I am installing a proftpd server on a debian dedicated server, In order to be able to update some website files in this folder : /var/www/website

I have added a new user : my-ftp-user This user's root is /var/www/website, but the owner HAS TO be apache2 (www-data).

So I changed the user's groups :

usermod -a -G ftpuser my-ftp-user
usermod -a -G www-data my-ftp-user

The permissions of folder /var/www/website are currently 755. The subfolders are also in 755 mode, but the subfiles are in 644 mode.

If I am right, my-ftp-user should now be able to add, edit, remove files in /var/www/website, am I not ?

$ su my-ftp-user

$ cd /var/www/website

$ ls -la

drwxr-xr-x  5 www-data www-data  4096 juil. 30 13:47 .
drwxr-xr-x 22 root   www-data  4096 juil. 30 13:36 ..
-rw-r--r--  1 www-data www-data   418 juil. 28 18:39 index.php

$ cat index.php // WORKS

$ touch test.txt // DOESN'T WORK : permission denied, why ?
  • What is the group that owns /var/www/website ? Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 12:05
  • The apache group www-data
    – Flo Schild
    Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 12:13

1 Answer 1


The reason for EPERM (the permission denied error ) is here:

drwxr-xr-x  5 www-data www-data  4096 juil. 30 13:47 .

The directory where you are trying to create a file (in other words change contents of the directory-file) is writeable only for user www-data, which you are not.

Either mark the directory as writeable for the group, change the user to www-data (or change the owner to my-ftp-user) or (probably the best solution) use extended ACLs with the setfacl command.

  • Okay, so I guess I have to change the rights to 774 or something ? Is there any way to make a difference between folders and files with chmod ? For instance, to change to permissions to 775 for folders and 664 for files ?
    – Flo Schild
    Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 12:14
  • Files usually don't have the execution bit set - that is intended for executables only. For directories the executable bit controls whether it is possible to traverse that directory - so it is usually a good idea to set it whenever the read bit is set.
    – peterph
    Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 12:17
  • As for changing it to 0775: using extended ACLs (if your file system supports them) is better security-wise, since it limits the number of possible writers. You may need to tweak the default ACLs as well, if you need to create directory hierarchies with such user, though.
    – peterph
    Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 12:22
  • I am not a system admin at the beginning, just a developer, and I do not know anything about the system, so I guess I would not try to manage extended ACL, even if it seems to be a very good solution ; I only had a small need, there will not be more users hierarchies at the moment, so I think "chmod" is enough for my needs. And as there are really few accesses to this private server, I don't feel really concerned about security anyway, I hope I am not wrong...
    – Flo Schild
    Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 12:32
  • 1
    @Flo-Schield-Bobby So that explains. group needs also rwx on website directory. You can grant access to the ftp user using setfacl -m u:my-ftp-user:rwx /var/www/website No need for other changes Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 12:46

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .