Friday, 12 May 2017

Cowrie - SSH/Telnet Honeypot Tool

Cowrie: SSH/Telnet Honeypot Tool

Cowrie SSH/Telnet Honeypot Tool

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.


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 emualted 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
ssh -p 2222 [email protected]

Or get the Dockerfile directly at


Software required:
  • Python 3.5+ (Python 2.7 support will be deprecated end of 2019)
  • 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

Data Sharing

Cowrie will by default upload data on crashes and Python exceptions to This information is used to improve the honeypot and is not shared with third parties. It can be disabled by setting enabled=false in [output_crashreporter].

Cowrie is developed by Michel Oosterhof.


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