Installing and running Zeek at home


What are the devices in your house communicating with? How many different services do your security cameras send information to? Is your TV sending data to foreign countries? What are the kids doing while your gone? Are there any large file transfers happening to places you don’t recognize? Are there any open connections to SSH or RDP ports you are not aware of?

By TAPing and redirecting all traffic entering or leaving the network to a Zeek server, we can start to answer these questions.

What is Zeek? Zeek is an Open Source network security monitoring tool that ingests, analyzes, and logs all communication passing through it. Logs can be broken out by connections, services, protocol, etc. For example, a default installation logs individual connections, DNS queries, files transferred, SSL certificates, and more. This is only the start, Zeek is fully customizable. Packages are used to extend the analysis and logging capabilities of Zeek.

Example logs from a default installation:

jemurray@zeek:/usr/local/zeek/logs/current$ ls -al
total 4536
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 1333909 Oct 15 13:48 conn.log
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root    2005 Oct 15 13:48 dhcp.log
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 1335764 Oct 15 13:48 dns.log
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root  701709 Oct 15 13:48 files.log
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root   71498 Oct 15 13:48 http.log
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root   18520 Oct 15 13:47 notice.log
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root   51565 Oct 15 13:48 ntp.log
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root    4716 Oct 15 13:39 sip.log
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root   21228 Oct 15 13:48 ssh.log
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root  403803 Oct 15 13:48 ssl.log
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root    2967 Oct 15 13:46 weird.log
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root  507010 Oct 15 13:48 x509.log

Example of services flowing through my home network over the past hour:

jemurray@zeek:/usr/local/zeek/logs/current$ cat conn.log | ../../bin/zeek-cut -d service | sort | uniq -c | sort -rn
   4531 dns
   2731 -
   1276 ssl
    132 http
     98 ntp
     48 ssh
     14 dhcp

The top 10 DNS lookups over the past hour:

jemurray@zeek:/usr/local/zeek/logs/current$ cat dns.log | ../../bin/zeek-cut -d query | sort | uniq -c | sort -rn | head -10
    128 _raop._tcp.local

The Zeek setup at my house looks like this and will be the basis for this tutorial:

zeek home topology

I use the following hardware and software:

  • Ubuntu 20.04.x fresh install (ESXi VM)
  • Copper 1Gbp/s TAP
  • Latest Zeek software


Install Ubuntu 20.04.x

Perform a standard Ubuntu 20.04.x installation.

ESXi VM Setup

Add a vSwitch:

  • Change Uplink 1 to the interface attached to the TAP
  • Disable link discovery
  • Don’t worry about security here, we will adjust it in the port group

vswitch add

Add a port group:

  • Keep the VLAN 0
  • Select the Zeek TAP virtual switch
  • Set Promiscuous mode to Accept

pg add

Attach the Zeek VM to the Zeek TAP switch and port group:

set interface

Log into the Ubuntu server and test to see if TAP information is getting relayed properly:

jemurray@zeek:/usr/local/zeek/logs/current$ sudo tcpdump -n -i ens192 -c 10
tcpdump: verbose output suppressed, use -v or -vv for full protocol decode
listening on ens192, link-type EN10MB (Ethernet), capture size 262144 bytes
13:17:37.057454 IP > UDP, length 315
13:17:37.057483 IP > UDP, length 114
13:17:37.064464 IP > UDP, length 887
13:17:37.068497 IP > UDP, length 479
13:17:37.077954 IP > UDP, length 312
13:17:37.077979 IP > UDP, length 590
13:17:37.088833 IP > UDP, length 764
13:17:37.098207 IP > UDP, length 310
13:17:37.098237 IP > UDP, length 1084
13:17:37.098241 IP > UDP, length 242

Zeek Software Installation

Install dependencies:

sudo apt-get install cmake make gcc g++ flex bison libpcap-dev libssl-dev python-dev swig zlib1g-dev libmaxminddb-dev python3-dev

GeoLocation requires a MaxMind account to download the database. This step is optional but recommended. Sign up for a MaxMind account then download the GeoLite2 City database.

Install the MaxMind Geo database:

tar xvf GeoLite2-City_20201013.tar.gz
sudo mkdir /usr/share/GeoIP
sudo mv GeoLite2-City_20201013/GeoLite2-City.mmdb /usr/share/GeoIP/

Download the Zeek software:

git clone --recursive

Compile Zeek:

  • Use python3 (it is 2020 after all)
cd zeek
./configure --with-python=/usr/bin/python3
sudo make install

Set the interface to monitor in /usr/local/zeek/etc/node.cfg. ens192 is attached to the vSwitch which is attached to the copper tap on the ESXi host:


Set the networks to monitor in /usr/local/zeek/etc/networks.cfg. is the inside network:      Private IP space

Add Zeek binaries to the search path by adding this to the bottom of your ~/.profile:

# set PATH so it includes Zeek bin if it exists
if [ -d "/usr/local/zeek/bin" ] ; then

Finish install:

jemurray@zeek:/usr/local/zeek$ sudo bin/zeekctl
[sudo] password for jemurray:
Hint: Run the zeekctl "deploy" command to get started.

Welcome to ZeekControl 2.2.0

Type "help" for help.

[ZeekControl] > install
creating policy directories ...
installing site policies ...
generating standalone-layout.zeek ...
generating local-networks.zeek ...
generating zeekctl-config.zeek ...
generating ...

Running Zeek

Start zeek:

[ZeekControl] > start
starting zeek ...

Check the running status:

[ZeekControl] > status
Name         Type       Host          Status    Pid    Started
zeek         standalone localhost     running   47117  15 Oct 01:23:00

Test to see if Zeek is logging:

jemurray@zeek:/usr/local/zeek/logs/current$ cat conn.log | ../../bin/zeek-cut -d ts id.orig_h id.resp_h id.resp_p service | head
2020-10-15T12:56:53+0000	443	ssl
2020-10-15T12:59:50+0000	53	dns
2020-10-15T12:59:53+0000	2600:1700:1391:411f:506d:fd48:cdb0:ae06	2620:149:a42:101::12	443	ssl
2020-10-15T12:59:51+0000	53	dns
2020-10-15T12:59:51+0000	53	dns
2020-10-15T12:59:57+0000	2600:1700:1391:411f:506d:fd48:cdb0:ae06	2607:f8b0:4009:805::200a	443	ssl
2020-10-15T12:59:52+0000	53	dns
2020-10-15T12:59:57+0000	2600:1700:1391:411f:506d:fd48:cdb0:ae06	2607:f8b0:4009:805::200a	443	ssl
2020-10-15T12:59:57+0000	80	http
2020-10-15T12:59:57+0000	2600:1700:1391:411f:506d:fd48:cdb0:ae06	2607:f8b0:4009:803::200a	443	ssl

Looking at the log files

The log files are stored in:


Now is the time to get to know your logs. Look through the current and previous days logs. Get a good understanding of what a “normal” day looks like. This will be helpful when tracking down nefarious devices in the future.