What is the Liberty Eclipse Program?

The Liberty Eclipse Program is a public and private sector partnership that promotes energy sector preparedness and resilience for energy emergencies stemming from a cyberattack.

Liberty Eclipse Logo

What is the Liberty Eclipse Full-Scale Exercise?

The Liberty Eclipse full-scale exercise is an annual cybersecurity preparedness exercise that brings together federal partners, and operational technology (OT) and cybersecurity experts from the energy sector to validate the security of their cyber defense systems, plans, policies, and procedures, in a scaled environment. The collaboration and testing that results from Liberty Eclipse, along with its unique format, has made it one of CESER and DOE’s best preparedness exercises and an illustration of the value of preparedness testing across the Federal government and industry.

Preparedness and response plans must be put into practice to know if they truly work. Federal agencies use exercises like Liberty Eclipse to prepare for potentially disruptive events like natural disasters and cybersecurity incidents.  
 
Across the board, these exercises serve two major purposes. First, they help to validate existing plans, policies, procedures, and capabilities. Testing how different organizations and agencies at all levels of government and in the nonprofit or private sectors will collaborate in response to an emergency verifies that their plans will be effective when a real-world situation arises. Second, these exercises help participants identify resource requirements, capacity constraints, and potential areas for improvement. 
 
Investing time and resources up front ensures a smoother, more streamlined, and effective incident response. If energy systems go down or there are issues affecting the grid—such as damage from hurricanes or wildfires—customers and communities depend on utilities for an active response and swift resolution, as well as steady and sustained communication. Practicing the procedures in place as an organization to meet these needs is crucial to a successful response, and that is where preparedness exercises like Liberty Eclipse and the leveraging of a testbed environment shine. 

The Liberty Eclipse exercise currently leverages the Liberty Eclipse Testbed Environment located in New York. The testbed environment and the annual full-scale exercise allows participants to work together in an environment that represents the electric grid and the systems and utilities that support it. It includes cybersecurity components found in a real-world substation, is energized, but disconnected from the nation’s grid, minimizing real risk. Operating against teams posing as attackers and adversaries, participants test their capabilities to deal with simulated cyberattacks and the ability of their software and hardware to recognize, identify, and defend against malicious acts.  
 
Through this exercise series, participants validate the security of their systems, confirm the strength of their response plans, and identify avenues that attackers might seek to exploit when trying to gain access. The scenario runs in a low-stress, no-fault environment where participants are encouraged to collaborate and challenge assumptions.
 
The Liberty Eclipse Full-Scale Exercise is unique in that it moves beyond the theoretical and into the world of the practical, where real-time results and consequences of response choices become clear. It isn’t discussion-based like a typical tabletop exercise, and instead puts participants on the spot just like they would be in a real cybersecurity scenario. The exercise also fosters relationship building between OT staff, cyber experts, and utilities.

The Liberty Eclipse 2023 Full-Scale Exercise (FSE) took place from October 9-12, 2023. The FSE challenged six utility teams from across the U.S. to partner together in practicing incident response in real-time by maintaining and defending an at-scale, high-fidelity cyber and physical power systems range. The exercise required information technology-, operational technology-, and power operations-staffs to identify, collaborate, respond and restore power to simulated critical infrastructure substations. The exercise employed realistic scenarios and a human-based adversary (red team) with a complex attack strategy fielded by DOE’s National Laboratories and representatives from the participating utilities. Throughout the exercise, red team and exercise participants would discuss and collaborate on how the injects were implemented, executed their effects, or discovered and defended against.

This year, CESER invited National Guard units from 10 states to participate in live training and familiarization side-by-side with utility participants and other energy sector observers. These National Guard cyber units, who are primarily information technology-focused, received training on cyber and operational technology (OT) basics as well as hands-on familiarization of OT equipment typically found in electrical substations across the country.

Through the Liberty Eclipse 2023 FSE, DOE was successful in providing a multi-day operations-based exercise, to support participating utilities assess their preparedness and resilience to cyberattacks.

 
Liberty Eclipse Collage
Energy owners and operators participate in the Liberty Eclipse 2022 Full-Scale Exercise.

Exercise Planning Team

  • Idaho National Laboratory (INL)
  • Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL)
  • National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
  • University of Illinois Urbana Champaign