I know that I can find which network interface is currently being used by parsing the output of:

# ifconfig


# route

But how can I get this information as a non-root user? Is there a way I can build such a

$ magic-command

whose ouput would be none lo or wlan0 or eth0 depending on the device used.. or even enp3s0f1 or wlp2s0 on exotic systems, with no admin rights?

  • 1
    What do you mean by “which network interface”? What if there's more than one? Do you want the one with the default route if there is one? ifconfig and route don't require any privileges (at least not on Linux, which Unix variant are you using?). Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 22:42

2 Answers 2


Something like this?

ip addr | awk '/state UP/ {print $2}'

This command was issued as a "regular" (non-root) user on:

uname -a
Linux centos 3.10.0-514.el7.x86_64 #1 SMP Tue Nov 22 16:42:41 UTC 2016 x86_64 x86_64 x86_64 GNU/Linux

If it is important to remove the trailing : from the interface name, use (for example):

ip addr | awk '/state UP/ {print $2}' | sed 's/.$//'
  • This is wrong, it's possible to see state UP for an inactive interface with no IP. See my answer.
    – kontextify
    Commented May 1 at 4:51

The accepted answer is wrong: link state UP doesn't necessarily mean the interface has a broadcast address and is active (usable for traffic).

I use a command adapted from this answer:

ip addr show | awk '/inet.*brd/{print $NF}' | egrep -v "(br-*)|(docker)" | head -1
  • awk: filter interfaces with inet AND broadcast IP.
  • egrep: (optional) remove any Docker/bridge interfaces.
  • head: use first result. This should prefer Ethernet if WiFi is also active.

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