What is a Tailgating Attack?

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Cyber-attacks have increased exponentially in the last five years. And that is why every organization is investing heavily in its security. But these days, the hackers are very smart. They keep on finding new ways to exploit the system to gain access. There are several attacks that they have in their bag to try. One of the very popular ones is Social Engineering attacks. 

Social engineering is a form of a technique used by cybercriminals in order to manipulate an individual in providing their confidential or personal information that can be used for fraudulent activities. It is also commonly referred to as hacking the human because it involves manipulating human beings to provide sensitive information or sensitive details. The lack of cybersecurity culture makes social engineering attacks one of the most dangerous threats on the network. These attacks are executed through the first line of defense in the organization, the employees. 

Now, there are many attacks that come under the Social Engineering umbrella, Tailgating (also known as Piggybacking) is one of them. In this article, I will talk about tailgating attacks in detail.

What is a tailgating attack?

The tailgating attack, also known as piggybacking, is a social engineering attack where the attacker gets inside a restricted area without proper authentication. The tailgater attacker and walk behind a genuine authorized person to get inside the restricted access area. It is one of the most common innocent and common breaches in the hacking world. In this scenario of attack, the cyber threat actor tries to trick an employee of the targeted company in order to get inside access of that company.

It is an act of using someone to gain access to an area where you do not have access or authorization to enter. That is why this attack is a physical cyber-attack. There are many ways you can tailgate. You can simply follow someone after they have tagged in or pretend to be someone else and enter right after an individual has entered the given premises. The simplest way to protect yourself from tailgating is by verifying an individual’s ID prior to them entering given premises. A classic example of tailgating is an individual dressed up as a delivery driver holding several boxes in his hand waiting for someone to enter an office building. As soon as an employee tags in and verifies his/her identity, the attacker asks the employee to simply hold the door and gains access through the authorize individual. This example clearly tells that attackers execute a tailgating attack after a lot of planning and in advance in the area of social engineering.

Tailgating or Piggybacking

Piggybacking is a form of social engineering. It is an act of being able to access an area that is normally sealed off by some type of access control systems such as badges or passcodes or biometric scans or things of that nature. Most of the time tailgating and piggybacking are considered the same kind of social engineering attacks, which is almost right. Both of them are social engineering practices that are used to exploit human behaviour by using an authorized personnel’s credentials to get into the restricted area without letting them know.

The difference between the two terms is that piggybacking implies that the person who has opened the door with their credentials knows that others are following them in through the secure door. In comparison, tailgating means that others are following through the door without the knowledge of the person who has opened the door. So, a piggybacker would have the consent of an authorized person allowing him the access, while a tailgater simply enters the premises without any consent.

How big is the risk of tailgating?

Tailgating is not a technical cyber-attack like DDos attack or phishing. This attack is physical and can cause a huge amount of damage to an organization through data breaches, data manipulation or theft, malware attack by malicious software deployment, etc. The prime motive of deploying tailgating attacks always is to steal confidential information for malicious purposes.

Suppose the attacker is successful in executing the tailgating attack, the losses and be in millions. There are several examples in the past where social engineering attacks like tailgating have cost big time to the tech giants. Barbara Corcoran, a judge on Shark Tank lost 400K $ in 2020 by a social engineering scam. In 2017, the Ethereum Classic website got hacked, which led to the loss of thousands of dollars.

How to prevent tailgating?

These are the practices and methods which you can implement to avoid tailgating attacks:

  • Staff Education: Explain the risks of tailgating and why staff should never open the door for someone they do not know. The employee needs to be educated about such attacks.
  • Reception Staff: Having a reception staff will help prevent unauthorized persons from entering the building.
  • Photo ID Card: This card is given to the employees and the security guard can verify if the photo on the card is of the same person holding that card or not.
  • Visitor Badges: Visitors and temporary employees should wear identification cards or badges to indicate they are authorized to be in the building.
  • Video Surveillance: Cameras should be installed to record everything at all the entries to the building. The guys watching the video can look for any suspicious activity by any individual. 
  • Biometrics: The machine takes the employee’s thumb signature and allows only the company’s registered employees to enter its premises.
  • Security Guards: Sounds very obvious but the security guards can help in keeping the tailgaters away by staying vigilant.
  • Avoid talking to strangers on office premises and allowing them to enter with your credentials.
  • Always lock your system when you are at your workstation.

There are ways such as multifactor authentication, smart cards, facial recognition, etc., to tackle tailgating attacks. These methods will help you in keeping the workplace in the organization safe.

Final thoughts

Social engineering attacks like tailgating are used to exploit humans by claiming to be employees, vendors, or support personnel to try to trick the employee. People are trusting and willing to help others and the attackers use that to their advantage by deceiving users into revealing information that compromises data security. Traditional protection from malware and viruses will not protect you from a tailgating attack. Once they gather bits and pieces of the organization, they will be able to put the puzzle together and exploit the business. So, beware of tailgating attacks!

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