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Definition of Tailgating attack

What is a tailgating attack?

A tailgating attack utilizes a social engineering technique where an attacker attempts to gain access to restricted areas of physical systems by following a legitimate employee as they pass through access controls.

How do tailgating attacks work?

Tailgating attacks rely on several universal mechanisms and popular scenarios. Let's take a closer look at them:

Physical following

Intruders can sneak in by following a staff member among other people while taking on the appearance of a regular employee or visitor. They usually choose a moment when the staff's attention is directed away from the entrance, which creates favorable conditions for stealthy entry.

Verbal manipulation

Attackers can pose as employees of other departments, outside personnel, or even security personnel using fake identities and even use pre-collected information about employees and the organization to create convincing pretexts.

Use of objects or situations

An intruder can create a situation that draws staff's attention, distracting them from access control and facilitating their entry. They may also pose as important guests to make staff want to help by granting them access.

Exploitation of the work environment

An attacker can use informal work situations, such as smoking breaks or lunch breaks, to blend in more naturally with staff. He may also choose a time when the resistance to access control is reduced, such as during periods of intense workload or when security is unavailable.

Who is at risk of tailgating attacks?

No one is entirely safe from this type of attack because human psychology cannot simply be updated like software to fix a vulnerability. And it takes just one employee who is not attentive enough to put the entire organization at risk. However, as with anything, there are high-risk areas, which include:

  • Companies that operate primarily offline, and have many employees regularly move inside and outside buildings with multiple entry points. 
  • Organizations that regularly receive food deliveries, packages, documents, and other materials from third-party contractors.
  • Companies that neglect physical cybersecurity protocols.

How to prevent tailgating attacks?

While human error will always be a weakness in any security system, many strategic and technical methods exist to avoid such attacks. Here are some tips that help:

Physical cybersecurity protocols

Modern systems allow you to prescribe strict policies and manage employee access rights, audit their movements, and respond quickly to suspicious activity.

Also, replacing traditional keys with electronic or smart cards makes it harder for attackers and provides more accurate access control.

Social engineering training

Regular training and simulations of tailgating attacks greatly enhance staff's ability to recognize and respond to suspicious behavior effectively.

Video surveillance

Utilizing high-resolution, wide-angle video cameras to continuously monitor all access points. This enables you to quickly identify suspicious behavior and capture every instance of a tailgating attack attempt. This can be further enhanced by applying intelligent video analytics technologies, including face recognition and behavioral analysis, to identify unusual scenarios and alert security automatically.

Biometric scanners

Combining face, fingerprint, and voice biometric identification systems on all points to replace or supplement traditional access methods greatly improves accuracy and provides more secure authentication of individuals.

Key Takeaways

  • Tailgating attack is related to social engineering because it is based on human behavior patterns such as the desire to be friendly to others and trusting people in the same group, or in a company.
  • The attacker could be anyone: a food delivery person whom you held the door open with your card key or a new employee who requests access to a resource he supposedly needs for a project.
  • Methods of defense against such attacks mainly include education and training for employees that convey the importance of following the rules related to security under all conditions.
  • Technical defense methods include additional physical security staffing at checkpoints, additional electronic locks at entrances, surveillance cameras with face recognition, and people counting features.

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