Tailgating Attacks: Breaching Security Through Social Engineering

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In the modern digital landscape, when advanced security measures are in place to protect sensitive information, hackers continuously explore new ways to infiltrate security systems to steal sensitive information.

The tailgating attack is one such way that is gaining popularity; it is a misleading strategy that focuses on social engineering to gain unauthorized entry to guarded locations. Tailgating attacks can lead to significant financial and reputational loss.

This article examines the notion of tailgating attacks and the possible dangers they present to individuals and organizations. We can better protect our digital and physical surroundings from this increasing threat if we know the methods these attackers use and put effective countermeasures into place.

What is a Tailgating Attack?

What is a Tailgating Attack

A tailgating attack in cyber security is when a threat actor gains access to an organization’s confidential files via an authorized person, such as an employee.

A tailgating cyber attack is typically conducted in one of two ways:

  • Piggybacking is where the unauthorized party follows an authorized one into secure areas. Imagine following someone into a secured building by catching the door before it closes.
  • Convincing an authorized person to give their credentials through a disguised email link, application, or other means.

During a tailgating cyber attack, a cybercriminal will try to gain access to a restricted location without first passing through an authentication procedure, such as a door protected by a passcode or a biometric scanner.

They can do this by finding a secure location, waiting outside for an authorized employee to enter, and requesting them to hold the door so that they can slip through the defenses that are supposed to guard the perimeter of the facility.

Explanation of How Tailgating Attacks Occur

Using social engineering strategies, an unauthorized person can physically enter a restricted location and commit a tailgating attack. Tailgating attacks use human psychology and trust to get past security measures, unlike conventional hacking techniques that target software weaknesses or depend on extensive technical skills.

A tailgating attack involves a perpetrator closely pursuing a lawful target through entry points like doors, turnstiles, or checkpoints. The assailant takes advantage of people's innate propensity to hold doors open for others or to presume that someone following them closely has permission to enter.

The attacker may use various strategies to blend in and look unnoticeable, such as dressing like other workers or carrying items that give the impression that they belong in the surroundings.

By taking advantage of the authorized person's good nature, politeness, or attention, the attacker enters the secure area without going through the necessary authentication steps.

A tailgating social engineering attack can take the form of a phishing email or a message in online environments, to trick users into disclosing their login information or allowing unauthorized access to their accounts.

Common Scenarios and Techniques Used by Attackers

The following are tailgating attack examples that you must be aware of while working:

  • Someone following you and relying on you to kindly keep the door open for them as they enter a secure location.
  • A delivery person or courier who isn't who they claim to be.
  • Someone is trying to force you to open the door for them by tricking you with their crowded hands.
  • A person who asks you to let them in by saying they lost their work ID or left it at home.

Motivations Behind Tailgating Attacks

Motivations Behind Tailgating Attacks

Depending on the targets' intentions and aims, tailgating attacks can have a variety of motivations. Following are some typical reasons why people commit tailgating assaults:

Identifying the Goals and Objectives of Attackers

There are a variety of goals that can be achieved through tailgating attacks, depending on the attacker's motives. Several frequent causes are as follows:

  1. Physical theft: By breaking into secure locations, attackers may attempt to take valuable physical items, such as machinery, prototypes, or private data.
  2. Data breaches: Tailgating attackers frequently aim to get confidential or proprietary data. They can directly access computers, databases, or other sources of priceless data by breaking into restricted regions.
  3. Sabotage or espionage: Tailgating assaults could be motivated by a desire to sabotage activities or obtain information. Critical systems may be targeted by attackers who want to install malware or spying equipment, gain an unfair advantage over rivals, or extort money.
  4. Unauthorized access: In certain circumstances, attackers may merely look for unauthorized access for their gain, out of curiosity, or use the compromised access for more illegal operations.

Factors Contributing to the Attractiveness of Tailgating Attacks

Attackers who engage in tailgating have various advantages, making it a desirable way to compromise security. These elements consist of:

  1. Utilizing trust and social norms: Tailgating uses social conventions and human behavior, such as holding doors open for others and automatically thinking that those who are near you belong in the same space. By manipulating trust, attackers can more easily get through security safeguards.
  2. Low technical barriers: Tailgating attacks do not require highly developed technical expertise or the exploitation of software flaws. Instead, they exploit human nature's flaws to open people up to various possible adversaries.
  3. Blending in: Attackers may disguise themselves as authorized guests or employees to avoid being recognized as such by security officers. Attackers can improve their chances of being undiscovered by adopting disguises, donning uniforms, or carrying props.
  4. Reduced risk of being discovered: Tailgating assaults can happen quickly and covertly with little telltale signs of hostile activity. This raises the possibility of a successful intrusion by decreasing the risk of detection by security systems.

Potential Consequences for Individuals and Organizations

Attacks on drivers who are tailgating can have serious repercussions for both persons and organizations, including:

  1. Data loss or theft: Data Breaches, Intellectual Property Theft, or the Disclosure of Confidential Customer or Employee Data can all come from unauthorized access to sensitive information. Such occurrences may result in monetary loss, legal repercussions, and organizational reputational harm.
  2. Operational disruption: Tailgating attackers may purposefully interfere with crucial activities, resulting in downtime, lost productivity, or infrastructure and system compromise.
  3. Financial consequences: Companies may suffer financial losses due to stolen assets, fines, remediation expenses, and potential legal action from aggrieved parties.
  4. Damage to reputation: A successful tailgating attack can harm a company's standing and reduce customer trust. The idea of insufficient security measures may turn off potential customers, collaborators, or investors.

It is essential to comprehend the motivations behind tailgating attacks, the elements that draw attackers to them, and the potential repercussions they bring with them to create effective prevention and risk-mitigation techniques.

Organizations can better defend themselves against this emerging danger by addressing the flaws in both human behavior and security technology.

Tailgating Attack Examples

Tailgating Attack Examples

Here are eight different tailgating attack examples that demonstrate how this cyber threat works in real-world environments:

Example #1: Business Espionage

This scenario involves a rival business using a tailgating attack to obtain entry to a target company's R&D facility without authorization.

The assailant pays close attention to the entrance points and spots a worker who frequently visits the building through a particular window. The assailant then closely pursues the victim, preying on their confidence and presuming they have permission to enter.

Once inside the building, the assailant gathers important information, including trade secrets, prototypes, and research data.

The attacker can achieve their objective covertly by taking advantage of employees' poor security knowledge or the lack of rigorous access control procedures. The stolen data can be sold to interested parties or exploited for a competitive edge.

Example #2: Property Theft

In this example, a tailgating assailant picks a financial establishment that houses valuable items like cash, precious metals, or pricey artwork. During busy times, the attacker watches how bank staff behave to spot opportunities when people are more likely to hold doors open for others.

The assailant follows a worker closely as they push a cart or carry a briefcase with valuables, taking advantage of the busy and crowded setting.

The assailant enters the area limited by blending in and taking advantage of the diversion to flee with the stolen goods quickly. Additional staff members and the assumption of authorized access delay quick discovery.

Example #3: Data Center Breach

In this example, a tailgating attacker concentrates on breaking into a highly secured data center without authorization. The assailant observes staff behavior and routines to spot trends such as regularly left-open or unlocked doors.

The attacker can get past access control measures and enter the data center by closely following a trusted employee. Once inside, they might add malicious software, meddle with servers, or steal important data.

Data breaches, hacked systems, and the potential interruption of vital services hosted in the data center are just a few of the serious effects of the attack.

Example #4: Work Intrusion

In this hypothetical situation, an angry former worker commits a tailgate assault to get revenge on their former employer. The attacker can easily blend in because they know the office structure, security procedures, and staff behavior.

The attacker enters the office building by posing as a passing vendor and passes through various departments without being noticed.

The main goal could be to disrupt normal operations, harm property, or steal confidential information. The attack might lead to financial losses, cold working conditions, and reputational harm for the company.

Example #5: Access to Restricted Areas

In this example, the tailgating assailant concentrated on breaking into a facility's restricted area. They indicate a weak access point, such as a door with a weak lock or a security system that isn't functioning that lacks adequate access control measures.

The attacker waits for someone with permission to enter the area and closely follows them, taking advantage of the chance to access without going through the required authentication process.

Once inside, the intruder may engage in various illegal actions, including gaining access to systems without authorization, placing surveillance equipment, or fiddling with machinery.

Example #6: Phishing Using Social Engineering

Digital settings are also susceptible to tailgating attacks, such as phishing schemes that use social engineering. In this case, the attacker impersonates a reliable source or an authoritative figure to send fraudulent emails or messages to others inside an organization.

The attacker tricks the target into thinking they urgently need access to particular systems, accounts, or private data. The attacker deceives the victim into disclosing their login information or granting unauthorized access to their accounts by playing on their sense of urgency, trust, or fear.

This kind of tailgating assault may result in hacked accounts, data breaches, or increased resource exploitation for the organization.

Example #7: Misuse of Conferences or Events

Many individuals passing through entry points during conferences or large events can also result in tailgating attacks. In this case, the assailant hides among the people and takes advantage of the commotion and distractions to get past security precautions.

The attacker takes advantage of the relaxed environment of the gathering and the perception that everyone in attendance is a member of the same group by closely following an authorized participant.

The attacker can enter restricted locations and engage in illegal acts like stealing sensitive information, tampering with equipment, or listening in on private conversations by sneaking past access checks.

Example #8: Hospital Invasion

Attacks by tailgaters can also be extremely dangerous in medical settings. In this case, an unauthorized person takes advantage of the frenetic and hurried pace of a hospital setting by tailgating behind a medical staff member.

Once inside, the intruder can access places off limits, like patient rooms or where medications are kept. This may result in possible patient confidentiality violations, drug theft, or tampering with essential medical equipment.

Such attacks may result from compromised patient care, legal repercussions, and harm to the healthcare facility's reputation.

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Mitigating Tailgating Attacks

Mitigating Tailgating Attacks

Learning more about the problem, increasing your awareness at work, and, based on your employer, implementing more efficient security mechanisms are all ways to protect yourself from tailgating attacks.

Implementing Robust Access Control Systems and Policies

Organizations should put strong access control systems and procedures in place to counteract tailgating assaults effectively. Organizations can drastically lower the danger of unauthorized access by combining cyber security basics like technology, physical barriers, and stringent regulations. Consider these important actions:

  • Design entrance points securely, keeping security in mind. Use access-controlled doors, security gates, or turnstiles to limit admittance to one person at a time. These physical obstacles aid in preventing unauthorized people from following authorized employees closely.
  • Use PINs, key cards, or biometric authentication as access control methods. These safeguards guarantee that only authorized people can enter restricted locations. Review access permissions frequently and swiftly revoke access for anyone who has been let go or no longer needs it.
  • For essential systems or high-security regions, use two-factor authentication (2FA). Requiring two forms of authentication from users, such as a password and a one-of-a-kind code sent to their mobile device, offers an additional layer of protection.
  • Implement a reliable visitor management system that demands registration, identification, and the issuance of visitor badges for all guests. While on the property, accompany visitors to ensure they are appropriately watched and prevent unauthorized entrance.
  • Position trained security staff at entrance points to validate identification and confront suspects. Give security staff thorough instructions on access control procedures, tailgating detection, and reaction processes.
  • Conduct routine security audits and assessments to find weaknesses in access control systems. Determine potential hotspots for tailgating and make the required adjustments, such as adding more obstacles, expanding camera coverage, or using access control technology.
  • Keep your access control policies, processes, and systems updated in response to new threats, technological developments, and organizational changes. Keep up with new tactics in tailgating assaults and adjust security measures as necessary.

Leveraging Technology-Based Solutions (e.g., Biometrics, Cctv)

Through the provision of improved access control and surveillance capabilities, technology-based solutions significantly contribute to the mitigation of tailgating attacks.

Biometric scanners

Scanners that can analyze a person's biometric data are an even more sophisticated technique to authenticate a worker's identification. They examine a person's distinctive physical or auditory characteristics and compare them to a database of authorized personnel.

Biometric security examples include:

Biometric Security Technology


Speech Recognition

Analyzes an individual's voice patterns and characteristics for authentication.

Iris Identification

Utilizes the unique patterns in the iris of an individual's eye for identification.

Scans of Fingerprints

Captures and analyzes the distinctive patterns on an individual's fingertips.

Facial Identification

Uses facial features and characteristics to verify an individual's identity.

Heart Rate Monitors

Measures and analyzes an individual's heart rate patterns for authentication.

Video Surveillance and CCTV

To prevent tailgating attacks, video monitoring, and CCTV systems are crucial to a comprehensive security plan. Organizations can improve their capacity to prevent, recognize, and react to unauthorized access by strategically placing cameras across the facilities.


  • Visible cameras are a deterrent, preventing would-be tailgaters from attempting to gain unauthorized access. When people know their actions are being filmed, they are less likely to participate in suspicious behavior.
  • Video surveillance allows monitoring tailgating hotspots and access points in real time. Security guards can spot suspicious activity or people closely following authorized employees, enabling quick intervention.
  • CCTV footage is essential in determining who is authorized to drive and investigating tailgating situations. Reconstructing the timeline of events using the recorded video can help with internal or law enforcement inquiries.
  • Security staff can respond promptly to tailgating occurrences because of CCTV systems' real-time situational awareness. They can notify on-site security or set off alarms, allowing quick responses to stop future unauthorized entry.


Key Considerations



The presence of visible cameras is a deterrent.


Real-time monitoring to identify tailgating incidents.

Evidence Collection

CCTV footage as crucial evidence for investigations.

Incident Response

Real-time situational awareness for a prompt response.

Camera Placement

Strategic positioning for comprehensive coverage.

Lighting Conditions

Adequate lighting for clear video footage.

Camera Resolution and Coverage

High-resolution cameras for better visibility.

Storage and Retention

Sufficient storage capacity and retention periods.

Monitoring and Response

Protocols for real-time monitoring and response.

Speed Gates and Turnstiles

Tailgating can be efficiently avoided by installing turnstiles or speed gates at entry points to manage the flow of people. Limiting the number of people who can pass through these physical obstacles simultaneously decreases the possibility of unauthorized people closely trailing authorized persons.

Interception of Intrusions and Alarm Systems

Tailgating situations can be immediately reported to security staff by integrating alarm systems and intrusion detection equipment. Alarms can be sent off by motion sensors, door sensors, and break-beam sensors if many people are observed passing through a single entry point.

Raising Awareness and Providing Training to Employees

Raising employee awareness and giving them the appropriate training to identify and respond to such events are important first steps in reducing tailgating attacks.

Organizations can greatly reduce the possibility of successful tailgating attempts by teaching employees about the risks, penalties, and appropriate practices. Here's how to educate and train employees efficiently:

Tailgating Awareness Campaigns

Launch a comprehensive awareness campaign that educates employees about tailgating attacks, their impact on security, and the significance of implementing stringent access control. To reach a large audience, use various communication methods, including emails, newsletters, posters, and digital signs.

Training Sessions on Tailgating

Conduct frequent training sessions to give staff members practical expertise in spotting and handling tailgating attempts. Incorporate examples, case studies, and interactive exercises to improve comprehension and engagement.

Security Awareness Training

Incorporate tailgating prevention into broader security awareness programs. Include subjects like physical security, sensitive information protection, and social engineering. Promote the idea of individual responsibility for preserving a secure environment.

Department-Specific Training

Create training programs tailored to the needs of particular departments or job functions that deal with sensitive data or have access to restricted places. Highlight the distinct dangers they can encounter and offer specialized advice on preventing tailgating assaults.

Collaboration with Security Teams

Encourage cooperation between staff members and security teams by giving them a forum for free dialogue and criticism. Encourage staff members to report any flaws or improvement opportunities for an access control system.


It is clear that A multifaceted strategy is required as organizations work to strengthen their security measures. To reduce the hazards of tailgating attacks, it is crucial to implement strong access control systems, use technology-based solutions like biometrics and CCTV, raise staff awareness, and offer thorough training.

Seeking the advice of experts in the industry is highly advised if you want to strengthen your company's security posture and defend against tailgating attempts. Amaxra, a well-known Microsoft gold partner, can offer specialized cyber security risk assessments and leading-edge tools, such as Amaxra Beacon, to protect your business from social engineering risks.

Avoid leaving it until it is too late. Act immediately to defend your business from tailgating attacks and guarantee your priceless assets’ safety. To discuss your unique security requirements and put preventative measures in place that will bolster your defenses against social engineering risks, get in touch with Amaxra right now.

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