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What is a Tailgating Attack

This blog post will explore the mechanics of what a tailgating attack is in cybersecurity, examine its risks, and offer practical strategies to protect against such security breaches.

What is a Tailgating Attack

Tailgating attack is an in-person social engineering attack where an unauthorized person gains access to a restricted area by quietly following an authorized person. This type of security breach occurs without the necessary security checks, often without the knowledge of the person being followed. As a critical concern in cybersecurity, it targets physical weaknesses rather than cyber ones, presenting a unique challenge within the cybersecurity world. As a consequence, the global annual cost of cybercrime is projected to escalate to US$9.5 trillion in 2024.

Despite companies investing in advanced security measures to protect their sensitive data, the main reason for 82% of cyber attacks is still the human element, according to Cyber Magazine. This is evident in tailgating attacks, where unauthorized individuals exploit human trust and lack of vigilance to access secure areas.

Definition of Tailgating Attacks

A tailgating attack, also known as 'piggybacking,' is a type of security breach where an unauthorized person gains physical access to a restricted area by closely following an authorized entrant.

This tactic avoids many typical security measures by counting on human error or oversight. Unlike other cyber threats that need technical skills, tailgating takes advantage of simple human interaction and trust.This is what is a tailgating attack in cybersecurity.

How Does Tailgating Happen

Tailgating attacks typically happen in two scenarios:

  • Through an innocent mistake: Employees might hold doors open for someone behind them to be polite, unintentionally allowing unauthorized individuals to enter secure areas. This simple act skips necessary security measures such as using access cards or signing in.
  • Through malicious impersonation: Attackers pretend to be delivery personnel or other insiders to get in. Once inside, they can access important information, put malware on systems, or steal physical assets, taking advantage of security weaknesses in the organization.

Check out the video below for real-life examples of tailgating attacks.

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Picture 1: How a Tailgating Attack Works

Difference Between Tailgating vs Piggybacking

The difference between tailgating and piggybacking is important to know, as they are often confused but refer to different situations:

  • Tailgating happens when someone secretly follows another person into a restricted area without the first person knowing. It usually occurs at secure entry points where the follower takes advantage of the situation to sneak in right behind someone with legitimate access.
  • Piggybacking, however, involves some degree of permission from the person with access. It can occur if the person holding the door assumes the follower should also be allowed in, often by mistake or out of politeness. In this situation, the person with access knows about the follower but mistakenly thinks it's okay to let them in.
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Picture 2: Difference between Tailgating and Piggybacking.

Spotting Tailgating Attacks: Most Common Methods

3 most common tailgating methods that an unauthorized person can use .jpeg
Picture 3: 3 most common tailgating methods that an unauthorized person can use

To spot tailgating attacks, it’s important to understand the most common methods unauthorized individuals use to sneak into secure areas. Knowing these tactics can help prevent unauthorized access and protect sensitive environments from cybersecurity tailgating.

Here are the most common tailgating methods that unauthorized persons often use:

1. Waiting by secure entrances to take advantage of groups entering or exiting the facility

  • Explanation: Sometimes, a person who wants to sneak into a building without permission will stand near a door that only authorized people are supposed to use. They wait for the right moment when a group of employees goes in or out and then quietly walk in with them. Because there are many people, it's hard for security or others to notice someone else slipping in.
  • Sample Situation: Imagine a busy office building during lunchtime. Many people are coming back into the office at the same time.An unauthorized person might stand near the door, and when a large group of employees returns, they walk in the middle of the group, looking like they belong there.

2. Acting as a delivery person or contractor who "just needs to drop something off”

  • Explanation: In this strategy, the person trying to enter the building without permission dresses up like a delivery driver or a contractor. They might carry a package or wear a uniform to look the part. They approach the door and tell anyone who asks that they need to drop something off quickly, hoping that someone will let them in without proper verification.
  • Sample Situation: Picture a person dressed like a pizza delivery driver with a cap and a large pizza box. They walk up to the front desk of an office and tell the receptionist, "I have a delivery for the third floor. Can I leave it there quickly?" If the receptionist doesn't ask for ID or check with the person who supposedly ordered the pizza, the fake delivery driver could easily get into private areas.

3. Engaging in conversation with employees to appear as a familiar face or a part of the workforce

  • Explanation: Here, the unauthorized person tries to blend in by striking up conversations with actual employees. They might talk about common work topics or pretend they know someone in the building. It makes them seem like part of the company, and people are less likely to question their presence.
  • Sample Situation: Consider someone who overhears that a company is having a big meeting soon. They could wait near the coffee machine, and when an employee comes to make coffee, they can start chatting about how busy everyone must be with the upcoming meeting. By joining in on a typical office conversation, the stranger makes it seem like they work there, too, reducing suspicion.

What are the Risks of Tailgating Attacks

The risks of tailgating attacks are significant, with 85% of unauthorized access incidents attributed to tailgating, as reported by Verizon. This statistic highlights how effortlessly unauthorized individuals can enter secure areas, posing serious security threats. Tailgating attacks can lead to the theft of sensitive data, unauthorized access to critical systems, and potential wider security vulnerabilities within the network.

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Picture 4: Risks of Tailgating Attacks

How to Protect Organizations Against Tailgating Attacks

Protecting an organization from tailgating attacks involves a combination of physical security upgrades and comprehensive employee security awareness training. All of these elements create a robust tailgating security for your organization.

Here are some strategies to help prevent unauthorized access:

  1. Implement advanced entry systems: Utilize cutting-edge entry systems that incorporate biometric authentication or advanced access control technologies to ensure individualized verification and enhance security at entry points.
  2. Enhance surveillance capabilities: Deploy AI-powered surveillance cameras with facial recognition technology and real-time monitoring features at all entry points. These systems can effectively detect and deter potential tailgaters while providing detailed incident records for analysis.
  3. Conduct ongoing security training: Offer regular and interactive security training sessions for employees to educate them about the evolving risks and tactics associated with tailgating attacks. Encourage employees to remain vigilant and report any suspicious behavior promptly.

Implementing these enhanced strategies can strengthen your business defenses against tailgating attacks and maintain a secure environment.

Which Organizations Targeted by Tailgating Attacks

Organizations with restricted areas, valuable assets, or sensitive information are at risk of cybersecurity tailgating. To mitigate this threat, they must implement robust physical security measures.

These types of organizations are more vulnerable to tailgating attacks:

  1. Corporate Offices: Offices of all sizes are vulnerable to tailgating attacks, where unauthorized individuals may access sensitive areas like server rooms, executive offices, or confidential file storage.
  2. Government Facilities: Government buildings, including administrative offices, military installations, and law enforcement agencies, are prime targets for tailgating attacks due to the sensitive nature of the information they house.
  3. Educational Institutions: Schools, colleges, and universities often have restricted areas such as labs, libraries, and administrative offices, making them potential targets for unauthorized access via tailgating.
  4. Healthcare Facilities: Hospitals, clinics, and medical research facilities contain sensitive patient data, pharmaceuticals, and medical equipment, making them attractive targets for tailgating attacks to access restricted areas.
  5. Financial Institutions: Banks, credit unions, and financial services companies have secure areas such as vaults, data centers, and executive offices that require strict access control to prevent unauthorized entry.
  6. Data Centers: Facilities housing servers, networking equipment, and other critical infrastructure are high-value targets for attackers seeking to steal sensitive data or disrupt operations through physical access gained via tailgating.
  7. Tech Companies: Technology firms often develop proprietary software, hardware, and intellectual property that require strict access controls to protect against industrial espionage and unauthorized access.
  8. Critical Infrastructure: Facilities such as power plants, water treatment plants, and telecommunications hubs are important for society and, therefore, potential targets for tailgating attacks aiming to disrupt operations or cause harm.
  9. Military Installations: Military bases and installations house classified information, sensitive equipment, and personnel, making them high-security environments vulnerable to tailgating attacks.
  10. Research Facilities: Laboratories, research centers, and development facilities in various fields such as biotechnology, aerospace, and defense may contain valuable intellectual property targeted by adversaries.

What to Do if You Have Been Tailgated

If you've been tailgated, taking immediate action to address the security breach is significant.

Here's what you should do:

  1. Remain Calm: It's important to keep calm and avoid confronting the individual directly. Reacting impulsively can escalate the situation and compromise your safety. Remember, calmness is your strength in such situations.
  2. Check the Situation: Determine whether the tailgater poses a potential threat or was an innocent mistake. Based on the sensitivity of the area you were entering, estimate how serious the breach is.
  3. Notify Security Staff: If you're in a facility with security staff, inform them immediately about the incident. Describe the individual who tailgated you and the direction they headed.
  4. Report the Incident: File a report with the appropriate authorities or security department detailing the tailgating incident. Include any relevant information, such as the time, location, and description of the individual.
  5. Review Security Procedures: Reflect on the incident and consider whether any mistakes in security protocols need addressing. Identify potential vulnerabilities in access control measures and suggest improvements if necessary.
  6. Watch out: Following the incident, stay attentive for any suspicious activity or individuals. Report any further concerns to security personnel to prevent future breaches.
  7. Participate in Training: If your organization provides security awareness training, participate in sessions that cover tailgating and physical security best practices. Understanding how to prevent and respond to tailgating incidents is important for maintaining a secure environment.
  8. Follow-up: Follow up with security staff or management to ensure appropriate actions are taken to address the incident and prevent similar incidents.

By following these steps, you can effectively respond to a tailgating incident and help improve the overall security posture of your organization.

Keepnet’s Security Awareness Training Against Tailgating Attacks

Organizations can significantly reduce the risk of tailgating by investing in comprehensive Security Awareness Training, such as the programs offered by Keepnet. These training sessions focus on behavioral adjustments and the importance of security protocols, empowering employees to act as the first line of defense against such breaches.

By choosing Keepnet, organizations gain access to a unified social engineering platform offering various social engineering simulation tools, such as MFA Phishing, Email (Phishing), Voice Phishing (Vishing), QR code (Quishing), SMS Phishing (Smishing), and Callback Phishing simulations and Security Awareness Training. This comprehensive security awareness training platform helps strengthen data protection and privacy, reducing the risk of data breaches and financial loss. Additionally, it enhances the organization's reputation and trust among stakeholders by demonstrating a commitment to cybersecurity.

To learn how Keepnet can help you protect your organization against tailgating social engineering attacks by providing security awareness training to your employees, watch the YouTube video below of Keepnet's Awareness Educator tool.


Tailgating illustrates how individuals can bypass security measures by closely following authorized people. Organizations should establish clear access protocols to mitigate this risk and conduct regular staff training to promote to stay careful against tailgating or any other physical security threats. Knowing what’s going on and staying alert are important to stop this dangerous social engineering attack, which relies on people's kindness.

By understanding a tailgating attack, recognizing when it occurs, and taking robust tailgating security measures, businesses can protect themselves from this sneaky but serious threat.



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