I need to reboot an embedded system via a local network webpage (a CGI script). I have the page built, and it calls a script on the station (which is the (apache) host of the webpage). This script is just supposed to call the reboot command, but it fails.

One try was this:


 sudo reboot

It worked when ran from the command-line while telnetted in, but not when called by the CGI. The error (from /var/log/apache2/error.log) was:

sudo: no tty present and no askpass program specified

Okay, fair enough. I tried adding NOPASSWD to the sudoers file for the correct user, but no cigar. So I tried this method, which I found online. It also worked when run from the command line, but not from the server. I figured I would not get the same error, since it was through telnet, and it didn't.


 set name [lindex $argv 0]
 spawn telnet $name
 expect "login:"
 send "<user>\r"
 expect "Password:"
 send "Reformed\r"

 send "sudo reboot\r"

The error was:

malformed header from script. Bad header=ERROR!!: WebInterfaceReboot

(if I hard-code the IP in the script, it gives me the error Bad header=spawn telnet #: WebInterfaceReboot send: spawn id exp6 not open while executing "send "<username>\r"" (file ./reboot2.sh" line 9))

I enabled cgi logging on the server, and the 'detailed' CGI log didn't help any more:

 %% [Wed Oct 09 09:24:25 2013] POST /cgi-bin/WebInterfaceReboot HTTP/1.1
 %% 500 /usr/lib/cgi-bin/WebInterfaceReboot
 Connection: keep-alive
 Content-Length: 19
 Cache-Control: max-age=0
 Authorization: Basic aGhwOlJlZm9ybWVk
 Accept: text/html,application/xhtml+xml,application/xml;q=0.9,*/*;q=0.8
 Origin: http://
 User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux i686) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/29.0.1547.76 Safari/537.36
 Content-Type: application/x-www-form-urlencoded
 DNT: 1
 Referer: http://
 Accept-Encoding: gzip,deflate,sdch
 Accept-Language: en-US,en;q=0.8


Note 'RebootButton' is the name of the button pressed on the page to call the shell script

I'm pretty sure it's not the actual CGI script, as when I tested the first implementation, the script was obviously running. What changes should I make, either to the script or the installation, to make the reboot command able to run this way?

  • Won't it work with sudo reboot or sudo shutdown -r now if you add the apache user to sudoers and let him execute shutdown with no password? I know you tried something similar but I can't tell if you added the right user to sudoers. What user is your webserver run as?
    – terdon
    Oct 9, 2013 at 16:40
  • @terdon - I tried to add 'hhp', which is the user for almost everything. How do I confirm the apache user?
    – SSumner
    Oct 9, 2013 at 18:05
  • ps aux | grep apache2, there should be one process run by root and some others run by something like www-data. You want the www-data.
    – terdon
    Oct 9, 2013 at 18:07
  • @terdon - so I need to add the user "www-data" to the sudoers file with NOPASSWD for reboot?
    – SSumner
    Oct 9, 2013 at 18:09
  • 1
    Yup, that should do it.
    – terdon
    Oct 9, 2013 at 18:14

1 Answer 1


The webserver runs as a different user, it is that user you want to add to sudoers. To find out the apache user name run this command (output from my system, yours should be similar):

$ ps aux | grep apache2
root     13108  0.0  0.0   9756   868 pts/0    S+   17:51   0:00 tail -f /var/log/apache2/error.log
root     15140  0.0  0.2 170752  9116 ?        Ss   20:10   0:00 /usr/sbin/apache2 -k start
www-data 15143  0.0  0.1 170752  5868 ?        S    20:10   0:00 /usr/sbin/apache2 -k start
www-data 15144  0.0  0.1 170752  5540 ?        S    20:10   0:00 /usr/sbin/apache2 -k start

So, the apache user is www-data, you should allow that user to run reboot with no password (this is not a very good idea from a security point of view but hey):

www-data ALL=NOPASSWD:/sbin/reboot
  • The security should be okay - it's on a closed network, and the website is already password-protected
    – SSumner
    Oct 9, 2013 at 18:17
  • I'm going to accept because I think this was the right track, but I changed the CGI to just call the system reboot command (system(sudo reboot);), which I thought I had tried earlier, and it works
    – SSumner
    Oct 9, 2013 at 20:21
  • @SSumner it works because you added www-data to sudoers right?
    – terdon
    Oct 9, 2013 at 20:45
  • yes, I believe so
    – SSumner
    Oct 9, 2013 at 21:47

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