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Threat of lone wolf attacks worries U.S Homeland Security chief 

“Lone wolf terror attacks remain a significant threat within the United States,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Sunday, “and it could occur without warning.”

“We have to be vigilant against an independent actor here in the homeland who might choose to strike at any moment,” Johnson told CNN‘s Barbara Starr in an interview at the Reagan National Defense Forum.

The threat posed by these potential attackers is nothing new. But Johnson’s concerns show how challenging counter-terrorism has become.

iHLS Israel Homeland Security

Just a few years ago, U.S. officials pursued a group that followed more predictable recruitment patterns.

“Core al-Qaeda was a relatively traditional command and control structure where someone would be recruited, they train at an overseas camp and then they’d be sent to commit a terrorist attack,” Johnson explained.

Crucially, said Johnson, the government has to offer a competing message to the young men who might otherwise be drawn in by the extremist rhetoric they see online. This as groups like ISIS develop increasingly sophisticated social media and propaganda arms that strive to recruit western jihadists.