What is Tailgating in Cyber Security? [Examples & Prevention]

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  • What is Tailgating in Cyber Security? [Examples & Prevention]

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The most devastating cybersecurity breaches are caused by human error.

In an unprecedented Twitter phishing scam, cybercriminals tricked staff into handing over their passwords. The cybercriminals went on to have a field day, tweeting from celebrity accounts and scamming Twitter users out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Tailgating in cyber security is a major threat to organizations because it exploits human misjudgment.

You could have the most sophisticated security system protecting your offices. But if a naive new employee holds the door open for a cybercriminal impersonating a pizza delivery guy, what’s the point?

The key to protecting your business from cyber security threats is:

  • Education
  • Training
  • Technology

In this blog, we’re going to get familiar with the most common cyber security threats, paying close attention to tailgating.

What Are Cyber Security Threats?

Cyber security threats are activities and events from an external and unauthorized source that access, steal, compromise, or disturb business and customer data, digital infrastructure, and online presence. In most cases, cyber security threats are deliberate and malicious acts. Cybersecurity threats can come from:

  • Hackers: imposters who gain unauthorized access to an organization’s data or systems either manually or automatically via a script or protocol.
  • Jaded employees, ex-employees, or third parties: 43% of breaches are caused by insiders who misuse their authority to steal business data with malicious intent.
  • Organized criminals: operating at a larger scale to steal sensitive trade secrets and use them as leverage for blackmail.
  • Hostile nations: cyber warfare seeking to infiltrate and compromise another nation’s most critical infrastructure.

But not all cybersecurity threats are intentional or planned.

For example, natural disasters can set the stage for cyber attacks as criminals take advantage of vulnerable systems because the people taking care of digital defenses are responding to crises.

It’s also important to remember that your employees may be cyber threats without even meaning to. Some of the biggest data breaches resulted from employees simply not having strong enough passwords.

No matter your business’s size or industry, a cyber security breach can spell disaster.

Even if your digital infrastructure isn’t damaged, compromising your customers’ data can destroy your business’s reputation and lead to devastating legal proceedings and, ultimately, closure.

But the point of this article isn’t to scare you but to educate you so you can protect your business against cyber security threats.

So let’s take a closer look at the types of cyber security attacks you might be vulnerable to.

5 Types of Cyber Security Attacks

Cyber attacks

As the digital landscape, and our reliance upon it, continues to grow, so do the ways in which cybercriminals infiltrate businesses.

We’ll discuss the five most common and dangerous cyber security attacks:

  1. Tailgating
  2. Smishing
  3. Whaling
  4. Baiting
  5. Pretexting

We’ll also show you why and how they’re so dangerous.

What is tailgating in cyber security?

Tailgating is when an unauthorized person gains access to an organization via an authorized person, like an employee. This can happen with or without the employee’s knowledge. Tailgating in cyber security is a social engineering attack. This is because, even if your security systems are robust, they may still be breached because a cybercriminal has:

  • Taken advantage of an authorized employee
  • An authorized employee hasn’t identified that the cybercriminal is a risk

It’s the classic scenario we see in movies. The villain gains access to restricted areas by manipulating or taking advantage of an employee.

What is smishing in cyber security?

Smishing (SMS+phishing) is when cybercriminals send malicious links to people disguised as text messages from a trusted organization. When individuals click on the link, they’ll be taken to a dangerous site where their data and identity can be stolen, sold on the dark web, or used to commit fraud.

Smishing cases have more than tripled as individuals grow accustomed to remote communications from trusted sources such as their bank, phone, and insurance provider.

If your company uses SMS for sales and marketing, smishing criminals may pose as your organization to steal from your customers.

What is whaling in cyber security?

Whaling in cybersecurity is when cybercriminals infiltrate senior executives within large companies by pretending to be a highly trusted or authoritative person. Because the groups involved are so high-level, whaling is used to steal many millions of dollars - hence the term 'whaling' as opposed to 'phishing'.

It’s important to know that whaling doesn’t require extensive digital knowledge or ‘hacker’ capabilities. A whaling event may be as simple as a seemingly legitimate email.

Simply by using social engineering and manipulation, criminals can pose as corporate decision-makers and – by conveying a sense of authority, masquerading effectively, and implying urgency – cause devastating financial and reputational damage.

What is baiting in cyber security?

Baiting in cybersecurity is when a criminal gains access to an employee’s data by luring them with an enticing device that hides malicious programs.

The most common example is the "Congratulations! You just won an iPhone" pop-up seen on suspicious websites.

But a more sophisticated example relevant to large corporations might look like this: a mysterious USB turns up, and a curious employee plugs it into their laptop to see what’s inside. The malicious payload then infiltrates sensitive data and sends it back to the cybercriminal.

Because baiting manipulates a person’s curiosity or greed rather than a company's digital infrastructure, it’s known as a social engineering attack.

What is pretexting in cyber security?

Pretexting in cyber security is when criminals infiltrate and defraud individuals by claiming to be protecting them from a decoy threat. This is another common and devastating example of social engineering in cybercrime.

Most people will have encountered scenarios where pop-ups warn them that they're at risk and to call the number of an IT solutions company displayed on the screen.

Although people are wising up, pretexting becomes more sophisticated and manipulative in a corporate context.

For example, a cybercriminal may impersonate a known IT support technician and infiltrate two-factor authentication protocols by convincing an employee to improve their security by swapping their phone number to one owned by the attacker.

3 Examples of Tailgating in Cybersecurity

Examples of tailgating

So, what is tailgating in cyber security when it comes to SMEs?

Let’s take a look at the three most common examples of tailgating in cybersecurity and how easy it is for organizations to fall victim to this type of crime.

  1. Exploiting politeness
  2. Impersonating a trusted third-party vendor
  3. Using unattended devices

1. Exploiting politeness

Sometimes tailgating in cyber security is as simple as taking advantage of your employees’ good natures.

Cybercriminals create scenarios where employees are willing to help them in order to gain access to restricted areas or systems.

This method, where employees give consent without realizing they're dealing with a cybercriminal, is called 'piggybacking'.

Here are a few simple yet devastating scenarios:

Examples of Piggybacking

“Sorry, I lost my access card!”

Someone approaches a help desk and claims to have lost their access card.


Or someone sends an email pretending to be an employee who’s forgotten their password.

“Could you hold the door open for me, please?”

A woman carrying heavy boxes to a restricted area then takes advantage of people who rush to help her.


Someone is following an employee into a restricted area and quickly holding the door once they’ve walked through.

If you’ve ever seen the movie Catch Me If You Can, you’ll see the clever and likable Frank Abagnale use these tactics to impersonate an airline pilot.

2. Impersonating a trusted third-party vendor

Even the most sophisticated corporate teams order pizza.

By impersonating a third-party vendor used regularly by your organization, such as…

  1. A food delivery driver
  2. A representative from an IT solutions company
  3. A maintenance contractor

…a manipulative cybercriminal can gain access to the most restricted areas of your company - such as servers and customer files.

All it takes is the right uniform or, in some cases, the right confidence to trick employees into allowing access to vulnerable company information.

3. Using unattended devices

A simple yet devastating example of tailgating is when an employee leaves a logged-in computer unattended.

Leaving a computer unattended for even a few minutes, while an employee goes to the restroom or makes a cup of coffee, could be the only entryway a cybercriminal needs.

These scenarios are especially common when employees work remotely in public areas, like coworking spaces or cafes.

Factors That Make an Enterprise Vulnerable to Cyber Security Threats

Factors that make enterprise vulnerable for cyber security threats

Enterprise-level cyber security attacks are often enabled by simple yet common vulnerabilities and complacencies.

Let’s explore them so you can evaluate whether your organization is at risk:

Not having cyber security prevention practices

Without a cohesive and consistent policy or cyber security risk assessment, enterprise-level businesses entrust their security, networks, and data to employees who might not have any cyber security knowledge.

Cybercriminals can quickly detect and evaluate an absence of formal cybersecurity processes in your business. As a result, they’ll capitalize on the biggest vulnerabilities.

Inconsistent employee training

Having cybersecurity protocols is one thing, but to ensure they’re keeping your business safe, employers must ensure that workforces are consistently retrained.

This is because:

  • Long-term employees can easily forget cybersecurity practices and become complacent if they’re not tested or retrained on them
  • New employees may slip through the cracks and miss out on cybersecurity education
  • Teams are less sensitive to the real risk, and devastating consequences of cybersecurity attacks

Tailgating in cyber security takes advantage of any cracks in a company’s protocols.

Not using and updating threat protection software

Threat detection software is crucial for preventing, detecting, and resolving cybersecurity attacks such as tailgating.

This is especially important for large organizations and remote teams where employees access company databases from their own devices. Having a cloud app security system is crucial to protect your infrastructure.

Without these protective software systems in place, organizations are totally reliant on their customers’ vigilance, instincts, and adherence to company policies.

Even the most disciplined employees make mistakes or forget protocols from time to time. With a threat detection system in place, enterprises effectively mitigate the risk of human errors that tailgaters exploit.

How To Prevent Cyber Security Tailgating

Cyber security tailgating prevention

We’ve agitated you enough about the threats and the risks of tailgating attacks on your business.

It’s time to take actionable steps to protect your business from malicious cyber attacks and their consequences.

1. Educate employees about social engineering

If employees don’t know what social engineering is, they won’t be vigilant enough to detect when they’re the victim of tailgating.

Business cyber security programs are a great way to start the education process.

You can educate your employees by:

  • Simulating tailgating and phishing attacks to keep remote and in-office employees on their toes and raise awareness
  • Hiring actors to simulate piggybacking events to test employee vigilance against physical tailgating threats
  • Explaining the serious consequences faced by businesses who’ve been victim of tailgating attacks in the past

There are specific cyber security education programs, like BLAST, that offer dedicated platforms and services to perform realistic tailgating scenarios to test and educate your employees.

2. Implement a cyber hygiene guide for employees

Cyber hygiene is a set of protocols your workforce regularly performs to ensure that all devices, data, and networks are protected against cyber security threats.

Once you’ve created a cyber hygiene guide, you can implement it throughout your organization by:

  • Providing live training events for your teams
  • Building a robust resource library online for employees to access
  • Using gamification features to make education more engaging and memorable

The key to effective cyber hygiene education is to make it consistent, engaging, and relevant.

3. Use biometric technology to safeguard restricted areas

Biometric technology identifies a person by performing body measurements and calculations to only grant access to authorized individuals. It’s used in crucial organizations to recognize and authorize access with the highest degree of security.

Biometric technology isn’t just the stuff of James Bond movies. Organizations like law enforcement, airport security, homeland security, and hospitals use this science every day to protect against tailgating.

Biometric technology only grants access to authorized individuals. It does this by recognizing:

  • Retina
  • Fingerprint
  • Signature
  • Voice
  • Ear shape
  • DNA

To maximize the effectiveness of biometric security protocols, ensure that employees are also educated on how to identify and prevent social engineering and tailgating.

It doesn’t matter how robust your biometric infrastructure is –the investment is wasted if an employee is vulnerable to manipulation by a clever cybercriminal!

4. Implement a security system that prevents, identifies, and resolves breaches

As organizations start to build and scale their infrastructure in the cloud and operate remotely, it’s never been more important to have a security system to protect your company data.

These programs can cover all devices and programs used by your organization and employees. Put simply, they work by:

  • Monitoring your systems 24/7
  • Performing back-ups to protect your data
  • Identifying and alerting you of cyber security threats
  • Enforcing employee compliance with cybersecurity protocols
  • Securing sensitive company data
  • Establishing a business continuity protocol in the event of a cyber attack

Microsoft has several sophisticated security and threat detection programs, known collectively as Microsoft Enterprise Mobility + Security.

The suite includes the following security products that protect organizations from tailgating and other cyber security threats:

Microsoft Security Program

What It Does

Azure Active Directory P1

  • Tracks and manages the many remote employees accessing your company’s programs
  • Enables managers to remotely control access to company data based on employee authorization

Microsoft Intune

  • Separates and protects company data on employees’ personal devices when working remotely
  • Ensures all employee devices comply with company cyber security policies

Azure Information Protection P1

  • Monitors user access to restricted files to ensure only authorized personnel can access sensitive data
  • Classifies and organizes company documents based on level of restriction and access
  • Enables managers to control team access even on remote devices

Microsoft Advanced Threat Analytics

  • Detects and alerts teams of cyber security threats
  • Uses behavioral analytics to detect suspicious activity amongst users
  • Updates managers when protocols needs to be updated or strengthened for security

Choosing and implementing a cyber security system can be daunting. It’s difficult to know what program to choose, whether it’s cost-effective, and how to extend the protection throughout an entirely remote workforce.

But don’t worry: there are dedicated teams that can help you out.

By partnering with a cyber security consultant like Amaxra, you’ll be supported throughout the entire process of choosing and implementing a cyber security system.

We’ll even help you train your staff on cyber security hygiene and tailgating awareness!

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Tailgating in Cyber Security FAQs

Q&A

"What are common tailgating methods?"

The most common tailgating methods are very simple things like impersonating staff members to gain security cards, asking employees to hold open the door, and pretending to be a trusted third-party vendor.

"How does tailgating happen?"

Tailgating happens when employees are susceptible to social engineering, which basically just means manipulating or tricking someone into granting unauthorized access to a malicious cybercriminal.

"Why is tailgating in cyber security dangerous?"

Tailgating in cyber security is extremely dangerous because one simple error of judgment between people can lead to devastating consequences for a company, such as huge data breaches, theft, litigation, and closure.

Protect Your Organization from Tailgating with Amaxra

Cyber security attacks like tailgating are only becoming more common as businesses shift to the cloud and people use their personal devices to access company infrastructure.

Amaxra's cyber security support and business continuity solutions provide enterprise-level organizations with the support and peace of mind to take advantage of cloud-based systems without being vulnerable to attacks.

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