What is Tailgating in Cyber Security? – Ultimate Guide

In this article, we will see what is tailgating in cyber security, and the Unveiling the Menace with an Understanding of Tailgating in Cyber security.

In the dynamic landscape of cyber security, where the battle between defenders and threat actors is relentless, it’s crucial to comprehend the various tactics employed by malicious entities.

One such insidious technique is “tailgating.”

This article aims to shed light on what tailgating is in cyber security, its potential consequences, and real-world examples that illustrate its impact on organizational security.

Defining Tailgating in Cyber Security:

Tailgating, in the context of cyber security, refers to an unauthorized individual gaining physical access to a restricted area by closely following an authorized person.

This technique exploits the trust placed in individuals with legitimate access, allowing an attacker to slip past physical security measures unnoticed.

While tailgating might seem like a low-tech method compared to sophisticated cyber threats, its simplicity and effectiveness make it a significant concern for organizations.

How Tailgating Occurs?

The process of tailgating typically involves the following steps:

  1. Observation:
    • The attacker observes an authorized person entering a secure area, noting the access control procedures in place.
  2. Exploiting Trust:
    • Taking advantage of the natural inclination to be polite and hold doors open for others, the attacker closely follows an authorized person through a secure entry point.
  3. Gaining Unauthorized Access:
    • By blending in with legitimate entrants, the attacker gains access to areas where they would normally be restricted.

Why Tailgating in Cyber Security important?

Tailgating in cyber security is a significant concern due to its potential to compromise physical security measures, leading to various consequences that can impact an organization’s overall security posture.

Several reasons underscore the importance of addressing and preventing tailgating in the cyber security landscape:

1. Physical Security Breach:

  • Tailgating directly undermines physical security measures, allowing unauthorized individuals to gain access to restricted areas.
  • This breach poses a tangible threat to the security of both digital assets, such as servers and data centers, and physical resources, such as laboratories and research facilities.

2. Data Breach Risk:

  • Unauthorized access to secure areas opens the door to potential data breaches.
  • Attackers gaining physical access may compromise confidential information, sensitive data, or intellectual property, leading to reputational damage and financial losses for the organization.

3. Malicious Activities:

  • Once inside a secure area through tailgating, an attacker can engage in a variety of malicious activities.
  • This may include installing malware on servers, tampering with equipment, or conducting further cyberattacks, amplifying the potential damage to the organization.

4. Insider Threat Collaboration:

  • Tailgating incidents may involve collaboration between external attackers and insiders.
  • Disgruntled employees or those coerced into aiding malicious actors can exploit their legitimate access to facilitate cyberattacks, making tailgating a potential vector for insider threats.

5. Loss of Trust in Security Measures:

  • Successful tailgating attacks erode the trust organizations place in their physical security measures.
  • This loss of trust extends beyond the breach itself, impacting the perception of overall security effectiveness among employees, clients, and stakeholders.

6. Intellectual Property and Research Compromise:

  • In industries with research and development components, tailgating can compromise intellectual property, proprietary technologies, and confidential research projects.
  • This can have long-term implications for a company’s competitive advantage and innovation.

7. Disruption to Operations:

  • Tailgating incidents can lead to disruptions in normal operations.
  • Unauthorized access may result in the disruption of critical services, data loss, or the compromise of essential infrastructure, impacting an organization’s ability to function effectively.

8. Regulatory Compliance Concerns:

  • Many industries are subject to regulations and compliance standards that require the implementation of robust physical security measures.
  • Tailgating incidents can lead to non-compliance, exposing organizations to legal and regulatory consequences.

9. Costs of Remediation:

  • Remediation efforts following a tailgating incident can be costly.
  • This includes investigating the breach, implementing additional security measures, and potentially addressing legal or regulatory ramifications.
  • The financial burden can be substantial.

10. Reputational Damage:

  • A successful tailgating attack can result in significant reputational damage. The public perception of an organization’s security capabilities and commitment to protecting sensitive information may be tarnished, impacting customer trust and brand loyalty.

Examples of Tailgating:

1. Physical Office Spaces:

  • In an office building with secure entry points requiring key cards or biometric access, an attacker might tailgate an employee who is entering the premises after a lunch break.

2. Data Centers:

  • In a highly secured data center, an attacker might tailgate an employee with legitimate access, gaining entry to the server rooms and potentially compromising sensitive infrastructure.

3. Access to Restricted Labs:

  • In research or technology companies with restricted laboratories, an attacker could tailgate an employee with authorized access, breaching secure areas housing proprietary equipment and experiments.

4. Secure Server Rooms:

  • In organizations with secure server rooms requiring biometric access, an attacker may tailgate an IT personnel, gaining unauthorized access to critical servers and sensitive data.

Consequences of Tailgating:

Tailgating poses significant risks to an organization’s security and can lead to various consequences:

  1. Data Breach:
    • Unauthorized access to sensitive areas may result in the compromise of confidential information or intellectual property.
  2. Physical Security Breach:
    • Tailgating undermines physical security measures, putting both digital assets and physical resources at risk.
  3. Malicious Activities:
    • Once inside a secure area, an attacker can engage in activities such as installing malware, tampering with equipment, or conducting further attacks.
  4. Loss of Trust:
    • A successful tailgating attack erodes the trust organizations place in their physical security measures and personnel.

Preventing Tailgating:

Preventing tailgating requires a combination of technological solutions, policy enforcement, and employee awareness:

  1. Access Control Systems:
    • Implement robust access control systems that include biometrics, key cards, or other secure methods to restrict entry to authorized individuals.
  2. Surveillance Cameras:
    • Install surveillance cameras at entry points to monitor and record access activities. Analyzing footage can help identify suspicious behavior.
  3. Security Awareness Training:
    • Conduct regular security awareness training for employees to educate them about the risks of tailgating and the importance of following security protocols.
  4. Employee Vigilance:
    • Encourage a culture of vigilance among employees. Instill the practice of questioning unfamiliar individuals and reporting suspicious behavior.
  5. Security Policies and Procedures:
    • Establish and enforce clear security policies and procedures, including strict adherence to access control measures and consequences for violations.

Who is Responsible for Tailgating in Cyber Security?

Responsibility for preventing and mitigating tailgating in cybersecurity is a shared effort involving multiple stakeholders within an organization.

As tailgating involves a physical breach of security, responsibility extends beyond traditional cybersecurity roles and encompasses various departments and personnel. Here are the key stakeholders and their responsibilities in addressing tailgating:

1. Physical Security Team:

  • Responsibility:
    • Design, implement, and manage physical security measures, including access control systems, surveillance cameras, and entry point design.
    • Monitor and analyze surveillance footage to detect and respond to suspicious behavior, including instances of tailgating.
    • Conduct regular assessments of physical security vulnerabilities and update security protocols accordingly.

2. Facility Management:

  • Responsibility:
    • Collaborate with the physical security team to design secure entry points and control access to sensitive areas.
    • Ensure the proper functioning of access control systems and surveillance equipment.
    • Implement and enforce visitor management procedures to prevent unauthorized individuals from entering secure areas.

3. Human Resources (HR) Department:

  • Responsibility:
    • Develop and enforce security policies related to employee access and behavior within the workplace.
    • Conduct background checks on employees and contractors to identify potential security risks.
    • Provide security awareness training to employees, emphasizing the importance of not allowing unauthorized individuals access to secure areas.

4. Information Technology (IT) and Cybersecurity Teams:

  • Responsibility:
    • Collaborate with the physical security team to integrate access control systems with IT infrastructure.
    • Implement and manage electronic access control mechanisms, such as key cards or biometric systems.
    • Monitor network logs and security alerts for any unusual activity that may indicate a breach.

5. Security Awareness and Training Teams:

  • Responsibility:
    • Develop and deliver security awareness training programs for employees.
    • Emphasize the risks associated with tailgating and the importance of following security protocols.
    • Encourage a culture of vigilance, where employees are empowered to question unfamiliar individuals and report suspicious behavior.

6. Employees:

  • Responsibility:
    • Adhere to security protocols, including not allowing unauthorized individuals access to secure areas.
    • Be vigilant and question individuals without proper identification or authorization.
    • Report any instances of tailgating or suspicious behavior to the appropriate security personnel.

7. Executive Leadership and Management:

  • Responsibility:
    • Set the tone for a security-conscious culture within the organization.
    • Allocate resources for the implementation of robust physical security measures.
    • Support and enforce security policies and procedures at all levels of the organization.

8. Security Consultants and Auditors:

  • Responsibility:
    • Conduct regular security audits and assessments to identify vulnerabilities, including those related to tailgating.
    • Provide recommendations for improving physical security measures and protocols.
  • Responsibility:
    • Ensure that security measures and policies comply with relevant laws and regulations.
    • Address legal and regulatory consequences in the event of a security breach, including one involving tailgating.

Real-World Examples:

1. Heathrow Airport Security Breach (2007):

  • In 2007, a security breach at Heathrow Airport involved a man tailgating a member of the cleaning staff through a secure door.
  • The breach led to extensive disruptions and raised concerns about airport security protocols.

2. Corporate Espionage:

  • In cases of corporate espionage, individuals may infiltrate organizations by tailgating employees, gaining access to boardrooms, laboratories, or other critical areas where sensitive discussions or research take place.

3. Insider Threats:

  • Tailgating is not always an external threat. Disgruntled employees might exploit their legitimate access to assist external attackers in breaching security measures.

4. University Research Labs:

  • Research labs in universities often house cutting-edge technologies and confidential projects.
  • Tailgating incidents can compromise valuable research and intellectual property.


Tailgating, though seemingly simple, is a potent threat to cyber security that exploits human behavior and trust.

Organizations must recognize the significance of physical security and implement robust measures to prevent unauthorized access.

By combining technological solutions, employee education, and stringent policies, businesses can mitigate the risks associated with tailgating and fortify their overall security posture.

The examples provided underscore the real-world impact of tailgating, emphasizing the need for a comprehensive approach to cyber security that encompasses both digital and physical realms.

Related Article: What is Cyber Security? – Comprehensive Guide