Everything You Need to Know About Tailgating in Cybersecurity

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Raj Vardhman
Written by
Raj Vardhman

Updated · Aug 22, 2023

Raj Vardhman
Chief Strategist, Techjury | Project Engineer, WP-Stack | Joined January 2023 | Twitter LinkedIn
Raj Vardhman

Raj Vardhman is a tech expert and the Chief Tech Strategist at TechJury.net, where he leads the rese... | See full bio

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Centralized offices are big targets for physical attacks. These office environments are particularly vulnerable to tailgating.

Tailgating happens when an unauthorized person obtains physical access to the organization to steal money or retrieve confidential data. 

According to the latest statistics, tailgating is a significant threat to organizations since it can lead to data breaches, causing an average of $4.35 million in losses. Hence, business owners must understand how this threat happens to make better cybersecurity plans. 

This article teaches you about tailgating, its methods, and the prevention measures you need to mitigate it.

What Is Tailgating in Cybersecurity?

Despite what movies tell you, human mistakes cause 95% of data breaches and cyberattacks. Meaning, users are the biggest factor in most cybercrimes. A single employee lacking cybersecurity awareness can potentially bring down a company’s network.

Tailgating is a social engineering attack that capitalizes on human mistakes. It occurs when an unauthorized person manipulates an insider to enter a prohibited area. Usually, these restricted areas are password-protected and can only grant certain people access.

Tailgaiting aims to damage property or install different types of malware in the company’s system. It’s a physical intrusion to compromise a target.

How Does Tailgating Work?

Tailgating in cybersecurity involves an insider’s help

Since tailgating is a cyberattack that initially occurs in the real world, the intruder first infiltrates a company. They pretend to be a legitimate employee to blend in, acting like part of the workforce.

The cybercriminal then asks a real employee a favor, manipulating them to use their key card or ID to enter a restricted area. They employ creative and charismatic manipulation tactics to maneuver themselves into their target destinations.

Tailgating cybercriminals are often tricky to spot, so companies must know how to block them off certain physical locations.

Common Tailgating in Cybersecurity Examples

Social engineering is one of the most prevalent cybersecurity trends in 2023; tailgating has contributed heavily to that.

Tailgating’s pervasiveness is due to its perpetrators’ tenacity for seamless entry to restricted premises. As a result, it can be difficult for employees and security personnel to spot this attack.

However, this scheme isn’t perfect. It has signs you can watch out for. Below are the three most common themes to remember when dealing with tailgating.

Goodwill Exploitation

This tailgating technique takes advantage of people’s innate kindness. For instance, the intruder may pretend to be a co-worker in a rush. They then inform a real employee that they have forgotten their ID card, hoping the employee’s courtesy will let them in.

This kind of tailgating creates a situation where most humans wouldn’t deny helping disguised perpetrators because of common decency. 

Trusted Vendor Impersonation

According to the latest statistics, 74% of organizations worldwide believe they’re vulnerable to insider threats from third-party contractors, inside agents, and vendors.

These threats can be carried out through impersonation. This technique occurs when the attackers act as repairmen or technicians. They request access to off-limits spaces before proceeding with their malicious intentions. 

Large corporations that house many personnel, vendors, and service providers are susceptible to this technique. 

💡 Did You Know?

Hackers have devised new ways to infiltrate systems in 2023, creating Ransom-as-a-Service (RaaS) attacks to impersonate known cybersecurity vendors such as Sophos. The RaaS, now known as SophosEncrypt, locked files or entire computers and demanded payment from victims for decryption.

Unattended Device Access

Negligence has alarming consequences. Employees who don’t pay enough attention to their devices give attackers a chance to access them. In fact, about 2 of 3 insider threat attacks are caused by negligence, according to the Ponemon Institute. 

The usual incident is when employees forget to lock their work PC before leaving the office. This results in an attacker easily opening the work computer and running malware to infect the company’s system.

An attacker can also copy log-in credentials left on desks or pick up lost IDs to access restricted locations. The bottom line is that carelessness and a severe lack of cybersecurity awareness can lead to a data breach worth millions of dollars.

Tailgating Prevention Measures

Seven in ten users have taken essential measures to secure their personal data since January 2023–– and businesses should do the same. 

Employee ignorance about tailgating attacks can be a weak point for every organization. Hence, businesses must understand this attack and its effects on data storage. 

Being proactive in securing personal information can help you avoid costly data breaches.  There are several preventive measures that companies can utilize to enhance protection. Here are some of them:

Enhanced Security Education

Companies must conduct security training programs, including physical and cyber threat simulations. In this, employees will train to be more attentive to threats and learn how to mitigate them themselves.

Multi-Factor Authentication

Instead of just using passwords, businesses must invest in multi-factor authentication, such as 2FA and 3FA. This security solution adds multiple layers of cybersecurity to company accounts.

Smart Badges and Cards

Smart badges and card scanners are good tools to prevent tailgating attacks. These devices prevent unauthorized personnel from entering restricted premises.

✅ Pro Tip:

Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) security solutions and Packet Capturing (PCAP) work hand-in-hand with antivirus suites in protecting a network. These tools monitor entire IT infrastructures, identify suspicious network behavior, and record them for future reference.

Biometric Scanners

Similar to multi-factor authentication systems, single biometric scanners can also ward off the likelihood of tailgating attacks. These scanners measure and calculate a person’s body parts before giving them access to anything.

Biometrics only allows one entry at a time, so there’s no chance for a perpetrator to walk beside you. Additionally, biometric factors are unique per authorized person, which lessens the possibility of uncertified individuals entering restricted areas.

Social Engineering Awareness

The lack of employee familiarity with social engineering attacks increases the possibility of them happening. 

Employees must be able to spot any tailgating attack to protect their company. In conjunction, companies must also do their part and conduct security awareness programs. They must implement simulation training regiments to assess their workforce’s readiness for these attacks.

Video surveillance

Organizations also need to install video surveillance in their high-valued areas. Aside from having biometric scanners or smart badges, installing cameras is advantageous for effective monitoring. 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and video analytics are great tools for enhanced surveillance. Currently, 27% of global executives plan on investing in AI cybersecurity safeguards. Some companies have even started building AI-enabled cloud-based threat lakes and more solutions to combat tailgating and other social engineering attacks.

👍 Helpful Articles:

Tailgating is only one of a long list of scams and nefarious schemes enacted by cybercriminals. Protect your digital assets and arm yourself with the knowledge of the mechanisms behind these scams. 

Here are helpful articles to guide you:

Bottom Line

Installing the latest protection software and educating employees about cyber threats go hand-in-hand with protecting a company. 

Tailgating attacks can be the most unnoticed first step into a fully blown cyberattack–– making it imperative that companies teach their employees how to spot and mitigate it. They must have enhanced security protocols to ensure proper coordination should cyberattacks like tailgating happen. 

As for the employee, remember this: not everyone who asks you to open the door has good intentions.


What is the difference between tailgating and piggybacking cybersecurity?

The main difference lies in consent. In tailgating, the unauthorized person sneaks into a restricted location without anyone’s consent. Meanwhile, piggybacking is when an employee knowingly allows an unauthorized person into a high-value area.

What are the factors that make companies vulnerable to tailgating?

These factors are: not having enough cybersecurity protocols and using outdated protection software. Both cripple a company’s cybersecurity.

What body part can the biometric scanner measure?

The biometric scanner can recognize the retina, fingerprint, signature, voice, ear shape, and even DNA. These are called inherence factors in a multi-factor authentication process.


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