Switch user to www-data on AWS EC2 Ubuntu

The Problem

I found it almost impossible to neatly su or switch user as www-data on Ubuntu 14.04 on the AWS EC2. I’m not sure if it’s specific to AWS:

This account is currently not available.

www-data is an important user because it’s the user used by Apache as well as nginx, by default.

I’ve tried creating a www command, which I would use as a prefix, much like you would use sudo for root:

alias www='sudo -u www-data'

The above was added into ~/.bashrc at the end – but this did not really work for me as I would forget to use the prefix. It’s very unnatural to type www git pull as you can imagine.

TL;DR

I do think if you add a default shell for www-data, you are able to su to it however, I don’t think that is best for security. Instead, I now use the following:

sudo su -s /bin/bash www-data

There you go, hope you enjoy this 🙂

 

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