What is hot desking, and how to secure it?
protect your phone when hotdesking

What is hot desking, and how to secure it?

What does hot desking mean? On this website we often discuss Extension Mobility. It is an intelligent Cisco CUCM feature which makes it possible for a single person to use different telephones in the organization with his – or her – own extension number and personal settings. So, someone can log into any telephone with a personal username and PIN. From that moment, the phone is his. He can be reached via his number, listen to his voicemails, make calls using his own settings etc.

In some companies and by some technology providers this feature is referred to as hot desking. So, in the world of VoIP telecommunications, extension mobility and hot desks are often referring to the same feature. It means that your number is indeed your personal telephone number and you can take it to whatever desktop telephone you want.

What is hot desking?

A real formal hot desking definition doesn’t exist to my knowledge. But it is good to remember that hot desking originally points to the overall concept of sharing workspace, and not just telephones. Of course the concept of sharing workspace was already common practice in factories (multiple shifts) and other ‘blue-collar’ environments. In an office setting it wasn’t very common until the nineties.

In the nineties, the typical pile of documents on a desk became less common since less information was printed. As a result, the need for a personal desk diminished. Specifically for people like consultants, service employees and sales staff – people who often are on the way – a personal desk seemed just a waste of office space. It meant the introduction of hot desking. People use any desk when they are in and leave it empty when they are out of the office.

what is hot desking? A hot desking definition and security scan (credit: media evolution)

In a hot desk or hot desking environment people can use any desk. They do not ‘own’ a specific desk themselves.

Other hot desking definitions and terminology

Yes, sometimes the term hoteling is used. However, there are people who consider both terms to be slightly different. Their hot desking definition is like non-reservation-based hoteling. In other situations, hoteling seems more to be used for office space assigned to temporary staff for a certain period .

The use also depends on the country and company terminology. In the UK terms like hot desk, hot desking and desk booking are often used. While in the US hoteling seems a more frequently used term.

What is hot desking security?

The implementation and challenges are however the same, irrespective if you use the word hotdesk or any other term. How do you make hot desking secure from an information security point of view? For computers that isn’t much of a question. We all use a username and password to protect our personal information. If someone enters a hot desk and opens his laptop, the first thing he does is logging in.

For the telephone that is less common. In many office environments, hotdesking is also supported for the IP telephones. But for the sake of simplicity people either don’t log in (since it is difficult to type username and PIN on a phone keypad) or keep phones logged in, even when they are out. Both scenario’s are not leveraging the benefits of the hot desking concept to its full potential.

Single Sign On for hot desking

With the Active Login Manager software, you have Single Sign On for your hot desk IP telephones. As soon as an employee access a temporary desk and logs into his computer, our software associate his computer account with the desktop telephone. Immediately that telephone is linked to the specific user. It loads the settings of the user and the user can be reached via his personal extension number.