Dept. of Energy announced the Liberty Eclipse exercise to test electrical grid against cyber attacks

DoE announced the Liberty Eclipse exercise to test the electrical grid ‘s ability to recover from a blackout caused by cyberattacks.

This is the first time the Department of Energy will test the electrical grid’s ability to recover from a blackout caused by cyberattacks.

We have discussed many times the effects of a cyber attack against an electrical grid, the most scaring scenario sees wide power outage bringing population in the dark.

Is this a feasible scenario for the US critical infrastructure?

The Department of Energy wants to test the resilience of an electrical grid to a cyber attack, so it’s going to launch the first hands-on exercise to test the ability of the operators of such infrastructure in recovering from a blackout caused by a cyber attack.

According to the E&E News website, the Department of Energy plans to conduct a weeklong experiment, dubbed ‘Liberty Eclipse,’ that will take place starting Nov. 1 on a restricted area off the cost of New York called Plum Island.

“The Department of Energy is planning an unprecedented, “hands-on” test of the grid’s ability to bounce back from a blackout caused by hackers, E&E News has learned.” reported the E&E News website.

“The “Liberty Eclipse” exercise will simulate the painstaking process of re-energizing the power grid while squaring off against a simultaneous cyberattack on electric, oil and natural gas infrastructure. The weeklong stress test is scheduled to take place this November on Plum Island, a restricted site off the coast of New York that houses a Department of Homeland Security animal disease center.”

This is the first time that the Department of Energy is planning such kind of “hands-on” test of the grid’s ability to restore operations from a blackout caused by a cyber attack. The “Liberty Eclipse” exercise aims at evaluating the response of the infrastructure to coordinated attacks against an electric, oil and natural gas infrastructure. The DOE wants to prepare the infrastructure of the country for threats.

“It’s in our national security interest to continue to protect these sources of energy and to deliver them around the world,” Energy Secretary Rick Perry said at a cybersecurity conference in New York last week.

“Taking care of that infrastructure, from the standpoint of protecting it from cyberattacks — I don’t think it’s ever been more important than it is today.”

electrical grid

The goal of the Liberty Eclipse exercise is to prepare the response to a major incident caused by cyber attacks, that could be frequent events in a short future. Utilities that have to restore electricity following massive blackouts first need to provide initial jump of electricity before they can start generating it.

This operation is done by the operators by using diesel generators and other blackstart sources to choreograph “cranking paths” for restoring the functions of the electrical grid.

“Utilities can’t just flip a few switches to bring the lights on following a major shutdown. In fact, power plants typically need an initial jump of electricity before they can start generating it.” continues the E&E News website. Power companies rely on diesel generators and other blackstart sources to choreograph “cranking paths” for bringing the grid on its feet. Once enough pockets of electricity have been brought online, operators can sync up the islands with the wider grid.”

The entire process is time-consuming and can take many hours to be completed, even under the most favorable circumstances.

The DOE aims at speed up the restoration of the electrical grid by incorporating simulated cranking paths, provided by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, that were designed for this reason.

“Together, [participants] will work to energize a blackstart cranking path by detecting the attack, cleaning malicious influence, and restoring crank path digital systems to operation,” the DOE states in a planning memo from last month.

This is the first exercise that is going to test the “blackstart” cranking paths that were excluded from previous simulations.



Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – Electrical Grid, hacking)



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