In /etc/apache2/apache2.conf, I have the following configuration for Apache with regard to the /var/www directory:

<Directory /var/www/>
    Options -Indexes -Includes -ExecCGI
    AllowOverride All
    Require all granted

In /etc/apache2/sites-enabled/example.com.conf then, this is how I've set up my virtual host for example.com:

<VirtualHost *:80>
    ServerName example.com
    ServerAlias www.example.com
    ServerAdmin info@example.com
    DocumentRoot /var/www/example.com/public

    ErrorLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/error.log
    CustomLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/access.log combined

Everything is working fine so far.

But as soon as I edit the <Directory /var/www/> part (see above) from

Options -Indexes -Includes -ExecCGI


Options -Indexes -FollowSymLinks -Includes -ExecCGI

the website stops working and responds with a 403 error instead.

Why is this happening? Nowhere did I use any symbolic links, at least not consciously. So is Apache using them internally when working with virtual hosts?

I don't see any reason why that option should break the setup. The website is actually stored in /var/www/example.com/public, that's not a symbolic link, either.

  • 1
    You can use sudo find /var/www -type l to be sure. And look at your error log.
    – fkraiem
    Dec 2, 2016 at 3:21
  • @fkraiem Thanks, that helped! Should have looked that up right away, of course. Sorry!
    – caw
    Dec 2, 2016 at 7:19

1 Answer 1


The Apache error logs explain the reason for this problem:

[rewrite:error] [pid ...] [client ...] AH00670: Options FollowSymLinks and SymLinksIfOwnerMatch are both off, so the RewriteRule directive is also forbidden due to its similar ability to circumvent directory restrictions

Using mod_rewrite with RewriteRule (as is common) while disabling FollowSymLinks (as shown in the question) is only possible if SymLinksIfOwnerMatch is enabled in return.



must become

-FollowSymLinks +SymLinksIfOwnerMatch

or mod_rewrite with RewriteRule cannot be used anymore.

Thanks for the hint, @fkraiem!

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