorist attacks in the United States (with exception for the 2001 attacks against World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the White House) were executed by single individuals who were sympathetic to a larger cause—from the Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh to the Washington area sniper John Allen Muhammad. A similar development can be seen in Europe, where several terrorist attacks have been executed by lone wolf terrorists during the last years.
Even though lone wolf terrorists cannot in general be captured by traditional intelligence techniques, this does not imply that there is nothing counterterrorist organizations can do to prevent them. In fact, despite the popular use of the term “lone wolf terrorist,” many of the perpetrators are only loners in their offline life, but are often very active in communicating their views and radical opinions in various discussion groups or other kinds of social media. Most lone wolves are part of online forums, especially those who go on to actually carry out terrorist attacks. This makes the Internet an incredibly important source for finding potential lone wolf terrorists.
There are several communities that encourage and influence individuals to act alone Moreover, individuals that act alone are also often active on and influencing these kinds of communities. Online extremist forums and web sites allow for aberrant beliefs or attitudes to be exchanged and reinforced, and create environments in which otherwise unacceptable views become normalized . In addition to give a possibility of becoming part of a community, the Internet is also a platform where lone wolves can express their views. The possession of several social media accounts is obviously perfectly normal, but the actual social media content can indicate that someone is planning a terror attack.