If you tell Apache to use CustomLog files, Apache2 will create these files on startup. And it always gives them to user root:root. How can I change this behavior?


Apache runs with

SuexecUserGroup www-data www-data

and at the same time, I use a CustomLog that pipes it output to a script. The script removes two bytes from the IP and then wirtes to the logfile. As you cannot tell Apache to omit the IP from the error.log, this piped-output is important (regarding German privacy law).

The script cannot access my custom log if this does not belong to www-data.

If I change the owner, everthing works fine.

I also know how to change the file owner when logrotate renames and re-creates the logfile.

However, if I stop the Apache process, delete the logfiles, and then restart the Apache process, new files beloging to root:root are created.

How can I tell Apache to create the new, void files as/for www-data on startup?


This sentence:

The script cannot access my custom log if this does not belong to www-data.

Is in direct contradiction with http://httpd.apache.org/docs/current/logs.html#piped:

Piped log processes are spawned by the parent Apache httpd process, and inherit the userid of that process. This means that piped log programs usually run as root. It is therefore very important to keep the programs simple and secure.

If the scenario you describe is somehow correct, you can still sidestep the issue by

  1. Ignoring the logfile name given in the config file
  2. Devising your own logfile name within the script
  3. Redirecting stdout to the file of your choosing as in (2)
  • Hmm - good point. Thanks for this advice! It seems the problem was due to the fact that the logging-script belonged to the wrong user! After giving it to root as well, everything works :) – BurninLeo Jun 14 '13 at 15:23

I ran into the same problem, yet being unable to change the script that writes the log, I could change the script that interpreted it.


  1. Apache starts and creates the log files as root:root instead of www-data:www-data. This is because of the situation mentioned in OPs question.
  2. I want to run an analysis script on the logfile as non-root user (www-data) but it can't read the file. I do this as a cron from roots crontab
  3. So before the analysis script runs I run (as root) the command chown www-data:www-data /var/log/apache2/*.log. This changes the ownership of the logfiles (but not the parent directory) to www-data as intended and the analysis script can then read the file.

Not the nicest solution and definitely not what you would want on a busy server, but on a small installation its good enough.

gpjod mentions that this might be a security problem. The Apache Documentation says that the directory for the logs should not be writable to others.

This is true but most likely true for all situations that solve the OPs question and you might want to read the security tips in the linked documentation. As in this particular instance the ownership is changed from root to www-data as it is intended to be (see the original question) I see no additional thread arising from my solution.

  • 2
    This might be a security risk. From the Apache documentation: "Anyone who can write to the directory where Apache httpd is writing a log file can almost certainly gain access to the uid that the server is started as, which is normally root. Do NOT give people write access to the directory the logs are stored in without being aware of the consequences; see the security tips document for details." – gpojd Jan 25 '18 at 19:08
  • @gpojd my command does not change the directory of the path but changes the files themselves. – Angelo Fuchs Jan 25 '18 at 21:32
  • @gpojd - Correct that this creates a security issue and definitely worth mentioning. However I think it'd be a suitable solution in the scenario of a local development machine. – James Jones Jan 28 '20 at 5:46
  • @JamesJones I think the situation is more complex. The security risk is in the basic approach that is designed to exist by apache itself (see the OPs standard attempts to set the rights of the file). So if it is a security problem it is inherent to all solutions and the comment should go to the question. - None the less, I incorporated gpojds comment and my situational analysis of it into the answer. – Angelo Fuchs Jan 30 '20 at 8:06

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