It's my understanding that a missed hardening opportunity is less important to be fixed than a security flaw, but what criteria does one use to decide what to classify something that is wrong with a secure system?

2 Answers 2


It is always risk that defines that criteria.

What's the likelihood of the problem being exploited, what are the mitigations in place to prevent or limit the impact, and what are the impacts of a successful exploitation?

Once those are defined, you can classify what's wrong with a system and rank them in order or priority, regardless of the type of problem (hardening, 0-day, patches, flaws, etc.).


A line in the sand cannot be drawn where you can absolutely determine which side you are on, but oftentimes it will be obvious. For example, suppose you live with your mom and don't want her to find your weed stash:

  • Hiding your stash in the kitchen cupboard = security flaw.
  • Hiding your stash in your guitar case under your bed = hardening opportunity.

But sometimes it isn't so obvious:

  • Storing user passwords in your DB in plain text = security flaw.
  • Encrypting user passwords in your DB = hardening opportunity.
  • Hashing user passwords in your DB with SHA1 = hardening opportunity.

But is storing user passwords in plain text really a security flaw? I think one could easily argue that it isn't, if your DB server is well secured.

  • I would mod you up without the last line. Having passwords encrypted is not only a defence against hacking per se. Let´s suppose for a while you have a DBA that needs money for his coke addiction or that they kidnaped his family against the list of the unencrypted passwords. if they were encrypted... Jan 22, 2016 at 7:25
  • @RuiFRibeiro - Aha! You just proved my point. It's not obvious in this scenario. Note that anyone with admin access to the machine can decrypt the passwords, so plain text vs encrypted wouldn't help in your example. Hashing would, however. So, by your line of thinking, if plain text is a security flaw for the reason you gave, then merely encrypting them is also a security flaw. In other words, there is no line in the sand for that example.
    – TTT
    Jan 22, 2016 at 7:46

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