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Tailgating Attack: Examples and Prevention

What Is Tailgating?

Tailgating happens when someone tries to enter a space that is off-limits to them. The most common kind of tailgating attack involves sneaking into a prohibited place behind a person who is authorized to enter. This is often accomplished by closely following them as they enter a building. A malicious actor can also tailgate into your digital space by getting hold of an employee's laptop or device and then using their credentials to access sensitive information or areas of your organization’s network.

Tailgating can be followed by other kinds of attacks, such as malware or phishing. In some cases, attackers penetrate a network via tailgating to gain the trust of people they intend to victimize. In other words, a tailgating attack is usually only the first phase of a more elaborate assault.

Methods and Examples of Tailgating Attacks

Tailgating can be used by hackers to attack physical IT equipment or gain access to endpoints linked to a company's network. Here are a few typical tailgating attack examples:

  1. The intruder asks someone to "hold the door": A perpetrator may pretend to be a coworker and ask someone entering a building to hold open a door. To reinforce the impression that they are indeed a fellow employee, the attacker may say they have forgotten their ID card, hang out in easily accessible break areas, or even strike up a conversation with real employees. In this kind of attack, tailgating also involves social engineering because the attacker is manipulating the target.
  2. The attacker poses as a delivery person or vendor: They dress up the part to prevent raising suspicion, then demand access to the building while bringing supplies, parcels, meals, or other items.
  3. The attacker borrows a device: An attacker may ask to use an employee’s laptop or smartphone, saying that their battery is dead, for example. The attacker then installs harmful software or copy the victim’s credentials.

How Do Tailgating Breaches Impact Enterprise Security?

An attacker may use tailgating to breach an organization's network and gain access to private documents, which can then be used to launch a cyberattack on the company, one that can cost millions of dollars. Once inside, the perpetrator may use a device to steal confidential data, access the company's network, or even infect an unlocked computer with malware.

What Is a Tailgating Attack: A Proactive Approach to Tailgating Vulnerabilities

Proactive tailgating attack prevention is necessary to safeguard your organization. Here are a few tips you can implement immediately:

  1. Use physical barriers: Turnstiles are excellent for places with a lot of traffic because they only allow one authorized person through at a time.
  2. Use a video monitoring system: You can recognize tailgating situations as they happen by watching live video footage. When more than one user enters using a single credential, you can see when the intrusion happens.
  3. Use sensors that count the people entering and leaving the premises: With this system in place, you get automated notifications as tailgating incidents happen because it can detect multiple people entering despite only one with access credentials.

How Technology Helps Prevent Tailgating Attacks

Technology can help prevent tailgating attacks by controlling access to sensitive areas and entrances, incorporating video surveillance, and enabling digital visitor identification.

Controlling Access

Installing adequate entry control systems and systematically managing them is one of the most effective strategies to reduce the danger of tailgating. As mentioned above, turnstiles are a good way to control access. Turnstiles are the preferred entrance control mechanism for busy facilities because they only permit one person at a time and only after the visitors have shown the required entrance credentials.

Also, it is possible to operate the turnstiles with or without the help of the front desk or security staff, which can potentially save the time of otherwise busy security employees.

Video Surveillance

A building's main entrance is a popular location for video surveillance. The video system not only serves as a deterrent to crime but also helps law enforcement identify intruders. Some modern video security systems can even distinguish between onlookers and tailgaters, thanks to technological advances in biometrics and machine learning.

Video Identification

Anyone carrying wearable identification, such as badges, can be allowed entry into the building, and those without the proper identification can be kept outside. This can be a suitable authentication system for all permanent employees, guests, and temporary employees.

You can also use biometric credentials or a QR code generated from a smartphone app because these can be sent only to people with the right to enter secure areas.

Four Ways to Prevent Tailgating Attacks via Social Engineering

Preventing tailgating attacks requires a multi-faceted approach. Here are four ways to boost tailgating security:

1. Physical Security Training for Staff Members

An effective security training program encourages attentiveness to physical security threats, including tailgating, as well as how to mitigate them. Holding training all year long is ideal because it reinforces the skills you teach, keeping them top of mind.

2. Educate Staff About Social Engineering

Because many employees lack familiarity with social engineering tactics, they are unable to spot tailgating attacks. Security awareness training programs are a good start, but you can take them a step further by simulating attacks. Exposure to realistic attack scenarios reinforces security awareness.

Another good way to get staff members comfortable with social engineering strategies is through simulated phishing. You can send phishing emails to employees and then assess their awareness by analyzing how they respond. At the very least, these kinds of simulated attacks keep staff members alert and on the watch for suspicious behavior.

3. Increase Security for Physical Access

In many organizations, entrance to the office is provided by a relatively simple device: a smart card. But tailgating attacks demonstrate how inadequate this security mechanism can be. Reception rooms manned by professional security officers add another layer of physical access security. If you do not have the space to establish a reception area, turnstiles are another option because they only permit one person to enter at a time. 

Badges are also an inexpensive way to increase access security. Recognizing someone who should not be entering a building or certain area when all authorized personnel and visitors wear badges is easier if the required badge is missing or has someone else’s likeness on it.

4. Use Video Surveillance

Even with a fully staffed front desk, it can be a challenge to effectively monitor who enters and exits your building and restricted areas. Advanced video surveillance systems incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) and video analytics so organizations can enhance real-time physical security monitoring. By combining video footage with facial scans of employees, vendors, and contractors, these camera systems can accurately figure out who enters and exits the premises.

How Fortinet Can Help?

With the Fortinet Video Surveillance System, you can defend your assets, protect employees, and prevent losses from theft and vandalism. Fortinet enables businesses of any size to integrate video surveillance and physical security management using a single integrated platform that is built to the highest security requirements and uses cutting-edge AI technologies.


What is a tailgating attack?

In a tailgating attack, a person tries to enter a space that is off-limits to them. The most common kind of tailgating attack involves sneaking into a prohibited place behind a person who is authorized to enter.

What are examples of tailgating attacks?

Here are a few typical tailgating examples:

1.         The intruder asks someone to "hold the door."

2.         The attacker poses as a delivery person or vendor, demanding access while bringing supplies, parcels, meals, or other items.

3.         An attacker asks to use an employee’s laptop or smartphone, saying that their phone's battery is dead, for example. The attacker then installs harmful software or copy the victim’s credentials.

What is the purpose of tailgating?

The purpose of tailgating is to gain access to a restricted area and, in some cases, to set up another attack.

What are common tailgating methods?

Common tailgating methods typically revolve around following people as they enter a building and sneaking in while the door is still open. An attacker can also physically borrow the victim's computer or device after they have logged in to a sensitive area and then use their access to launch an attack.