I have an Ubuntu 14.04 server, where Apache runs as user www-data. I would like to be able to log into the server via ssh as www-data.

How can I define a password for www-data without breaking the Apache service?

How to add www-data to the list of allowed ssh users?


I understand from the question that was marked as duplicate, that it is not the most secure solution to give www-data access via ssh, but I need to do it for a different reason at least temporarily.

Here is the reason why I need to log into the server as www-data : I want my webserver to ssh into a remote host without providing a password. In order to be able to set this up, I need to log in as www-data, generate a ssh key and send it to that remote host.

  • 1
    This question has been asked many times, the link I gave is IMO most secure. You would not want to give ssh (shell access) to var-www – Panther Nov 24 '15 at 17:53
  • @bodhi You are right, I found this question a couple of times, but the two sub-questions above were never clearly answered. – Lorenz Meyer Nov 24 '15 at 18:33
  • If you do not have root access, talk to your web host / sysadmin – Panther Nov 24 '15 at 18:35
  • No, please re-read my question. It does not refer to the hosting account, but to my physical server. – Lorenz Meyer Nov 24 '15 at 18:37
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    you configure ssh in /var/www/sshd_config and set a password with passwd . – Panther Nov 24 '15 at 18:40

There are three things to do to allow a 'service user' like www-data to login via ssh.

  1. Set a password for www-data

    sudo passwd www-data 
  2. Define a shell for www-data. You can do this using chsh or by editing /etc/passwd. Replace /usr/sbin/nologin or similar by /bin/bash on the line of the user.

  3. Give permission for login via ssh, edit /etc/ssh/sshd_config and add the following line (do not forget to enumerate all the users that need ssh access)

    AllowUsers www-data
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