GitHub webhooks continuous deployment script no longer working. Possibly permissions issues?

Posted July 27, 2018 2.7k views

I run a GitHub webhook continuous integration script that fetches the latest commit, runs a fresh Hugo build, and moves the new files into my sites public directory. (I manage my server with ServerPilot, if that matters.)

This works fine on 5 or the 6 sites I run, but sometime in the last month, this fails on one of my sites. Specifically, the build script now lacks permission to move files into the public directory for my app (the pull and build steps work fine).

As this only happens in one of my applications, I suspect there’s a permissions issue somewhere, and I’m not sure how to debug that or fix it. Any help would be much appreciated!

For context, here’s the deployment script.


     * Automated deploy from GitHub
     * Template from ServerPilot (
     * Hash validation from Craig Blanchette (

    // Variables
    $secret = getenv('GH_DEPLOY_SECRET');
    $repo_dir = '/srv/users/serverpilot/apps/gomakethings/build';
    $web_root_dir = '/srv/users/serverpilot/apps/gomakethings/public';
    $rendered_dir = '/public';
    $hugo_path = '/usr/local/bin/hugo';

    // Validate hook secret
    if ($secret !== NULL) {

        // Get signature
        $hub_signature = $_SERVER['HTTP_X_HUB_SIGNATURE'];

        // Make sure signature is provided
        if (!isset($hub_signature)) {
            file_put_contents('deploy.log', date('m/d/Y h:i:s a') . ' Error: HTTP header "X-Hub-Signature" is missing.' . "\n", FILE_APPEND);
            die('HTTP header "X-Hub-Signature" is missing.');
        } elseif (!extension_loaded('hash')) {
            file_put_contents('deploy.log', date('m/d/Y h:i:s a') . ' Error: Missing "hash" extension to check the secret code validity.' . "\n", FILE_APPEND);
            die('Missing "hash" extension to check the secret code validity.');

        // Split signature into algorithm and hash
        list($algo, $hash) = explode('=', $hub_signature, 2);

        // Get payload
        $payload = file_get_contents('php://input');

        // Calculate hash based on payload and the secret
        $payload_hash = hash_hmac($algo, $payload, $secret);

        // Check if hashes are equivalent
        if (!hash_equals($hash, $payload_hash)) {
            // Kill the script or do something else here.
            file_put_contents('deploy.log', date('m/d/Y h:i:s a') . ' Error: Bad Secret' . "\n", FILE_APPEND);
            die('Bad secret');


    // Parse data from GitHub hook payload
    $data = json_decode($_POST['payload']);

    if (empty($data->commits)){
        // When merging and pushing to GitHub, the commits array will be empty.
        // In this case there is no way to know what branch was pushed to, so we will do an update.
        $commit_message .= 'true';
    } else {
        foreach ($data->commits as $commit) {
            $commit_message .= $commit->message;

    if (!empty($commit_message)) {

        // Do a git checkout, run Hugo, and copy files to public directory
        exec('cd ' . $repo_dir . ' && git fetch --all && git reset --hard origin/master');
        exec('cd ' . $repo_dir . ' && ' . $hugo_path);
        exec('cd ' . $repo_dir . ' && cp -r ' . $repo_dir . $rendered_dir . '/. ' . $web_root_dir);

        // Log the deployment
        file_put_contents('deploy.log', date('m/d/Y h:i:s a') . " Deployed branch: " .  $branch . " Commit: " . $commit_message . "\n", FILE_APPEND);


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1 answer

Hello friend!

It sounds like permission issues. You might check the user that owns that directory or it’s files, and compare that against the user that is executing the script. A quick “ls -al” in the directory and the directory above it should show you who owns what. If you had uploaded files as root, for example, and then later ran this script as a privileged user then you might find that user unable to overwrite those files.

Kind Regards,

  • Thanks Jarland!

    I’m assuming “user that owns that directory or its file” refers to whomever uploaded it to the server in the first place. Is that correct?

    I’m not sure how to tell who’s executing it. It’s triggered automatically when pinged by a GitHub webhook. I don’t believe that would be associated with any user, right? I’m newish to server admin stuff, so apologies for what are surely stupid questions!