Running the Salt Master/Minion as an Unprivileged User

While the default setup runs the master and minion as the root user, some may consider it an extra measure of security to run the master as a non-root user. Keep in mind that doing so does not change the master's capability to access minions as the user they are running as. Due to this many feel that running the master as a non-root user does not grant any real security advantage which is why the master has remained as root by default.


Some of Salt's operations cannot execute correctly when the master is not running as root, specifically the pam external auth system, as this system needs root access to check authentication.

As of Salt 0.9.10 it is possible to run Salt as a non-root user. This can be done by setting the user parameter in the master configuration file. and restarting the salt-master service.

The minion has it's own user parameter as well, but running the minion as an unprivileged user will keep it from making changes to things like users, installed packages, etc. unless access controls (sudo, etc.) are setup on the minion to permit the non-root user to make the needed changes.

In order to allow Salt to successfully run as a non-root user, ownership, and permissions need to be set such that the desired user can read from and write to the following directories (and their subdirectories, where applicable):

  • /etc/salt
  • /var/cache/salt
  • /var/log/salt
  • /var/run/salt

Ownership can be easily changed with chown, like so:

# chown -R user /etc/salt /var/cache/salt /var/log/salt /var/run/salt


Running either the master or minion with the root_dir parameter specified will affect these paths, as will setting options like pki_dir, cachedir, log_file, and other options that normally live in the above directories.