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I have installed httpd and php on a fresh centos7 and put some files into /var/www/html including an install script I wrote. This script needs to write to a config file in the /var/www/html directory. I created an empty config file and chowned it to apache:apache. However trying to fopen this file with write access always gives the error:

fopen(/var/www/html/config-local.php): failed to open stream: Permission denied

Doing research I read this quote: "in order to reach a file, ALL parent directories must be readable." So I checked and they are. /, /var, /var/www and /var/www/html are all readable by everyone.

So what's going on here? It appears that the apache user is some kind of specially restricted user since testing the same scenario with a standard user works fine.

  • "in order to reach a file, ALL parent directories must be readable" -- orthogonal to your problem, but this statement is incorrect. All parent directories must be executable in order to reach a file. – womble Jun 30 '17 at 5:39
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It's likely an SELinux permissions issue. /var/log/audit/audit.log should be able to confirm.

SELinux context is probably system_u:object_r:httpd_sys_content_t:s0, but should be system_u:object_r:httpd_sys_rw_content_t:s0. This can be altered with chcon.


I'm also not sanguine about having a config file within the DocumentRoot of your webserver. I could be mistaken as you haven't provided enough detail, but that would be the case if you haven't altered the defaults.

  • i had just discovered that it was an SELinux problem: chcon -t httpd_sys_rw_content_t config-local.php re config file location - it's not an uncommon scenario to put it there. wordpress does that. – jpro Jun 30 '17 at 3:31
  • consider using semanage to update the fcontext definition or restorecond; which should be running, may eventually put it back to the incorrect context. chcon changes can be easily reverted by moving files around or by restorecond. – Aaron Jun 30 '17 at 12:15

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