Why Excel is not enough for ISO/SAE 21434 and specialized tools like itemis SECURE are the better choice

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ISO/SAE 21434, a standard for automotive cybersecurity, has become indispensable. This standard establishes clear requirements and procedures for the cybersecurity of road vehicles throughout their lifecycle, from conception to disposal. Effective implementation of ISO/SAE 21434 minimizes risk, improves security measures, and ensures the digital integrity of vehicles. It protects both vehicle manufacturers and users from potential threats and risks in an increasingly connected and digital world.

Microsoft Excel, a widely used and versatile tool, is often used to implement various standards, including ISO/SAE 21434. However, despite its flexibility and ease of use, Excel is proving to be limited when it comes to implementing certain tasks within ISO/SAE 21434, particularly Threat Analysis and Risk Assessment (TARA). Its limited functionality for handling and analyzing complex data, insufficient scalability for large volumes of data, and lack of specialized functionality for the specific needs of the automotive industry make Excel appear to be a suboptimal solution for this application area.

In this context we would like to introduce the specialized tool itemis SECURE. In contrast to generic solutions such as Excel, itemis SECURE was developed specifically with the requirements of ISO/SAE 21434 in mind. It effectively supports users in identifying, assessing and managing cyber risks in the context of the automotive industry. With its specialized features, its ability to handle complex data and its effective integration into the workflow of vehicle manufacturers, itemis SECURE is an effective alternative to Excel that meets the specific requirements of ISO/SAE 21434.

The limitations of Excel for ISO/SAE 21434

Excel is based on a tabular, descriptive approach, which can be effective for basic data manipulation and analysis. However, this approach is limited when it comes to handling and analyzing complex TARA processes. These require more extensive and dynamic data manipulation and modeling that Excel does not adequately support.

Leverage previous work or best practices

Excel does not provide built-in mechanisms for reusing previous work or applying best practices. This means that users often have to repeat the same steps to accomplish similar tasks. This is not only an inefficient use of time, but also increases the possibility of human error.

Version Control

The lack of built-in version control in Excel makes it difficult to continuously monitor and effectively implement the ISO/SAE 21434 standard. Without robust version control, it is difficult to track changes, monitor revisions, or effectively manage different versions of a document.


While Excel is great for smaller data sets, it does not support scalability well, especially as the TARA process becomes more complex. Processing large and complex data sets can cause performance issues and effectively bring work to a halt.

Data Visualization and Modeling

Excel has limited data visualization and modeling capabilities. The limited visualization tools and lack of support for advanced data modeling can hinder effective analysis and interpretation of TARA data.

Data Integrity

Maintaining data integrity is challenging in Excel. Typos, incorrect formulas, or inconsistent data can compromise cybersecurity measures and make it difficult to implement ISO/SAE 21434 standards.

Integration capabilities

Excel has limited integration capabilities with other systems and platforms. This can make it difficult to share information and collaborate within and across teams, reducing the effectiveness of TARA processes.

Workflow and process management

Excel has limited workflow and process management capabilities. This can lead to inefficiencies and inconsistencies in the planning, execution, and monitoring of security operations.

Collaboration and sharing capabilities

Excel has limited collaboration and sharing capabilities. This makes it difficult for large teams to communicate and share information, which can affect the efficiency of the overall project.

Compatibility with automotive regulations and standards

Excel is not optimized for the specific requirements of the automotive industry and its standards. It lacks dedicated templates or functionality specifically designed to meet the requirements of ISO/SAE 21434.

Use with DevSecOps extension

Excel has limited compatibility with the DevSecOps methodology, which requires the integration of development, security, and operations. This can lead to inconsistencies and delays in workflows and hinder compliance with ISO/SAE 21434 standards.

itemis SECURE: A tailor-made alternative for ISO/SAE 21434

As a customized solution for the automotive industry, itemis SECURE is an excellent alternative to generic tools such as Excel. This specialized security analysis software is designed to support the entire Threat Analysis and Risk Assessment (TARA) process, from system modeling to threat analysis and visualization of the results. It effectively integrates the extensive and complex requirements of ISO/SAE 21434 and thus distinguishes itself from generic tools such as Excel.

Advantages of itemis SECURE compared to Excel

Structure and consistency: In contrast to Excel, which only provides a general data management platform, itemis SECURE has specific templates and functions that were developed especially for ISO/SAE 21434. This ensures structured and consistent documentation and process management and facilitates understanding and communication within the team.

Error reduction and data maintenance: Thanks to automated processes, itemis SECURE reduces the risk of human error in data maintenance. This improves data quality and integrity, which in turn increases the effectiveness of cybersecurity measures.

Collaboration features: itemis SECURE offers advanced collaboration features that enable effective team cooperation and coordination. This is especially important when multiple teams are working on different aspects of the TARA process.

Tracking and Version Control Features: The software provides advanced tracking and version control features that facilitate effective monitoring of progress and compliance with ISO/SAE 21434 standards. This ensures that all team members are always up to date.

Security: itemis SECURE offers robust security features to protect sensitive information. This is a clear advantage over Excel, whose files are more vulnerable to unauthorized access and data breaches.

Scalability and performance: The software demonstrates excellent scalability and performance when processing complex and large amounts of data. This is critical for meeting the extensive and complex requirements of ISO/SAE 21434.

Final Thoughts

Although Excel is widely used and recognized, it turns out that it is not ideally suited for implementing ISO/SAE 21434 and, in particular, for performing TARAs. This is where specialized tools such as itemis SECURE come into play, offering a powerful and efficient alternative. With their ability to provide structure, consistency and effective collaboration, they enable a more thorough and precise implementation of ISO/SAE 21434, helping to strengthen cybersecurity in the automotive industry and protect the digital integrity of vehicles.