How to process Cowrie output in an ELK stack

(Note: work in progress, instructions are not verified)


  • Working Cowrie installation
  • Cowrie JSON log file (enable database json in cowrie.cfg)
  • Java 8


This is a simple setup for ELK stack, to be done on the same machine that is used for cowrie. We use Filebeat to send logs to Logstash, and we use Nginx as a reverse proxy to access Kibana. Note there are many other possible configurations!

Add Elastic’s repository and key:

wget -qO - | sudo apt-key add -
echo "deb stable main" | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/elastic-7.x.list
apt-get update

Install logstash, elasticsearch, kibana and filebeat:

sudo apt -y install apt-transport-https wget default-jre
sudo apt install elasticsearch logstash kibana
sudo apt install filebeat
sudo apt install nginx apache2-utils

Enable the services:

sudo systemctl enable elasticsearch logstash kibana filebeat nginx

ElasticSearch Configuration

ElasticSearch configuration file is located in /etc/elasticsearch/elasticsearch.yml. The default settings need not be changed.

If you are only operating a single ElasticSearch node, you can add the following configuration item:

discovery.type: single-node

By default, ElasticSearch listens on port 9200. Test it:

curl http://localhost:9200

You should get a JSON object in return.

Kibana Configuration

Make a folder for logs:

sudo mkdir /var/log/kibana
sudo chown kibana:kibana /var/log/kibana

Change the following parameters in /etc/kibana/kibana.yml to reflect your server setup:

""  - set it to "localhost" if you use nginx for basic authentication or external interface if you use XPack (see below)
"" - name of the server
"elasticsearch.hosts" - address of the elasticsearch: ["http://localhost:9200"]
"elasticsearch.username", "elasticsearch.password" - needed only if you use XPack (see below)
"logging.dest" - set path to logs (/var/log/kibana/kibana.log)

Logstash Configuration

Get GeoIP data from (free but requires registration): download the GeoLite2 City GZIP. Unzip it and locate the mmdb file. Place it somewhere in your filesystem and make sure that “logstash” user can read it:

sudo mkdir -p /opt/logstash/vendor/geoip/
sudo mv GeoLite2-City.mmdb /opt/logstash/vendor/geoip

Configure logstash:

sudo cp logstash-cowrie.conf /etc/logstash/conf.d

Make sure the configuration file is correct. Check the input section (path), filter (geoip databases) and output (elasticsearch hostname):

sudo systemctl restart logstash

Filebeat Configuration

Filebeat is not mandatory (it is possible to directly read cowrie logs from Logstash) but nice to have, because if Logstash is under pressure, it automatically knows to slow down + it is possible to deal with multiple sensor inputs.

Configure filebeat:

sudo cp filebeat-cowrie.conf /etc/filebeat/filebeat.yml

Check the following parameters:

filebeat.inputs: the path must point to cowrie's json logs
output.elasticsearch: must be false because we want Filebeat to send to Logstash, not directly to ElasticSearch
output.logstash: must be true. The default port for Logstash is 5044, so hosts should be ["localhost:5044"]

Start filebeat:

sudo systemctl start filebeat


ELK has been configured on localhost. If you wish to access it remotely, you can setup a reverse proxy to Kibana’s backend server, which runs on port 5601 by default.

Install Nginx:

sudo apt install nginx apache2-utils

Create an administrative Kibana user and password:

sudo htpasswd -c /etc/nginx/htpasswd.users admin_kibana

Edit Nginx configuration /etc/nginx/sites-available/default. Customize port to what you like, and specify your server’s name (or IP address):

server {
     listen YOURPORT;

     server_name YOURIPADDRESS;

     auth_basic "Restricted Access";
     auth_basic_user_file /etc/nginx/htpasswd.users;

     location / {
           proxy_pass http://localhost:5601;
           proxy_http_version 1.1;
           proxy_set_header Upgrade $http_upgrade;
           proxy_set_header Connection 'upgrade';
           proxy_set_header Host $host;
           proxy_cache_bypass $http_upgrade;

Start the service:

sudo systemctl start nginx

Using Kibana

You can list indexes with:

curl 'http://localhost:9200/_cat/indices?v'

You should see a cowrie index cowrie-logstash-DATE… Its health is yellow because the number of replicas should be set to 0 (unless you want another configuration):

curl -XPUT 'localhost:9200/cowrie-logstash-REPLACEHERE/_settings' -H "Content-Type: application/json" -d '{ "index" : {"number_of_replicas" : 0 } }'

It should answer {“acknowledged”:true}

In Kibana’s GUI, create an index pattern (Management / Index Patterns) for


Use default settings and timestamp.

Tuning ELK stack

Refer to elastic’s documentation about proper configuration of the system for the best elasticsearch’s performance

You may avoid installing nginx for restricting access to kibana by installing official elastic’s plugin called “X-Pack” (

ELK log files get big: ensure you have enough space in /var, consider setting up LVM or ZFS partitions.


  • View service logs with: sudo journalctl -u service
  • If the date in Kibana is incorrect, check (Advanced Settings / dateFormat)