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Welcome to the Cowrie GitHub repository

This is the official repository for the Cowrie SSH and Telnet Honeypot effort.

What is Cowrie

Cowrie is a medium to high interaction SSH and Telnet honeypot designed to log brute force attacks and the shell interaction performed by the attacker. In medium interaction mode (shell) it emulates a UNIX system in Python, in high interaction mode (proxy) it functions as an SSH and telnet proxy to observe attacker behavior to another system.

Cowrie is maintained by Michel Oosterhof.


The Documentation can be found here.


You can join the Cowrie community at the following Slack workspace.


  • Choose to run as an emulated shell (default):
    • Fake filesystem with the ability to add/remove files. A full fake filesystem resembling a Debian 5.0 installation is included
    • Possibility of adding fake file contents so the attacker can cat files such as /etc/passwd. Only minimal file contents are included
    • Cowrie saves files downloaded with wget/curl or uploaded with SFTP and scp for later inspection
  • Or proxy SSH and telnet to another system
    • Run as a pure telnet and ssh proxy with monitoring
    • Or let Cowrie manage a pool of QEMU emulated servers to provide the systems to login to

For both settings:

  • Session logs are stored in an UML Compatible format for easy replay with the bin/playlog utility.
  • SFTP and SCP support for file upload
  • Support for SSH exec commands
  • Logging of direct-tcp connection attempts (ssh proxying)
  • Forward SMTP connections to SMTP Honeypot (e.g. mailoney)
  • JSON logging for easy processing in log management solutions


Docker versions are available.

  • To get started quickly and give Cowrie a try, run:

    $ docker run -p 2222:2222 cowrie/cowrie:latest
    $ ssh -p 2222 root@localhost
  • On Docker Hub:

  • Configuring Cowrie in Docker

Cowrie in Docker can be configured using environment variables. The variables start with COWRIE then have the section name in capitals, followed by the stanza in capitals. An example is below to enable telnet support:


Alternatively, Cowrie in Docker can use an etc volume to store configuration data. Create cowrie.cfg inside the etc volume with the following contents to enable telnet in your Cowrie Honeypot in Docker:

enabled = yes


Software required to run locally:

  • Python 3.8+
  • python-virtualenv

For Python dependencies, see requirements.txt.

Files of interest:

  • etc/cowrie.cfg - Cowrie's configuration file. Default values can be found in etc/cowrie.cfg.dist.
  • share/cowrie/fs.pickle - fake filesystem
  • etc/userdb.txt - credentials to access the honeypot
  • honeyfs/ - file contents for the fake filesystem - feel free to copy a real system here or use bin/fsctl
  • honeyfs/etc/ - pre-login banner
  • honeyfs/etc/motd - post-login banner
  • var/log/cowrie/cowrie.json - transaction output in JSON format
  • var/log/cowrie/cowrie.log - log/debug output
  • var/lib/cowrie/tty/ - session logs, replayable with the bin/playlog utility.
  • var/lib/cowrie/downloads/ - files transferred from the attacker to the honeypot are stored here
  • share/cowrie/txtcmds/ - file contents for simple fake commands
  • bin/createfs - used to create the fake filesystem
  • bin/playlog - utility to replay session logs


Many people have contributed to Cowrie over the years. Special thanks to:

  • Upi Tamminen (desaster) for all his work developing Kippo on which Cowrie was based
  • Dave Germiquet (davegermiquet) for TFTP support, unit tests, new process handling
  • Olivier Bilodeau (obilodeau) for Telnet support
  • Ivan Korolev (fe7ch) for many improvements over the years.
  • Florian Pelgrim (craneworks) for his work on code cleanup and Docker.
  • Guilherme Borges (sgtpepperpt) for SSH and telnet proxy (GSoC 2019)
  • And many many others.