More ways to examine network connections on Linux

Several commands can help you see what's up with your network on Linux systems, including ip, ethtool, traceroute, tcptraceroute, and tcpdump.

More ways to examine network connections on Linux
Andrew Hart (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The ifconfig and netstat commands are incredibly useful, but there are many other commands that can help you see what's up with you network on Linux systems. Today’s post explores some very handy commands for examining network connections.

ip command

The ip command shows a lot of the same kind of information that you'll get when you use ifconfig. Some of the information is in a different format – e.g., "" instead of "inet addr: Bcast:" and ifconfig is better for packet counts, but the ip command has many useful options.

First, here's the ip a command listing information on all network interfaces.

$ ip a
1: lo: <LOOPBACK,UP,LOWER_UP> mtu 65536 qdisc noqueue state UNKNOWN group default qlen 1
    link/loopback 00:00:00:00:00:00 brd 00:00:00:00:00:00
    inet scope host lo
       valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever
    inet6 ::1/128 scope host
       valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever
2: eth0: <BROADCAST,MULTICAST,UP,LOWER_UP> mtu 1500 qdisc pfifo_fast state UP group default qlen 1000
    link/ether 00:1e:4f:c8:43:fc brd ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff
    inet brd scope global eth0
       valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever
    inet6 fe80::21e:4fff:fec8:43fc/64 scope link
       valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever

If you want only to see a simple list of network interfaces, you can limit its output with grep.

$ ip a | grep inet
    inet scope host lo
    inet6 ::1/128 scope host
    inet brd scope global eth0
    inet6 fe80::21e:4fff:fec8:43fc/64 scope link

You can get a glimpse of your default route using a command like this:

$ ip route show
default via dev eth0 dev eth0  proto kernel  scope link  src

In this output, you can see that the default gateway is through eth0 and that the local network is the fairly standard

You can also use the ip command to bring network interfaces up and shut them down.

$ sudo ip link set eth1 up
$ sudo ip link set eth1 down

ethtool command

Another very useful tool for examining networks is ethtool. This command provides a lot of descriptive data on network interfaces.

$ ethtool eth0
Settings for eth0:
        Supported ports: [ TP ]
        Supported link modes:   10baseT/Half 10baseT/Full
                                100baseT/Half 100baseT/Full
        Supported pause frame use: No
        Supports auto-negotiation: Yes
        Advertised link modes:  10baseT/Half 10baseT/Full
                                100baseT/Half 100baseT/Full
        Advertised pause frame use: No
        Advertised auto-negotiation: Yes
        Speed: 100Mb/s
        Duplex: Full
        Port: Twisted Pair
        PHYAD: 1
        Transceiver: internal
        Auto-negotiation: on
        MDI-X: on (auto)
Cannot get wake-on-lan settings: Operation not permitted
        Current message level: 0x00000007 (7)
                               drv probe link
        Link detected: yes

You can also use the ethtool command to examine ethernet driver settings.

$ ethtool -i eth0
driver: e1000e
version: 3.2.6-k
firmware-version: 1.4-0
bus-info: 0000:00:19.0
supports-statistics: yes
supports-test: yes
supports-eeprom-access: yes
supports-register-dump: yes
supports-priv-flags: no

The autonegotiation details can be displayed with a command like this:

$ ethtool -a eth0
Pause parameters for eth0:
Autonegotiate:  on
RX:             on
TX:             on

traceroute command

The traceroute command displays routing pathways. It works by using the TTL (time to live) field in the packet header in a series of packets to capture the path that packets take and how long they take to get from one hop to the next. Traceroute's output helps to gauge the health of network connections, since some routes might take much longer to reach the eventual destination.

$ sudo traceroute
traceroute to (, 30 hops max, 60 byte packets
 1 (  3.691 ms  3.678 ms  3.665 ms
 2 (  26.273 ms  27.354 ms  28.574 ms
 3 (  28.293 ms  30.625 ms  33.959 ms
 4 (  36.807 ms  37.868 ms  37.857 ms
 5 (  38.256 ms  39.091 ms  40.429 ms
 6 (  41.612 ms  28.214 ms  29.573 ms
 7 (  30.429 ms  27.915 ms  29.065 ms
 8 (  31.353 ms  32.413 ms  33.821 ms
 9 (  43.474 ms  44.519 ms  46.037 ms
10 (  48.107 ms  48.960 ms  50.024 ms
11 (  51.626 ms  51.200 ms  39.283 ms
12 (  40.233 ms  41.295 ms  39.651 ms
13 (  44.955 ms  46.210 ms  55.673 ms
14 (  56.076 ms  56.064 ms  56.052 ms
15 (  63.440 ms  63.886 ms  63.870 ms

tcptraceroute command

The tcptraceroute command does basically the same thing as traceroute except that it is able to bypass the most common firewall filters. As the command's man page explains, tcptraceroute sends out TCP SYN packets instead of UDP or ICMP ECHO packets, thus making it less susceptible to being blocked.

tcpdump command

The tcpdump command allows you to capture network packets for later analysis. With the -D option, it lists available interfaces.

$ tcpdump -D
1.eth0 [Up, Running]
2.any (Pseudo-device that captures on all interfaces) [Up, Running]
3.lo [Up, Running, Loopback]
4.nflog (Linux netfilter log (NFLOG) interface)
5.nfqueue (Linux netfilter queue (NFQUEUE) interface)
6.usbmon1 (USB bus number 1)
7.usbmon2 (USB bus number 2)
8.usbmon3 (USB bus number 3)
9.usbmon4 (USB bus number 4)
10.usbmon5 (USB bus number 5)
11.usbmon6 (USB bus number 6)
12.usbmon7 (USB bus number 7)

The -v (verbose) option controls how much detail you will see — more v's, more details, but more than three v's doesn't add anything more.

$ sudo tcpdump -vv host
tcpdump: listening on eth0, link-type EN10MB (Ethernet), capture size 262144 bytes
20:26:31.321816 IP (tos 0x10, ttl 64, id 22411, offset 0, flags [DF], proto TCP (6), length 184) > Flags [P.], cksum 0x8221 (incorrect -> 0x0254), seq 3891093411:3891093555, ack 2388988308, win 329, length 144
20:26:31.321984 IP (tos 0x10, ttl 64, id 22412, offset 0, flags [DF], proto TCP (6), length 200) > Flags [P.], cksum 0x8231 (incorrect -> 0x3db0), seq 144:304, ack 1, win 329, length 160
20:26:31.323791 IP (tos 0x0, ttl 128, id 20259, offset 0, flags [DF], proto TCP (6), length 40) > Flags [.], cksum 0x643d (correct), seq 1, ack 304, win 385, length 0
20:26:31.383954 IP (tos 0x10, ttl 64, id 22413, offset 0, flags [DF], proto TCP (6), length 248)

Expect to see a lot of output when you run commands like this one.

This command captures 11 packets from a specific host and over eth0. The -w option identifies the file that will contain the capture packets. In this example command, we've only asked to capture 11 packets.

$ sudo tcpdump -c 11 -i eth0 src -w packets.pcap
tcpdump: listening on eth0, link-type EN10MB (Ethernet), capture size 262144 bytes
11 packets captured
11 packets received by filter
0 packets dropped by kernel

arp command

The arp command maps IPv4 addresses to hardware addresses. The information provided can also be used to identify the systems to some extent, since the network adaptors in use can tell you something about the systems using them. The second MAC address below, starting with f8:8e:85, is easily identified as a Comtrend router.

$ arp -a
? ( at b0:c0:90:3f:10:15 [ether] on eth0
? ( at f8:8e:85:35:7f:b9 [ether] on eth0

The first line above shows the MAC address for the network adaptor on the system itself. This network adaptor appears to have been manufactured by Chicony Electronics in Taiwan. You can look up MAC address associations fairly easily on the web with tools such as this one from Wireshark —

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