First of all, welcome to the community! If you are reading this, then you’ve heard all about how great Zeek is and you are interested in finding out for yourself by getting it up and running and playing with it. Good move!
The goal of this article is to make the process of getting Zeek up and running as easy as possible for you, so you can spend more time exploring Zeek, and less time running over speed bumps. To do this, we are going to leverage the extremely convenient Docker toolchain in combination with some cool Docker work that has already been done in the open source community.


Good luck and have fun!


Dockerizing your computer

Some good news: most of the work to get Zeek up and running has already been automated! However, in order to leverage that automation, we need to get your computer to the point where the foundation has been laid for the automation to kick off. Fortunately, that is quite easy: all you need is to have Docker installed and running. In the following, I am going to assume you are running a Mac OSX computer like me (Windows and Linux users, we love you too, but this is the only platform I have validated this on so far — the automation we will review will work on any platform that supports Docker — I just haven’t verified that yet!).
So, let’s get started. On your Mac, you’ll need to install the following:
You will also need to make sure you have git installed on your Mac. If it’s not, install it with the following command:
$ brew install git
We’re almost ready to get started. One thing we need to do first is to make sure we give Docker enough RAM to be able to compile Zeek. Docker Desktop for Mac uses a VM behinds the scenes to host the Docker runtime environment. By default it allocated 2 GB of RAM to the VM. That’s not enough to compile Zeek! If you try compiling with the default RAM settings, you will hit a compile error that looks something like this:
c++: internal compiler error: Killed (program cc1plus)
Please submit a full bug report,
with preprocessed source if appropriate.
See <file:///usr/share/doc/gcc-7/README.Bugs> for instructions.
This is due to the VM hitting an Out Of Memory condition. To avoid this you will need to allocate more RAM to the VM. Click on the Docker Icon in your menubar and select “Preferences”. Click on the “Advanced” tab and then use the slider to select 8 GB of RAM (6 also works, but use 8 just in case). Docker Desktop will restart and then you will be ready to go!


Checkout the Code

The zeek-docker repo ( hosts a number of Dockerfiles that can be used to build your favorite version of Zeek. Dockerfiles like the one at have all the instructions you need to build your Zeek container in a completely repeatable, reliable, and convenient manner. It’s definitely worth taking a read through the Dockerfile to see the steps involved in building and installing Zeek.
If you are new to Docker, the docker documentation is worth checking out. The main documentation page is If you are a first timer, the getting started section is very useful: If you’ve had some experience, the Dockerfile reference is always handy to have nearby:
Ok, time to download the code so we can start doing cool stuff! Use the following command to clone the code onto your laptop:

Building your first Zeek Container


 It’s time! Type in the commands below to build your first Zeek Container (in this case we are building a version 3.0.0 container): 

$ cd zeek-docker
$ make build-stamp_3.0.0

 That’s all you need to do! Now watch as the wonders of automation unfold, and your Zeek container is built. You should see something like this on your terminal console:

Step 24/24 : CMD /bin/bash -l
 —> Running in c1263b7d2ea3
Removing intermediate container c1263b7d2ea3
 —> 5bc774250a9a
Successfully built 5bc774250a9a
Successfully tagged broplatform/bro:3.0.0
touch build-stamp_3.0.0


Once the container has been built, you will see the container image is available in your local docker registry:


$ docker images  | grep -e broplatform -e REPO
broplatform/bro  3.0.0 5bc774250a9a 8 minutes ago  215MB


Hello Zeek!


We are ready to run our first Zeek container!

The command below executes the container and sets up an interactive bash shell within the container.It also mounts the current host directory (currently inside the zeek-docker repo) in the /pcap directory of the container so you can copy files into/out of the container. 


$ docker run -it -v `pwd`:/pcap broplatform/bro:3.0.0 /bin/bash


 At this point we are inside the container. Type the command below and you can see there is a freshly built zeek executable ready to use!


root@3535953ccd99:/# which zeek


The /pcap directory inside the container corresponds to the host working directory (this can be anywhere on your computer, for me it happens to be the zeek-docker repo directory). You’ll probably want to put pcap files in here as well so you can process the data inside the container using zeek while storing the logs in the mounted directory for later access (e.g. after the container is gone!). 


root@3535953ccd99:/zeek/bin# ls -1r /pcap


Congratulations! You are now the proud owner of a brand new Zeek container, which contains an installed Zeek deployment in its own execution environment. (And you built it all by yourself !)


Putting Zeek to Work


 There are two ways we can use Zeek:


  • Run it from the command line against a pre-captured PCAP file
  • Run it against a live network interface
For this post, we’ll be going through the first use case. In a follow up post, we’ll walk through how to run Zeek against a live network interface.
Now that our execution environment is all setup and we have a Zeek container, let’s process some PCAP files! (My colleague has some interesting PCAPs you can take a look at in his article: Copy your favorite pcap file (let’s assume it’s “test.pcap”) into your current working directory and execute the following:


$ docker run -it -v `pwd`:/pcap broplatform/bro:3.0.0 /bin/bash
root@5ea58f4bb9be:/# cd /pcap
root@5ea58f4bb9be:/pcap# ls *.pcap
Cool! Now we’re running inside the container, and we can see our test.pcap file residing on our host computer via the mounted filesystem on our container’s /pcap.


Time to run Zeek! Execute the following command.


root@5ea58f4bb9be:/pcap# zeek -r test.pcap
Done! Zeek has quietly processed the pcap file, and output a bunch of data to log files in the current directory. Let’s take a look.


root@5ea58f4bb9be:/pcap# ls *.log
conn.log  dnp3.log  packet_filter.log

So now we have the log files generated by Zeek using its default set of scripts, cool! If these logs are new to you, then you might want to head over to the official Zeek documentation which contains a deep dive on the various log files and fields:

As an example, we’ll take a look at the contents of the conn.log file (


root@5ea58f4bb9be:/pcap# cat conn.log
#separator x09
#set_separator        ,
#empty_field        (empty)
#unset_field        –
#path        conn
#open        2019-12-04-04-38-26
#fields        ts        uid        id.orig_h        id.orig_p        id.resp_h        id.resp_p        proto        service        duration        orig_bytes        
resp_bytes        conn_state        local_orig        local_resp        missed_bytes        history        orig_pkts        orig_ip_bytes        
resp_pkts        resp_ip_bytes        tunnel_parents       #types        time        string        addr        port        addr        port       
enum        string        interval        count        count        string        bool        bool        count        string        count        count       
 count        count        set[string]       1252963725.444796        Cn0OCi3r0R0aO5nAda        
1413        20000        tcp        dnp3_tcp        1.049805        15        17        SF        —        0        
ShADadFtf        8        343        7        322        –       1252963725.788546        CbSrUpY4Adua4a6Ad        
1400        5450        tcp        –        9.006836        60        140        OTH               -0        DdA        10        460        5        340        –
#close        2019-12-04-04-38-26
There you have it! Success!




Here we are at the end of today’s journey, and the beginning of your Zeek journey! We have been able to Dockerize our computer, build a Zeek container, execute Zeek within the container, and process a PCAP file using the Zeek container we built.
I hope this has been useful to you, saved you a lot of time and helped to accelerate you on your Zeek journey. I also hope you had as much fun going through this as I had writing it!
I would love to hear from you, so please feel free to drop me a line ( I really appreciate feedback (especially if it helps to make this tutorial easier for folks to read/follow).


Thank you for following along, good luck, and Happy Zeeking!
About David Lapsley, Ph. D. 

Dr. Lapsley has over 20 years of industry experience. Roughly a third of
that has been spent doing applied research for various government agencies,
a third working for large telecom vendors, and a third working at startup
companies. Dr. Lapsley’s expertise includes software development,
data analysis, distributed infrastructure, open source, cloud computing,
and forming and leading high performing teams.

Dr. Lapsley holds a Ph. D. in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from
the University of Melbourne, Australia. He also holds a B. S. (Computer
Science) and B. E. with Honours (Electrical and Computer Systems
Engineering) from Monash University, Australia.

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