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Everyone says that running processes as root is bad, since it defeats the security and privileges model. But what user should be used to run a startup process? Is it really necessary to create a new user, just to own a single startup process?

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ok, so specifically, this is a startup script that keeps phantomjs running, a service which i am using to create screenshots. There is user input of urls, but things are escaped and theres no problem with xss- –  chrismarx Oct 16 '12 at 19:10
    
Most distributions create a separate user for each daemon process - see for yourself by looking in /etc/passwd. –  jw013 Oct 16 '12 at 20:48
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That depends. Things that run constantly (services, servers), have to write data etc., and, most importantly, interact and use untrustworthy data owned by someone else than root should get their own users.

Other startup processes do not require such security measures.

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