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Password protection via htaccess leads to server error 500

Hello dear professionals,

I hope my question is here correctly arranged, otherwise please move and forgive the mods.

I have a web page that is completely password protected by htaccess because it is currently being co-ordinated with a small group of people and should not be accessible to the public yet.

Everything worked well until yesterday. But now one gets, if one enters the password at once a 500er server error. I have not changed anything on the .htaccess, nor on the htpasswd nor on their location or the directories they are in before the problem occurred, so I almost rule out a syntax error in the .htaccess or an incorrect path to htpasswd, since Yesterday no problem occurred. I looked at the .htaccess and the path again and can not discover anything wrong. If I remove the password protection, one comes to the page as normal and everything works.

The errorlog says the following:

April 27 10:50:14 https://phonty.com/ error.log: [Friday April 27 10:50:14 201Cool [error] [client 93.197.33. ***] (13) Permission denied : Could not open password file: xxx / htpasswd
("xxx" is of course a placeholder, because I did not want to put the path in public here)

The access rights for files and directories have not changed either, these are at 644 and 754 respectively.

Since I had not changed anything, I thought only in the direction of a change in the server settings. The server is not maintained by me, but by a data center. A call there but provided the information that nothing was changed on the servers.

Now I'm pretty baffled and hope that someone has an idea.

Thanks and greetings!

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