Tailgating Attack: A Physical Social Engineering Crime

What is a Tailgating Attack?

According to the World Economic Forum, the first cyberattack discovered was in 1988 by Robert Tappan Morris, son of a famous cryptographer, Robert Morris Sr.

Ever since then, cyber attacks have evolved rapidly using innovations and advanced technology as attack vectors to commit cybercrime. In fact, the havoc of these cyber attacks is not only affecting large-scale enterprises but is also impacting small-scale enterprises aggressively.

Cyber fraud practices like social engineering have empowered malicious actors to deploy cyberattacks using a substantial number of ways. Such practices are not only used to attempt cyber attacks virtually but physically too. One of these physical cyber attacks is the “Tailgating attack”.

Tailgating attack is a social engineering attempt by cyber threat actors in which they trick employees into helping them gain unauthorized access into the company premises. The attacker seeks entry into a restricted area where access is controlled by software-based electronic devices. Since only the authorized people hold the authority to gain access, cybercriminals simply trick and fool one of the authorized people by following behind him/her for entry.

In various organizations, most people wear identification cards or badges on the premises so anyone passing by is aware that they belong to the company. But cybercriminals being one step ahead in manipulation and fraudulent practices, always manage to find ways to enter even these restricted areas that follow high-security regulations.

So, in technical terms of tailgating definition, it is a widespread security breach in which unauthorized personnel gets the passage to the premises of an organization either accidentally or forcefully by manipulating the authorized user. Tailgating attack or piggybacking attack is one of the most common security problems in every organization around the world today.

This attack can cause a huge amount of damage to an organization through data breaches, data manipulation or theft, malware attack by the deployment of malicious software, etc. The one and only prime motive of deploying tailgating attacks are to steal confidential information for malicious purposes.

A survey estimated that a security breach caused by tailgating attacks amounted ranging from $150,000 to “too high to measure”!

Don’t leave the door open for tailgaters

Tailgating Attack Example:

Cyber attackers have many tricks in their arsenal to dupe people to gain unauthorized access into restricted premises. For example, a social engineer can pretend to be a delivery agent from an e-commerce company or someone from a food delivery service, holding boxes as an excuse to ask employees to open the door. The social engineer would pretend to make it look uneasy for him to open the door and would ask any authorized person to help him as a courtesy to get entry to the restricted premises.

Another way of entering an unauthorized place would be hanging out around a particular area of the building that is used for smoking or tea breaks. The social engineer would stay in that area during the whole break, acting as an employee from the organization, and would initiate a conversation with any random employee. At the end of the break, the social engineer would keep the employee indulged in conversation while following him inside the building as the employee opens the door distractedly.

With the above-mentioned tailgating attack example, it can be clearly seen that cybercriminals are well planned and advanced in the area of social engineering. By striking up a casual conversation or acting like they are part of the organization, these attackers effortlessly make their way into secured areas.

Other common attempts of tricking employees include the lost access key card or technical support service requested by upper management. If nothing then these social engineers impersonate to be someone from the company’s common service provider and would follow any authorized person sneakily behind them when they swipe a key card to open the door.

How to Prevent Such Social Engineering Attacks?

Say no to tailgaters

Organizations nowadays are too occupied with focusing on other security measures that they often overlook these basic activities happening on their premises. It is important to understand that cyber criminals can deploy cyber attacks physically as well. For any organization, it is essential to think ahead of how the mindset of cyber criminals works and what are the existing vulnerabilities that require immediate attention.

In order to stay vigilant and secure, organizations must start practicing the following guidelines to prevent these social engineering attacks:

  1. Make sure to lock your system and other devices while leaving the workstation.
  2. In order to avoid tailgating attacks, do not let unknown people enter restricted premises of office unless they have appropriate credentials or authority of access.
  3. Never help strangers to access a secured location when they ask to open the door or are from delivery services unless they are permitted.
  4. Always keep your access identity card with you while you are on the premises and make sure to keep it secure from being misused by unauthorized employees.
  5. Never insert stray or idle external devices like USB or memory cards in your system before getting them verified by the security administrator.
  6. Implement cyber security practices in your organization to prevent potential cyber risks.
  7. Provide cyber security awareness training to employees to make them understand cyber attacks and how to recognize them.

For a secure workplace, it is highly recommended to keep social engineering attacks like tailgating, phishing, shoulder surfing, etc. at the minimum with the help of the right security solutions and measures. Prevention against tailgating attacks not only addresses the physical security of the organization but also ensures that the official data is safeguarded against the reach of these social engineers.

Secure your organization from tailgaters

Have you ever experienced any tailgating attacks in your organization? Share with us and let us know what was your approach to combat such attacks in the comment section below!

Thank you for your valuable time to read this blog. Hope you liked it.




Threatcop is a cybersecurity company that provides security solutions to businesses to protect them against email-based attacks and social engineering attacks.

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Threatcop is a cybersecurity company that provides security solutions to businesses to protect them against email-based attacks and social engineering attacks.

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