Apache prevent hot linking or leeching of images using mod_rewrite howto

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Q. My site hosts lots of good images and other site hot links to my images from their own site. Hot linking is eating lots of my bandwidth. How do I stop lechers or prevent hotlinking under Apache web server?

A. This is problem you may encounter, particularly if your site hosts unique images. However solution is quite simple ban image hot linking using Apache mod_rewrite to check the referral information the browser provides.


How do I prevent Apache hot linking of images / media?

There are many ways to block hot linking of images.

You can add any one of the following code to .htaccess file or to your own httpd.conf file to prevent.

Make sure Apache mod_rewrite is enabled.

Solution # 1 : Prevent “hot linking” of images

Open httpd.conf or .htaccess file using vi text editor
# vi httpd.conf
Append following config directive:

SetEnvIfNoCase Referer "^http://www\.cyberciti\.biz/" banimages=1
SetEnvIfNoCase Referer "^http://cyberciti\.biz/" banimages=1
SetEnvIfNoCase Referer "^$" banimages=1
<FilesMatch "\.(gif|png|jpe?g)$">
  Order Allow,Deny
  Allow from env=banimages=1

Or you can use following simple code:

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://(www\.)?cyberciti.biz/.*$ [NC]
RewriteRule ^.*\.(bmp|tif|gif|jpg|jpeg|jpe|png)$ - [F] 

Solution # 2 : Prevent “hot linking” of images and redirect to new image

This method stop hotlinking and displays alternate image to endusers

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://(www\.)?cyberciti\.biz/.*$ [NC]
RewriteRule .*\.(gif|jpe?g|png)$ http://www.cyberciti.biz/noop.jpg [R,NC,L]

Unless the image is displayed on cyberciti.biz, browers would see the image noop.jpg. Replace domain cyberciti.biz and upload noop.jpg to webroot.

If you made changes to httpd.conf file; restart Apache:
# /etc/init.d/httpd restart

Posted by: Vivek Gite

The author is the creator of nixCraft and a seasoned sysadmin, DevOps engineer, and a trainer for the Linux operating system/Unix shell scripting. Get the latest tutorials on SysAdmin, Linux/Unix and open source topics via RSS/XML feed or weekly email newsletter.


6 comment

  1. Hi,
    I have configured the many virual hosts. If many userser login or hit this hosts then some session files with there login number like (sess_76hy679jb a very big number) is created in /tmp directory.
    This files are deleted automaticaly. But currentaly these files are not deleted & they give session error. Where I change the default limit of this session files.
    Give me solution for this.

  2. Any one help, I has tried this below code with my local site. My local server is using Appache on Windows

    RewriteEngine on
    RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://localhost/.*$ [NC]
    RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$
    RewriteRule .*\.(gif|jpg|jpeg|bmp|png|js|css)$ – [F]

    The result seen to be error code 500 for any access

  3. This doesn’t seem to work with firefox. I’ve tried the example code but changed it for use with FLV/MP4.

    Works fine with IE en Chrome, but not with firefox…anybody knows why??


  4. try this code
    # Disable hotlinking of images
    RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$
    RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} -f
    RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} \.(jpe?g?|png|gif|ico|pdf|flv|swf|gz)$ [NC]
    RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^https?://([^.]+\.)?yourdomain\.com [NC]
    RewriteRule \.(jpe?g?|png|gif|ico|pdf|flv|swf|gz)$ – [NC,F]

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