Tailgating Attack: From Door to Data Breach

by | Sep 25, 2023

Businesses often focus on cybersecurity measures like firewalls and data encryption to protect their assets. However, physical security, especially in the form of a tailgating attack, tends to be overlooked. In one survey, over 70% of participants admitted they were vulnerable to a tailgating security breach. This type of threat exposes hardware and equipment and could be the gateway to digital security breaches. By understanding this risk, you can fortify both your digital and physical presence.

What Is a Tailgating Attack?

A tailgating attack occurs when someone gains access to a restricted area by following an authorized user inside. As a type of social engineering done in physical settings like office buildings or data centers, the attacker relies on social engineering techniques to appear like they belong there. They may offer a friendly greeting and will let the person in front of them unlock the door and hurry inside before it’s closed again. This tactic may seem simple, but physical access can allow people to steal devices, tamper with hardware, or obtain data through other methods.

Common Targets of a Tailgating Attack

Recognizing where tailgating attacks happen can be a crucial step toward reducing risks. One of the reasons tailgating is so effective is that it often exploits people’s natural desire to be polite and avoid confrontation. Below are some examples of common targets:

Office Entrances

Tailgating often occurs at the main entrances of office buildings. Attackers may wait for an employee to use their access card and then slip in behind them, seemingly having a phone conversation or carrying a heavy load to avoid suspicion.

Parking Garages

Attackers may initiate a tailgating attack from the parking area, following an employee from their car into the building. Their intent is often masked by timing their arrival to coincide with a shift change or a busy period.

During Special Events

Company events or periods when many people are coming and going can make a tailgating attack easier. They can blend into the crowd to make their actions less noticeable and may participate long enough to avoid suspicion.

Deliveries and Loading Docks

Areas designated for deliveries can be exploited for tailgating, especially if they provide direct access to the building’s interior. Attackers may pose as delivery personnel, taking advantage of busier drop-off periods when staff are less likely to question their presence.

Meeting Rooms and Conference Centers

Rooms reserved for meetings or conferences can be particularly vulnerable, especially if first-time visitors are expected. An attacker may pretend to be an early attendee or even a guest speaker, capitalizing on the general assumption that they belong there.

Who’s Most at Risk of a Tailgating Attack?

Some businesses are more vulnerable to tailgating attacks due to the nature of their operations. For example, if a company’s work requires employees to leave and return to the office frequently, keeping track of who’s coming in or out becomes more complex. That is common in companies where staff often go out for client meetings or fieldwork. Buildings with many entrances and exits pose another challenge; monitoring multiple doors at once is harder.

Daily routines can also create risks. Businesses that get regular deliveries have a steady flow of people entering and exiting, making it easier for someone to blend in. This issue is magnified if a company often brings in temporary staff or subcontractors who may not be fully aware of the security protocols. And let’s not forget high-traffic public places like hospitals and airports, where the sheer number of people makes it difficult to spot someone who shouldn’t be there.

Lastly, employee culture plays a role. If security isn’t a top priority, employees might become lax in following procedures, making it easier for attackers to slip through. Knowing who is most at risk for tailgating can help organizations take steps to strengthen their defenses.

Security Strategies to Protect Against Tailgating Attacks

A multi-layered approach to security is crucial for mitigating the risk of tailgating attacks. Various methods can be employed to ensure that only authorized individuals gain entry to a facility. Below, we explore some of the most effective security protocols that can be implemented.

ID Badge Scanners

ID badge scanners are often the first line of defense against unauthorized entry. These devices scan authorized badges at entry points and usually log the time and details of each entry and exit. They are straightforward, making them a popular choice for organizations of all sizes.

Key Code Access Systems

Key code access systems offer another reliable way to secure entry points. By requiring a unique code for access, these digital keypads balance security and convenience. They are especially beneficial for small businesses, as they are cost-effective and easy to manage.

Mandatory Front Desk Check-In

Mandatory front desk check-in adds a human element to your security measures. All visitors must sign in upon arrival, providing an additional layer of scrutiny. This simple yet effective step can greatly assist in preventing unauthorized access.

Visitor Management Systems

Visitor management systems are worth considering for organizations looking for more advanced security options. These systems require pre-registration of guests and issue temporary badges, adding an extra layer of verification and control.

Time-Based Access Control

In places where security requirements change depending on the time of day, time-based access control systems can be handy. These systems only permit entry during designated times, making them ideal for areas that should be restricted during off-hours.

Physical Barriers

Physical structures like turnstiles or mantraps can dramatically decrease the chances of a tailgating attack. These barriers enforce a ‘one-person-per-entry’ rule, requiring each individual to authenticate before gaining access.

Video Surveillance

Lastly, video surveillance cameras serve as both a deterrent and a forensic tool. Cameras at key entry points can monitor and record activity, providing valuable data for security reviews or investigations.

By combining these security protocols, organizations can significantly strengthen their defenses against tailgating attacks, creating a safer and more secure environment.

Training and Awareness Is Key to Prevent Tailgating

One of the most effective defenses against tailgating is a well-informed staff. When employees are educated about the risks and trained to recognize suspicious behaviors, they become the first line of defense. Training programs should go beyond a simple presentation. Hands-on training can be valuable and empower employees to be proactive rather than reactive. That makes it more difficult for tailgating attacks to succeed.

However, awareness shouldn’t end with in-house staff. Visitors, contractors, and even delivery personnel who frequently enter are involved with keeping businesses secure. Simple measures like requiring visitor check-ins at a front desk can help. Signs with security protocols not only serve as a reminder but may also discourage attempts. Combining these efforts creates a culture of awareness critical in preventing tailgating attacks.

Combining Physical Protection with Cybersecurity

Integrating physical security with cybersecurity measures can be a game-changer when it comes to thwarting tailgating attacks. Take, for example, an ID badge scanner at the entrance. When this system is network-connected, it can do more than regulate entry. It can alert the cybersecurity team of multiple failed access attempts, which could indicate a more sophisticated attack in progress.

In a well-integrated setup, triggering a physical security alert could automatically initiate cybersecurity protocols. These might include temporarily disabling network ports in the area where unauthorized access was attempted or activating additional firewalls. This layered approach offers a more robust defense mechanism, ensuring your physical premises and digital assets are safeguarded against unauthorized access. By making physical and cybersecurity systems communicate effectively with each other, your business can build a more resilient and comprehensive security strategy.

Using a Layered Approach to Prevent a Tailgating Attack

The effectiveness of your defense against tailgating attacks hinges on a layered approach to security. A good security strategy involves multiple physical checkpoints and integrating them with your broader cybersecurity strategy. However, with around 75% of survey respondents admitting tailgating incidents are not being tracked, there’s a lot of room for improvement. Changes need to be made and embraced company-wide to be effective.

Leveraging professional cybersecurity services adds a data-driven layer to identify and respond to anomalies quickly. The aim is to create a strong security net that makes it increasingly difficult for unauthorized individuals to exploit digital or physical vulnerabilities.

Does your business need support against tailgating or other types of social engineering attacks? Get in touch with a cybersecurity expert via our contact form or call us at +1 (800) 297-8293

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