I'm trying to run a script as another user that starts a piece of software (Etherpad), which is run like so (from root): su -c "/var/www/etherpad-lite/bin/run.sh" -s /bin/bash etherpad but I'm getting the following error: bash: /var/www/etherpad-lite/bin/run.sh: Permission denied

This had previously worked perfectly, and only stopped working after I installed a bunch of things for another project I'm working on, none of which should have affected etherpad.

/var/log/auth.log shows this:

Aug 12 19:59:21 bhs1 su[7289]: Successful su for etherpad by root
Aug 12 19:59:21 bhs1 su[7289]: + /dev/pts/1 root:etherpad
Aug 12 19:59:21 bhs1 su[7289]: pam_unix(su:session): session opened for user etherpad by root(uid=0)
Aug 12 19:59:21 bhs1 su[7289]: pam_unix(su:session): session closed for user etherpad

I've done some searching and I found a couple of things that could cause this, but none are relevant to my problem:

  • The file is chmodded to 777 (-rwxrwxrwx) and it's owned by the etherpad user. I only changed it to 777 to make sure it wasn't a permissions issue, it was something like 700 before.
  • The file system doesn't have noexec enabled

I'm running Debian 7.6 on a dedicated server.

  • Do you have SELinux enabled? It might as well be a problem.
    – Ramesh
    Aug 13, 2014 at 0:07
  • @Ramesh I found some SELinux related files on the server (/selinux and /etc/selinux exist) but, following a guide to disable it (thegeekstuff.com/2009/06/…), none of the specified config files exist on my server
    – ev0lution
    Aug 13, 2014 at 0:24
  • I'm not saying that it is wrong, and I don't have a Linux server to test this on right now, but I've never seen the user specified at the end of an su command. Does anything change if the command becomes su etherpad -c "/var/www/etherpad-lite/bin/run.sh" -s /bin/bash? (It may be perfectly acceptable to have it at the end, but a quick internet search did not show any examples of that).
    – Warwick
    Aug 13, 2014 at 0:58
  • What happens if you su etherpad and do an ls /var/www/etherpad-lite/bin/run.sh? Or ls the individual components? Rule out an actual permissions problem first and that may help you. Aug 13, 2014 at 14:43

1 Answer 1


You can have run.sh with "read by all" privilegs, but if e.g. /var/www/ is with privilegs "read only by root" you will get "permission denied" error message.

check permissions of all directories in the path

  • Wow, that's embarrassing. Something had indeed changed /var/www so that it was no longer executable. Thank you very much :)
    – ev0lution
    Aug 14, 2014 at 0:02

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