Protect Yourself From Tailgating Attacks: What is Tailgating in Cyber Security?

woman tapping on security barrier on arrival at wo 2022 03 04 01 47 58 utc scaled

We may earn a small fee from the companies mentioned in this post.

Imagine a scenario where an unauthorised person effortlessly slips into your organisation’s restricted areas, gaining access to sensitive information and putting your company premises entire infrastructure at risk.

That’s precisely what happens in tailgating attacks, a form of social engineering that exploits human trust and lax security measures. In this blog post, we’ll dive into the world of “what is tailgating in cyber security” and equip you with the knowledge to defend against these devious intrusions.

Short Summary – What is tailgating in cyber security

  • Tailgating is an unauthorised access to restricted areas facilitated by employees

  • Physical security training for employees is essential for prevention.

  • The effects of a tailgating attack on an organisation can be devastating, causing damage to their reputation and trust with customers.

  • Organisations should invest in secure access control systems, employee security training & physical security infrastructure to prevent such attacks.

Understanding tailgating in cyber security

What is tailgating in cyber security - Male Passenger In Airport Departure Lounge Wheeling Suitcase Through Security Barrier

Tailgating, at its core, is a simple yet powerful method of gaining unauthorised access to restricted areas or systems by following an authorised person inside a restricted area. Often overlooked, it poses a significant cyber security risk, as it can lead to security breaches and unauthorised access to sensitive information.

In many cases, social engineering tactics are employed, with attackers masquerading as delivery persons, exploiting employees’ politeness, or impersonating staff members to gain entry into secure premises.

Understanding tailgating vulnerabilities and the most common tailgating methods are crucial to preventing these attacks. By implementing effective access control systems and cybersecurity protocols, organisations can mitigate the risk of unauthorised individuals gaining access to secure areas, which in turn helps prevent data breaches and other security issues.

Defining tailgating

Tailgating is a social engineering attack in which an unauthorised individual gains access to restricted areas by trailing authorised personnel. The attacker typically relies on the unwitting cooperation of employees, often pretending to be a fellow worker who has forgotten their ID or a delivery driver carrying heavy packages.

The distinction between tailgating and other piggybacking attacks lies in the level of employee complicity; while piggybacking requires the employee’s acquiescence, tailgating does not.

Common tailgating scenarios

There are several common tailgating scenarios that can put your organisation at risk. Attackers often pretend to be delivery people, taking advantage of employees’ common courtesy to hold doors open for them.

Woman opening entrance door to let in a delivery driver

Another prevalent method involves masquerading as staff members, either by dressing similarly to employees or feigning the loss of an access card, thus exploiting helpful individuals who rush to assist someone seemingly in need.

The risks associated with tailgating attacks

Tailgating attacks can have severe consequences for organisations. These attacks can lead to:

  • Data breaches

  • Theft of confidential information

  • Potential harm to an organisation’s reputation

  • Stealing high-value equipment

  • Tampering with devices

  • Installing malware on critical infrastructure

  • Exfiltrating data assets to carry out a data breach

Man with children going through the ticket barrier at subway station. High quality photo

As a result, understanding the risks associated with tailgating attacks and taking steps to prevent them is essential for maintaining the security of your organisation.

Data breaches and confidential information theft

Tailgating can result in unauthorised access to confidential information, thereby enabling the theft of data or the perpetration of fraud. This could have substantial financial and reputational repercussions. Organisations that are subject to tailgating attacks may experience detriment to their reputation and loss of trust from customers many employees and partners.

Once unauthorised access has been achieved, malicious individuals can exploit lax security measures within an organisation to gain access to confidential data, these include:

Information left on desks

Employees often leave sensitive documents on their desks, either inadvertently or for convenience. A malicious individual who has gained access to the office space through tailgating can quickly photograph or copy these documents. For example, a financial report containing proprietary data left on a desk during lunchtime can be photographed and later used for insider trading or sold to competitors, or to blackmail the business.

Shredding Bins

Shredding bins are typically used to dispose of sensitive documents securely. However, if these bins are not emptied and destroyed regularly, a malicious individual can access the contents. In one notable case, a competitor’s employee tailgated into an office and retrieved draft contracts from a shredding bin. These contracts were then used to undercut prices and win a significant business deal.


Unlocked computers are treasure troves of information for malicious individuals. If an employee steps away from their desk without locking their computer, a tailgater can quickly access emails, files, and even login credentials stored in browsers. For instance, a tailgater once accessed an unlocked computer at a healthcare provider’s office and stole patient records, leading to a massive data breach and legal action against the provider.

Tailgating is a serious threat to any business that can lead to the theft of confidential information that can significantly damage an organisation. By exploiting human errors and physical vulnerabilities, malicious individuals can gain access to sensitive data left on desks, in shredding bins, and on computers.

Organisations must be vigilant in enforcing security protocols, including visitor checks, secure disposal of documents, and employee education, to mitigate these risks. The examples above illustrate the real-world consequences of failing to secure physical access, emphasising the importance of a comprehensive approach to both cyber and physical security.

Damage to reputation and trust

Falling victim to a tailgating attack can have long-lasting effects on an organisation’s reputation and trust with customers and partners. In addition to the financial losses associated with data breaches and the theft of confidential information, companies may also experience a decline in customer confidence, making it difficult to rebuild their reputation and regain the trust of their clientele.

It is therefore crucial for organisations to prioritise the prevention of tailgating phishing attacks, and invest in the necessary security measures to protect their sensitive data and maintain their reputation.

Checkout our informative arcticle on essential cyber security awareness training

Factors Contributing to Tailgating Vulnerability

Interior View Of Modern Office Lobby With Security Check Barriers

Two primary factors contribute to tailgating vulnerability: weak physical security measures and lack of employee awareness. Inadequate access control systems, lack of surveillance cameras, and absence of employee identification are all examples of weak physical security measures authorised employee, that can make organisations more susceptible to tailgating attacks.

Employees who are not cognisant of tailgating risks and security protocols may inadvertently facilitate unauthorised access to restricted areas.

Weak Physical Security Measures

Inadequate physical security measures, such as unsecured entry points, can make organisations more susceptible to tailgating attacks. The lack of a security mechanism to secure entry points can render organisations more vulnerable to tailgating attacks, as unauthorised individuals can easily slip through security gaps and gain access to sensitive areas.

To combat this vulnerability, organisations should invest in robust access control systems, ensuring that only authorised personnel can enter secure perimeters.

Lack of Employee Awareness

Employees who are unaware of tailgating risks and security protocols may inadvertently allow unauthorised persons access to restricted areas. In many cases, attackers rely on the kindness of unsuspecting employees, who unknowingly enable unauthorised entry by holding doors open or assisting with heavy loads.

Effective Strategies to Prevent Tailgating Attacks

A young businessman passes through the security desk and pass in the morning to the office and business center for work. Talking on the phone, in a hurry, smiling

Implementing robust access control systems, enhancing employee security training, and reinforcing physical security infrastructure are all effective strategies to prevent tailgating attacks.

By taking these proactive measures, organisations can significantly reduce their vulnerability to tailgating attacks and protect their sensitive data and assets from unauthorised access.

Implementing Robust Access Control Systems

Access control systems, including badge readers and biometric scanners multiple entrance points, can facilitate the restriction of unauthorised access and reduce the probability of tailgating attacks.

By deploying such systems at entry points and other critical areas, organisations can ensure that only authorised personnel can access restricted areas, effectively preventing unauthorised individuals from gaining entry to the restricted area.

In addition to access control systems, organisations should also consider implementing turnstiles and advanced video surveillance systems to further strengthen their physical security infrastructure.

Enhancing Employee Security Training

Regular employee security training is crucial in mitigating the risk of tailgating cyber attacks here. Training helps employees stay vigilant against potential physical security risks and teaches them how to address and prevent unauthorised physical access.

Conducting security training on an annual basis ensures that these skills remain fresh in the minds of employees, enabling them to better counter various cyber security threats, including tailgating attacks.

Organisations should also educate employees on the importance of not allowing access to unauthorised personnel, even if they appear to be in need of assistance.

By training employees to be cautious and vigilant, organisations can significantly reduce the risk of tailgating attacks and better protect their sensitive data and assets.

Checkout our insightful artice on cyber security awareness training for employees

Strengthening Physical Security Infrastructure

Security guards looking at monitor and speaking in walkie-talkie

Strengthening physical barriers and security infrastructure, such as installing turnstiles and surveillance cameras, can deter tailgating attempts and improve overall security.

These measures not only prevent unauthorised individuals from gaining entry, but also provide a visual deterrent, signaling to potential attackers that the organisation takes security seriously.

By investing in robust physical security infrastructure, organisations can better against cyber threats and protect themselves from tailgating attacks and other security threats.

Real-life Examples of Tailgating Incidents

Woman going through security barrier on arrival at work

Real-life examples of tailgating incidents highlight the importance of understanding and addressing this type of cyber security threat. These incidents serve as a stark reminder that even seemingly innocent acts, such as holding a door open for a stranger, can have far-reaching consequences for an organisation’s security.

By learning from these examples, organisations can better comprehend the risks associated with tailgating attacks and take the necessary steps to prevent them.

The importance of independent physical security penetration testing

To combat the threat of tailgating and other physical security breaches, businesses should employ robust security controls. However, how can an organisation be sure that its security measures are effective? This is where regular independent physical security penetration testing should be introduced.

  1. Objective Evaluation: Independent physcal testers provide an unbiased assessment of an organisation’s physical security controls. They simulate real-world attacks, such as tailgating, to identify vulnerabilities that might be overlooked by internal security teams.
  2. Comprehensive Analysis: Penetration testers use a combination of manual techniques and advanced tools to evaluate all aspects of physical security, from entry points to surveillance systems. This thorough analysis ensures that even subtle weaknesses are detected and addressed.
  3. Tailored Recommendations: Based on the findings, penetration testers provide customised recommendations to enhance security measures. These insights are tailored to the specific needs and risks of the organisation, ensuring that the solutions are both practical and effective.
  4. Compliance Assurance: Many industries have regulations that require regular testing of physical security controls. Independent penetration testing helps organisations comply with these standards, avoiding legal and financial penalties.
  5. Building Confidence: Knowing that the physical security controls have been rigorously tested and validated builds confidence among stakeholders, employees, and customers. It sends a strong message that the organization takes security seriously and is proactive in protecting its assets and people.

Tailgating is a deceptively simple yet potent threat to physical security. Independent physical security penetration testing is an essential tool for businesses to validate and strengthen their security controls against this and other risks.

By engaging expert testers to simulate real-world attacks, organisations can uncover hidden vulnerabilities, receive actionable insights, and build a robust defense that safeguards against unauthorised physical access.

Checkout our informative article on ‘7 types of cyber security threats’

Additional Resources for Cyber Security Protection

Aside from implementing the strategies discussed in this blog post, organisations can further protect themselves from tailgating attacks and other security threats by availing of additional resources such as cyber security courses and consulting services.

By investing in these resources, organisations can ensure that their employees are well-equipped to recognise and respond to various cyber security threats, ultimately safeguarding their sensitive data and assets from unauthorised access.

Organisations should also consider investing in additional security measures such as access control systems, biometric authentication, and access control systems.


In conclusion, tailgating attacks pose a significant threat to organisations, exploiting human trust and weak security measures to gain unauthorised access to confidential data and restricted areas.

By understanding the risks associated with tailgating attacks and implementing effective strategies such as robust access control systems, employee security training, and strengthened physical security infrastructure, organisations can protect themselves from these devious intrusions and maintain the security of their sensitive data and assets.

Remember, the key to preventing tailgating attacks lies in vigilance, awareness, and proactive security measures.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is tailgating in security terms?

Tailgating, also known as piggybacking, is a security breach where an unauthorised person attempts to gain access to a secure environment by following an authorised user. It is most commonly used in social engineering attacks, where an unauthorised individual attempts to enter a space by using an unaware individual’s access.

What is an example of it tailgating?

Tailgating is a type of attack that occurs when an unauthorized person follows an authorized person into a secure area, such as an office building, in order only one person to gain access.

An example of tailgating is where someone impersonates a delivery driver and waits outside a building, then asks the employee to hold open the door for delivery person behind them in order to gain entry.

What is piggybacking and tailgating in cyber security?

Tailgating and piggybacking are security breaches that involve an unauthorized person gaining access to restricted premises or digital systems through exploiting an active session or using an established user’s login credentials.

Both of these methods can be used for malicious intent.

What factors contribute to tailgating vulnerability?

Weak physical security measures and a lack of employee awareness are the major contributors to tailgating vulnerability, making organisations particularly vulnerable to these kinds of attacks.

Tailgating is a type of attack that takes advantage of these weaknesses, allowing an otherwise unauthorized party or person to gain access to a secure area. It is important for organisations to take steps to prevent tailgating, such as implementing stronger physical measures.

What strategies are effective in preventing tailgating attacks?

To prevent tailgating attacks, organisations should implement robust access control systems, enhance employee security training, against cybersecurity threats and reinforce physical security infrastructure.

Employees should be trained to recognise and report suspicious behavior, and physical security infrastructure should be regularly inspected and maintained. Access control systems should be regularly monitored and updated to ensure that only authorised personnel have access to sensitive areas.

Useful reference sites

  1. National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC): The NCSC provides guidance on various cybersecurity topics, and they may have information on physical security measures, including tailgating.
  2. Get Safe Online: This site offers advice on a wide range of online safety topics. While the specific page on tailgating was not found, other sections may include relevant information.
  3. Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO): The ICO is the UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights. They may have content related to physical security breaches like tailgating.
  4. Cyber Essentials: This government-backed scheme helps organizations protect themselves against common online threats. They may cover physical security aspects, including tailgating.
  5. The Security Institute: As a professional organization for security professionals, The Security Institute may have resources or articles related to tailgating and other physical security concerns.
Website | + posts

With over three decades of experience in the heart of London’s financial sector, I have dedicated my career to the pursuit of robust cybersecurity practices and IT leadership. As a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Certified Information Security Manager (CISM), Certified Chief Information Security Officer (C|CISO), Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), and Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator (CHFI), I bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the table.

My journey in the field of cybersecurity has not only been about personal growth but also about sharing my insights with others. As an international speaker, I have had the privilege of addressing audiences worldwide, discussing the importance of cybersecurity in today’s digital age. My passion for knowledge sharing extends to my work as an author and blogger, where I delve into the complexities of cybersecurity, offering practical advice and thought leadership.

In my role as a CISO and Head of IT, I have overseen the development and implementation of comprehensive information security and IT strategies. My focus has always been on creating resilient systems capable of withstanding the evolving landscape of cyber threats.

My Master’s degree in Cybersecurity has provided a solid academic foundation, which, when combined with my practical experience, allows me to approach cybersecurity from a holistic perspective.

I am always open to connecting with other professionals in the field, sharing knowledge, and exploring new opportunities. Let’s secure the digital world together.