Cowrie – SSH/Telnet Honeypot

Cowrie - SSH Telnet Honeypot xploitlab

Setting up a honeypot in your system is very helpful, because it can be use to detect attacks or deflect them from a legitimate target. Honeypot is like a mouse trap the meaning is don’t go looking for attackers. Prepare something that would attract their interest and then wait for the attackers to show up. That’s the principle of honeypot.

What is Cowrie

Cowrie is a medium interaction SSH and Telnet honeypot designed to log brute force attacks and the shell interaction performed by the attacker. Cowrie also 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.

Cowrie kibana dashboard - SSH Telnet Honeypot
Display Cowrie Information On Kibana Dashboard


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

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


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

sudo pacman -S findomain


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].


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.

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