Spotting the lone actor: combating lone wolf terrorism through financial investigations

Michael Tierney (Independent Researcher, Innisfil, Canada)

Journal of Financial Crime

ISSN: 1359-0790

Publication date: 2 October 2017



In 2014, Paul Gill et al. introduced a study of 119 lone-actor terrorism cases, and found that lone-actor extremists could be more accurately identified by their behavioural characteristics and activities, rather than their extremist ideologies. The study was said to have significant impact on intelligence analysis in the field of counterterrorism. The purpose of this paper is to apply Gill et al.’s findings to financial intelligence investigations, to assist investigators with the detection and prevention of lone-actor terrorist financing.


This article provides an overview of the key findings provided by Gill et al. It then discusses the indicators of lone-actor terrorism in the context of financial intelligence investigations, and sets out methods to improve financial intelligence investigations to better identify and stop lone-actor terrorism in the future.


By applying traditional financial intelligence techniques, which focus on assessing an individual’s activity and behaviour, with open-source intelligence gathering, financial intelligence investigators will be better equipped to identify lone-actor terrorism and its financing moving forward.


This article will be of value to investigators specializing in terrorism and financial crime, as it will assist them in the identification of a proliferating security threat, the lone-actor terrorist. While the article relies on the findings provided by Gill et al., it takes a new approach by applying those findings specifically to the financial intelligence sector, to improve investigations related to terrorism.



Tierney, M. (2017), "Spotting the lone actor: combating lone wolf terrorism through financial investigations", Journal of Financial Crime, Vol. 24 No. 4, pp. 637-642.

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