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What is Nova?

- Nova is an easy to use honeypot configuration, deployment, and monitoring
  network security tool for preventing and detecting potentially hostile network
  reconnaissance (including port scanning, machine fingerprinting, and service
  probing). As this is often the first things hackers will do once they've
  gained a foothold into a network, Nova can act as an Intrusion Detection
  System (IDS) by alerting when a machine has been compromised and is attempting
  to scan the network. Even if a machine hasn't been compromised, Nova can help
  protect against Inside Threats from unauthorized employees attempting to probe
  the network infrastructure. 

How does Nova work?

- The Quasar web interface of Nova provides easy access to configuration and
  monitoring of the system from your standard web browser. From there, you can
  configure the Haystack: a large set of lightweight honeypots (powered by
  Honeyd). These honeypots can be configured to match the operating systems and
  services that are already on your network, making it difficult for attackers
  to distinguish them from real machines; these honeypots will appear just like
  real machines when scanned with standard network reconnaissance tools such as
  Nmap or Nessus. Nova also includes the ability to create a haystack
  configuration automatically by scanning your network and configuring the
  honeypot operating systems and services to match as close as possible.

- Once the honeypots are running, Nova alerts the users about potentially
  hostile activity by email, rsyslog, or the web interface. The detection of
  this activity is accomplished via one of several methods.

  - First, Nova uses machine learning algorithms to attempt to match patterns of
    hostile network traffic based on statistics gathered about packet sizes,
    distributions, and TCP flag ratios.

  - Second, Nova will trigger an alert if one of the statistical features
    gathered surpasses a certain threshold. The most common setting for this is
    to trigger and alert if an IP address contacts more than a certain number of
    honeypots or ports on a single honeypot.

  - Thirdly, the services running on the honeypots have the ability to monitor
    for login attempts and trigger alerts. For instance, if someone attempts to
    log into a honeypot's telnet or FTP service, this can be assumed to be
    hostile, because the honeypot serves no actual users and any attempts to
    utilize or probe its services are likely for the sake of reconnaissance or

- Nova provides information gathered on the honeypots in a number of charts,
  graphs, and tables, which give security analysts and systems administrators
  the needed data to dive into alerts and determine if there is a threat on the

Enterprise Hardware and Support

- In order to save time setting up Nova, DataSoft can provide preconfigured and
  ready to use out of the box appliance servers. DataSoft also provides
  Enterprise level support contracts to ensure help with installation and usage
  as well as continuous updates and R&D hours dedicated to your organization's
  needs. Please visit our store page for more information,

- You can also contact us via email at

Automatic Installation Script

- The first thing to note is that Nova is currently only compatible with Linux.
  All of our development is done on Ubuntu 12.04 (64 bit), so we suggest using that to
  make installation easiest. We provide a helper script which should get all
  dependencies and download, build, and install Nova and Honeyd. 

        sudo bash

- This script has only been tested on the most recent stable version of Ubuntu.
  Any other distributions should manually compile using the instructions below.

- NOTE: The above will install the newest stable version of Nova. If you want
  the newest but possibly unstable version, instead run,
        sudo bash integration

Getting the newest code manually

- Nova and Honeyd are stored as seperate Git repositories on github. Go to the
  directory you wish to download the code to and run the following commands,

    git clone git://    
    git clone git:// Nova

- This will create a "honeyd" and "Nova" folder with the source located inside.
  From this point on they will be referred to as $HONEYD_SOURCE and

- This will default to the "master" branch, which is the latest stable release.
  If you want to use the latest unstable version, cd to the $NOVA_SOURCE and
  $HONEYD_SOURCE and run the following,

        git checkout integration

- Beware that the integration branch changes on a daily basis and may be

Getting Dependencies on Ubuntu

- Install required dependencies with the following command:

    sudo apt-get install git build-essential libcap2-bin libann-dev libpcap0.8-dev libboost-program-options-dev libboost-serialization-dev sqlite3 libsqlite3-dev libcurl3 libcurl4-gnutls-dev iptables libboost-system-dev libboost-filesystem-dev libevent-dev libprotoc-dev protobuf-compiler liblinux-inotify2-perl libfile-readbackwards-perl

- Now, we'll have to take a quick detour to get another integral component of
  Nova: Honeyd. We will have to download some extra libraries for Honeyd as
  well; you can get them using this command:

    sudo apt-get install libevent-dev libdumbnet-dev libpcap-dev libpcre3-dev libedit-dev bison flex libtool automake tcl perl python

- For the Honeyd Autoconfiguration tool, we require Nmap 6.00 or higher.
  If you have an Ubuntu version older than 12.10 you'll need to install from
  source. The source can can be found here:



- To get the dependencies for the Quasar web UI (nodejs 0.8.5, npm's forever,
  and cvv8) you can either install them manually or get them by running the
  following script,

    sudo bash Quasar/

- There are instructions for manual install on the same page (but are just the
  standard ./configure, make, and sudo make install commands).

- NOTE: Honeyd requires libevent version 2.x. If you are running Ubuntu 10.10 or
  lower, the version of libevent available in the repos is only 1.x. So you will
  need to either find a backport or build libevent 2.x from source.

- If you wish to optionally generate Debian packages for Nova, you will also
  require dpkg-dev:

    sudo apt-get install dpkg-dev

Building Honeyd

- Change directories to the $HONEYD_SOURCE folder where all of the Honeyd source
  code should be on your machine. When inside the source directory, follow the
  next steps to build and install.

    Step 1: ./
    Step 2: automake
    Step 3: ./configure
    Step 4: make
    Step 5: sudo make install

Building Nova

- Change into the $NOVAD_SOURCE folder where the novad source code resides.

To build and install Nova run the commands,

    Step 1: autoconf
    Step 2: ./configure
    Step 3: make
    Step 4: sudo make install

- Note: If building fails for some reason, make sure you run 'make clean' before
  trying again.

- Finally, while logged in as the user you plan to run Novad with, run the
  following command to add your user to the 'nova' permission group and to set
  up database tables for the web interface.

    Step 5: sudo nova_init

- Your user will have to be in the "nova" group in order for nova and Honeyd to
  run properly. The nova_init script will do this, but you must log in and back
  out for the change to take effect.

    Step 6: Log out and log back in

Refer to the Nova wiki on github for more information.

User's Manual

- The Nova User's Manual can be found at,

Daemonizing with Upstart

- If you want to start Quasar, novad, and the haystack when the machine boots
and have them restart if they crash, you can use the upstart service by copying
the files in $NOVAD_SOURCE/Installer/miscFiles/upstart/* to /etc/init. This is
assuming that upstart is already installed and configured on your system (it
comes by default on newer versions of Ubuntu).

- Then you need to configure Quasar to start/stop novad and the haystack via upstart.
 After installing edit ~/.config/nova/config/NOVAConfig.txt and set,

  COMMAND_START_NOVAD sudo start novad
  COMMAND_STOP_NOVAD sudo stop novad
  COMMAND_START_HAYSTACK sudo start haystack
  COMMAND_STOP_HAYSTACK sudo stop haystack

High Level Nova Components

Haystack: Active honeypots
        - The Haystack is the collection of honeypots which emulate machines on
          the network.  The haystack is created using the Honeyd daemon and runs
          in it's own executable. Configuration for Honeyd is auto generated at

Novad: Classification tool
        - The Novad executable is the daemon that monitors and classifies
          network traffic to identify hostile looking traffic. Novad will listen
          promiscuously on the configured network interfaces and keep track of
          various statistics such as IPs contacted, ports contacted, honeypots
          contacted, and other details. Novad is can be configured manually via
          the configuration file ~/.config/nova/config/NOVAConfig.txt, but it is
          recommended that you use the GUI (Quasar) unless you know what you're

NovaCLI: Nova Command line Interface
        - NovaCLI provides a simple interface for accessing some of the Novad
          functionality.  Usage for the tool can be gotten by running "novacli

Quasar: Nova Web Interface
        - Nova's main GUI, Quasar, is a web interface run with a nodejs web
        - To start the web interface, run the command "quasar" and go to
          https://localhost:8080 in a web browser.

        Default username: nova
        Default password: toor
        - "quasar --debug" may provide more information if there are problems.
          Quasar launches the nodejs server with the "forever" daemon so it will
          be restarted if it crashes.  The command "forever list" can be useful
          for seeing the current status, and it can be stopped with "forever
          stop index (usually 0)". See the forever documentation for more
Haystack Auto Configuration Tool: Generates honeyd configurations based off of
nmap scans

        - This tool can scan your network with nmap and then generate honeypot
          configurations that are based on the operating systems and ethernet
          vendors that it finds.

NovaTest: Unit Tests

- If you're a developer interested in using the unit tests in NovaTest, you can
  find instructions at,

TLS Keys
A set of example TLS keys are provided, but because of their public nature 
provide no real security.  Paths to the TLS keys are in the Nova configuration 
file at ~/.config/nova/config/NOVAConfig.txt

To generate a self signed certificate and key for the Quasar or Pulsar https

# Generate a private key
openssl genrsa -out ui.key 1024

# Create a request for a certificate
openssl req -new -key ui.key -out ui.csr

# Generate a self signed certificate
openssl x509 -req -days 365 -in ui.csr -signkey ui.key -out ui.crt

# Creating keys for the Pulsar/Quasar connection is a bit more complicated.
# Pulsar authenticates clients by using TLS client certificates signed by a
# certificate authority. 

# Create a new certificate athority 
openssl genrsa -des3 -out ca.key 1024
openssl req -new -key ca.key -out ca.csr
openssl x509 -req -days 365 -in ca.csr -out ca.crt -signkey ca.key

# Create and sign the Pulsar key
openssl genrsa -des3 -out pulsarTether.key 1024
openssl req -new -key server.key -out pulsarTether.csr
openssl x509 -req -in pulsarTether.csr -out pulsarTether.crt -CA ca.crt -CAkey ca.key -CAcreateserial -days 365

# Create and sign the Quasar keys. For each quasar instance,
openssl genrsa -des3 -out quasarTether.key 1024
openssl req -new -key server.key -out quasarTether.csr
openssl x509 -req -in quasarTether.csr -out quasarTether.crt -CA ca.crt -CAkey ca.key -CAcreateserial -days 365 

# Transfer this key to the Quasar instance

Remember to make sure that all paths and passphrases are updated correctly in
~/.config/nova/config/NOVAConfig.txt to use the new keys you created.

Debian Packages

- To generate a Debian package, simply checkout what version of the software you
  like (or make what changes to it that you want) and run the generateDebs
  script (as a normal user). 

        ./generateDebs <version number>

- Note: Debian package generation was a prototype that isn't officially supported.

Common Problems and solutions
        Honeypots aren't responding to packets when run inside a VM
          The most common reason for this is that the Virtual Machine is unable
          to open the ethernet interface in promiscuous monitoring mode.
          The standard Linux process is that only root can put the NIC into
          promiscuous mode, so you may need to run VMware as root or change
          permissions of the /dev/vmnet device if using VMware Player or
          Workstation. See link at,

          In addition, VMWare ESX switches have a configuration setting to block
          promiscuous mode that must be disabled for Honeyd to work.

          Virtualbox will need to be set to bridged networking mode and "Allow
          All" under the promiscuous mode setting of the ethernet adapter.

          Finally, some virtual machines will have settings to block MAC or IP
          spoofing from within the VM. This security feature will need to be
          disabled for Honeyd to function.

        Honeypots aren't responding to packets sent from the same machine 
        that Honeyd is running on.
          This is normal. Honeyd ignores packets from the machine that it's
          running on. You'll need to ping/contact the honeypots from another
          machine on your network for them to respond.

        Help! I forgot my Quasar password!
          The default password is username 'nova' and password 'toor'. To reset
          things back to this password, login to the machine running nova
          via ssh or a physical shell and run,

                novacli resetpassword
        Haystack Autoconfig nmap fails on large networks
          Nmap will often fail when scanning networks of size greater than 1024
          IPs with the error "nexthost: failed to determine route" or "Strange
          connect error(105): No buffer space available".  This is usually
          caused by the kernel ARP table running out of space and not being
          garbaged collected fast enough to handle all of the ARP requests nmap
          is doing. The solution is to increase the size by adding the following
          lines to /etc/sysctl.conf,

                net.ipv4.neigh.default.gc_thresh1 = 1024
                net.ipv4.neigh.default.gc_thresh2 = 4096
                net.ipv4.neigh.default.gc_thresh3 = 65536

          Then run the command,

                sysctl -p
          And try running the Haystack autoconfig tool again.

Tips for debugging problems

        General problems 
          To enable verbose debug log messages, run the command,

                novacli writesetting SERVICE_PREFERENCES 0:0+;1:6+;

          If the above fails for some reason, you can also change the logging
          settings manually in the ~/.config/nova/config/NOVAConfig.txt file
          under the SERVICE_PREFERENCES setting.

        Permission Problems 

          You should be able to run quasar/novad/honeyd without needing explicit
          root permissions. One requirement for this is that the user you're
          running with is in the "nova" group and has run the nova_init script
          located in Installer/. This script adds the user to the group and also
          configures sudo (via adding a file to /etc/sudoers.d). Logging out and
          back in is required for the group addition to work.

          If you're seeing permission related errors, you can try the following

                sudo chmod -R g+rw /usr/share/nova
                sudo chgrp -R nova /usr/share/nova

        Web interface problems 
          If you can't access the web interface, try stopping it if it's running
          in 'forever' and manually running it as a foreground process with the

                forever stopall
                quasar --debug

          This should provide more verbose output and show if it is crashing
          rather than running it as a background daemon process.

          Novad Problems 

          If Novad appears to be having problems, try to start it manually
          instead of as a background process with the command
                novacli start nova debug

          Haystack Problems 

            If the Haystack appears to be having problems, try to start it
            manually instead of as a background process with the command,

                novacli start haystack debug

            If something gets messed up to the point you want to start over, you
            can do so with the commands,

                cd $NOVA_SOURCE sudo make reinstall

            Note that this will remove any configuration changes that you made.

          Building with debugging symbols

            If you're seeing novad crash, it might be helpful to compile with
            debugging symbols and get a stack trace. 

                cd $NOVA_SOURCE make clean make debug make reinstall

                gdb novad

RSyslog Support 

There is an option for designating a target Rsyslog instance electing to receive
messages exposed within the Advanced Options page of the Quasar Web UI. Some

 -Make sure that whatever IP is pointed is given in the format IP_ADDRESS:PORT. 

 -Make sure the designated port is both open and listening on the receiving
 machine. The easiest way to do this is to uncomment the InputTCPServer lines in
 /etc/rsyslog.conf and change the port number away from 514 (because rsyslog now
 drops permissions, using port 514 is no longer an option, as it's < 1024). To
 test that rsyslog is listening, run
        netstat -tlnup | grep PORT
  as root and check that the PID/Name combination for rsyslogd is listed under
  the results.  The port may also need to be registered into the /etc/services
  file, if changed from the normal port 514.

 -Within /etc/rsyslog.d/ lie the configuration files; in one of these files, a
 rule MUST be created similar to the following:

        :programname,isequal,"Nova" YOUR_ACTION_CHOICE  

  where YOUR_ACTION_CHOICE represents the action (most likely a write to a
  destination) to take upon receipt of messages from a client server that have
  those program names. This is to help organize the logs, as Nova can
  potentially send many log messages that would otherwise pollute the normal
  syslog file.  Note that there will be three rules like this total, one each
  for the strings "Nova", "novad" and "honeyd"

Testing that these changes worked is a good idea as well. Simply start and stop
novad on the client with the novacli command line interface and check that the
log messages sent at startup arrived at the right place


	Warning: Pulsar was a prototype for controlling multiple instances
	of Nova across different physical locations. This tool isn't currently

    Pulsar does not install with the standard Nova ./configure, make, make
install process. Instead, the user must change directory into the Nova
directory (most commonly located in the /home/$USER/Code/ directory) and
run make install- pulsar with superuser permissions. This will place the
Pulsar files within the proper directories and allow for the user to
use the alias 'pulsar' on the command line to start the forever process
for Pulsar. To access the Pulsar interface, the user must first
have configured Nova such that it has the MASTER_UI_ENABLED
configuration variable set to 1, as well as properly configuring the
MASTER_UI_IP and MASTER_UI_CLIENT_ID variables to match the location and
naming requirements for the user's network. 


    Warning: Ceres was a prototype for allowing remote access to Nova 
    information via an Android application. It is no longer supported.

Contact us 

Feel free to contact the authors with issues and suggestions. 

Found a bug? Had an install problem? Tell us about it on our issue tracker:

Want to chat with us? Hop on IRC: 
  Channel: #nova

Email the team:

And additional contact information should be available on the Datasoft github
account located at,


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