If a security integrator asks their customer, “How many unauthorized individuals are acceptable in your facility,” the answer would likely be a resounding zero. However, this being the case, many security end users are still unwilling to address the real and prevalent risks that allow for such unauthorized entry — tailgating and piggybacking. 

Tailgating and piggybacking at entry points threaten organizations by facilitating unauthorized and undetected access, and if left unchecked, expose organizations to potential dangerous and/or expensive liabilities. In a 2019 independent study conducted by Boon Edam, 188 security end users, integrators and security consultants were asked to share their perceptions about security risks related to access control for their facilities.

When end users were asked specifically about the likelihood of a security breach occurring at their own facility as a result of a tailgating incident, 71% of end users believe that it is likely to very likely. Conversely, 82% of end users reported using only reactionary methods of dealing with tailgating, i.e., using an access control system, cameras and video management software, guards, etc., after an incident occurs. 

This begs the question: If end users know they are vulnerable to such risks, why are they doing so little to proactively address it?

The apparent gap in awareness and adoption is due largely to a lack of education on the acts of tailgating and piggybacking themselves, the consequences of such breaches, and understanding of viable solutions designed to prevent rather than just mitigate unauthorized entry. 

Here’s where security integrators can help to properly inform their customers of these known risks and available solutions in order to close the gap. 

Tailgating vs. Piggybacking

End users, and even some security integrators, tend to be unaware of the differences between tailgating and piggybacking. Though the two terms are often used synonymously, it is their differences that necessitate specific mitigation and prevention strategies. 

Tailgating occurs when a bad actor attempts to gain unauthorized access to a facility or area by following in an authorized individual. The act of tailgating is non-consensual, as the person being followed is usually unaware that they are granting access to another individual. Piggybacking is traditionally used to describe an act of collusion, wherein two people conspire to enter through a security entrance at the same time. This can be friendly collusion, when a coworker holds the door open for their colleague, or collusion by force or threat of violence. 

True Cost of Unauthorized Entry

The acts of tailgating and piggybacking alone may not appear threatening to the naked eye. After all, it is considered polite to hold the door open for others, whether they be friends or strangers. But when you don’t know who is in your building at any given time, there is no way to know what they are capable of. Just one instance of piggybacking or tailgating could be all it takes to bring down an entire organization, reinforcing the idea that mitigation is not as strong as prevention. 

Intangible costs associated with unauthorized entry are hard to imagine, yet worth noting. Active shooters, workplace violence, and terror instances can lead to incalculable losses. Repercussions of such an event can also be damaging, including a loss of reputation or legal judgments. As difficult as it can be to put these losses into dollars and cents, it is important for end users to hear from their integrator of the reality that the simple act of holding a door open can have. 

Unauthorized entry also carries the risk of theft or loss of assets. It is important to note that the risk of theft goes beyond that of just physical valuables to include intellectual property and data. Data theft prevention is critical for facilities such as data centers where regulations mandate solutions that address unauthorized entry. Failure to comply with local, national, and industry regulations can result in hefty fines or even closure. 

Deter, Detect, Prevent

Many of the well-known security solutions on the market today do little to proactively address piggybacking and tailgating. Rather, solutions such as physical access control systems are reactionary in nature, detecting and alerting to tailgating at best. Secured entry solutions are among the few, if not the only, security solutions designed to combat unauthorized entry at the source. To help determine the right entrance solution for the job, security entrances can be classified as those that either prevent, detect, or deter unauthorized entry. 

Security entrances that prevent tailgating and piggybacking offer the highest level of security. These solutions include revolving doors and mantrap portals designed to prohibit unauthorized intrusion as it is attempted. Mantrap portals, for example, enforce single entry by using various sensor systems, including one that scans the compartment multiple times, confirming the authorized individual is alone and thus preventing against piggybacking. 

When intrusion prevention is of top concern, but maintaining high throughput is necessary, security revolving doors stop all instances of tailgating when integrated with an access control system. Best of all, these solutions function while unattended, allowing for the elimination or reallocation of guard supervision and providing owners with a quick ROI.

Security entrances that detect tailgating and piggybacking detect unauthorized entry attempts when coupled with biometric and access control devices. Where individual entry is not feasible, optical turnstiles and speed gates feature detection sensors that can tell when someone tailgates behind an authorized user. If this infraction occurs, an alarm is issued to alert nearby security staff to confront the intruder. 

Security entrances that deter unauthorized access provide a strong visual obstacle against intrusion and causal attempts to gain unauthorized access. In this classification, the security entrance serves as a deterrent against casual attempts of gaining entrance by climbing or crawling over. Full height and waist high turnstiles work well as a “first layer” in a layered physical security approach where higher levels of security entrances are present in more sensitive locations on the premises.

Ignorance Is No Excuse 

When a critical security event occurs, most shareholders ask, “What could have been done to prevent this?” If the event was caused by tailgating or piggybacking, the answer is simple: the deployment of security entrances, which offer the unique ability to proactively prevent and mitigate the risk of a physical access breach. A win-win proposition for security professionals and management alike.