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SAE J3061: Cybersecurity Risk Management for Automotive

Table of Contents

SAE J3061, an essential standard in the ever-evolving world of automotive technology, stands as a critical safeguard against the rising tide of cybersecurity threats facing modern vehicles. As the integration of computer systems in cars continues to accelerate, the vulnerabilities associated with these complex, interconnected networks have become increasingly apparent. The interconnectedness of vehicle systems and their susceptibility to cyberattacks necessitates a comprehensive framework for cybersecurity. SAE J3061, developed by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), serves as a guiding light in this pursuit, providing a systematic approach to identifying, mitigating, and managing cybersecurity risks in the automotive industry. In this article, we will delve into the core elements of SAE J3061, explore its relevance and implications for vehicle security, and shed light on the industry’s response to the growing challenges of protecting connected vehicles from cyber threats.

What is SAE J3061?

SAE J3061, released in March 2017, is the first cybersecurity guidebook for cyber-physical vehicle systems. The SAE’s Vehicle Cybersecurity Systems Engineering Committee developed and maintains this best practice to provide guidelines for reducing cybersecurity risks. SAE International is a global standards development organization and professional association of engineers and technical experts in the aerospace, automotive, and commercial vehicle industries.

The SAE J3061 process framework for cybersecurity in cyber-physical vehicle systems is a standard. It gives high-level advice and information on best practices tools and methods for cybersecurity, which can be applied to existing development procedures in a business. It builds on previous work in the area of security engineering and secure system development techniques, as well as ISO 26262, the automotive system functional safety standard.

In reality, the security lifecycle described in J3061 is strongly guided by ISO 26262’s safety lifecycle. J3061 defines interaction points between the security and safety processes to ensure that they run parallel. It’s a specific information security standard designed for the automotive safety process in some respects. The system life cycle is divided into the concept phase, product development (including system, hardware, and software), manufacturing, operation, and maintenance throughout J3061. It also recommends supporting activities such as requirement management.

History and Evolution

The history and evolution of SAE J3061 are closely tied to the rapid advancements in automotive technology and the growing recognition of the need for cybersecurity in the automotive industry. Here’s a chronological overview of the development and evolution of SAE J3061:

  1. Early Automotive Technology (Pre-2000s):
    • In the early decades of the automotive industry, vehicles primarily relied on mechanical and analog systems.
    • Cybersecurity was not a significant concern since vehicles lacked extensive electronic control systems.
  2. Proliferation of Electronic Control Systems (2000s):
    • With the turn of the millennium, the automotive industry saw a significant shift toward electronic control systems, including engine control units (ECUs), infotainment systems, and advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS).
    • As these systems became more prevalent and interconnected, the vulnerability to cyber threats became apparent.
  3. Incident Awareness (2000s-2010s):
    • High-profile incidents and demonstrations of vehicle hacking, such as those by security researchers, brought cybersecurity vulnerabilities in automobiles to public attention.
    • Automakers and industry experts recognized the need for standardized cybersecurity practices.
  4. SAE Initiatives (Early 2010s):
    • The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) initiated efforts to develop a comprehensive set of guidelines and standards to address automotive cybersecurity.
    • SAE J3061, titled “Cybersecurity Guidebook for Cyber-Physical Vehicle Systems,” emerged as the primary standard in this domain.
  5. SAE J3061 Development (2014-2016):
    • SAE J3061 was developed by a dedicated committee of experts, including automakers, suppliers, cybersecurity specialists, and regulatory bodies.
    • The standard went through multiple iterations, refining its recommendations and guidelines for vehicle cybersecurity.
  6. Official Release (2016):
    • SAE J3061 was officially released in 2016, establishing a comprehensive framework for addressing cybersecurity in connected and autonomous vehicles.
    • It provided guidance on risk assessment, cybersecurity controls, and incident response.
  7. Industry Adoption (Late 2010s-Present):
    • The automotive industry began to adopt and integrate SAE J3061 into their cybersecurity strategies and practices.
    • Automakers and suppliers started implementing the standard’s recommendations to enhance the security of their vehicles.
  8. Regulatory Relevance (Late 2010s-Present):
    • Regulatory bodies in various countries, including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the United States, started to consider SAE J3061 as a reference for regulations related to vehicle cybersecurity.
  9. Ongoing Evolution (2020s-Present):
    • SAE J3061 continues to evolve to keep pace with the ever-changing cybersecurity landscape and emerging technologies, such as connected and autonomous vehicles.
    • Updates and revisions are made to address new challenges and vulnerabilities.

Today, SAE J3061 remains a crucial document in the automotive industry, guiding manufacturers, suppliers, and regulatory authorities in the development and implementation of cybersecurity measures to protect vehicles and their occupants from cyber threats. Its evolution reflects the industry’s commitment to staying ahead of emerging cybersecurity challenges in the automotive sector.


The appendices provide additional information to be aware of and may be used to help improve the Cybersecurity of feature designs. Much of the information identified in the appendices is available but some experts may not be aware of all of the available information. Therefore, the appendices provide an overview of some of this information to provide further guidance on building Cybersecurity into cyber-physical vehicle systems. The objective of the overviews is to encourage research to help improve designs and identify methods and tools for applying a company’s internal Cybersecurity process.

Appendices A-C – Describe some techniques for Threat Analysis and Risk Assessment, Threat Modeling, and Vulnerability Analysis (e.g., Attack Trees) and when to use them.

Appendices D-I – Provide awareness of information that is available to the Vehicle Industry.

Appendix D – Provides an overview of sample Cybersecurity and privacy controls derived from NIST SP 800-53 that may be considered in the design phases.

Appendix E – Provides references to some available vulnerability databases and vulnerability classification schemes.

Appendix F – Describes vehicle-level considerations, including some good design practices for electrical architecture.

Appendix G – Lists current Cybersecurity standards and guidelines of potential interest to the vehicle industry.

Appendix H – Provides an overview of vehicle Cybersecurity-related research projects starting from 2004.

Appendix I – Describes some existing security test tools of potential interest to the vehicle industry.

Key Components of SAE J3061

SAE J3061, titled “Cybersecurity Guidebook for Cyber-Physical Vehicle Systems,” outlines a comprehensive framework for addressing cybersecurity in the automotive industry. The standard comprises several key components, each of which plays a vital role in enhancing the cybersecurity of connected and autonomous vehicles. Here are the primary components of SAE J3061:

  1. Risk Assessment:
    • SAE J3061 begins by emphasizing the importance of risk assessment. It provides guidance on identifying and evaluating potential cybersecurity risks associated with a vehicle’s cyber-physical systems.
    • This component helps automotive manufacturers and suppliers to understand the specific threats that may target their vehicles and prioritize their cybersecurity efforts accordingly.
  2. Cybersecurity Systems Engineering:
    • This component outlines the principles of cybersecurity systems engineering. It offers a structured approach for designing vehicles with cybersecurity in mind from the outset.
    • It encourages automakers to incorporate cybersecurity considerations into the entire development lifecycle, including requirements, design, testing, and validation.
  3. Cybersecurity Controls:
    • SAE J3061 details recommended cybersecurity controls and countermeasures that should be implemented in vehicles.
    • These controls encompass technical measures, policies, and procedures designed to mitigate identified cybersecurity risks. They include methods for securing software, hardware, and communication networks within a vehicle.
  4. Incident Response and Recovery:
    • This section guides automotive stakeholders on how to respond to and recover from cybersecurity incidents effectively. It defines procedures for detecting, reporting, and mitigating cyber threats.
    • Incident response and recovery measures are critical to minimizing the impact of security breaches and ensuring the continued safe operation of the vehicle.
  5. Security Testing and Validation:
    • SAE J3061 highlights the importance of testing and validation in ensuring the cybersecurity of vehicles. It provides guidance on assessing the security of automotive systems through testing, simulation, and other validation methods.
    • This component is crucial for identifying vulnerabilities and weaknesses in a vehicle’s cybersecurity measures before they can be exploited by malicious actors.
  6. Education and Training:
    • Recognizing that human factors are a significant part of cybersecurity, SAE J3061 includes a component focused on education and training.
    • It stresses the importance of educating personnel involved in the design, development, and maintenance of vehicles about cybersecurity best practices to reduce the risk of human errors and oversights.
  7. Compliance and Certification:
    • SAE J3061 encourages organizations to adopt a compliance and certification framework. This involves verifying that cybersecurity measures have been implemented effectively and that they meet the prescribed standards.
    • Compliance and certification processes provide a means of assuring consumers and regulatory bodies that vehicles meet established cybersecurity requirements.
  8. References and Appendices:
    • The standard includes references to other relevant industry documents, such as ISO/SAE 21434, and provides appendices with additional technical details, guidance, and examples to assist automotive professionals in implementing its recommendations.

These key components collectively form the backbone of SAE J3061, guiding automotive manufacturers, suppliers, and regulators in developing and maintaining vehicles with robust cybersecurity measures. By addressing these components, the industry aims to reduce the risk of cyberattacks and enhance the overall safety and security of connected and autonomous vehicles.

Risk Management for SAE J3061

Risk management is a critical component of SAE J3061, which is the cybersecurity standard developed by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) for the automotive industry. SAE J3061 provides guidance on identifying, assessing, and mitigating cybersecurity risks in the context of cyber-physical vehicle systems. Here’s an overview of how risk management is addressed within SAE J3061:

  1. Risk Assessment:
    • Risk assessment is the foundational step in risk management within SAE J3061. It involves identifying and understanding the potential cybersecurity risks that vehicles and their interconnected systems face.
    • Risk assessment considers both internal and external threats, vulnerabilities, and the potential impact of a cyberattack on vehicle safety, functionality, and user privacy.
  2. Risk Identification:
    • This phase involves identifying specific threats and vulnerabilities that could compromise the cybersecurity of a vehicle. These threats can range from malicious hacking attempts to inadvertent security lapses.
  3. Risk Analysis:
    • Risk analysis involves evaluating the likelihood and potential consequences of identified risks. This process helps prioritize risks by severity and impact on vehicle operations.
    • By quantifying and assessing risks, organizations can allocate resources more effectively to mitigate the most critical threats.
  4. Risk Mitigation and Controls:
    • SAE J3061 recommends implementing risk mitigation measures and controls to reduce the likelihood and impact of identified risks. These measures can encompass technical safeguards, policies, procedures, and training initiatives.
    • The standard provides guidance on selecting and implementing appropriate cybersecurity controls to address specific risks.
  5. Monitoring and Adaptation:
    • Continuous monitoring is a crucial aspect of risk management in SAE J3061. Organizations are encouraged to monitor their systems for potential threats and vulnerabilities, adapting their cybersecurity measures as new risks emerge or existing ones evolve.
  6. Incident Response Planning:
    • Part of risk management involves preparing for the possibility of a cybersecurity incident. SAE J3061 outlines the importance of having a well-defined incident response plan in place to minimize damage and ensure a rapid return to normal operation in the event of a cyberattack.
  7. Documentation and Reporting:
    • Proper documentation of risk assessments, analyses, and mitigation measures is essential for transparency and accountability. SAE J3061 emphasizes the need for comprehensive record-keeping and reporting to internal and external stakeholders.
  8. Compliance and Certification:
    • SAE J3061 encourages organizations to adhere to relevant cybersecurity compliance standards and pursue certification to demonstrate their commitment to cybersecurity risk management. Certification can provide assurance to consumers and regulatory bodies.
  9. Regular Review and Updates:
    • Cybersecurity risks are continually evolving. SAE J3061 recommends periodic reviews and updates of risk management processes to reflect changes in technology, threats, and best practices.

Effective risk management, as outlined in SAE J3061, is vital for automotive manufacturers and suppliers to safeguard their vehicles against potential cyber threats. It provides a structured approach to understanding, addressing, and minimizing cybersecurity risks, ultimately enhancing the safety, reliability, and integrity of connected and autonomous vehicles.

What are the benefits of SAE J3061?

The SAE J3061 standard provides a framework for managing cybersecurity risks throughout the product lifecycle. This includes specifying requirements for the design, development, production, and operation phases. In addition, the standard defines processes and tools that can be used to assess compliance. The standard is also designed to be compatible with other SAE standards, such as SAE J3034, which provides guidance on data security for automotive networks.

The SAE J3061 standard offers a number of benefits for companies developing cyber-physical vehicle systems:

  • It provides a comprehensive and systematic approach to managing cybersecurity risks
  • It is based on existing standards and best practices in the field of security engineering
  • It is compatible with other SAE standards, such as SAE J3034
  • It defines processes and tools that can be used to assess compliance with the standard.

Relationship between SAE J3061 and ISO 26262:

SAE J3061 is based on the ISO 26262 standard and includes specific requirements for automotive systems. SAE International released SAE J3061 in order to provide guidance specifically for vehicles with cyber-physical systems.

SAE J3061 is complementary to ISO 26262 in that it provides guidance on best development practices from a cybersecurity standpoint (threats), as well as ISO 26262’s best development methods to avoid functional danger (hazards). SAE J3061 also requires a similar sound development approach and follows the same phases of growth as ISO 26262.

In practice, when J3061 is used in a development team that is already adhering to ISO 26262, the procedures are such that they may be integrated at each stage of the product lifecycle – with the exception that only one test team is utilized for both safety and cybersecurity activities in even the most rudimentary projects. While neither document commands their use, their usage is nearly essential in all but the simplest endeavors. However, while the documents complement each other, they were developed independently and as such there are some notable differences.

What are the SAE J3061 compliance tools?

The SAE J3061 standard provides a framework for managing cybersecurity risks throughout the product lifecycle. This includes specifying requirements for the design, development, production, and operation phases. In addition, the standard defines processes and tools that can be used to assess compliance. Some of these compliance tools are:

  • SAE’s Cybersecurity Assurance Program (CAP) – CAP is a voluntary program that assesses how well a company’s cybersecurity processes meet SAE J3061.
  • SAE’s Global Cybersecurity Management System (GCMS) – GCMS is a software platform that helps companies manage their cybersecurity risks and compliance with SAE J3061.
  • SAE’s Automotive Cybersecurity Health Index (ACHI) – ACHI is a tool that helps companies measure and improve their automotive cybersecurity posture.
  • SAE’s Automotive Information Sharing and Analysis Center (Auto-ISAC) – Auto-ISAC is an information sharing and analysis center for the automotive industry.

What are SAE J3061 certifications?

SAE J3061 does not currently have any certification programs. However, SAE International offers other certification programs that may be relevant to users of the standard, such as:

  • SAE’s Cybersecurity Expert (CYSE) program
  • SAE’s Certified Automotive Cybersecurity Professional (CACP) program

The CYSE program is a global certification program that assesses an individual’s knowledge of SAE J3061. The CACP program is a professional certification program that recognizes individuals who have demonstrated proficiency in automotive cybersecurity.

Both the CYSE and CACP programs are administered by SAE International.

Challenges and Future Directions

SAE J3061, the cybersecurity standard for the automotive industry, has made significant strides in enhancing vehicle security. However, it also faces several challenges and must evolve to meet the changing landscape of automotive technology and cybersecurity. Here are some of the key challenges and potential future directions for SAE J3061:


  1. Evolving Cyber Threats: As cyber threats continue to evolve and become more sophisticated, SAE J3061 must adapt to address new attack vectors and vulnerabilities. The standard should regularly update its guidelines to keep pace with emerging threats.
  2. Interconnected Systems: Modern vehicles are highly interconnected with other vehicles, infrastructure, and external devices. This interconnectedness introduces new cybersecurity challenges, such as protecting vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication. SAE J3061 must provide guidance for securing these systems effectively.
  3. Legacy Vehicles: The automotive industry has a substantial number of legacy vehicles on the road that do not have built-in cybersecurity features. Developing guidelines for retrofitting cybersecurity measures in these vehicles is a challenge that SAE J3061 should consider.
  4. Global Consistency: SAE J3061 is a North American standard, but cybersecurity threats and regulations are global. Future directions for the standard may involve aligning it with international standards to ensure consistent practices and regulations across borders.
  5. Supply Chain Security: Vehicle cybersecurity is not solely the responsibility of automakers. It also involves suppliers who provide various components and software. SAE J3061 should address supply chain security, including the security of third-party components and software that are integrated into vehicles.
  6. Privacy Concerns: As vehicles collect and transmit more data, concerns about privacy arise. SAE J3061 should evolve to include guidelines on how to protect user data and provide transparency regarding data collection and usage.

Future Directions:

  1. Continuous Updates: SAE J3061 should aim for a continuous improvement model, providing regular updates to address new cybersecurity threats, technologies, and best practices.
  2. AI and Machine Learning: As AI and machine learning become more prevalent in vehicles, the standard should incorporate guidance on securing these technologies and protecting against adversarial attacks.
  3. Quantum Computing: As quantum computing advances, it could pose new threats to existing encryption methods. Future iterations of SAE J3061 may need to address post-quantum cryptography and quantum-resistant security measures.
  4. Collaboration: The standard should encourage greater collaboration among automotive manufacturers, suppliers, cybersecurity experts, and regulatory bodies to share threat intelligence and best practices.
  5. Education and Awareness: Future directions may include more comprehensive education and awareness campaigns to ensure that all stakeholders, from engineers to consumers, understand the importance of cybersecurity in vehicles.
  6. Cybersecurity Regulations: SAE J3061 can play a role in influencing and informing regulatory bodies’ decisions regarding cybersecurity regulations for the automotive industry.
  7. Cyber Resilience: The standard should focus on building cyber-resilient systems, emphasizing the ability to withstand and recover from cyberattacks rather than just preventing them.
  8. Standardization and Certification: As the automotive industry matures in its approach to cybersecurity, there may be a push for standardized cybersecurity certifications and rating systems that SAE J3061 can help define and support.

In summary, while SAE J3061 has been instrumental in advancing cybersecurity in the automotive industry, it must remain agile to address evolving challenges and stay ahead of emerging threats. The standard’s future directions should align with the rapid changes in technology and prioritize collaboration, education, and proactive risk management.

Application of J3061:

The SAE J3061 standard can be applied to any system that uses, processes, or stores data. This includes systems that are connected to the internet as well as those that are not. SAE J3061 can also be applied to both new and existing systems.

When applying the standard, it is important to consider the specific needs of your organization and tailor the application of the standard accordingly. J3061 is not a one-size-fits-all solution and should be customized to meet the unique needs of your organization.

SAE International offers a variety of resources to help organizations understand and apply SAE J3061, including training courses, webinars, and white papers. In addition, SAE International offers certification programs that assess an individual’s knowledge of SAE J3061.

Organizations that are looking to implement SAE J3061 should first consider the resources offered by SAE International. These resources can help organizations understand and apply the standard in a way that is tailored to their specific needs. In addition, SAE International’s certification programs can provide individuals with the skills and knowledge necessary to effectively apply SAE J3061 in their organization.

Visure Requirements ALM Platform

Visure Solutions offers a comprehensive platform to support organizations in achieving and maintaining compliance with the SAE J3061 standard for automotive cybersecurity. Here’s how Visure Solutions addresses the requirements and challenges associated with SAE J3061 compliance:

  1. Automated Checklists: Visure’s platform allows you to streamline compliance processes through automated checklists. This feature simplifies the task of ensuring that all required steps and actions for SAE J3061 compliance are completed. You can also integrate external checklists from trusted cybersecurity partners, ensuring that you’re following industry best practices.
  2. Systematic Review Process: Visure enables you to establish and refine a systematic review process around these checklists. This ensures that your organization consistently follows a structured approach to assess and verify cybersecurity controls, reducing the risk of oversights or errors.
  3. AI-Driven Assessments: The platform employs AI-driven assessments to verify alignment with SAE J3061 compliance requirements. This ensures the quality and consistency of your cybersecurity practices throughout the organization. AI-driven assessments can help identify potential issues or deviations early in the process.
  4. End-to-End Traceability: Visure emphasizes comprehensive end-to-end traceability, which is a critical aspect of SAE J3061 compliance. By linking artifacts and requirements to specific compliance requirements, you can easily track and demonstrate how each component contributes to your overall compliance strategy.
  5. Standardized Compliance Requirements: Visure allows you to leverage standardized compliance requirements across multiple projects. This is valuable for organizations working on various automotive cybersecurity initiatives, as it promotes consistency and efficiency in compliance efforts.
  6. Task Automation: You can automate task verification for SAE J3061 compliance, whether using Visure’s native capabilities or third-party Test Management Solutions. This automation reduces manual efforts and the potential for human error, ensuring that compliance-related tasks are consistently completed.
  7. Artifacts Management: Visure Requirements empowers you to precisely define and manage artifacts in accordance with SAE J3061 standards. Its intuitive graphical tools make it easier to create, modify, and track artifacts, such as cybersecurity controls, risk assessments, and incident response plans.
  8. Traceability Enforcement: Visure Requirements enforces traceability policies between artifacts, enhancing visibility and control over the entire development and compliance process. This feature is crucial for demonstrating compliance and ensuring that every component aligns with SAE J3061 requirements.

In summary, Visure Solutions provides a powerful and versatile platform to help organizations meet the stringent requirements of the standard. By offering automated checklists, AI-driven assessments, end-to-end traceability, and comprehensive artifact management, Visure empowers organizations to enhance their cybersecurity practices and streamline compliance efforts in the automotive industry. This not only helps ensure the security of connected and autonomous vehicles but also supports the organization’s commitment to cybersecurity best practices.


SAE J3061 is a specification that defines how requirements management should be done in order to achieve safety-related goals. The benefits of using the standard are improved quality and safety of the product, as well as reduced time and effort needed for development. The relationship between SAE J3061 and ISO 26262 is such the former can be seen as a subset of the latter. The application of SAE J3061 varies depending on the industry, but it is widely used in the automotive industry. Request a free 30-day trial at Visure Requirements ALM Platform to see how this standard can help your organization improve product quality and safety.

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