Prevent Image Hotlinking With .htaccess and mod_rewrite

By  on  

One way to kill your website's bandwidth and overall download speed is to not block image "hotlinking." What's hotlinking? Hotlinking is linking to a file on an external server that the Web Developer does not own (most of the time the Web Developer doesn't even have permission to use the file). Hot linking occurs mostly with images.

Why would another website hotlink to a file on your server? There are a variety of reasons, both innocent and evil:

  • To use up the other website's bandwidth / save your bandwidth (evil)
  • To link to an oft-changing file so that the file is always up to date on your website (mostly innocent)
  • Laziness (both)

How can this be prevented? Relatively easily using some quick .htaccess directives.

The Code

The following prevents any domain beside yours from hotlinking:

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://(www.)?yourwebdomain.com(/)?.*$ [NC]

The following allows only a friend to hotlink -- everyone else is barred:

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://(www.)?yourwebdomain.com(/)?.*$ [NC]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://(www.)?friend1domain.com(/)?.*$ [NC]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://(www.)?friend2domain.com(/)?.*$ [NC]

The following allows for protection of only specified file extensions:

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://(www.)?yourwebdomain.com(/)?.*$ [NC]
RewriteRule .*.(gif|jpe?g)$ [F,NC]

The following returns a "stop stealing my images" image:

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://(www.)?yourwebdomain.com(/)?.*$ [NC]
RewriteRule .(gif|jpe?g|png|bmp)$ /graphics/stop-stealing.jpg [L,NC]

You can use the above coding practices to prevents thievery of any type of file you'd like, including CSS, JavaScript, and text files.

Recent Features

  • By
    6 Things You Didn’t Know About Firefox OS

    Firefox OS is all over the tech news and for good reason:  Mozilla's finally given web developers the platform that they need to create apps the way they've been creating them for years -- with CSS, HTML, and JavaScript.  Firefox OS has been rapidly improving...

  • By
    CSS @supports

    Feature detection via JavaScript is a client side best practice and for all the right reasons, but unfortunately that same functionality hasn't been available within CSS.  What we end up doing is repeating the same properties multiple times with each browser prefix.  Yuck.  Another thing we...

Incredible Demos

  • By
    Advanced CSS Printing – Using JavaScript Double-Click To Remove Unwanted DIVs

    Like any good programmer, I'm constantly searching around the internet for ideas and articles that can help me improve my code. There are thousands of talented programmers out there so I stumble upon some great articles and code snippets that I like to print out...

  • By
    Printing MooTools Accordion Items

    Sometimes we're presented with unforeseen problems when it comes to our JavaScript effects. In this case, I'm talking about printing jQuery and MooTools accordions. Each "closed" accordion content element has its height set to 0 which means it will be hidden when the...

Discussion

  1. Nicely done!

  2. Brill, I appreciate this may be an old post, but its the answer I needed to fix my lil hotlinking problem so I thought I should say ta …

    TA!!

  3. Perhaps you could help. I’m trying to simplify for some of my clients moving to a cdn platform. for dev I’m using google app engine, just becasue, but files on the prod cdn will be served up the same way. Issue – we would to use .htaccess to have css|js|gif|jpg etc.. files be taken from the cdn by rewrite of the request, so we don’t need to change all the php and related files.

    IE.

    page is rendered with like to image http://example.com/images/image.gif

    but the image should be served from http://example-cdn.com/images/image.gif

    the folder sturcture could remain the same, just the domain would change from example.com to example-cdn.com

    Any idea’s?

  4. Jorge

    Hi, I’m looking at a solution like the one that replaces the images with a generic one (i.e. “stop stealing my images”).
    Can you clarify why it’s not going into an infinite loop? since it’s redirecting to *another* .jpg file -wouldn’t this create infinite redirects to the same image? –thanks!

    RewriteEngine on
    RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$
    RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://(www.)?yourwebdomain.com(/)?.*$ [NC]
    RewriteRule .(gif|jpe?g|png|bmp)$ /graphics/stop-stealing.jpg [L,NC]
    

Wrap your code in <pre class="{language}"></pre> tags, link to a GitHub gist, JSFiddle fiddle, or CodePen pen to embed!