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I have an application that claims to require chmod 777 permissions for two of its directories (and their subdirectories). Instead of doing that, would suEXEC be a more secure alternative?

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I highly doubt that any application should ever have 777 without posing a security risk. –  Lucas Kauffman Apr 5 '12 at 14:35

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Yes, it would. suPHP and/or using FastCGI would also work.

On a more general note, I'd be very wary about the coding practices (especially around security) of anyone who thought that chmod 0777 was the solution to a permissions problem. You might be installing an invitation to a giant pwn party on your server.

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So /var/www is set to root:web where "web" is developers only (not www-data). In this case, Apache will access files under the permissions of everyone else. Will suEXEC still work given this case or should I add www-data to my "web" group? –  Trent Scott Apr 6 '12 at 15:20
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Yes, suExec would work, although I'd still recommend using FastCGI as it doesn't have the per-request overheads of suExec. –  womble Apr 6 '12 at 23:41

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