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Installing Cowrie in seven steps.

Step 1: Install dependencies

First we install system-wide support for Python virtual environments and other dependencies. Actual Python packages are installed later.

On Debian based systems (last verified on Debian 9, 2017-07-25):

$ sudo apt-get install git python-virtualenv libssl-dev libffi-dev build-essential libpython-dev python2.7-minimal authbind

Step 2: Create a user account

It's strongly recommended to run with a dedicated non-root user id:

$ sudo adduser --disabled-password cowrie
Adding user `cowrie' ...
Adding new group `cowrie' (1002) ...
Adding new user `cowrie' (1002) with group `cowrie' ...
Changing the user information for cowrie
Enter the new value, or press ENTER for the default
Full Name []:
Room Number []:
Work Phone []:
Home Phone []:
Other []:
Is the information correct? [Y/n]

$ sudo su - cowrie

Step 3: Checkout the code

$ git clone
Cloning into 'cowrie'...
remote: Counting objects: 2965, done.
remote: Compressing objects: 100% (1025/1025), done.
remote: Total 2965 (delta 1908), reused 2962 (delta 1905), pack-reused 0
Receiving objects: 100% (2965/2965), 3.41 MiB | 2.57 MiB/s, done.
Resolving deltas: 100% (1908/1908), done.
Checking connectivity... done.

$ cd cowrie

Step 4: Setup Virtual Environment

Next you need to create your virtual environment:

$ pwd
$ virtualenv --python=python3 cowrie-env
New python executable in ./cowrie/cowrie-env/bin/python
Installing setuptools, pip, wheel...done.

Alternatively, create a Python2 virtual environment

$ virtualenv --python=python2 cowrie-env
New python executable in ./cowrie/cowrie-env/bin/python
Installing setuptools, pip, wheel...done.

Activate the virtual environment and install packages

$ source cowrie-env/bin/activate

(cowrie-env) $ pip install --upgrade pip

(cowrie-env) $ pip install --upgrade -r requirements.txt

Step 5: Install configuration file

The configuration for Cowrie is stored in cowrie.cfg.dist and cowrie.cfg. Both files are read on startup, where entries from cowrie.cfg take precedence. The .dist file can be overwritten by upgrades, cowrie.cfg will not be touched. To run with a standard configuration, there is no need to change anything. To enable telnet, for example, create cowrie.cfg and input only the following:

enabled = true

Step 6: Generate a DSA key (OPTIONAL)

This step should not be necessary, however some versions of Twisted are not compatible. To avoid problems in advance, run:

$ cd data
$ ssh-keygen -t dsa -b 1024 -f ssh_host_dsa_key
$ cd ..

Step 7: Starting Cowrie

Start Cowrie with the cowrie command. You can add the cowrie/bin directory to your path if desired. An existing virtual environment is preserved if activated, otherwise Cowrie will attempt to load the environment called "cowrie-env"

$ bin/cowrie start
Activating virtualenv "cowrie-env"
Starting cowrie with extra arguments [] ...

Step 8: Port redirection (OPTIONAL)

All port redirection commands are system-wide and need to be executed as root.

Cowrie runs by default on port 2222. This can be modified in the configuration file. The following firewall rule will forward incoming traffic on port 22 to port 2222.

$ sudo iptables -t nat -A PREROUTING -p tcp --dport 22 -j REDIRECT --to-port 2222

Note that you should test this rule only from another host; it doesn't apply to loopback connections. Alternatively you can run authbind to listen as non-root on port 22 directly:

$ sudo apt-get install authbind
$ sudo touch /etc/authbind/byport/22
$ sudo chown cowrie:cowrie /etc/authbind/byport/22
$ sudo chmod 770 /etc/authbind/byport/22
  • Edit bin/cowrie and modify the AUTHBIND_ENABLED setting
  • Change listen_port to 22 in cowrie.cfg

Or for telnet:

$ sudo iptables -t nat -A PREROUTING -p tcp --dport 23 -j REDIRECT --to-port 2223

with authbind:

$ apt-get install authbind
$ sudo touch /etc/authbind/byport/23
$ sudo chown cowrie:cowrie /etc/authbind/byport/23
$ sudo chmod 770 /etc/authbind/byport/23

Running using Supervisord (OPTIONAL)

On Debian, put the below in /etc/supervisor/conf.d/cowrie.conf

command=/home/cowrie/cowrie/bin/cowrie start

Update the bin/cowrie script, change:




Configure Additional Output Plugins (OPTIONAL)

Cowrie automatically outputs event data to text and JSON log files in ~/cowrie/log. Additional output plugins can be configured to record the data other ways. Supported output plugins include:

  • Cuckoo
  • ELK (Elastic) Stack
  • Graylog
  • Kippo-Graph
  • Splunk
  • SQL (MySQL, SQLite3, RethinkDB)

See ~/cowrie/doc/[Output Plugin]/ for details.


  • If you see twistd: Unknown command: cowrie there are two possibilities. If there's a Python stack trace, it probably means there's a missing or broken dependency. If there's no stack trace, double check that your PYTHONPATH is set to the source code directory.
  • Default file permissions

To make Cowrie logfiles public readable, change the --umask 0077 option in into --umask 0022

Updating Cowrie

Updating is an easy process. First stop your honeypot. Then fetch updates from GitHub, and upgrade your Python dependencies.

bin/cowrie stop
git pull
pip install --upgrade -r requirements.txt

If you use output plugins like SQL, Splunk, or ELK, remember to also upgrade your dependencies for these too.

pip install --upgrade -r requirements-output.txt

And finally, start Cowrie back up after finishing all updates.

bin/cowrie start

Modifying Cowrie

The pre-login banner can be set by creating the file honeyfs/etc/ The post-login banner can be customized by editing honeyfs/etc/motd.