What Is Tailgating and How to Prevent It

The Kcolefas Team

Updated: September 18, 2023
What Is Tailgating and How to Prevent It

What Is Tailgating

Tailgating is a security breach where an unauthorized individual gains physical access to a secure area by closely following an authorized person through a controlled entry point, such as a door or gate. This act is similar to the behavior of tailgating in traffic situations, where one vehicle closely follows another.

Tailgating is a type of social engineering attack that exploits the trust and courtesy of individuals to gain unauthorized access to restricted areas. It can occur in various settings, including office buildings, data centers, hospitals, and other high-security environments. The unauthorized person takes advantage of the momentary lapse in security when an authorized individual presents their access credentials to gain entry.

Tailgating can be intentional or unintentional. In intentional cases, individuals knowingly attempt to tailgate to gain unauthorized access for malicious purposes such as theft or sabotage. Unintentional tailgating, on the other hand, occurs when individuals are unaware of the security protocols or simply forget to ensure that the door or gate closes behind them.

Tailgating is closely related to piggybacking, another form of social engineering attack. Piggybacking involves an unauthorized person gaining access to a restricted area with the consent or assistance of a duped employee who provides access under false pretenses. However, the focus is on the unauthorized individual closely following an authorized person to gain access without proper authorization.

How Tailgating Works

The process of tailgating typically involves the following steps.

Identification of an Authorized Person

The tailgater identifies an individual who has legitimate access to the restricted area. This could be an employee, a contractor, or any person with authorized access.

Close Proximity

The tailgater positions themselves in close proximity to the authorized person, ensuring that they are within the range of the secure entrance.

Exploiting the Secure Entrance

When the authorized person approaches the secure entrance, such as a door or a turnstile, the tailgater quickly follows closely behind, taking advantage of the door’s delayed closing or the turnstile’s rotation.

Gaining Unauthorized Access

By closely following the authorized person, the tailgater gains entry to the restricted area without undergoing the necessary security checks, such as presenting identification, using access cards, or providing biometric data.

Concealing Their Actions

Once inside the restricted area, the tailgater may attempt to blend in with the authorized individuals or find a way to avoid detection, such as quickly moving to another area or hiding in plain sight.

Tailgating is a form of social engineering that exploits human cognitive biases and relies on the courtesy and trust of individuals. Attackers may use various tactics, such as pretending to be delivery drivers, engaging in conversation to create familiarity, or taking advantage of busy or distracted individuals. They rely on the natural inclination of people to hold doors open or be polite and accommodating.

How to Prevent Tailgating

Organizations should implement a combination of physical security measures and employee education to prevent tailgating. It is essential to educate employees and visitors about the risks of tailgating and the importance of not allowing unauthorized individuals to enter through restricted doors.

Physical barriers such as turnstiles or mantraps can be used to allow only one person to pass through at a time. Access control systems can also be enhanced with technologies like video surveillance, facial recognition, or biometric authentication to ensure that only authorized individuals are granted access. Implementing strict access control policies, such as requiring all employees to swipe access cards or use biometric authentication, can help mitigate the risk of tailgating attacks.

Understanding how tailgating works and implementing appropriate security measures can help organizations protect against unauthorized access and maintain the integrity of their restricted areas.

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