Tailgating and Mantraps

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If you’re planning on taking the Security+ exam, you should have a basic understanding of tailgating and mantraps.

For example, can you answer this question?

Q. A security professional needs to identify a physical security control that will identify and authenticate individuals before allowing them to pass, and restrict passage to only a single person at a time. What should the professional recommend?

A. Tailgating
B. Smart cards
C. Biometrics
D. Mantrap

More, do you know why the correct answer is correct and the incorrect answers are incorrect?

Answer and explanation at end of this post.

Tailgating

Tailgating (also called piggybacking) occurs when one user follows closely behind another user without using credentials. For example, if Lisa opens a door with her proximity card and Bart follows closely behind her without using a proximity card, Bart is tailgating. If authorized users routinely do this, it indicates the environment is susceptible to a social engineering attack where an unauthorized user follows closely behind an authorized user.

As an example, an organization hired a security company to perform a vulnerability assessment. The company sent one of its top security professionals (who happened to be an attractive woman) to see if she could get into the building. She saw that employees were using proximity cards to get into the building, but she didn’t have one. Instead, she loaded herself up with a book bag and a laptop—ensuring her hands weren’t free. She timed her approach carefully and followed closely behind an employee with a proximity card. She flashed a friendly smile, and sure enough, the employee held the door open for her.

Most of us learn to be polite and courteous and social engineers take advantage of this. It’s polite to hold a door open for people who have their hands full. In contrast, it’s rude to slam the door in the face of someone following behind us. However, most users don’t want to help criminals. Security awareness programs and training help users understand how criminals use tactics such as tailgating. Educated users are less likely to be tricked, even by a friendly smile from an attractive woman.

High-traffic areas are most susceptible to tailgating attacks. Security guards can be an effective preventive measure at access points, but they need to be vigilant to ensure that tailgating does not occur. The best solution is a mantrap.

Preventing Tailgating with Mantraps

A mantrap is a physical security mechanism designed to control access to a secure area through a buffer zone. Personnel use something like a proximity card to gain access, and the mantrap allows one person, and only one person, to pass through. Because they only allow one person through at a time, mantraps prevent tailgating. Mantraps get their name due to their ability to lock a person between two areas, such as an open access area and a secure access area, but not all of them are that sophisticated.

An example of a simple mantrap is a turnstile similar to what you see in many public transport systems. Even if you’ve never ridden the subway in one of many U.S. cities or the Tube in London, you’ve probably seen turnstiles in movies such as While You Were Sleeping. When customers present a token, the turnstile unlocks and allows a single person through at a time. Similarly, users unlock the turnstile mantrap with something like a proximity card.

Turnstile as a mantrap

A sophisticated mantrap is a room, or even a building, that creates a large buffer area between the secure area and the unsecured area. Access through the entry door and the exit door is tightly controlled, either with guards or with an access card such as a proximity card.

It’s also possible to require identification and authentication before allowing passage through a mantrap. For example, a retina scanner can identify individuals and restrict access to only authorized individuals. Similarly, some card reader systems support the use of unique PINs assigned to the user. Users present their card and enter their PIN to gain access before the mantrap opens.

Remember this

Tailgating is a security violation that occurs when one user follows closely behind another user without using credentials. Mantraps allow only a single person to pass at a time. Sophisticated mantraps can identify and authenticate individuals before allowing access.

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Q. A security professional needs to identify a physical security control that will identify and authenticate individuals before allowing them to pass, and restrict passage to only a single person at a time. What should the professional recommend?

A. Tailgating
B. Smart cards
C. Biometrics
D. Mantrap

D is correct. A mantrap controls access to a secure area, and only allows a single person to pass at a time.

The scenario describes the social engineering tactic of tailgating, not the control to prevent it.

Some sophisticated mantraps include identification and authorization systems, such as biometric systems or smart cards and PINs.

However, biometrics and smart cards used for physical security do not restrict passage to one person at a time unless they are combined with a mantrap.

See Chapter 2 of the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-401 Study Guide for more information on tailgating.

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