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Why would I change folder permissions to 755 or 777 for example?

I read that it means read write and execute but what I want to know, can anyone steal php codes depending on these permissions?

Thank you.

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migrated from Mar 31 '11 at 4:05

This question came from our site for professional and enthusiast programmers.

Each file or folder has a user owner, and a group owner. Doing ls -l on a file will show who the current owners are. The "owner" is some user from /etc/passwd, the group is some group from /etc/groups and other represents everything else.

The three digits in the permission number represent the permissions for the user, group and "other".

So 755 means:


A file can have read permissions, write permissions and execute permissions.

Read=4 Write=2 execute=1

They are essentely what they sound like, read allows you to read the contents of a file, write allows you to edit the file. Execute is needed to run scripts and in the case of folders allow access into them.

By adding them up you get the permission number. In the case of 755:

User: read(4)+write(2)+execute(1)= 7
Group: read(4)+execute(1)=5
Other: read(4)+execute(1)=5

You need to give 755 on a folder because a internet user coming to your site will fall into the "other" category and in order to access a folder on your server(and any scripts inside that folder) they need to be able to go into that folder so they need the execute permission.

777 is usually not a good idea at all, think of it this way.. would you want any other user the ability to edit something on your server?

There is a lot more to learn about permissions, check out this link for more info.

As for stealing PHP code your webserver should automatically serve any file with the handle .php as a PHP script and not display the PHP to a user . However if you name your script anything that is not handled by your webserver then it will be displayed out as text if your webservers user has permission to read it.

If you are talking about internal users stealing code via a terminal then you can remove read permissions to anyone other than your webserver.

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to expand slightly: The user from the internet connects to your apache webserver (for example). The apache webserver has an account on your server (a service account, so no shell login ability) called "apache". With this in mind, the permissions needed are relative to the apache user account which assuming the files are owned and grouped to your normal user account falls into "others". You can make apache own the files using chown and use 500/700 permissions if it helps grasp the concept. – Sirex Mar 31 '11 at 8:24

755 is octal for 111-101-101 in binary, which means...

User    | Group   | Others
Read    | Red     | Read
Write   | -       | -
Execute | Execute | Execute

So only the user can write to this file. 777 allows user, group and others to write to this file, which is generally too unrestricted.

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Of course - if they can read it, then they can "see it".

There are a few ways that applications secure their code. This all is application specific, and any in depth treatment should be referred to the application coders.

  • Filesystem Permissions

It's easy to just say "no one can see these files". However you will need at least your web server to be able to read the files, and, well, serve them. php can be executed by the web server, so it'll need permission 7. Assuming you are logged in as the user that the web server is running under, you get the 7 of the 755.

Other folks have to be able to determine what file that they want, so they need to be able to see them. They also (depending on the app) might need to be able to read the file, so the web server can process it.

  • Code level protection

PHP Code can be viewed in several methods. In the old school days, you had to put a die() command somewhere in the page, so if folks were getting to it by splunking rather then as they should be no naughty bits would be displayed.

Either by building this into the code, by setting up the web server to do this, or by doing both you can keep unwanted eyes out.

  • Application level protection

Any code can be compromised, so keeping bad users out and keeping good users into the places that they should be is very important.

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There are a few interesting permission combinations:

  • /tmp is typically mode 1777 - everyone may create files there, but the "sticky bit" means that only the owner of the file is permitted to delete it.
  • Some people keep an incoming directory in their home directory, for other people to drop files into. Such a directory would typically get a mode of 733, so everyone may go into the directory and create new files there, but not find out which files exist.
  • If you have a public_html directory with an user home page, but do not want other people to look at your home directory, then you would use 711 to allow everyone to go into the directory and reference files from there, but not list the directory contents or add files (note that if you know the name of a file and you have permission to access it, then you can do so).
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