Monday, September 23, 2019

Zeek 3.0.0

(Note: This is a slightly updated version of a previous posting announcing the initial release candidate.)

We just published Zeek 3.0.0—our first major release since Bro 2.0 came out in 2012. This version is quite special as it undertakes The Big Zeekification™: It is executing on the technical side of the name change that we announced last year by now renaming the tool itself, including binaries, scripts, and even some events. “Bro” is now “Zeek.” 

This name change brings some disruption for existing users, which is unavoidable for a long-term codebase where the original name had more than 20 years to proliferate into pretty much every corner. Nevertheless, we have been working hard to maintain backwards compatibility from Zeek 3.0.0 to Bro 2.6 as much as possible to facilitate smooth upgrades. Wherever we reasonably could, we put aliases and redirects in place so that old names remain working in parallel to the new ones. When using the old names, you will in many cases see explicit deprecation warnings that point you to the places that need updating. These transition mechanisms will remain in place for the Zeek 3.0.x series. We’ll remove them with the next feature release 3.1.0 and likewise with the next long-term stable release 4.0.0, in accordance with our new release schedule.

Below is a more detailed summary of the main changes coming with the renaming. In addition, Zeek 3.0.0 comes with a number of new features as well, including:

  • New analyzers for NTP and MQTT, and extended analyzers for DNS (SPF/DNSSEC), RDP, SMB, and TLS. 
  • Support for decapsulating VXLAN tunnels.
  • Support for logging in UTF8.
  • Several extensions of the scripting language:
  • Closures for anonymous functions
    • Iteration over key/value pairs of a table through for ( key, value in t ) ...)
    • Python-style vector slicing (v[2:4])
    • A new data structure, paraglob, for efficiently matching strings against large list of globs.
  • See the NEWS file for more detailed release notes, and CHANGES for the complete list of changes

Upgrading to Zeek 3

The following summarizes the main naming-related changes that you will encounter after installing Zeek 3.0.0. Unless otherwise noted, the Bro 2.6 names and paths will continue to work with this release, but often trigger deprecation warnings.

  • The names of all executables that had “bro” in their name have changed: bro -> zeekbro-config -> zeek-configbroctl -> zeekctlbro-cut -> zeek-cut. Zeek 3.0.0 installs wrappers under the old names that will let them continue to work.
  • The default install prefix is now /usr/local/zeek instead of /usr/local/bro. If your existing installation used the previous default and you are using the new default when upgrading, we'll symlink /usr/local/zeek to /usr/local/bro. Certain subdirectories get similar treatment: share/broinclude/bro, and lib/bro.
  • Along with BroControl becoming ZeekControl, installation directories and files with broctl in their name have changed to use zeekctl instead. However, these changes remain backwards compatible with previous Bro installations by continuing to pull from existing locations where customizations might have been made. For example, if you have a broctl.cfg file from a previous installation, installing Zeek over it will retain that file and even symlink the new zeekctl.cfg to it.
  • The new extension for Zeek scripts is .zeek. This leads to two major changes:
    • All scripts ending in .bro have been renamed to .zeek. In particular, $prefix/share/bro/site/local.bro has been renamed to local.zeek. However, if you have an existing local.bro file from a previous Bro installation—possibly with customizations made to it—Zeek will install a symlink local.zeek file that points to that pre-existing local.bro. In that case, you may want to just copy local.bro into the new local.zeek location to avoid confusion, but things should generally also work properly without intervention.
    • The search logic for the @load script directive now prefers files ending in .zeek, but will still fallback to loading a .bro file if it exists. E.g. @load foo will first check for a foo.zeek file to load and then otherwise foo.bro. Note that @load foo.bro (with the explicit .bro file suffix) prefers the opposite order: it first checks for foo.bro and then falls back to a foo.zeek, if that exists.
  • Changes affecting scripts:
    • The events bro_init, bro_done, and bro_script_loaded are now deprecated; use zeek_init, zeek_done, and zeek_script_loaded instead. Any existing event handlers for the deprecated versions will automatically alias to the new events such that existing code will not break, but their usage will emit deprecation warnings.
    • The functions bro_is_terminating and bro_version function are deprecated and replaced by functions named zeek_is_terminating and zeek_version. The old names likewise continue to work with deprecation warnings.
  • The namespace used by all the builtin plugins that ship with Zeek have changed to use Zeek::.
  • Any Broker topic names used in scripts shipped with Zeek that previously were prefixed with bro/ are now prefixed with zeek/ instead. In the case where external applications were using a bro/ topic to send data into a Bro process, a Zeek process still subscribes to those topics in addition to the equivalently named zeek/ topic. In the case where external applications were using a bro/ topic to subscribe to remote messages or query data stores, there's no backwards compatibility and external applications must be changed to use the new zeek/ topic. The NEWS have a list of the most common topic names that one may need to change.
  • The Broxygen component, which is used to generate our Doxygen-like scripting API documentation, has been renamed to Zeekygen. This likely has no breaking or visible changes for most users, except in the case one used it to generate their own documentation via the --broxygen flag, which is now named --zeekygen. Besides that, various documentation in scripts has also been updated to replace Sphinx cross-referencing roles and directives like :bro:see: with :zeek:see:.

Upgrading to the Zeek Package Manager

The external package manager switched its name as well, from bro-pkg to zkg. On PyPI, both the old bro-pkg and new zkg packages share the same code-base, so you may continue using bro-pkg if you want, but it’s easy enough to switch for sake of consistency: run pip uninstall bro-pkg && pip install zkg.  Either way, a wrapper script is provided that forwards from bro-pkg to zkg

    Renaming External Packages  

    It's up to a package’s maintainer whether they want to rename a package that’s been using “bro” in its name—there’s nothing about such a package name that will be incompatible with Zeek 3.0.0. If you do want to rename your package, we recommend the following process, assuming it’s hosted on GitHub:
    1. Rename your GitHub repository from bro-foo to zeek-foo. GitHub will automatically provide a redirect from the old URL to the new URL, so people who had installed a package using the old URL will still be fine going forward.
    2. Add an alias to the package’s metadata: aliases = zeek-foo bro-foo. This tells zkg that old and new names are referring to the same package, and it will create corresponding symlinks so that explicit @load bro-foo directives will continue to work. See the documentation for more on aliases.
    3. Optionally, update the depends metadata field. The special dependencies zeek and zkg are replacing bro and bro-pkg, respectively, and zkg treats them as aliases. Note, however, that existing bro-pkg installations won’t recognize the new names yet, so you might want to leave them in there to support users who have not yet upgraded. See the documentation for more.
    4. Re-register the renamed package, zeek-foo with central package source. Follow the normal directions to update your index file: remove the old URL for bro-foo and add the URL for zeek-foo.

    Common Issues When Upgrading 

    • If you were running Bro as the bro user and intend to use a zeek user now, don't forget to remove/update any potential cron jobs you may have.
    • If you're installing Zeek on an old Bro host, remember to first shut down the old cluster using broctl.
    • Symptoms of overlapping Bro/Zeek installations:
      • Plugins may have failing symbol problems depending on if you run Zeek or Bro.
      • zkg packages may fail to install with an error that btest can't find init-bare.bro.  This may be caused by certain packages using an old version of the get-bro-env script or bro_dist metadata substitution in combination with having the bro-pkg/zkg configuration set to use a mismatched Bro/Zeek sourcetree. 
    • Not remembering to update zkg configuration (i.e. updating the paths in ~/.zkg/config or ~/.bro-pkg/config in case you’re now using a different source/installation path for Zeek 3.0.0)
    • Not updating PATH environment variable (to either remove an old /usr/local/bro path or to add the new /usr/local/zeek path)
    • Plugins will generally need to be recompiled for Zeek 3.0.0 (as is usually the case with new versions). Plugins that require --bro-dist have been seen to have build issues. The best solution is to switch the plugin to the new skeleton code. However, we will try to address any specific issues if you file a ticket with instructions on how to reproduce.
    • If you run the BHR scripts, you may need to change those to run as the zeek user as well as the permissions on the queue directory.
    • Not remembering to update both where an external processes (e.g. cron job) writes Intel files into the old installation tree and where the Intel configuration (e.g. Intel::read_files) expects to read such files in the case you choose to use the new default installation path. e.g. if Intel was previously written to /usr/local/bro and you now want to use /usr/local/zeek, remember to update both the Zeek configuration and whatever external process may be writing the Intel files.


    Thanks to Mike Dopheide, Jon Siwek, and Justin Azoff for contributing to this blog posting.

    Thursday, September 12, 2019

    Zeek Week to Gather Expert Users and Developers from Around the World to Showcase New Zeek Technology Innovations and Enhancements

    The leading event for open-source Zeek network security monitor comes to Seattle

    San Francisco, Calif. – Sept. 12, 2019 – Zeek Week 2019 (formerly BroCon), the most important community event for users, developers, incident responders, threat hunters and security architects who rely on the open-source Zeek network security monitor, today announced a full lineup of speakers with areas of expertise including DNSSEC protocol parsing, MITRE ATT&CK-based analytics, SSL/TLS encryption, Zeek performance optimization, and incident response.

    The week will kick off with a keynote from Freddy Dezeure, founder and former head of CERT-EU. A renowned expert in cybersecurity and cyber risk management, Dezeure has held a variety of management positions with the European Commission for more than 20 years. He set up the EU Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-EU) in 2011, and in that time it has grown to one of the most respected CERTs in Europe.

    Dezeure’s keynote, “Threats are Changing, So are We as Defenders,” will present insights into the current attack trends used by adversaries, their motives and techniques, and the challenges these create for enterprises.

    “The changing threat landscape requires us to continuously adapt our defenses to mitigate the risk to our organizations - and society as a whole - to an acceptable level,” said Dezeure of his keynote topic. “Complacency is not an option.”

    Zeek Week, presented by the Zeek open-source community and hosted by Corelight, providers of the most powerful network visibility solution for cybersecurity, is an annual user conference featuring technical talks, demonstrations and discussions about the project, its many applications, and its future.

    “This past year we have seen a major rise in innovation across the Zeek user community and we are excited to highlight many of these new uses cases and developments at Zeek Week,” said Dr. Vern Paxson, Zeek creator and co-founder of Corelight. “In the more than two decades since Zeek was created, the technology has thrived, thanks in part to a dedicated and growing user community that has augmented the platform with powerful new functionality.

    “I look forward to this gathering every year because it provides the single greatest opportunity to learn how open source Zeek is transforming network traffic analysis for thousands of users and organizations around the globe,” added Paxson.

    Zeek Week content and sessions are focused on the ever-evolving cybersecurity landscape and how Zeek is helping organizations across the public and private sectors by providing better data and network traffic analytics. In addition, this year’s conference will include announcement of the winners of the Zeek Package Contest, which will award the creators of five of the most innovative and useful open source Zeek packages that extend Zeek’s threat hunting and detection capabilities.

    The full agenda is now live and scheduled speakers includes:

    • Vlad Grigorescu, ESnet
    • Mark Fernandez, The MITRE Corporation
    • Jim Mellander, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
    • Robin Sommer, Corelight and Zeek Leadership Team
    • Fatema Bannat Wala, University of Delaware
    • Jordi Ros-Giralt, Reservoir Labs
    • Justin Azoff, Corelight
    • Michal Purzynski, Mozilla Corporation and Zeek Leadership Team
    • Adam Pumphrey, Nimbus LLC
    • Seth Hall, Corelight and Zeek Leadership Team
    • Aashish Sharma, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Zeek Leadership Team
    • Justin Kohler, Gigamon
    • Jason Lu, Gigamon
    • Johanna Amann, ICSI, Corelight and Zeek Leadership Team
    • Nick Skelsey, Secure Network
    • Keith Lehigh, Indiana University and Zeek Leadership Team
    • Amber Graner, Corelight

    Zeek Week 2019 will take place at the King St. Ballroom & Perch at Embassy Suites by Hilton in Seattle, Wash., October 8-11. For additional information, or to register, visit

    Zeek Week 2019 is generously sponsored by Bricata, Humio, AlphaSOC, Reservoir Labs, BluVector, Gigamon, and Brim Security.

    About Zeek

    Zeek (formerly known as Bro) is a powerful open-source network analysis framework that is much different from the typical IDS you may know. While focusing on network security monitoring, Zeek provides a comprehensive platform for more general network traffic analysis as well. For more information, visit