What Are Tailgating Attacks and How to Protect Yourself From Them

Tips & Advice

Whether you’re spending time on the web or working in the office, you want peace of mind knowing that you are in a safe environment. While most of us know to take precautions when online — protecting ourselves from things like phishing attacks and other cyber threats — we should also attend to our physical security.

One concern is tailgating — a social engineering attack where someone gets physical access to a business to take confidential information or do other harm.

Here are some ways to protect yourself from tailgating attacks, such as an unauthorized person following you into a restricted area while on the job.

What is a tailgating attack?

Tailgating is a type of social engineering attack where an unauthorized person gains physical access to an off-limits location — perhaps a password-protected area — where they might steal sensitive information, damage property, compromise user credentials or even install malware on computers.

“Piggybacking” is closely related to tailgating, but it involves consent from the duped employee. So, while a worker might be unaware that someone has tailgated them into a restricted area with piggybacking, the hacker might convince a worker to provide access because they are posing as, say, a delivery driver.

Who’s at risk of tailgating attacks?

Companies, particularly at risk of being targeted by tailgating scams, include those:

    • With many employees, often moving inside and out of the premises
    • With multiple entrance points into a building
    • That receive deliveries of food, packages, documents, and other things regularly
    • That have many subcontractors working for them
    • Where employees aren’t thoroughly trained in physical and cybersecurity protocols

Whether you’re spending time on the web or working in the office, you want peace of mind knowing that you are in a safe environment. While most of us know to take precautions when online — protecting ourselves from things like phishing attacks and other cyber threats — we should also attend to our physical security.

One concern is tailgating — a social engineering attack where someone gets physical access to a business to take confidential information or do other harm.

Here are some ways to protect yourself from tailgating attacks, such as an unauthorized person following you into a restricted area while on the job.

What is a tailgating attack?

Tailgating is a type of social engineering attack where an unauthorized person gains physical access to an off-limits location — perhaps a password-protected area — where they might steal sensitive information, damage property, compromise user credentials or even install malware on computers.

“Piggybacking” is closely related to tailgating, but it involves consent from the duped employee. So, while a worker might be unaware that someone has tailgated them into a restricted area with piggybacking, the hacker might convince a worker to provide access because they are posing as, say, a delivery driver.

Who’s at risk of tailgating attacks?

Companies, particularly at risk of being targeted by tailgating scams, include those:

  • With many employees, often moving inside and out of the premises
  • With multiple entrance points into a building
  • That receive deliveries of food, packages, documents, and other things regularly
  • That have many subcontractors working for them
  • Where employees aren’t thoroughly trained in physical and cybersecurity protocols

Generally speaking, companies with robust security systems in place — including using biometrics, badges, or other identity and information security measures — are better protected from tailgating and piggybacking attacks.

But that’s not to say that some smooth-talking fraudster can’t talk someone into letting them in or finding some way around those protections.

What are common tailgating methods?

Common types of tailgating attacks that you should be aware of on the job include:

  • Someone walking behind you into a secure area, depending on your common courtesy to keep the door open for them
  • A courier or delivery driver who aren’t what they seem
  • A courier or delivery driver who aren’t what they seem
  • Someone with their hands full of items to trick you into opening the door for them
  • A person who claims they’ve lost their work ID or forgotten it at home, so that you grant them admittance

How to protect yourself from tailgating attacks

Protecting yourself from tailgating attacks is partly a matter of learning about the issue, raising your level of awareness on the job, and depending on your employer, putting in place more effective security systems.

Some solutions include:

Increased security training

Many companies know how to train employees to recognize, avoid, and cope with online security issues but may forget to provide the same diligence to physical security. How to spot and deal with threats should be part of this training, plus cultivating an awareness of surroundings and people who might be out of place.

Management should offer a clearly stated security policy taught to everyone, which might insist that no one be allowed into a secure area without the proper pass or identification. As the security policy is updated, all employees should be aware of changes and additions.

These security measures should be part of an overall protection program, like McAfee® Total Protection, which includes antivirus software, a firewall, identity monitoring, password management, web protection, and more.

Smart badges and cards

If you have a large business spread over several floors, it can be hard for employees to know who works there and who doesn’t, leaving them susceptible to tailgating and piggybacking attacks. Requiring smart badges and cards to access restricted areas can help cut back on unauthorized intrusions and provide better access control.

Building fully staffed reception areas with dedicated security personnel could also be part of a larger security system.

Biometric scanners

Biometric scanners are an even more advanced way to provide proper authentication for a worker’s identity. They scan a unique physical or audible feature of a person and compare it to a database for approved personnel.

Examples of biometric security include:

  • Voice recognition
  • Iris recognition
  • Fingerprint scans
  • Facial recognition
  • Heart-rate sensors

Understanding social engineering

One reason people are vulnerable to physical and cyberattacks is that they lack education on social engineering and the kinds of threats it poses.

Workers need to understand the full range of social engineering techniques and know-how to protect themselves, whether in their social media accounts or physical work environment.

For their part, companies can use simulated phishing emails and tailgating attacks to raise awareness and underline how to follow protocols in dealing with them.

Video surveillance

If there are many ways to enter a business, it may make sense to put video surveillance on all entrances. Advanced video surveillance systems can use artificial intelligence (AI) and video analytics to scan the faces of people entering and compare them to a database of employee features.

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